Filling the gaps in my argument

Perhaps I was a little too surprised at the utterly bizarre criticisms Michael Egnor made of my talk at the Minnesota Atheists this weekend — he wasn’t there, he didn’t know what I said, but he went ahead and tried to rebut what he thought I would have said anyway — that I was more interested in spelling out what I did say than in wrestling with his absurd arguments for a magic invisible ghost that lives inside his cranium. Fortunately, a few other people found Egnor’s flailings sufficiently entertaining that they took a few shots at addressing them: you’ll find more discussion on dualism at Harvard College Democrats, Synapostasy, and Notes from Evil Bender. Poor Dr Egnor. Most people seem to be aghast at the thought that someone so foolish is a trusted and respected neurosurgeon.

I’m actually not too surprised. The fact that he’s shilling for the Discovery Institute, that magnet for kooks, cranks, sloppy philosophers and dishonest scientists, says it all.


  1. says

    Well, I’m actually willing to consider the idea that there is a magic invisible ghost living inside his cranium – it would explain a lot, you know . . .

  2. Richard Harris, FCD says

    PZ, don’t be naive!

    Egnor’s been poking around in people’s brains, while doing neuro-surgery, looking for souls. And you’ve said there aren’t any. And he never found any. Sure he was miffed!

  3. says

    Just goes to show that even some of the smartest practitioners aren’t necessarily the smarted reasoners. Still surprising anytime I hear of such intelligence go down the drain.

  4. rrt says

    “Poor Dr. Egnor.”

    When I read this, I keep hearing it in the voice of Python’s nature documentary narrator. “Poor Terence Rattinger…”

  5. Steve LaBonne says

    When you think about how ridiculous substance dualism really is, don’t forget the simple fact that all religions (with perhaps arguable but certainly very minor exceptions) do and must posit it. I’ve never quite seen how our theistic – scientist friends manage to deal with such a massive source of cognitive dissonance.

  6. says

    I’ve never quite seen how our theistic – scientist friends manage to deal with such a massive source of cognitive dissonance

    I can’t say about theistic scientists, but all the theists that I know, including several engineers, simply don’t think about it. Ever. Even when (ostensibly) arguing the point.

  7. Schwa says

    I’m not terribly surprised that a good neurosurgeon can be a dope; wasn’t Bill Frist considered a very competent cardiologist?

  8. Steve LaBonne says

    Reminds me of the old joke about medical specialties: Internists know everything and do nothing. Surgeons know nothing and do everything. (There’s Egnor for you.) Pathologists know everything and do everything, but only after it’s too late.

  9. Jeff says

    Here ve see ze huge bull Myers engaged in a life or death struggle mit ze Egnor. Ze Egnor sneaks up on ze Myers on all sixes. Now he stops to observe. Satisfied that ze Myers has not heard him, he approaches nearer. Mit great skill he chooses his moment and zen, qvick as a limpet, with one mighty bound buries his fangs in ze Myers’ neck! Ze Myers struggles to no avail. A battle of zis kind can take anything up to fifteen years because ze Egnor has such a tiny brain.

  10. sailor says

    “Poor Dr Egnor”
    Having lived in societies where the severly mental challenged are allowed on the streets (and called idiots) and those where they are kept in institutions, I would say they do much better when out on the streets (or on the internets). True they get ragged a lot, but being the idiot gives them a role in society and makes them feel they are part of it. Almost any role is better than none.

  11. J-Dog says

    Once again, I deeply regret not being brain-damaged and living in New York. Then, I could sign him up as my brain surgeon, and then fire him, face-to-face for being an idiot. I would of course, take a picture of his face at the crucial moment to show everybody.

    Maybe Egnor could do surgery upon himself and try to insert a working brain?

  12. The Pacifier says

    Thanks PZ…..

    I checked out the MN Atheist website…..

    I must say; kinda remeinded me of your ‘typical’ religious / social organization recruiting tool. I think I’ll pass… unless of course they offer free beer and lap dances…. Otherwise, I just don’t get. Of course I’m not as ‘brighty bright’ as the Atheist crew…. But what the hell, the events look like a major snore fest…. Oh well, more power to ya!

    I’ll give ya an example. One of the stories linked to a group of protesters outside some ‘focus on the family’ event….. Holding up signs that say ‘America is not a theocracy’…. Ummmmm, I do realize that most people feel the need to ‘fit in’ somewhere but come on…. you have to admit; that’s a little ‘creepy’. But this is America and last time I checked…. People are free to protest just about whatever they want… so goes the war of words and ideals. It goes pretty much like this:

    I’m smart you’re stupid….

    The End.

  13. says

    I know many religious physicians who do not let their beliefs affect their practice (at least not perceptibly). However, this guy works on BRAINS and what if he decided to poke around a little more to prove his soul thing?

  14. Steve_C says

    Yeah, a real go getter you are…

    not interested unless your drunk or someone is rubbing up against you.

  15. Jeff says

    Aww, Ray Fox is just peeved because he just found out his horse has no legs. And that it isn’t a horse, but a pile of horse manure…

  16. frog says

    Surgery is primarily an athletic event. Don’t most surgeons remind you of jocks? It’s no surprise that some have kooky, ill-founded ideas, since that has no effect on their skill as surgeons, which primarily consists of a very steady hand and an encyclopedic anatomical knowledge.

    But anyone who takes diagnostic suggestions from surgeons (in general) is a fool. One can be a master carpenter and still believe in ghosts.

  17. frog says

    Hey Pacifist,

    I’m not a big-joiner either, but I avoid feeling superior for not being one. That’s not only a normal human inclination, but a necessary one. If everyone on our side were radical individualists, then the other side will win. We (the non-joiners) are the freaks, not the other way around. The problem with religion is not that they’re “‘typical’ religious / social organization recruiting tool[s]”, it’s that they have insane beliefs.

    That is, unless you think that the problem with the human race is that we’re apes, who enjoy (for the most part) to spend our day picking fleas of each other. Not a real productive attitude.

  18. Sastra says

    I suspect Egnor and other supernaturalists are puzzled by our critique. No, no, no — materialists are the ones who think you should be able to open up the brain and see something called “altruism” or “consciousness.” They’re the ones with clunky, literal minds which reduce everything to the physical. It’s the spiritual folk who have no problem with altruism, love, and thoughts not being physical “things.” Supernaturalists seem to believe that materialists take everything as an object, so, in order to be consistent, materialists should be looking for objects.

    The way they see it, we have it backwards. Since thoughts don’t just drop out of the brain and fall on the surgery floor when Egnor makes a cut, materialism has been falsified. They fail to see that only someone who thinks in terms of everything-is-a-kind-of-substance would caricature natural theories of mind/brain this way. They miss levels of complexity and abstraction and think we reduce it all down to a single level — probably because that’s actually what they do.

  19. says

    Hey, Pacifier, you are welcome to join or not, but you are also welcome to just come to an event and check it out. Many of the events are really just a chance to gab with like-minded folks. Coffee and talk, no big whoop. And if you like a few people you meet, so much the better. But it’s not a cult, and there is no pressure to join if you don’t want to.

    Next Sunday is a breakfast. If nothing else, you get lots of food for $6.66.