How To Reclaim A Derogatory Nickname, with Michael Egnor

The Novellatron1 – the skeptical, alien-made robot also known as Dr. Steven Novella – has many detractors in the worlds of pseudoscience and antiscience, but none that I would call his nemesis: other than perhaps that of Dr. Michael Egnor, conservative Catholic neurosurgeon and ID proponent. Hmm, then again, maybe “nemesis” is too strong a word, and one that gives too much credit to Egnor. But he does seem to be the one person that keeps coming back for more slices of Novellatron pie, time after time, as unwise as that is.

Despite his fierce Internet battles with the Novellatron over dualism, neuroscience and, of course, intelligent design/evolution, Egnor never had a website of his own, instead using the resources of the Discovery Institute’s main blog, Evolution News & Views. Until now, of course.

So, I give to you: Egnorance. Yes, that is its name (and don’t worry about it wearing out). It has to be the single boldest attempt at derogatory nickname-reclaiming I’ve ever witnessed, based purely on the fact that the term can’t really be anything but a pun revolving around how ignorant Egnor is about many of the topics he passionately defends. He’s too conservative and middle-aged to be a hipster, so the ironic angle doesn’t work either. How perplexing.

Anyway, he’s in sparkling form over there, throwing out posts with rather alarming speed. (The speed almost gets me thinking about how he could possibly be keeping up with his professional career in surgery.) The usual topics are covered, including atheism, evolution, abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change: it’s all as you would expect from a pro-ID, arch-conservative Catholic.

I won’t talk in detail about anything he says (even though I easily could – there’s just so much to choose from!), lest I provoke his wrath and he writes something about me. Then again, would that be such a bad thing after all?

Good luck with reclaiming your writing’s nickname, Michael Egnor. Good luck. You’ll need it.

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  1. This is my nickname for Steve, and it is fast becoming his official nickname. It will be confirmed for certain when I go to TAM 9 next month, just you wait.

25 thoughts on “How To Reclaim A Derogatory Nickname, with Michael Egnor”

  1. Wow. It's not possible for a man to be wrong about everything but Egnor is really giving it the old college try.

  2. “…lest I provoke his wrath and he writes something about me. Then again, would that be such a bad thing after all?”

    No! It’s like waving an open wound at a hungry mosquito, it just encourages them!

    And like a mosquito, Egnor’s sting is something to neither be feared nor desired. I say this as someone whom Egnor has engaged in the past. He has been so thoroughly trounced by so many there is no sport in it. It’s best to just ignore him and maybe, evetually, he will go away. Or start writing for World Net Daily.

    Nice blog by the way. Must add to reader …

    1. Wellllll, I think a confrontation could be at least mildly entertaining. But yeah, it may be more trouble than it's worth.

      Oh, and I should add *your* blog to *my* reader…

    1. It's not the number of posts (PZ probably does more), it's the insanity within them. BTW, funniest thing I have seen on the internet today. Why would he do something so obviously Poe worthy right out of the gate?

  3. From the end of one of his posts relating to the existence of extraterrestrials:

    The science behind this junk is non-existent. We have no idea how life arose on earth (guesses don't count!), so how can we predict the existence of life elsewhere? An N of zero is a poor basis for statistical inference.

    It's like some crazy religious cult.

    Left the following comment:

    There's some pretty good science around the subject of abiogenesis. I suggest you hit the GOOGLE. It's not like we have 'no idea'. That sounds like a statement that would be made by someone in a crazy religious cult.


  4. Then certainly it must have happened, since everything is possible in such a loong period. RIght?
    Wrong. Enough is possible, even probable, that there's no need to resort to an infinite regression of imaginary creators.

    1. thetimechannel —

      You wrote:,"Enough is possible, even probable.." Is this a scientific statement, or a proof of any kind? This type of airy-fairy thinking is at the root of evolutionary ideology. It is not science, it is pure speculation. It provides no causal explanation.Yet you discard creationism for that very reason! Go figure.

      The creator, God, is not like other relative causes that He can also have a cause. God is absolute cause, and an absolute cause is the cause of itself, i.e. a self-determined cause, thus possessing free will. That is God, and free will means Personality. There is no infinite regression. It is the Darwinians who are infinitely regressing from the traditional knowledge in which such problems were long ago resolved.

