Bronze-level articleMichael Egnor

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Egnorance: The Egotistical Combination of Ignorance and Arrogance.
—Burt Humburg[1]

Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon, creationist/IDiot, and promoter of neuro-woo, specifically of non-materialist neuroscience and dualism. Egnor became a writer for the Discovery Institute's online newsletter Evolutionary News and Views in 2007.[2] In 2011, he decided he needed his own blog and called it "Egnorance."[3]

Contents

[edit] Creationism

When it comes to creationism, Egnor eschews the weaselly escape hatch-style arguments often employed by its proponents in favor of blatant ignorance. He is, however, highly fond of points refuted a thousand times. Egnor claims his views are based largely on the book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton, a book which its own author later largely disowned. Most of his arguments are based on the argument from incredulity — that life is just too damn complex to not have been designed by a creator.

The worthy professor equates evolution with Darwinism though reasonable evolutionary biologists understand that the Theory of evolution has progressed since Darwin. He states that Darwin failed to explain molecular pathways, but molecular pathways were not understood in Darwin’s time; later biologists explained them. He keeps on about random causation, but evolutionary biologists never suggest random causation: the whole point of Natural selection is that only mutations that help an organism to survive are preserved in the genetic record. Based in particular on his complete ignorance of the history of biology PZ Myers called Egnor "the Swiss army knife of creationist hackery".[4]

One of his more ridiculous arguments was that evolutionary theory had made no contributions to medicine. This was slapped down by Burt Humburg of The Panda's Thumb, who gave numerous examples of such contributions, such as the explanation for the biochemistry behind the use of aspirin to treat patients who have suffered heart attacks. He also coined the term "Egnorance" in his fisking.[1] Orac referred to him as the "Energizer Bunny of antievolution."[5]

He has attracted criticism from evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who wrote a rebuttal to a column Egnor had published in Forbes.[6]

Steven Novella has played arch-nemesis to Egnor with regard to all subjects Egnor promotes his woo on, including creationism.[7]

[edit] Dualism and non-materialist neuroscience

See the main article on this topic: Non-materialist neuroscience

Creationism plays into Egnor's defense of dualism as he believes that a materialistic explanation cannot fully explain the brain and behavior. One of his most infamous arguments is that the brain itself cannot be fully responsible for behavior because, for example, no part of the brain is "altruistic," so altruistic behavior cannot arise from the brain (thus, a dualist explanation is necessary). This is a straw man of neuroscientific explanations. More specifically, it is a fallacy of division. Altruism is simply a label we give to a set of behaviors — behaviors which arise from the brain. Egnor also makes a classic category mistake in assuming ideas cannot "arise" from physical substance (like neurons) because they are not made of the same "stuff," which means he totally fails at understanding the concept of emergence.

PZ Myers has dismantled his arguments and Novella has had numerous, long-winded correspondences with him on the subject. Novella and Egnor were featured in dueling interviews on NPR, ultimately resulting in further embarrassment to Egnor (if that's possible).[8][9]

[edit] As a neurosurgeon

Demonstrating that someone can be a complete crank in one area but ridiculously competent in another, Egnor made news when he performed brain surgery on two-year-old Bobby Palange, who was close to brain death after his skull had been crushed by his father's SUV. Egnor revived Palange and the boy recovered with only some scarring on his scalp and a slight vision problem in one eye, which is expected to gradually improve with age.[10]

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