So, over at the DI’s media complaints department (aka evolutionnews.org), it appears that Casey Luskin has noticed how we SBers have managed to tear apart his buddy Dr. Egnor. Given that we did it so thoroughly, though, there’s no legitimate way to defend him. He’s repeatedly made incredibly idiotic statements, and many people have, quite rightfully, called him on the stupidity of his statements, the degree of ignorance that he’s demonstrated, and his astonishing arrogance as he spouts nonsense.
But since when have Casey and friends at the DI ever worried about doing the right thing? Or responding to any kind of argument in a legitimate way?
So for humour’s sake, I thought I’d address the part of Casey’s post that was directed at me.:
One Darwinist was so angry that he wrote in response to Egnor, “I’m deliberately not linking to the [Egnor interview] podcast; I will not help increase the hit-count that DI will use to promote it’s [sic] agenda of willful ignorance.” I’ll gladly link to this Darwinist because this Darwinist mathematician’s irrelevant stammering about the definition of tautology never addresses Egnor’s point that we don’t really need Darwin to achieve the mundane insight that bacteria which are immune to drugs are going to survive. The mathematician’s angry tone proves Egnor’s private statement to me: “Chesterton once wrote that insanity isn’t a matter of losing your reason, but of losing everything but your reason” (oh yeah, and the Egnor podcast is here). Still, one thing is still missing from Darwinist reason: a satisfactory answer to Egnor’s simple question, How much information can actually be produced by Darwinian mechanisms?
Let’s see… I’ve already addressed the tautology thing, right? Any statement about a phenomenon that can be inferred from observations of that phenomenon can be restated as a tautology. It does nothing to delegitimize explanations of the phenomenon; it’s just a goofy way of formulating a statement in a form that makes it easy to dismiss because it looks silly. “Bacteria that survive when exposed to antibiotics are going to survive when exposed to antibiotics” is a true statement. Which doesn’t explain much of anything about the reasons why antibiotic resistance in bacteria is such a big issue in recent years.
As I’ve explained twice so far, (once in the tautology post, and once here) 20 years ago, MRSA was not a big issue; VRSA hadn’t even been observed outside of the laboratory; and resistance to both methicillin and vancomycin was absolutely unheard of. Now we’re commonly observing bacteria that are fully resistant to methicillin, and at least partially resistant to vancomycin in the wild. Not infections acquired in the hospital, but common infections acquired in the community.
This is a dramatic change. And it’s not just one of academic interest: people are dying as a result of this. Thousands of people in the US alone died last year of antibiotic resistant infections: the rate of death from bacterial infections in hospitals in the US has gone from 13,300 in 1992 to 90,000 now – and that is only considering the infections acquired in the hospital. This is an incredibly important thing, which every doctor needs to be aware of, and many common medical practices need to be reconsidered or restructured in light of this.
Dr. Egnor, and Casey Luskin – they can’t explain it. The crucial facts about antibiotic resistance – the ways it changes, the patterns of human behavior that lead to antibiotic resistance, the ways in which the resistance genes are spreading – these things cannot be explained by Egnor or Luskin. So they take refuge behind mocking words and claims of tautology, as if those somehow explain something. They don’t.
And the “question” that Casey inserts at the end is another example of the dishonesty of Dr. Egnor. He continually makes demands that someone define for him exactly how evolution produces new information, and exactly how much information it can produce. The reason that that’s dishonest is because the question has been answered – people have shown him how, using Shannon information theory, they can demonstrate how a random evolutionary process can create new information, and how to quantify the information created by some particular documented mutations. Egnor handwaves that off by saying that he isn’t asking about Shannon information, but about biological information – which he refuses to define.
So Casey’s complaint about the unanswered question is actually completely phony. It’s a complaint that we haven’t provided him with an answer to an unanswerable question. Until Dr. Egnor bothers to actually define what “biological information” is in a quantifiable way, there is no way to answer a question about how “biological information” is created.
I can ask Dr. Egnor how, exactly, antibiotic resistance can spread through a population in terms of snerglic logic? Of course, he can’t answer it. What’s snerglic logic? Hell, I can even ask him to explain it in terms of snerglic temporal logic – which gives him a clue of what kind of logic I’m looking for. But any possible answer that he could provide, I can shoot down by saying “That’s not snerglic logic”. That’s exactly the trick he’s playing: we mathematical types can do as much work as we want defining and quantifying the information that describes a living cell, and show exactly how the various processes that take place in evolution can produce information, and quantify exactly how much information can be created by various processes. But no matter how thorough we are, no matter how precisely quantified, no matter how bulletproof the argument, Egnor can simply wave his hands and say “But that’s mathematical information, not biological information“. Until his defines his term, it’s not a real question.
And finally, I just have to comment on the Luskin’s closing:
In the end, I can cheerfully forgive Kevin Beck, but two questions remain: (1) Why is such name-calling so common among Darwinists? and (2) How do Darwinian mechanisms produce truly novel biological information? I’ve seen no good answers to question 2, and perhaps their lack of such a good answer is driving the observations behind question (1).
There’s something incredibly rich about someone from the DI complaining about name-calling. This is the organization where one of its most prestigious fellows proudly provided a fart-filled squeaky voiced soundtrack to a mocking video of a judge who wrote a ruling he didn’t like.