Discovery Institute promotes student-led groups for academic pseudofreedom

On December 11th, Robert Crowther asks "what is more important than your freedom?"  While I agree that real personal freedom is one of the most important human rights, this is not what intelligent design (ID) proponents mean when they say freedom. Let me rephrase his question to be more accurate: "what is more important than your freedom to believe whatever you want without regard to reality?"

The whole idea of "academic freedom" promoted by the Discovery Institute (DI) is ridiculous. Education shouldn’t be subject to what an individual person chooses to believe. If it was, then holocaust denial, astrology, homeopathy, etc. would all be fair game. Who would ever want such a thing? Not even the DI would want something like that. They just want their brand of academic freedom to apply to only the subjects they believe in.  

In his post, Crowther is writing to promote the formation of IDEA (Intelligent design and awareness) student groups. I am not saying that this is some sort of indoctrination movement, but shouldn’t their priority be to look for evidence first?  Just like Kate Holden and Tiana Dietz pointed out in their tour of the DI, they didn’t see anything resembling a lab in the whole building.  Finding evidence should be their priority, and the fact that it isn’t is very telling.

Its easy to see why they would want to target high school and college students. We all know that people that age are very impressionable. They are at a stage in their life where they are trying to find themselves and easily latch on to in group that peaks their interest. These characteristics are why cults target this age group.  I guess their idea is that if you can’t beat them with science and  reason, then convert their kids.

More on eugenics and evolution

I really hate to beat a dead horse, but Michael Egnor of the Discovery Institute has another blog post ridiculously relating the theory of evolution with eugenics.  Just so that we are all starting on the same page, here is a short list of why eugenics is not based on evolution:

  • eugenics = human breeding
  • animal and plant breeding is way older than evolutionary theory
  • evolution deals with natural selection, genetic drift, and random mutations, not forced breeding

I am not saying that those who practiced eugenics didn’t point to evolutionary principles as the underlying reason for eugenics.  What I am saying is that evolutionary theory is unnecessary for eugenics, and it more resembles the ancient practice of breeding.

Now back to Egnor’s newest post.  He writes:

Few physicians and medical scientists and educators with genuine experience with medical education, research, and practice, and who are not ideologically committed to the materialist-atheist metaphysics for which Darwinism is the creation myth, honestly believe that evolutionary biology is important to medicine.

Many bloggers, including myself, have pointed to many reasons why evolutionary theory is important to medicine.  Here is an abbreviated list of its usefulness:

  1. ability to use model organisms
  2. bioinformatics comparing different species to find important parts of genes or proteins
  3. microbial resistance to antibiotics; viruses evolving resistance to antivirals
  4. cancer cells evolving resistance to chemotherapy
  5. populations with predispositions to certain diseases
  6. nutrition and health guidelines

Of course Egnor has not acknowledged these points even though he wrote that he is aware of the blogs refuting his claim.  He continues with his denial so that he can keep promoting his unstated premise that evolution is evil and scientists who believe in it are also evil.  Fear is a powerful tool, and Egnor is using this fear of Nazi’s and eugenics to push his agenda.

In closing, I want to say that none of this has an effect on whether or not evolution is responsible for the diversity of life on this planet.  Moving the subject to eugenics is simple misdirection so the discussion will be moved away from ID proponents biggest problem: evidence.

Egnor still insists eugenics is based on evolution

Over at Space City Skeptics, I wrote a blog post criticizing Discovery Institute fellow Michael Egnor’s claim that the only thing evolutionary theory has given medicine is eugenics.  Several other blogs were also critical of this ludicrous idea. Now, Egnor has responded to blogs such as Respectful Insolence, Pharyngula, and my Space City Skeptics post.

In his post, Egnor still still claims that the theory of evolution led to eugenics.  He even goes so far as to call eugenics, “Darwinian medicine 1.0.”  The whole idea is ridiculous.  Eugenics is essentially human breeding, and we all know that animal breeding preceded Darwin by thousands of years.

Egnor implies in his first post that a conference on evolution and medicine was somehow being kept a secret. He said that he is “having trouble finding the program.”  However, details of the conference were are already available on Pharyngula:

(P.Z.) Myers notes that he had posted the conference schedule a while back, which I missed. Sometimes my Internet Content Filter screens out Pharyngula, so it’s not always easy keeping up. I’ll have to dial down the ‘bigotry’ and ‘casual obscenity’ settings.

Notice how Egnor puts the blame for his own ignorance on someone else?  Shouldn’t he have accepted some blame, or better yet, have actually done some research before coming to the conclusion that the conference was being hidden?  This is typical of the Discovery Institute and similar Intelligent Design proponents.  They want to have their conclusion first without finding out the reality.  It is called willful ignorance and is at the core of many of the ID talking points (i.e there are no transitional fossils).

In order to exert some sort of authority on the subject, Egnor goes on and on about how he is a professor of neurosurgery and has a lot of experience in medicine.  However, he is too far removed from basic science to really see how the ideas and knowledge obtained through evolutionary theory really effect his work.  I know this from my own personal experience. I used to work in a neurobiology lab and took a medical neuroscience class. The med class wasn’t anywhere near the level of depth where evolution would be important.  There is just too much other information that is more relevant to being a doctor. It wasn’t until I started studying microbes and their relation to each other and higher life forms that it became obvious of that evolutionary theory permeates nearly everything one does at that level even if it isn’t explicitly stated.

Egnor goes on to say:

My own experience with medical research and education is that medical practice is a very effective check on b.s., because in medicine ideas often have immediately obvious consequences.

If this were true, we wouldn’t need large randomized, double-blind studies for the evaluation of medicines.  We also wouldn’t need to show any result by several different methods before they can be taken seriously.  There are just too many uncontrolled and unknown variables that can’t be accounted for in experiments.  The fact that Egnor doesn’t understand this fundamental property of doing proper science is an example of the improper mindset that ID proponents have.

Of course he doesn’t really address the myriad of reasons why evolutionary theory benefits modern medicine that I and others pointed out.  He does however argue that medicine is just fine with only knowing the “proximate” explanations for diseases, etc. In other words, he believes that doctors and research scientists only need to know the “what” of biology.  Again, Egnor misses the fact that we would not have the knowledge that we have today if it weren’t for evolutionary theory.

Egnor finishes his post with more of his anti-scientific and anti-intellectual prejudice.  He says:

The purpose of the evolutionary explanations is to provide jobs and grant money for evolutionary biologists — a kind of academic workfare for Darwinists-still-seeking-relevance.

This kind of statement would be really funny, if this type of attitude didn’t lead to the general decline of science.  We can see these negative attitudes effect on education, on basic research, and even the perception of the United States.