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Michael Egnor  Professor of Neurosurgery at Stony Brook  Web

I never use evolutionary biology in my work. Would I be a better surgeon if I assumed that the brain arose by random events? Of course not. Doctors are detectives. We look for patterns, and in the human body, patterns look very much like they were designed. Doctors know that, from the intricate structure of the human brain to the genetic code, our bodies show astonishing evidence of design. Thatís why most doctors -- nearly two-thirds according to national polls -- donít believe that human beings arose merely by chance and natural selection. Most doctors donít accept evolutionary biology as an adequate explanation for life. Doctors see, first-hand, the design of life.

I do use many kinds of science related to changes in organisms over time. Genetics is very important, as are population biology and microbiology. But evolutionary biology itself, as distinct from these scientific fields, contributes nothing to modern medicine.

Without using evolutionary theory, doctors and scientists have discovered vaccines (Jenner, in the 18th century, before Darwin was born), discovered that germs cause infectious diseases (Pasteur, in the 19th century, who ignored Darwin), discovered genes (Mendel, in the 19th century, who was a priest and not a supporter of Darwinís theory), discovered antibiotics, and unraveled the secrets of the genetic code (the key to these discoveries was the discovery of the apparent design in the DNA double helix). Heart, liver, and kidney transplants, new treatments for cancer and heart disease, and a host of life-saving advances in medicine have been developed without input from evolutionary biologists. No Nobel prize in medicine has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology. In fact, I think itís safe to say that the only contribution evolution has made to modern medicine is to take it down the horrific road of eugenics, which brought forced sterilization and bodily harm to many thousands of Americans in the early 1900s. Thatís a contribution which has brought shame -- not advance -- to the medical field.

So ĎWhy would I want my doctor to have studied evolution?í I wouldnít. Evolutionary biology isnít important to modern medicine.    Evolution News & Views  March 9 2007

How much new specified information can random variation and natural selection generate? Please note that my question starts with 'how much'- it's quantitative, and it's quantitative about information, not literature citations. I didn't ask 'how many papers can I generate when I go to PubMed and type 'gene duplication evolution'. I asked for a measurement of new specified information, empirically determined, the reference(s) in which this measurement was reported, and a thoughtful analysis as to whether this 'rate of acquisition' of new specified information by random heritable variation and natural selection can account for the net information measured in individuals of the species in which the measurement was made. Mike Lemonick was wrong that this isn't an important question in evolutionary biology. This is the central question.    Post #84 on Pharyngula  February 20 2007


Albert Einstein  (1879Ė1955)  Web  GBS

The man of science is a poor philosopher.    Out of My Later Years  1950

The whole of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.    Out of My Later Years  1950

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.    Science, Philosophy and Religion  1941

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.    Letter to Herbert Goldstein   1929

I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things.    Glimpses of the Great  1930

My Comprehension of God comes from the deeply held conviction of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world. In common terms, on can describe it as "pantheistic".    "Kaizo"  1923

In every true searcher of Nature there is a kind of religious reverence, for he finds it impossible to imagine that he is the first to have thought out the exceedingly delicate thread that connect his perceptions.    Conversations with Einstein  1920

One thing I have learned in a long life, that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike.    Creator and Rebel

The more I study science the more I believe in God. 

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.  

See also: Einstein and Religion


Niles Eldredge  (b. 1943)  Chief Curator at The American Museum Of Natural History  Web  Amazon  GBS  QMP  AV

Darwin's prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.    The Myths of Human Evolution  (1982)  p.45-46

Creationists travel all over the United States, visiting college campuses and staging `debates' with biologists, geologists, and anthropologists. The creationists nearly always win. The audience is frequently loaded with the already converted and the faithful. And scientists, until recently, have been showing up at the debates ill-prepared for what awaits them. Thinking the creationists are uneducated, Bible-thumping clods, they are soon routed by a steady onslaught of: direct attacks on a wide variety of scientific topics. No scientist has an expert's grasp of all the relevant points of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and anthropology. Creationists today -- at least the majority of their spokesmen -- are highly educated, intelligent people. Skilled debaters, they have always done their homework. And they nearly always seem better informed than their opponents, who are reduced too often to a bewildered state of incoherence. As will be all too evident when we examine the creationist position in detail, their arguments are devoid of any real intellectual content. Creationists win debates because of their canny stage presence, and not through clarity of logic or force of evidence. The debates are shows rather than serious considerations of evolution.

