Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aww. Michael Egnor Notices Me

Well, I see that physician and Discovery Institute shill Michael Egnor has noticed me.

Egnor, a man whose arrogance and ignorance has already led to the coining of a new word, is unhappy about my critique of Tom Bethell. So unhappy, in fact, that he has to resort to forging fake quotes from my article.

Egnor claims that I called Bethell "a liar" - he uses those two words, and puts them in quotes. Any reasonable person would come to the conclusion that they appear in my article. Only problem is, the word "liar" doesn't appear anywhere in my piece, as a text search will easily confirm. Gee, a Discovery Institute spokesman misleading the public - what is the world coming to?

What I said was, "Bethell then goes on to repeat a common lie of the intelligent design movement..." Repeating a lie doesn't necessarily make one a liar; it is possible to repeat a lie from sheer ignorance.

Next, Egnor misrepresents the thrust of my observation about SETI. Egnor says, "Professor Shallit ridicules Bethell’s observation that Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (S.E.T.I.) research demonstrates that, under appropriate circumstances, the scientific inference to intelligent design in nature can be a legitimate interpretation of data." Actually, I did nothing of the sort. If we were to receive a coded message from outer space reading "Welcome earthlings! We are your reptilian overlords. Submit or be absorbed!", I would gladly join the hordes defending our beloved planet from invaders.

What I actually was objecting to - and it would be clear to anyone with connected brain cells - was Bethell's false claim that the people at SETI carry out their objectives by looking for "such things as a sequence of prime numbers". They don't look for prime numbers at all, as I showed by quoting directly from the SETI web pages.

Egnor makes the false claim that Bethell was just using an example from the fictional movie Contact. Although prime numbers do appear in Contact, Bethell said nothing at all about that movie, as a simple text search of Bethell's article will show. Bethell's claim was about what SETI researchers actually do; his claim was incorrect, and Egnor still doesn't understand why.

I find it strange that Egnor, a medical doctor, would defend Bethell, a man whose command of science is so unhinged that he has problems with relativity and thinks there is no AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Addendum: there's also a delicious irony involved in Egnor's post. The DI and intelligent design proponents are always whining about how legitimate scientists want to shut down debate about ID. Egnor's post, however, is on a web log that doesn't allow comments. The Panda's Thumb and Recursivity, by contrast, permit and encourage comments. Who, really, wants debate?


William said...

That relativity link is really frightening. Just off the charts on the crackpot index.

Gerard Harbison said...

Re: his problem with relativity: Steve Carlip demolished it very nicely.


John Farrell said...

For more on Bethell and relativity, check this out.

Anonymous said...

First-time reader; followed the link from PT.

On Bethell's description of the ether as "corresponding to the gravitational field," isn't that the same thing as GR's gravitational space warps? Reading Bethell's descriptions, it sounds like he just added the ether to a system that doesn't actually need it to work properly. /shrug

Eric said...

More info on the use of prime numbers and other mathematical formulas can be found at the following address.


Anonymous said...

We at Darwin Central, the Conspiracy that Cares, have had our own lively correspondence with the redoubtable Dr. Egnor. See our blog at http://blog.darwincentral.org/2007/08/31/discovery-institute-the-%e2%80%9cfederal-crime%e2%80%9d-of-questioning-darwin/