Egnor Ain’t No Kin To No Monkey

The Discovery Institute, like other creationist outfits, insists that humans are uniquely created, and not the product of something as crude as evolution. A previous rant about this was Klinghoffer Ain’t No Kin to No Monkey. Regarding the genetic similarities between humans and apes, Klinghoffer said:

This suggests the common descent of human beings. It says nothing at all about shared ancestry with apes. It certainly says nothing about life developing without plan or purpose. None of this poses the least problem for an inference to ID, which claims to find evidence of design in nature, not the absence of evidence for life’s having a long and fascinating history.


Software designers reuse similar programming modules in different programs, so wouldn’t a species designer reuse similar genetic programs in different species? Doing so seems only natural.

Now, the same topic is being addressed by Michael Egnor — that’s his writeup at the Encyclopedia of American Loons. His new post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is The Fundamental Difference Between Humans and Nonhuman Animals. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis. He quotes some people, and then tells us:

Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of the evolutionary argument that humans are descended from apes, the differences between humans and apes are so profound as to render the view that humans are apes abject nonsense.

What profound differences render that view nonsense? Egnor explains:

It is important to understand the fundamental difference between humans and nonhuman animals. Nonhuman animals such as apes have material mental powers. By material I mean powers that are instantiated in the brain and wholly depend upon matter for their operation. These powers include sensation, perception, imagination (the ability to form mental images), memory (of perceptions and images), and appetite. Nonhuman animals have a mental capacity to perceive and respond to particulars, which are specific material objects such as other animals, food, obstacles, and predators.

Well, we really don’t know what else porpoises might think about, but let’s read on:

Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking. Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not. Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts. Human beings are rational animals.

Some humans are more rational than others, but no one doubts that a human’s brain is bigger, more complex, and has more capabilities than a gorilla’s brain. How does that imply creationism — Ooops! — we should have said: How does that imply intelligent design? Egnor continues:

Human rationality is not merely a highly evolved kind of animal perception. Human rationality is qualitatively different — ontologically different — from animal perception. Human rationality is different because it is immaterial. Contemplation of universals cannot have material instantiation, because universals themselves are not material and cannot be instantiated in matter.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — immaterial! [*End Drool Mode*] Here’s more:

A human being is material and immaterial — a composite being. We have material bodies, and our perceptions and imaginations and appetites are material powers, instantiated in our brains. But our intellect — our ability to think abstractly — is a wholly immaterial power, and our will that acts in accordance with our intellect is an immaterial power.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — an immaterial power! [*End Drool Mode*] Moving along:

It is in our ability to think abstractly that we differ from apes. It is a radical difference — an immeasurable qualitative difference, not a quantitative difference.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — an immeasurable difference! [*End Drool Mode*] Another excerpt:

We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses. Our difference is a metaphysical chasm. … Systems of taxonomy that emphasize physical and genetic similarities and ignore the fact that human beings are partly immaterial beings who are capable of abstract thought and contemplation of moral law and eternity are pitifully inadequate to describe man.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — we are partly immaterial beings! [*End Drool Mode*] And now we come to the end:

The assertion that man is an ape is self-refuting. We could not express such a concept, misguided as it is, if we were apes and not men.

Think about it, dear reader. Does 2 plus 2 equal 4? Well then, you are thinking abstractly, so you are a partly immaterial being. Therefore, we were created by the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — and the Discoveroids have been right all the time.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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26 responses to “Egnor Ain’t No Kin To No Monkey

  1. Once again, I point point out that the fact that I have abstract thoughts is something that I do. And few people claim that that means that there is something amiss with the scientific study of my individual origins – reproductive biology (or genetics, development, metabolism). Or that my ability to think is dependent on my physical state (not poisoned, conscious).

    That contrasts with the fact that thoughts are not something that occur to the species Homo sapiens as a whole. I do not think the same thought as anyone else. (Unless maybe there is some sort of ESP.)

    So, why does the topic of thoughts occur to anyone in the context of evolution?