The debate tactic reveals the essence of the creationists approach: the collision between creation and evolution is still presented as an unresolved, intellectual problem. When Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859, he sparked a genuine controversy. Did a naturalistic explanation of the origin and development of life on earth pose a serious theological challenge?    The Monkey Business  (1982)  p.17-18

Many scientists really do seem to believe they have a special access to the truth. They call press conferences to trumpet marvelous new discoveries. They compete hard for awards and prizes. And they expect to be believed Ė by their peers and, especially, by the public at large. Throwing down scientific thunderbolts from Olympian heights, scientists come across as authoritarian truthgivers whose word must be taken unquestioned. That all the evidence shows the behavior of scientists clearly to be no different from the ways in which other people behave is somehow overlooked in all this.    The Monkey Business  (1982)  p.26-27

Science is the human search for a natural explanation of what the universe is: how it is constructed, how it came to be.    The Monkey Business  (1982)  p.27

If life has evolved, and if some kinds of evolutionary change can happen sufficiently rapidly to be observed during one personís lifetime, we should be able to go to nature to observe the change, to measure its tempo, and to test ideas about how and why it happens. And we should be able to simulate some kinds of evolutionary change experimentally on laboratory organisms, and even use mathematics and computers to run evolutionary experiments on an even more abstract level. In fact, all of these activities have been vigorously pursued for well over a century now, and form the basis of the general subject of evolutionary biology. It is not the question, Has life evolved? That motivates such study; it is the question, How has life evolved that forms the central focus of such research.    The Monkey Business  (1982)  p.51

CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN stands among the giants of Western thought because he convinced a majority of his peers that all of life shares a single, if complex, history. He taught us that we can understand lifeís history in purely naturalistic terms, without recourse to the supernatural or divine.    Time Frames  (1985)  p.13

As Ernst Mayr, one of the founders of the modern synthetic theory of evolution, pointed out in his Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) Darwin never really did discuss the origin of species in his The Origin of Species.  Time Frames  (1985)  p.33

There seems to have been almost no change in any part we can compare between the living organism and its fossilized progenitors of the remote geological past. Living fossils embody the theme of evolutionary stability to an extreme degree...We have not completely solved the riddle of living fossils.    Fossils (1991)  p.101, 108

As a paleontologist, I readily concede that my long dead fossils, lacking any traces of their soft anatomies or behaviors, are totally mute on the subject of reproduction and transmission of genetic information. And this is, I acknowledge, a major limitation to our data.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.2

Simple extrapolation does not work. I found that out back in the 1960s as I tried in vain to document examples of the kind of slow, steady directional change we all thought ought to be there, ever since Darwin told us that natural selection should leave precisely such a telltale signal as we collect our fossils up cliff faces. I found instead, that once species appear in the fossil record, they tend not to change much at all . Species remain imperturbably, implacably resistant to chance as a matter of course.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.3

Stasis is now abundantly well documented as the preeminent paleontological pattern in the evolutionary history of species.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.77

No wonder paleontologists shied away form evolution for so long. It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting of cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change -- over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.     Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.95

But we saw -- as did several paleontological contemporaries of Darwin -- that if you do collect a series of fossils up through a sequence of sedimentary rock, and if you don't see much evidence of anatomical change through that series, that is indeed evidence that substantial gradual evolutionary change has not occurred within that species lineage, no matter how gappy the record may be. That's why the evidence for stasis now appears so overwhelming.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.96

The persistent pattern of nonchange within samples, coupled with the abrupt appearance of new species -- organisms marked with anatomical innovations -- had to be telling us something about the way the evolutionary process works.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.97

I needed to explain why evolution leaves and entirely different sort of pattern in the rock record than Darwin -- and his long string of successors, including many paleontologists -- had supposed.       Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.97

