Friday, June 24, 2011


Ignorance Personified

Well, this could be an endless source of amusement.

Dr. Michael Egnor, the Discoveryless Institute's highly skilled meat cutter, has started his own blog. To his credit (and probably as a measure of how much it stung), he has named it Egnorance.

Orac has already tackled some of the inanity flowing now from that direction in Blogger but, in a brief flyby, I noticed that the not-so-good doctor has expanded the reach of Egnorance beyond evolutionary science to my own field, the law.

Egnor is exercised about the case of Schultz v. Medina Valley Independent School District. A school district in Texas planned to include official prayer during its June 4 graduation ceremony. A student sued to stop the district. A Federal judge issued an injunction, which was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ... perfectly normal legal procedure. Egnor, however, egged on by that font of morality, Newt Gingrich, who is searching desperately for any issue that will fire up faithful to save his dead-on-arrival campaign, wants the judge impeached.

In no surprise to any of us who know Egnor, he hasn't a clue ... or any interest in getting one. The judge's decision, as well as the appellate court's, are easily found with a moment's Google.

Here's the comment I left at Egnor's blog:

Typically, for matters subject to "Egnorance," you don't know what you are talking about.

First of all, Federal judges can only be removed for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" (Article II, Section 4). If simply being wrong was a high crime or misdemeanor, you'd already be a life prisoner.

Second, the judge did not order "The young lady who was to give the valedictory address" not to pray. In fact, the appeals court noted that the judge's order "did not expressly address the involvement of the valedictorian in the graduation ceremony." The students (even remotely) in question were, according to the school's own program, slated to deliver an "invocation" and "benediction." If you don't understand the argument that government-sponsored "invocations" and "benedictions" violate the Constitution, that is just a piece with the rest of your "Egnorance."

Third, the judge did not issue the order against the students (and, therefore, no penalty could be imposed against them). He ordered that:

The District, through its officials, shall instruct the students previously selected to deliver the "invocation" and "benediction" to modify their remarks to be statements of their own beliefs as opposed to leading the audience in prayer. These students, and all other persons scheduled to speak during the graduation ceremony, shall be instructed not to present a prayer, to wit, they shall be instructed that they may not ask audience members to "stand," "join in prayer," or "bow their heads," they may not end their remarks with "amen" or "in [a deity's name] we pray," and they shall not otherwise deliver a message that would commonly be understood to be a prayer, nor use the word "prayer" unless it is used in the student's expression of the student's personal belief, as opposed to encouraging others who may not believe in the concept of prayer to join in and believe the same concept. The students may in stating their own personal beliefs speak through conduct such as kneeling to face Mecca, the wearing of a yarmulke or hijab or making the sign of the cross.
Fourth, if a police officer announced that he or she was going to go to your house, illegally search it and beat you up in the process, would a court have to wait until that happened before issuing an order against it? "Irreparable harm" is a term of legal art that you are as "Egnorant" of as biological science. It simply means that the complainant can not be made "whole" if the court waits until after the fact to address the wrong.

Fifth, the appeals court reversed the judge's order in no small part because the school district obeyed his order and "abandoned including the words 'invocation' and 'benediction' on the program."

In short, you are bloviating (once again) on a subject you have no knowledge of.

There can be rational arguments about whether the judge in this case was right in the first instance. As usual, you have not come close to making any.


Update: Egnor's blog may not be such a great source of amusement ... at least if you bother to comment over there. It seems he does not deign to respond to comments in anything as mundane as the comments section. Instead, he creates new posts to respond ... which, when done to highlight a particular argument, is okay in moderation. But, frankly, I don't want to have to wade through the entirety of the weird landscape of Egnorland just to see if he's said something remotely relevant to something I've said. Anyway, here's his "reply" to my comment and my replies (Blogger allows only limited amounts of reason in any one reply) to that. I don't know if I will be watching for any sur-drivel.

Good job!
"If simply being wrong was a high crime or misdemeanor, you'd already be a life prisoner."

Don't hold back John tell us what you really think.
If simply being wrong was a high crime or misdemeanor, you'd already be a life prisoner.
Good one.
He wants a judge impeached? wow.... priceless

Good job, but is holding someone to task on their own blog really possible? It's obvious he doesn't want to address criticism. I don't think it will be too entertaining to go poking around over there... infuriating, maybe :)
Well argued, John, even if you were almost drowned out by the whoosh of points going straight over Egnor's head.

What I find ironic is his usual derogatory reference to your "materialist" philosophy when, as a surgeon, he practices one of the most materialistic forms of medicine there is.
... when, as a surgeon, he practices one of the most materialistic forms of medicine there is.

As Orac points out, Egnor is willing, if not driven, to reduce the medical profession to a collection of mere technictions because, otherwise, it has to be a group of scientists, who actually have to think outside the small ideologies he is comfortable with.

So he focuses so intently at what he is directly looking at that he doesn't have to think about anything that might intrude in his peripheral vision.
John said: "Irreparable harm" is a term of legal art that you are as "Egnorant" of as biological science. It simply means that the complainant can not be made "whole" if the court waits until after the fact to address the wrong.

A late comment but thought I should point out that after you clearly explained that 'irreparable harm' is a legal term different to the colloquial meaning, Egnor went ahead and misused it again:

The first time he did it could certainly be attributed to ignorance. The second time, well I guess we will attribute it to that other quality that Egnor has plenty of.
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