  2. Hey Egnor. WE. ARE. APES.

  3. How does Egnor *know* that apes and other animals aren’t capable of abstract thought?

  4. Is God constrained to design us to be like apes? No matter how much or how little you consider the similarities, it is undeniable that the huma body is most similar, among all the possibilites that life has taken, to chimps and other apes. (Among the extant forms. Among the extinct forms, there are the other species of Homo, and Australopithecines, etc.)
    Is God constrained?
    Or does God have similar purposes in designing all of us so?
    Should we be telling our kids that, in order to fulfill the divine purpose, that they should act like apes?
    Or is it just a massive coincidence that, for example, the complex pattern of the eye is so similar among the primates. Does that pattern mislead us in thinking that there is a design to it?

  5. Of all the idiotic, boneheaded, obstreperously stupid piles of steaming bull to come out of the mouths of ID’ers, this is in the top 5.

    I am not an expert primatologist by any means. My knowledge is limited to reading books by Sapolski, Goodall, De Wall, and some others. However, the putrid ignorance of Egnor of basic observations of ape behavior and by extension their thought is astounding. Breathtakingly witless.

  6. I think, therefore I was intelligently designed. In Latin: Cogito, ergo Oogity Boogity!

  7. So he says that because some people can waste their time putting colored splotches on paper he is not from some ape!? Strange? I’ve seen apes do that just as good as some human painters!

  8. There have been instances in which chimpanzees were raised as human infants, even in tandem when coincidence provided a situation such that a chimpanzee and a baby were born at the same time and the baby’s family were primatologists. (Yerkes Laboratory of Primatology) The Chimpanzee developed at a slight faster rate and was able to understand such analytic situation as the necessity of changing a burned out light bulb. Eventually the chimpanzees reach a state were mental development ceases and the infant passe it by. What we have is a limit in chimpanzee abilities, not an absence.

  9. michaelfugate

    Joan Walsh in the Nation said this about Carson, but the last line may well apply to Egnor.

    There was at least one decent thing about Carson, politically: He once supported the assault-weapons ban. But he couldn’t maintain that position if he wanted to make a serious run at the GOP nomination. So he’s reversed himself. On guns, he’s a neurosurgeon who seems like he’s performed his own lobotomy.

    Even for Carson, I am not sure it is just on guns….

  10. I challenge Egnor to point out one physical difference between human brains and other ape brains that is is due primarily or exclusively to our immaterial component. Somewhere there must be some kind of transceiver to accept these ‘immaterial’ inputs that make us different from apes. And who better to identify them than a brain specialist.

  11. @AR.
    This reminds me of the 19th century dispute between TH Huxley and Richard Owen, known as the Great Hippocampus Question (there is a Wikipedia article).

  12. michaelfugate

    It is a bit like a mysterious three-part god I’ve heard people talk about. From what I understand, there is a father god who was formerly a middle eastern tribal god, a son god with a human mother (both father and son live in an equally mysterious place called heaven), and a holy spirit who floats around on earth periodically infecting humans leading them to act under the spirit’s power.

  13. The whole truth

    Egnor and his creatard ilk are a bunch of massively egotistical, malignantly narcissistic, holier-than-thou theocrats who believe that they are ‘specially created in God’s image’ and are therefor ‘God-like’. I wouldn’t let IDiot egnor trim my toenails, let alone operate on my brain.

  14. Thing is, the capacity for abstract thought* does appear to be very nearly distinctly human** and not a trait we share with the higher orders of primates, but it’s very much the result of physical differences in the human and primate brains and not immaterial at all.

    * A common example is that, with minimal effort, you can close your eyes and imagine a purple canary with the head of a housecat.
    ** Testing on primates has been inconclusive, leaning toward indications that most primates lack this ability. Crows, on the other hand, show strong indications of being capable of this kind of abstract though.

  15. I have never been able to grasp why it is that some people are ashamed to be close cousins to chimpanzees. Even a cursory perusal of ‘the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind’ shows that it is the other apes that should be ashamed to be kin to us.

    And, as The whole truth has already noted here, Egnor is displaying here just how pre-scientific is Creationist thinking: for them, living things are distinguished from non-living by a magical infusion of the elixir of vitalism, and humans from other living things by an even more injection of a mystical soul–manually inserted, it is claimed, by the Grand Old Designer him/her/it-self at the precise instant the winning sperm hits the ovum…

  16. The Egnorance is a mind-brain dualist. Why he’s so shy about using the word “soul” is a mystery, you know, one of those immaterial, abstract things. Egnorance has to have a soul or he can’t go to heaven where he’ll be greeted by a bunch of other souls who will moan and groan, “Well, there goes the neighborhood!”

