Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Of Birds, Feathers and Flocks

Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority has a bit of a (justifiable) rant about the lack of honesty of Dr. Michael Egnor, The Discoveryless Institute’s brainless surgeon. Perhaps, in the end, what is most notable about Mike’s post is the fact that, once circumstances were pointed out to him that suggest that the example from Egnor's article he was particularly focusing on might have been the result of sloppiness on Egnor’s part (a peculiar trait for a neurosurgeon) rather than the result of malice, Mike acknowledged it immediately, though Mike still thinks Egnor is ethically challenged. Let’s see if Egnor can muster the integrity to acknowledge his errors, much less his greater sins.

In any event, I agree with Mike’s overall assessment, since I noticed that Egnor utilized the following quote:

This irrelevance of evolutionary stories to real scientific work was pointed out by biologist Adam S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, in 2000:

…most [biologists] can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas … Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.

That just happens to be an entry in the Quote Mine Project, that is there because the very next paragraph reads:

Yet, the marginality of evolutionary biology may be changing. More and more issues in biology, from diverse questions about human nature to the vulnerability of ecosystems, are increasingly seen as reflecting evolutionary events. A spate of popular books on evolution testifies to the development. If we are to fully understand these matters, however, we need to understand the processes of evolution that, ultimately, underlie them.

Also, as PZ Myers points out, the quote miner is playing on some ambiguity in the meaning of that phrase “particular reference”:

Yes, I can go into my lab right now, make up some solutions, run a pH meter, collect embryos, use a microscope, etc., without once using the principles of evolutionary biology. Likewise, I can do a lot of the day-to-day stuff of the lab without even thinking about developmental biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, or physiology; that does not imply that these disciplines are not central to how life works. We don't need evolutionary biology . . . except whenever we want to think about how these narrow, esoteric little experiments we do fit into the grander picture of life on earth. You know, biology.

But the amusing thing is that the exemplars of abusers of this quote mine in the Project’s entry are Jerry Bergman and Answers in Genesis, both hard-core young-Earth creationists.

By their friends shall you know them.


I am always cautious when I see a creationist quoting a scientist as saying that such-and-such "appears" to be the case. It is a signal that there may have been a paragraph following that explained how the appearances are not decisive in this case.

Well, actually, I am always cautious when I see a creationist quoting. Or make that, "When I see a creationist."

Tom S.
... especially when their lips are moving ...
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education