What is it with neurosurgeons and evolution?

Yesterday, I mentioned that creationist conference in Istanbul. There wasn’t much to say about the content of the event, but they did have photos of some of the displays, that looked exactly like the nonsense published in Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation. But now I’ve got an essay from one of the speakers, Oktar Babuna. I’m sorry to say he’s another data point damaging the reputation of good doctors everywhere.

A Turkish anchorman, neurosurgeon, and doctor of medical sciences, Oktar Babuna, exposes the absurdity of Darwinism by scientific evidence and explains the reason why this preposterous theory is promoted almost everywhere world-wide.

Between Michael Egnor and Oktar Babuna and Ben Carson, I’m hoping I never have a brain injury, because the profession seems to be a magnet for vapid nitwits.

He has the usual ignorant creationist arguments against Darwinism.

Darwinism is absurd because it proposes that life emerged by coincidence

No, it doesn’t.

and that human beings are a mere animal species.

We are animals (although not “mere” — biologists value every species, including our own). What definition of “animal” do the creationists have that somehow fails to include humans?

He tries to back up those assertions with the usual creationist “ooh, big numbers” approach: proteins are assembled from thousands of amino acids, humans have trillions of cells, therefore it’s all just too complex to have been constructed, except by one really smart engineer. This is a fallacious argument. You might just as well look at a beach, notice there are an awful lot of grains of sand out there, and decide that they are so numerous that they must have been placed there, one by one, by a very finicky deity. Every beach is an artisanal beach. Or you could just read Ian Musgrave’s brief introduction to abiogenesis and get the stupid smacked out of your head.

Then he makes the standard Yahya argument. They all look the same to him.

If we look at the beginning of life on Earth, the first cells emerged all at once. For example, the first cell was a cyanobacteria, a cell which exists even today and produces oxygen through photosynthesis. This cell emerged and remains the same cell. All species – from elephants to tigers, plants, fish, and reptiles – appeared all at once and never really changed. There is no evolution.

Ho hum. This is the fallacy of looking at a twig and declaring that there are no branches or trunks, the tree is a twig all the way down. All the things he mentions have known antecedents in the fossil record that are different from modern forms.

Don’t worry, though, Babuna doesn’t waste much time lying about the evidence. He’s got better things to do, like lying about our motives.

So, we can ask: why is this theory supported world-wide? Because evolution is atheism. The reason why Darwin is defended by so many scientists all around the world is in order to keep atheism alive. But this didn’t start with Charles Darwin. The idea that life appeared by chance goes back to the Sumerians, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Greece. This is the beginning of materialism.

Charles Darwin was not an atheist. He was agnostic. He had no plans to promote atheism, and was actually reluctant to publish in part because he knew what controversy would arise, and in part because he was uncomfortable with contradicting religion’s explanations. Babuna reverses causality here. Atheism didn’t create evolution, but evolution was compatible with atheism, and modern atheism actually uses the scientific evidence to support the idea that gods are unnecessary.

You know what’s coming next, right? It’s so predictable. Hitler.

In Russia, Turkey, the US, and any other country, there is a dictatorship of Darwinism in all universities and schools. Darwinism implants the idea that humans are fighting-animals which have to struggle to survive. If you are strong, you will survive, but if you are weak, you will be eliminated. This is the selfish struggle of Darwinism. This selfishness takes law away from the world and provokes all kinds of violence, terrorism, and fascism. Karl Marx said that evolution is the basis of Marxism’s natural history. Hitler also put the foundations of fascism on Darwinism. When we look at terrorist groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc., these groups emerged for two reasons: religious ignorance and Darwinism. These people need to be educated.

No, evolution accommodates many strategies for survival, not just kill or be killed. Cooperation is just as viable as competition. You don’t need to physically eliminate your competition if you can outbreed them. Species and communities matter.

The relationship between Marxism and evolution is ambiguous and complex. On the one hand, Marx did appreciate the materialist approach; on the other, Marxism wants there to be an arrow of progress that can be consciously directed, something not present in evolutionary theory. Marx also saw Darwin’s version of evolution as more than a little bourgeois, appropriate for a nation of shop-keepers.

Hitler was anti-evolution. He banned Darwin’s books. The foundation of his ideology was God and the state, and he said so repeatedly in Mein Kampf, and religion was a staple of Nazi propaganda. Kinder, Kuche, Kirche!

But how can anyone take someone seriously who claims that ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram are rooted in Darwinism?

I guess that would be the kind of person who thinks religion consists only of good things, so anything bad must, by definition, be the spawn of satanic atheism.

Darwinism has taken love away from the world. It brings selfishness; it sees human beings as animals which can and should kill other animals. If we look at the three major religions –Islam, Christianity and Judaism – they all say that God created all human beings and all other living things with love. Love is the essence of religion. Love will come back to the world with religion. We hope that, with scientific struggle, Darwinism will go away with its egoism and lawlessness.