  17. If the difference between human thought and other animal thought is a matter of something spiritual, then it has nothing to do with any natural study. Neither reproductive biology, neurology, nor evolutionary biology.

  18. A little trip down memory lane: I long ago made note of an especially egregious nonsense claim by the redoubtable Dr. Egnor in a Discoveroid blog post:

    the evolutionary-thought-police have enjoyed a federally enforced monopoly on biology education for 50 years. It’s a federal crime to question Darwin’s theory in a public school.

    But I think he has now broken all records in hyperbolic bombast with his claim that “We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses.”

  19. Megalonyx:
    “But I think he [Egnor] has now broken all records in hyperbolic bombast with his claim that “We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses.”

    Oh, you beat me to it, Megs. However, I was planning to be more sparing in my words, simply saying “Bull[edited out].”

  20. I wonder how Egnor watches the “Planet of the Apes” movies–especially the new ones?

    Maybe with a crucifix extended at chest level similar to vampire hunters wishing to ward off the devil spawn?

  21. Michael Eggnog, er, Egnor opines:

    Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking. Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not. Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings Human beings are rational animals.

    You couldn’t prove it by him. But moving on . . .

    It has been shown that animals can deal with abstractions. Certainly both apes and dolphins can, and even rats have been taught to tell the difference between two objects and any different number of objects, suggesting they had acquired the abstract concept of “two.”

    And unfortunately plenty of humans don’t, and seemingly can’t, “think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts.” Doing so requires a certain minimum of intelligence and education, not to mention a desire to do it.

  22. Pope Retiredsciguy issues a ringing Papal Bull against Egnor:

    Bull[edited out]

    Indeed. But this particular pile of steaming [beep-beep-boop]–that is, the whole ‘Human Exceptionalism’ schtick–is, I would argue, much more malign than their other loads of nonsensical [beep-beep-boop].

    For if one truly believes that “We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses,” then driving, say, the mountain gorillas of the Virunga Mountains to extinction should no more trouble us than eradicating smallpox.

    If one truly believes that mankind is uniquely possessed of some super-special but immaterial oogity-boogity-plasm, a gift from the same Grand Ole Designer that gave us a whole planet as our plaything, then we are absolved from any responsibility for any custodianship of the Earth. If we break our toys, no doubt G.O.D will buy us a new one for Christmas.

    And isn’t that a comforting vision! When morality is handed down from on high (well, since G.O.D. doesn’t personally put in an appearance but chooses earthly spokesman whom we must respect), we are also absolved of the chore of exercising our primitive rationality in making moral decisions. And thus it is that, say, eating pork is as heinous as committing murder–because that is the Decree of the Great Sky Daddy. Simple. No bothersome rational thought required of us at all!

    And only those silly materialists would liken us to yeast in a test tube of nutrient-rich solution, merrily consuming our way through all the sugar and untroubled by the rising levels of toxic waste…

  23. You espouse much wisdom, Oh Great Claw!

  24. ” But our intellect — our ability to think abstractly — is a wholly immaterial power”; then why, alas is to so severely impaired by the material effects of alcohol, or, less amusingly, a brain tumour?

  25. @Paul Braterman:
    Indeed, why is it that a human being, from the first moment of having a soul, has so much less ability to think than a Mozart or Einstein at the height of his powers? Is an impaired person less of a human?
    But I must repeat myself, it is an individual human being, not a population, or a species, or a “kind”, which thinks of the right move in a chess game or understands the proof of the falsity of naturalism. If there is something basically mistaken about scientific studies of the ability to think like a human, it is to be found in the studies of the individual, not the taxon.
    Secondly, what does the spiritual or supernatural tell us about the reliability of thinking? “Having an immaterial soul” does not solve any puzzle about our ability to think like a human. It is, at best, just coining a noun rather than an attempt at a solution.

  26. To hopefully end Egnor’s silly argument, I ask:

    “How do we know what goes on inside the brains of the creatures we haven’t yet learned how to communicate with?”

    They may be far more rational than we think. And what is so rational about our spending billions of dollars and endless man hours devising more and more efficient ways to kill each other? For that matter, what is so Christian about that?