Friday, March 30, 2007

Doctors, are the ALL so smart?


As a general rule we all have a good deal of respect for doctors. They put a lot of time and energy into reaching their status, and invest in maintaining their acumen.

But, sometimes it is wise to be cautious. Their are the quacks, selling false dreams and usually causing more than none. And then you have those who get to those letters after their name by lying, just so they can support pseudoscience. And then you have the sort who do the hard work and get to be doctors, then they embrace pseudoscience.

One such is Dr. Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon at SUNY Stony Brook. And like some opthamologists, he has an strong opinion on the lie of evolution. As a doctor, willing to go out and, unfortunately for him, tilt at all too real windmills, he has a bit of fame in the ID community. In fact, he has become a good buddy and confident to DI, the Discovery Institute.

So what is he saying?

From Panda's Thumb, Egnor:
Doctors don’t study evolution. Doctors never study it in medical school, and they never use evolutionary biology in their practice. There are no courses in medical school on evolution. There are no ‘professors of evolution’ in medical schools. There are no departments of evolutionary biology in medical schools. No Nobel prize in medicine has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology. [Therefore, evolutionary] biology isn’t important to modern medicine. (Quotes are excerpted.)

Doctors don't learn about evolution, or need to...SIGH!

Panda's Thumb will explain how ass backward this guy is on this.

And...again here.

PZ Meyer looks at his ridiculous Darwin - Genetics allegations.

For a sharper view, from a neurologist who actually has an appreciation, not fear, of science - Steven Novella (somehow I dodn't bother to double check the spelling before), of NESS and the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

Two people. People who delved into neurology. One is for ID, and one is for the scientifically supported evolution theory. One pulling arguments from his backside, who is running from answers. And, one who is looking for good arguments, research, and the next break (for or against his preferences). Guess which is a good scientists? By which I mean a proper one.

Just a quick medical anecdote to develop this point further- I train fellows in neuromuscular disease, a subspecialty of neurology. They are already fully trained neurologists and are now spending a year focusing on this one area. About half way through the year fellows often realize that, prior to their fellowship, they thought they understood neuromuscular disease, but now that they studied it in more detail they realize how much they didn’t know. That’s when I tell them that they have to extrapolate this experience to the rest of their medical knowledge (and beyond). There is just as much that they don’t know in all the other subspecialties that they are not doing fellowships in. It’s a humbling experience. Detailed knowledge in one area should make us appreciate the potential depth of knowledge (and therefore our own ignorance) in other areas. Dr. Egnor, apparently, never learned this lesson.

The other point I want to discuss is illustrative of what I am saying above. The primary scientific point of discussion is that of information theory. ID’ers like to claim that information theory disproves evolution, and they further claim that evolutionists cannot answer fundamental questions about the increase of genetic information over evolutionary time and so they avoid the topic. What rot! Again – answers are all over the internet.


But there is enough complexity in all of this that if someone smart and eloquent – like ID’ers Behe or Demski – want to create confusion they easily can. They pull an intellectual three card monte and the evolutionary rubes buy it.

Now I don’t blame the rank and file for not having read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on evolution. But I do blame them for thinking they deserve to have an opinion if they haven’t – an opinion not borrowed from the scientific consensus, which would be reasonable, but one which assumes that the scientific consensus is not only wrong but stupid. The reason for such outrageous hubris is ideology.

Dr. Egnor has given us yet another example of how when ideology trumps science and reason the result is not pretty. Combine that with a touch of arrogance and you create an embarrassment. But so far Dr. Egnor seems not to grasp the folly of his situation. He has said that if someone proves him wrong (talking about his claim that there is no evidence that evolution can increase the amount of genetic information over time) he will acquiesce. Well, he has been proven wrong. We’re waiting.

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