See? Boko Haram cannot be a religiously motivated terrorist movement, because religion is only about love. Darwinism is all about killing animals, which includes humans, therefore Boko Haram is a Darwinist organization.

With logic like that, how can you not trust Oktar Babuna with a scalpel and your brain?


  1. qwints says

    It is important to remember that Hitler’s eugenics were not unique, and came from people who were inspired by Darwin – the US started forced sterilization prior to Hitler writing Mein Kampf and German eugenicists were, in part, funded by Americans. Davenport and Laughlin were both evolutionary biologists whose efforts in Buck v Bell relied on Darwin and Mendel.

  2. says

    Hitler also put the foundations of fascism on Darwinism.


    Robert Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany:

    In one of the darker aspects of Nazi Germany, churches and universities – generally respected institutions – grew to accept and support Nazi ideology. Robert P. Ericksen explains how an advanced, highly-educated, Christian nation could commit the crimes of the Holocaust. This book describes how Germany’s intellectual and spiritual leaders enthusiastically partnered with Hitler’s regime, thus becoming active participants in the persecution of Jews, and ultimately, in the Holocaust. Ericksen also examines Germany’s deeply flawed yet successful postwar policy of denazification in these institutions. Complicity in the Holocaust argues that enthusiasm for Hitler within churches and universities effectively gave Germans permission to participate in the Nazi regime.

    * In fact, Hitler “put the foundations of fascism” on race.

  3. mostlyferal says

    A neurosurgeon on evolutionary biology is like a professional video gamer on microprocessor architecture.

    They may have picked up a few things that impact their specialty, and may think that knowledge comprises more of the field than it does, and meanwhile laypeople can just lump it all into “really good at computers.”

  4. rietpluim says

    Oh puh-leaze, safe us from the bullshit that has been thrown at us over and over and over. Of course evolution theory is atheistic. That’s because the world is atheistic. Does God personally swing the planets around the sun? Does He personally influence our brains so we see electromagnetic waves of certain wavelengths as colors? Does He rearrange the atoms during the citric acid cycle? No, He doesn’t, because there is no God. All those things happen by natural ways. And so does evolution.

  5. says

    @qwints @SC

    Thank you both. I get really annoyed at this stupid debate over whether Hitler can be counted into the religious or atheist camp, as if there were no other ideologies, and as if a regime such as NS couldn’t use elements of both in equally horribly efficient and ridiculously contradictory ways. Its ideological sources are varied and inconsistent, and “Mein Kampf” is an extremely poor source to rely on for anything concerning National Socialism; it’s an incoherent rant rather than a consistent ideology, and after 1933 the power structure and its dynamics were really more important than an old book the Fuhrer wrote a decade earlier.

    Btw, the saying “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” doesn’t have anything to do with National Socialism. It was used sporadically in conservative circles around the turn of the century, but popularised in West Germany in the 1970s.

  6. says

    the first cells emerged all at once.

    Wouldn’t that be about right?
    The transition between complex chemical reaction and “life” is kind of vague, but once you have a living cell that can divide, and has no competition, it’d be all over the place in an eye-blink. Maybe a couple hundred thousand years?

  7. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin proposes a hypothesis, different from the “magic sky faeries did it”, “warm mud puddles did it”, and even from the “pink coloured polkadots did it after a long night in the pub” stories: Cheese is tasty. Which is true. Ergo, evolution evolved to supply cheese. QED (that’s scientist-speak for “oh! duh!! of course!!!”).

  8. says

    Even if Hitler was a full on evolutionary scientist, that doesn’t make evolution wrong. Bad people misusing or misunderstanding science has no effect at all on the science itself.

  9. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Darwinism has taken love away from the world. It brings selfishness; it sees human beings as animals which can and should kill other animals. If we look at the three major religions –Islam, Christianity and Judaism – they all say that God created all human beings and all other living things with love.

    So is he claiming that the followers of the Abrahamic religions don’t believe in killing animals?

    Has he never celebrated Kurban Bayramı?

  10. Jake Harban says

    No, evolution accommodates many strategies for survival, not just kill or be killed. Cooperation is just as viable as competition. You don’t need to physically eliminate your competition if you can outbreed them. Species and communities matter.

    You don’t “need” to do anything. Creationists tend to regard evolution as a moral imperative because to them it’s basically a religion and religions are about moral imperatives. The idea that it simply describes what happens in the complete absence of human activity simply doesn’t register.

    Mind you, I think a lot of people are religious in the first place because the idea of an absence of human activity is incomprehensible to them; God is the human of last resort who did anything not clearly done by anyone else.

  11. colinday says

    If we look at the three major religions –Islam, Christianity and Judaism – they all say that God created all human beings and all other living things with love.

    So Hinduism and Buddhism aren’t major religions?

    Also, if Stalin were a Darwinist, then why did he support Lysenko?

