Sunday, December 5, 2010

#119: Michael Egnor

Egnor is a neurosurgeon and creationist, and one of the more recent additions to the Discovery Institute’s rooster of loons. He is also an idiot. His main anti-science strategy is attacking materialistic neuroscience and an attempted revival of dualism (taken up also by e.g. O’Leary), completely oblivious to any of the literature on the subject (and to fallacies such as the fallacy of division and denying the antecedent).

One of his primary arguments against materialism, for instance, concerns altruism, and the argument is that since altruism does not have the properties of matter it cannot derive from matter (no, the fact that this is a silly, often-refuted idea has passed him by completely). More specifically, matter has certain properties like location, temperature, and divisibility while ideas and concepts do not have these properties, therefore ideas and concepts cannot derive from matter (wonder whether he would see the category mistake if he tried “democracy” or “computing 2 + 2” vs. computer programs). He also claims that if altruism derived from the brain than when someone walked around in a room, or changed one’s bodily position, it should “change” your altruism. It also follows, according to Egnor, that if you take a chunk of random brain that chunk should have a proportional amount of altruism inside it. Yes, it is that silly (in fact, it is pure choprawoo. More here.

He doesn’t like evolution (the old canards, see here and here. He doesn’t understand “information” either (nor information theory): here and here and here. The examples are really plentiful. For some horrid quote-mining (-mangling), this one is good. And, of course, Darwinism has nothing to contribute to medicine: here, here, here, here, here, and also here.

As liars for Jeebus are wont to do, he also brazenly attempts to reconstruct history.

The term “egnorance” has been proposed to be defined as “willful ignorance”. Egnor is also a prime example of the notion of “crank magnetism”.

Ok – lets just cut straight to it. Michael Egnor hates science; Darwinism, medicine, climate science, physics, you name it. And as all good kooks, he is convinced that he is being persecuted for it (distinguishing criticism and persecution is obviously tough).

Diagnosis: Blissfully ignorant, total moron and dependable fallacy generator. He is relatively prominent among the Discovery Institute Crackpots, and might actually prove to be dangerous; see more here.


  1. And, of course, we should mention his twice in a row victory at the golden woo awards.

  2. A useful piece, but the Scienceblogs link at the end no longer works.

    1. I know. It's a pain in the ass, but scienceblogs changed all the urls when they moved. I have updated the links in this entry, so they should work now, but I can't be bothered to update any such link anywhere on the blog.

  3. Egnor tries to teach biochemists what biochemistry should be all about, inadvertently demonstrating why evolution is such an important concept in biochemistry. Here he tries, once again, to revive the mythical Darwin-eugenics link.

  4. 'rooster of loons'. Might that be "roster"?

  5. Much work has been done on animal analytical thought and with interesting results showing that animals do indeed possess the capacity to work in regions abstract thought.

  6. The correct link for "reconstruct history" is now