Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dr. Egnor and the Evolution of a Definition

Michael Egnor is whining again, this time that some "Darwinist" has "airbrushed" out his favorite bits of the Wikipedia article on Reverse Engineering -- the part that defined science as a type of reverse engineering. John Pieret + commenters have amply fisked Egnor's quasi-paranoid evocation of Soviet-style censorship, as well as the odd logic of taking a few sentences from Wikipedia definition as "evidence". But the good doctor never fails to provide ample material such that there are always a few scraps left over for further gleaning. Consider this part of his complaint:
The biological reverse engineering analogy was part of the original definition, and had been present until the day that I linked to it in my post. Someone (perhaps a Darwinist?) went to work with an eraser.
I wonder if it occurred to Dr. Egnor to wonder how that "original definition" got there in the first place? It's not present in the first version of the article, dating from 3 October, 2001. It remains absent until 17 December, 2005, when a user called Wernher (as part of a general expansion) adds the single sentence:
A telling analogy of RE is that the research of physical laws can be seen as reverse-engineering the world itself.
I don't know what Wernher thinks the analogy "tells" us, but this early form does begin the theme that science is a type of reverse engineering -- over four years (and dozens of intervening edits) after the "original definition".

On 13 September, 2006, a transitional form (though close to the modern form) appears, from a user called, who replaces Wernher's version with:
Reverse engineering is essentially science, using the scientific method. (Conversely, engineering could be thought of as 'reverse science'). Sciences such as biology and physics can be seen as reverse engineering of biological 'machines' and the physical world respectively.
This is getting close to the version Egnor liked so much. It only remains for user (what's with all these users called by IP addresses, anyway?) to delete the text in red to reach the modern form

So: Egnor's "evidence" that science is a type of reverse engineering consists of the fact that someone called thinks it does.

Some evidence.

When this whole l'affaire Egnor started, I figured that, whatever goofy ideas he may entertain in his spare time, he's still probably a competent doctor. However, after witnessing the continuous torrent of fallacies and ignorance -- many IMHO completely inexcusable in an educated man -- I've decided that, should I ever require brain surgery, and am given the choice between Dr. Egnor and this, I'll choose the robot. At least I can expect it to behave logically.


James said...

The IPs are people who haven't logged in; wikipedia lets them edit anyway, and records their IP as a username.

John Pieret said...

You're right that plumbing the depths of Egnor's blather usually leaves something more to point to and laugh at, so deep and ... um ... rich is his illogic.

For example, take his blithely unselfconscious complaints about "Darwinists" engaging in "sneering, name-calling, and obfuscation" while, at the same time, he is comparing those "Darwinists" to agents of Soviet-style dictatorship.

It is beyond mind-numbingly dumb.

Infophile said...

You know, it's kind of funny. Egnor will take the word of some completely anonymous editor on Wikipedia that science is reverse engineering is design inference, but he won't take the word of the 99% of biologists who say evolution is a fact. It just goes to show, these people are starting from a conclusion, not a question.

Elf Sternberg said...

The intermediate form was posted by someone whose ISP is somewhere in the US Dakotas. The final form came from a student at the University of Sheffield in the UK. That's about all those addresses can be reversed to.