  12. stumble says

    Why people care so much about what neurosurgeons think I have zero idea. The best of them are highly specialized and skilled technicians. Because the guy you want rooting around in your brain with a knife needs to be extrodinarily skilled at what he is doing. But outside of their specialty they have minimal extra training. They spend a decade getting training to do one thing and one thing only, and at that they are very skilled. But they are not biologists, or really even scientists.

    Admitedly there are doctors who are great scientists, but neurosurgeons are more like Rolls Royce mechanics… They charge a lot of money to do one very specific thing as well as it can possibly be done. But you don’t ask a RR mechanic how to design a better self driving car, it’s outside his specialty.

  13. Zeppelin says

    Yeah, I think expecting a neurosurgeon to be knowledgeable about biology is kind of like expecting a shot putter to be knowledgeable about ballistics.

  14. rietpluim says

    @stumble – That’s true. Medical training is not necessarily a scientific education. Medicine students are being taught the discoveries of science but not the scientific method; and some of them are ready to believe what anybody wants to teach them. That’s why many doctors see no problem in applying quackery. Our neighbor is a doctor and she speculates about the effects of reincarnation on mental illnesses. Fortunately, this is mostly harmless, but not always.

  15. jrkrideau says

    @12 colinday
    if Stalin were a Darwinist, then why did he support Lysenko?

    Most of Stalin’s education was in a pre-WWI Georgian seminary where he was studying for the priesthood. He may not have gotten a strong grounding in evolutionary theory.

  16. says

    A friend of mine is a pediatric neurologist (he’s an atheist) and he thought that the Ben Carson Phenomenon could possibly be attributed to the fact that most neuro patients have really bad prognoses, and pretty much every intervention is heroic, and despite heroic intervention patients often die.

    So the job will tend to attract people who have a great deal of certainty in their skills, and will hold to this certainty even when they fail, because they fail a lot. It will attract people who are willing to take really big risks for the vanishing possibility of reward. And people with really good reputations tend to be people who are really good at talking to traumatized and bereaved family members, not necessarily people who are any better or worse at actually cutting into brains. All of these factors will tend to select for people who are irrationally optimistic or just plain irrational, and Hero Surgeon types who have a deep repose of moral rectitude and self-regard, who can tell themselves they did the right thing even if the kid woke up and couldn’t walk anymore, and then go in and tell the family about how everything was done and the nurses were so incredible and we helped the little soul make it.

  17. says

    @colinday @jkrideau

    Again, I don’t think Stalin’s education in a Georgian seminary is relevant here. Historical context is much more important. Lysenko was very clever in exploiting Soviet politics, presenting himself as a “scientist from the people”, and presented his theory about environmental influence as compliant with the orthodox Marxist doctrine. Nevertheless, it took a while for him to reach the enormous political influence he eventually had, because during the 1930s, Stalin was cautious about submitting science to (pseudo-)Marxist ideological speculation. An outright ban on modern genetics was only brought forth in 1948.

    This must be seen in the context of an increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic campaign of “purification” in Soviet Russia and the beginning of the Cold War. Soviet propaganda pitted a “progressive” Soviet science against a “reactionary” bourgeois science, and the “Great Soviet Encyclopedia” told people that Russians invented the first airplane, the radio, penicillin, and the light-bulb.

    Importantly, Stalin was much more circumspect about subjecting physics to this kind of ideological tampering, because it would have risked the development of the atomic bomb.

  18. woozy says

    Darwinism is absurd because it proposes that life emerged by coincidence

    What does that mean and why would it be absurd?

    No, it doesn’t.

    Well, it sound like someone knows.

  19. grendelsfather says

    If we look at the beginning of life on Earth, the first cells emerged all at once. For example, the first cell was a cyanobacteria…


    Well, I wasn’t there either, but I know that the first cell was not a cyanobacterium.
    And not just because nothing could be the first cell if they all emerged at once.

  20. wzrd1 says

    @PZ, I’m hoping that the neurosurgeons getting evolution 101 flat out wrong is simply due to small sample size and attention seeking on the part of the woo seeking crowd.
    I really am.

    Otherwise, where’d I put my do-it-yourself spinal surgery kit again? Crud, they don’t make them!
    OK, time to invent robo-surgeon!

    Hell, cyanobacteria were first? I don’t recall those being the ones hanging around the nastier parts of a black smoker, which would be a more probable beginning for life.

    Life given raw ingredients, an energy gradient for input, perhaps, inevitable.
    Belying the notion that we could render the planet sterile, no, only unfit for ourselves and perhaps, vertebrata to survive. After all, there is a radiotrophic fungus out there, using good old melanin to convert *gamma radiation* into chemical energy for growth. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000457
    Talk about flexibility spelled out in only four letters!

    Hmmm, maybe we’ve been using the wrong approach in spacecraft radiation shielding design, perhaps we should be investigating different forms of melanin… ;)