I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly it’s a bad thing that another physician is diving head-first into the pseudoscience that is “intelligent design” creationism and making a of himself in the process.
On the other hand, at least this time it’s not a surgeon:
A Columbia medical professor made his case for scientific acceptance of “intelligent design” last night and found himself taking fire from his peers for his view.
John Marshall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, argued in front of about 100 people in a University Hospital auditorium that mainstream scientists were trying to kick intelligent design “off the playing field of science.”
At the heart of the argument for design, say proponents, is that elements of life and the physical world cannot be explained by evolution and show signs of being formed by an intelligent creator.
“It’s as much science as Darwinian evolution is science,” Marshall said. “And as a theory, I believe that intelligent design fits the evidence of biology better than Darwinian evolution.”
He’s even parroting the same spiel that Dr. Michael Egnor, the creationist neurosurgeon who’s caused me so much embarrassment for my profession, likes to spew about DNA:
Marshall held up DNA as a possible example of intelligent design in action, calling it the “most complex, densely packed, elaborate assembly of information in the known universe.”
He said DNA even bears similarities to computer codes or a language.
“There’s some three billion characters of information in each of our cells,” he said. “If one were to put this code, write it out like you would onto a newspaper, you would fill some 75,000 pages of the New York Times.”
I’ve already beat on Dr. Egnor multiple times (metaphorically speaking) for making this same error anthropomorphizing the genetic code; so I’ll restrain myself this time. And, as is the case with all creationists do, Dr. Marshall can’t even get the science right:
Frank Schmidt, an MU biochemistry professor, said he counted “21 distortions 15 half-truths and 10 untruths” in Marshall’s 45-minute presentation.
“What you are doing is cloaking a narrow definition of Christianity, which I find personally offensive, as some sort of scientific truth,” Schmidt said. “And that is what really hacks me off.”
Schmidt questioned Marshall about whether intelligent design proposes a testable prediction, as he said real scientific theory does, or if it simply says that we can’t understand everything. When Marshall would not directly answer the question, Schmidt turned and left the auditorium, saying Marshall should not “pretend to be objective.”
Round of applause to Professor Schmidt for a perfectly elegant way of demonstrating his distaste for pseudoscience!
Naturally, the ID camp is whining about how “abused” poor Dr. Marshall is:
It looks like CSC contributor Michael Egnor is not the only professor of medicine to stick his neck out for intelligent design and face severe personal attack. Dr. John Marshall of The University of Missouri-Columbia lectured this week on his own campus with the title “Intelligent Design: Is It Science or Religion?”
From both news and private reports, it sounds like he was verbally attacked in the Q&A session for his reasonable view that ID should be “part of the scientific discussion.”
Ah, the old “teach the controversy” slogan. The problem is, of course, that ID is not science; consequently it really doesn’t have a place in a purely scientific discussion. Certainly it may have a place in discussions of religion, sociology, culture, and politics, but not science.
Unfortunately, Dr. Marshall, contrary to my initial hopes, won’t get me off the hook, at least not around the ScienceBlogs community. Dr. Egnor is still out there and settling into his role as the Discovery Institute’s pet creationist neurosurgeon. I’m the only academic surgeon in ScienceBlogs who cares a lot about this issue. As for the internists on ScienceBlogs, The Cheerful Oncologist (oncologists are internists, you know) isn’t known for throwing himself into this fray, and Dr. Charles is a family doctor (I don’t know if he finished a family practice or internal medicine residency). They just don’t have a dog in this fight to the extent that I do.