Dr. Egnor: taking medicocrity to a whole new level

I hate to do this to you but I have to fisk a fisking. You see, Dr. Michael Egnor, the creationist neurosurgeon, was a bit miffed about my takedown of a particularly idiotic post of his.

For those of you who left your program at the gate, Egnor is a (apparently competent) neurosurgeon in New York. He’s known on the internets for having joined up with the creationist cult pseudoscientific organization, the Discovery Institute. Just as DI has little to say of relevance to the history of life on Earth, Egnor has little of relevance to say about medical science, as far as I can tell.

The thing is, his skills as a neurosurgeon are likely to be unaffected by his religious beliefs. Not so his critical thinking skills. As I explored in the aforementioned piece, Egnor has bought into the garbage spewed forth by some of the worst quacks on the Continent. While I happen to think his religious beliefs are somewhere between cute and silly, I find his medical beliefs (and that is what they are—beliefs) execrable. And so, I jotted down some of my thoughts about the ways in which his thinking is muddled.

His response to my response? More logical fallacies. More smoke and mirrors.

I would have loved to see him try to defend his ideas on facts. You know, things you can measure, or at least conceive of measuring. Maybe a plea from him to look beyond whatever narrow worldview I hold, to look at a big picture that I’m missing.

But no, he goes straight for one of my favorites, the non sequitur. Let me explain.

Just to review, the non sequitur is one of the weakest rhetorical devices. It just shouts, “my argument is so weak that QUICK, LOOK A MOOSE!!!!.”

In this case, rather than discussing his misguided view about benefit vs. harm in medicine, he bemoans my supposed anonymity (program note/shameless plug: don’t forget ScienceOnline09, at which I will be co-moderating a discussion on pseudo- and anonymity in the blogosphere). You see, whatever handle I choose to blog under (and I happen to like mine), it is the content of my writing that should be judged (and if you’re feeling cruel, the style as well). This judgment should be separate from any knowledge of who I am, which is hardly a secret (although I do try to keep it one click away from easy spamming and trolling).

But Egnor is out of ideas, so he goes right for the…shins. He bemoans the cowardice of my anonymity (sic), without addressing the content of my criticism. For example, after quoting from my piece:

It’s not worth quoting much more. You get the drift. So who is ‘PalMD’? ‘PalMD’ is an anonymous physician blogger who claims to be an “internist in the Midwestern United States.” He’s challenged me by name with a schoolyard taunt, but… what’s his name? Who is ‘PalMD’?

The irony is delightful. PalMD claims to represent mainstream ‘science-based medicine,’ yet he lacks the courage to blog under his real name. I’ve always blogged under my own name, because I have little respect for physicians who express viewpoints on the internet and yet are afraid to have their names associated with their opinions. I mean what I say, and I’m willing to stand by it. I don’t say one thing anonymously, and another thing for attribution.

He explicitly eschews the content, and goes straight for a mix of ad hominem attack and misdirection. Has this guy ever actually followed a hyperlink?

Oh, after calling me a whole bunch of names, he does state a supposed fact: half of all Americans are devout Christians who take Genesis literally.

Roffle roffle. Really? According to Gallup, the number of Americans who believe the Bible is the literal word of God is closer to a third, making it just as irrelevant as any arugumentum ad populum. According to another poll, in which about half of Americans did not believe in evolution, about 74% of Americans with post-graduate degrees “believe in” evolution.

Remember, truth is consistent with itself. Reality doesn’t care how many people vote for it. It’s still reality. I’d be willing to wager that well over half the population doesn’t know what gravity is other than it having something to do with falling. Still, they don’t fly off the globe.

Dr. Egnor, despite all your posturing and irrelevant blogviating, you haven’t addressed any facts. Like the rest of the Discovery Institute, you seem unhappy that reality doesn’t conform to your beliefs. That’s kind of pitiful.

Just remember, no matter how firmly grounded you feel your beliefs to be, Eppur, si mouve.