Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Michael Egnor pounds his shoe

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

E WILL BURY YOU!” seems to be his message in his latest complaint. He is very upset that The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology is boycotting Louisiana, and he informs us all in a long argumentum ad populum that the ignorant outnumber us, addressed to the president and members of SICB.

Most Americans are creationists, in the sense that they believe that God played an important role in creating human beings and they don’t accept a strictly Darwinian explanation for life. And they think that they ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in their own public schools. They don’t share your passion for ideological purity in science classes. They have a quaint notion that science depends on the freedom to ask questions, and their insistence on academic freedom is catching on. They don’t want religion taught in the science classroom, but they know that students are not learning about all of the science surrounding evolution. Seventy-eight percent of Americans support academic freedom in the teaching of evolution in schools, and that number is rising fast — it’s up 9% in the past 3 years. People clearly resent your demand for censorship. After all, it’s their children in their schools, and they aren’t happy with a bunch of supercilious Darwinists telling them that they can’t even question Darwinism in their own classrooms. So if you’re going to boycott all the creationists who despise you, you’ll eventually have to hold all of your conventions in Madison or Ann Arbor. Keep up the arrogance and eventually you won’t have to boycott people at all. People will boycott you.

Whoa. I’m impressed.

Note the open admission that the Discovery Institute’s audience are the god-fearin’ creationists, and that the people they regard as “on their side” are plain-and-simple, unmodified creationists, not just the usual Intelligent Design creationists. That’s useful to see.

There’s also the usual distortions. People ought to be able to ask questions about evolution in the public schools — that’s what science is all about, and I would encourage kids to raise their hands and speak out in class. However, none of this argument is about squelching inquiry: it’s about whether weak and discredited ideas, like ID, ought to be given special privilege and elevated to the standard curriculum. They shouldn’t.

We’re also seeing the usual deprecation of expertise. SICB is an organization of thousands of scientists who have invested years of their life in the study of biology. They are experts. Against that, we have millions of people in Louisiana who, while competent in their own areas of work, have very little knowledge of biology. According to Michael Egnor, the people we should listen to on this relatively rarefied subject are the majority who know nothing about it. Would he be quite so sanguine if we dismissed his specialization, neurosurgery, and suggested that he needed to follow the suggestions of a roofer from Baton Rouge? Is it “censorship” that he doesn’t allow his patients’ families into the operating room to give him a hand?

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “PHARYNGULA”

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