      1. LOL. So your God doesn't need a creator, but you assume that we must have one with NO evidence whatsoever? Makes no sense. Worse, your rhetoric is weak as water. You'll never see the big leagues of the creation circle no matter how much you holler.

  5. "Consciousness emerges from the brain, like urine emerges from the body. [NOT!]"

    Believe it or not, you damage the brain, it damages the consciousness. Live long enough (of course I wish all a long and healthy life) and you'll likely find out about that, though for your sake you don't have to endure such indignities.

    And truly you can get some REMARKABLE modifications of your consciousness with certain chemicals — but it's been a long long time since I've done such foolish things, and I would feel it unethical to encourage you to investigate.

    Still, if you haven't tried it, you're lacking very strong evidence that consciousness is indeed a material phenomenon, or for the fussy a manifestation of such — much like a marvelous rainbow is a manifestation of ordinary sunlight and boring little raindrops by what amounts to simple physics.

    PS: Keep up the good work, Jack Scanlan. Don't know how you stand it, over time I find trying to read creationists becomes ever more dreadful and very literally repellent. Sort of like being stuck in a temporal loop that was tiresome the first time around.

    1. hi Greg —

      If you poured water on your computer, would you expect the software to be the problem when it didn't work properly, or would it be the hardware? You see, there is a similar difference between subject and object. When the subject identifies itself with the object that is called illusion. For example, in a play an actor may actually think himself to be Kind Lear. The audience may think the actor to be King Lear, but in reality there is a difference between the actor and the character he is playing.

      In the same way we go to a movie, we may identify the flickering lights on the screen as real characters, but its only flickering lights. Consciousness can be fooled like that. But consciousness is always subjective (being for itself) whereas the object of consciousness (being in itself) is objective — two different forms of being.

      Interesting that you mentioned the rainbow…."marvelous rainbow is a manifestation of ordinary sunlight and boring little raindrops by what amounts to simple physics" No its not, Greg! There is no rainbow to be found out there in the objective world. Rainbows are optical illusions. You will never find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow because there is no end to be found. If you move, the rainbow moves. It is completely dependent on the consciousness of the observer, not simple physics.

      No wonder you feel creationist literature is boring. Darwin came to feel the same way, because he and his bots think they are nothing but molecules! Good Lord! Please save us from the attack of the bots!

      1. I have read though this argument several times and I cannot see anything in it that establishes, or even tries to establish, that our consciousness is the product of anything but the operations of the brain.

        Maybe there is, but what? What "missing component" beyond the operations of the brain is required to make it work? I'm open to the idea, but you'll have to be more explicit so I can actually have something to consider.

        Oh, and interesting that you mention rainbows as well. I have a nice photo I took of a double rainbow. Obviously, if the existence of rainbows is dependent on consciousness, that makes my camera conscious. Now I suppose you can argue, though I cannot fathom what the point of it would be, that it takes a consciousness to appreciate pictures, but then that would apply to every item in every one of the thousands of pictures I ever took.

        1. Rest assured, Greg, the camera is not conscious. The film, however, is just a pattern of dots reflecting different contrasting colors (usually R,G,B). You, the conscious person, are the one who interprets the dots on the film as a rainbow. The camera can't distinguish a rainbow from a hole in the wall.

          The camera picks up colors like the eye, but intellect interprets the stimuli in the eye as a rainbow, and then projects it as being 'out there' in the sphere objective to its own subjective self. Consider this in terms of how a robot acts that is fitted with a photoelectric tube. The tube detects light, but the robot can't do anything with just that fact. Only if there is a circuit from the tube to a central processing unit, a program to interpret the current, and a method to activate a servo motor in the presence of such data, will the robot be able to use that data to avoid or approach whatever is causing the photoelectric tube to register a current. So a photoelectric tube or light sensitive spot is a long way from what we mean by seeing.

          Seeing requires intelligence, discrimination, or determination — in other words, thinking. And thought is only possible for a person – a spiritual or non material being. Being has many forms, not only material.
          If you think about it, you will gradually come to understand that Being is a pure idea. If yo take away all the sensuous properties of a thing, you will only be left with its being there. And what is that? It is only the idea of being there. Its a fact. You can study Kant's Critiques to learn what that means. Its not so simple, but its also not as hard as QM.

