Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brain Surgeon 'challenges' "Darwinism"

Recently, the "Discovery Institute" has announced that it has recently added 100 more "scientists" to their list of folks that 'doubt Darwin' (see this for the requirements for signing).

One of the highlighted signatories is one Dr. Michael Egnor. Egnor is professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and a brain surgeon. WOW! Impressive, eh?
What is this brain surgeon's rationale for 'doubting Darwin'? Is it that the brain's complexity has forced him to conclude that 'random chance' couldn't have produced it? It is something about the anatomy of the brain? The functions of the neurons in the brain? The manner in which we perceive our surroundings?

Nope. He is all geeked up about Information.

On TIME magazine's science blog, Egnor's signing the DI list is mentioned, and the good - no, no - one who has reached the epitome of his field, the most eduicated folk in the world, a Who's Who in the world of science *- Doctor shows up to 'defend' his position, interesting bits bolded:

I'm many things, but I'm not a 'fraud'. I believe what I said. I know a bit about science, as you do, and I have come to believe that the IDers have the better argument. For most of my career I had accepted Darwinism (I was a biochem
major), but I have come to believe that the genetic code and the extraordinarily complex 'nanotechnology' in cells pose a problem that is insurmountable for Darwinism.
Can random heritable variation and natural selection generate a code, a language, with letters (nucleotide bases), words (codons), punctation (stop codons), and syntax? There is even new evidence that DNA can encode parallel information, readable in different reading frames.
I ask this question as a scientific question, not a theological or philosophical question.
The only codes or languages we observe in the natural world, aside from biology,
are codes generated by minds. In 150 years, Darwinists have failed to provide
even rudimentary evidence that significant new information, such as a code or
language, can emerge without intelligent agency.
I am asking a simple question: show me the evidence (journal, date, page) that new information, measured in bits or any appropriate units, can emerge from random variation and natural selection, without intelligent agency...

Well, there you have it... A famous award-winning brain surgeon taken in by the bafflegab churned out by the propagandists at the Discovery Institute...
Odd that a biochem major would still rely on the old DNA=language analogy. That is a good analogy for introducing students - high schoolers, freshman college students - to what the genome is and does, but for a renowned Brain Surgeon to use it as a sort of 'evidence' for his awe-based position (what Dawkins calls the 'argument from personal incredulity' - I cannot figure out how this happened naturally, so some Designer must have done it!) is a bit of a disappointment.

Kimura showed in 1961 that adaptive evolution increases information in the genome. Perhaps the good Surgeon should read up on the things he finds so intriguing...

*The writers (propagandists) at WorldNet Daily - referred to, appropriately, as the WorldNUT Daily by rational folks - sure like to embellish to the point of caricature the things that they use to prop up their ideological fantasies, no? Most of these people on the dissent list are NOBODIES in the world of science, and more than half have backgrounds that are totally IRRELEVANT in evaluating evolution... Amazing...


The Factician said...

Heh, there are some serious problems here, not the least of which is that his analogy is an old one that is mostly only used with students. His molecular biology is so out of date that his suggestion that open reading frames can be read in multiple frames (that code for usable proteins) is certainly not a new one. I can find citations from the late 70s where this was found with varioius phages. I suspect there are citations even earlier than that.

Thinkin' Man said...

I thought this statement by Egnor: "Darwinists have never faced those questions. They've never asked scientifically if random mutation and natural selection can generate the information content in living things." show how out of touch he is with current Evolutionary theory. Its nothing more than a political movement with no scientific basis. They have no publications in reputible journals, and their tennents are easily proved false.

If ID proponents want to have their theories taught in science classes, they need to do some hard science. Last time I checked, complaining about what science has yet to proven was about as good as it got for them.

The presiding judge for Dover v. School Board put it best: "If ID is a valid scientific theory, then why do we need a court to mandate it teaching?"


Doppelganger said...

Good points, Athinkinman...