Scientists, being as a rule more or less human beings, passionately stick up for their ideas, their pet theories. It's up to someone else to show you are wrong.    Reinventing Darwin  (1995)  p.221 

  Knowledge Science and Relativism  (1999)  p.187

Three cheers to the fundamentalists in California who succeeded in having a dogmatic formulation of the theory of evolution removed from the text books and an account of Genesis included. (But I know that they would become as chauvinistic and totalitarian as scientists are today when given the chance to run society all by themselves. Ideologies are marvelous when used in the companies of other ideologies. They become boring and doctrinaire as soon as their merits lead to the removal of their opponents.) The most important change, however, will have to occur in the field of education.    Knowledge Science and Relativism  (1999)  pp.187-188

The Presocratics not only tried to understand the world. They also tried to understand, and thus to become the masters of, the means of understanding the world. Instead of being content with a single myth they developed many and so diminished the power which a well-told story has over the minds of men. The sophists introduced still further methods for reducing the debilitating effect of interesting, coherent, "empirically adequate" etc. etc. tales. The achievements of these thinkers were not appreciated and they certainly are not understood today. When teaching a myth we want to increase the chance that it will be understood (i.e. no puzzlement about any feature of the myth), believed, and accepted. This does not do any harm when the myth is counterbalanced by other myths: even the most dedicated (i.e. totalitarian) instructor in a certain version of Christianity cannot prevent his pupils from getting in touch with Buddhists, Jews and other disreputable people. It is very different in the case of science, or of rationalism where the field is almost completely dominated by the believers.    Knowledge Science and Relativism  (1999)   p.188

Using stories we may of course also introduce "scientific" accounts, say, of the origin of the world and thus make the children acquainted with science as well. But science must not be given any special position except for pointing out that there are lots of people who believe in it. Later on the stories which have been told will be supplemented with "reasons," where by reasons I mean further accounts of the kind found in the tradition to which the story belongs. And, of course, there will also be contrary reasons. Both reasons and contrary reasons will be told by the experts in the fields and so the young generation becomes acquainted with all kinds of sermons and all types of wayfarers.    Knowledge Science and Relativism  (1999)  p.189

It is not that such skeptics are stupid -- or even, at least in terms of their spokespersons, ill-informed. It's not, in other words, that creationist don't understand evolution: it's that they don't like it.    Evolution vs Creationism (2004) p.ix  

Although Darwin sometimes said that he waited 20 years to publish his ideas because he wanted to hone his concepts and marshal all the evidence he could (in itself a not-unreasonable claim), it is clear that the real reason for the delay was his fear of the firestorm of anger that his ideas were sure to unleash. His own wife was unhappy with his ideas; indeed, the marriage was almost called off when Darwin told her, against his father's advice, of his increasing religious doubts occasioned by his work. If Darwin's own faith was challenged by his conviction that life, including human life, had evolved through natural causes, he knew full well that the religiously faithful -- nearly 100 percent of the population of Great Britain -- would see his ideas in the very same stark terms. They too would see evolution as a challenge to the basic tenets of the Christian faith, and they would be very, very upset.

I agree with those historians who point to Darwin's nearly daily bouts with gastrointestinal upset as a manifestation of anxiety rather than of any systematic physical illness. Darwin finally did tell his new friend Joseph Hooker in 1844 a little bit about his secret ideas on evolution -- telling him at the same time, though, that "it was like confessing a murder." Darwin knew he had the equivalent of the recipe for an atomic bomb, so devastating an effect would his ideas have on British society when he finally announced them. No wonder he was so hesitant to speak out; no wonder he was so anxious.     Evolution vs Creationism (2004) p.x

Darwin did more to secularize the Western world than any other single thinker in history. He was right to anticipate the howls of outrage -- and would not be surprised (though perhaps disappointed) to learn that the outrage continues unabated in many quarters of the Judeo-Christian world.    Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life  (2005)  p.12 

It was Darwin, arguably more than any of his contemporaries, who established the true magnitude of geological time. And thought it is true that he did so simply to give his slow, gradual process of evolution the temporal room it needed to work, he derived his conclusions that the earth is very old from his own detailed experiences as a field geologist.    Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life  (2005)  p.134


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