          The "missing component" is thought.

          1. I ask the question again: In what way does this establish or even try to establish that
            our consciousness is the product of anything but the operations of the brain?

            I'm open to the idea that there is something more — I just don't understand why there is a logical necessity that there should be. What "missing component" beyond the operations of the brain is required to make it work? Give me something to work with here.

            1. Hi Greg —

              Try to think of the software and hardware example. The software is not the hardware. The hardware sits there until the software 'instructs' the hardware what to do. Your brain is the object (hardware). As long as the subject (consciousness) is in the body/brain it will work. Take away the consciousness (death) and the hardware (body/brain) will just sit there in space and decay.

              The whole brain, eye, everything is there in a dead body. But it wont get up and walk and talk and see without the consciousness.

              Another way to understand this. You had a baby body at one time. That baby was presumably named Greg, or Gregory. It was the same person you are today, but your body is completely different. If you got a social security number when you were a baby, how would the government identify you as the same Greg at your present age? If they considered you the body, they would look at the picture you gave them as a baby and say, "This isn't YOU." They are looking at the body and saying that it isn't you. Do you tell them, "No, I am that body!" Then why should they identify you with a completely different body as the same person? So we have to conclude that the person and the body are not the same.

              Your self identity and your body are two different things. Notice I wrote "your" body, i.e. something that belongs to you. There is a difference between the possessor and the thing possessed. When you refer to your body you say, "My body." YOu don't say "I body." You clearly understand the difference between you and your body. When you look out at a field of wheat, you say, "That's not me." Yet when you eat your cereal in the morning, that same wheat becomes your body, and when you evacuate you don't flush a part of yourself down the toilet. You remain the same whole Greg despite all the changes of the body.

              The body is a flux of materials, like a river is a flux of water. Yet you retain your identity amidst that flux of matter. Just like the Ganges river retains its identity despite its changing waters. This is called the principle of identity-in-difference in philosophy. It holds for all moving or growing objects. It is a dialectical principle of thinking. If you are interested in these things it wouldn't hurt to study a little philosophy – the system or science of rational thinking.

          2. 'The 'missing component' is thought."

            Is this supposed to be a joke? The brain is incapable of supporting thoughts? If it wasn't, what would it be doing but taking up space?

          3. "And thought is only possible for a person – a spiritual or non material being."

            In the first place, that's simply an assertion. In the second, the last time I checked I was a material being,

            "Being has many forms, not only material."

            I saw a man upon the stair

            a little man who wasn't there.

            He wasn't there again today.

            Oh how I wish he'd go away.

      2. Is Will trying to argue that light rays do not exist if there is not a consciousness to perceive them? Or is he trying to argue that there is no actual “physical” rainbow? Then he would be wrong on both counts. The rainbow is at least as physical as a fluffy white cumulus cloud. Optically the main difference is that a rainbow refracts sunlight whereas a cloud scatters sunlight.

        Unless you want to claim that the word “rainbow” only refers to the refracted light and not the physical water droplets that are producing it. That is a reasonable interpretation but it makes the rainbow no less physical. Photons are pretty darned real, and rainbows are not optical illusions. Optical illusions occur when the consciousness perceives something in the visual system that does not correspond to the actual photons striking the retina.

        1. He's trying to argue that consciousness couldn't exist without some undefined factor that we don't know anything about. I'm perfectly willing to entertain that idea, but the arguments provided so far don't give me much to go on.

        2. Hi John,

          Have you ever driven down a road on a hot summer day and seen what looks like a puddle of water in the street ahead. Is it really there, or is it an optical illusion created by the Sun's rays reflecting from the hot pavement? You can see a mirage, but there is nothing there. You can even take a picture of the apparent water on the road (I've seen pictures like that) but still there is actually nothing there like water. And when you get up close to it, it disappears completely. Same with rainbows, basically.

          The light reflecting off a movie screen appears to us like real images on the screen. But they are only reflections. Even their movement is only an illusion. So we are thrown back to the role of the intelligent or conscious observer. He/she has the essential role in the whole experience, despite whatever physical circumstances may be there.

          This seems to be the common sense understanding. (Also see my comments to Greg).

    1. It seems that unless I were in your pants with you, tim, you would be the only one who could pee down your leg. Enjoy that thought. haha

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