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In Darwin's Own Words: Creationist Quote-Mining Exposed


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In Darwin's Own Words: Creationist Quote-Mining Exposed

  1. 1. In Darwin’s Own Words creationist quote-mining exposed Hey, that’s not what I said… that wasn’t my intention! Michael D. Barton
  2. 2. <ul><li>400+ followers </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>To suppose that the eye, with all its </li></ul><ul><li>inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the </li></ul><ul><li>highest possible degree. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin,  </li></ul><ul><li>On the Origin of Species (1859, 1st ed.) </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable </li></ul><ul><li>contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin,  </li></ul><ul><li>On the Origin of Species (1859, 1st ed.) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Original source material pp. 186-7, chapter on “Difficulties on theory,” section on “Organs of extreme perfection”
  6. 6. <ul><li>At some future period, not very </li></ul><ul><li>distant as measured by centuries, the </li></ul><ul><li>civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin,  </li></ul><ul><li>The Descent of Man (1871, vol. I, 1st ed.) </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>The great break in the organic chain between man </li></ul><ul><li>and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any </li></ul><ul><li>extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave </li></ul><ul><li>objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; </li></ul><ul><li>but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from </li></ul><ul><li>general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often </li></ul><ul><li>occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies -- between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae -- between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct.  At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.  At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, </li></ul><ul><li>instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin,  </li></ul><ul><li>The Descent of Man (1871, vol. I, 1st ed.) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Original source material pp. 200-1, chapter on “ On the affinities and genealogy of man,” section on “ Absence of fossil-connecting links”
  9. 9. From philosopher of biology John Wilkins: Throughout the Descent, when Darwin refers to &quot;civilised races&quot; he almost always is referring to cultures in Europe. I think Darwin was simply confused at that time about the difference between biological races and cultural races in humans. This is not surprising at this time - almost nobody made the distinction but Alfred Russel Wallace. . . . At this time it was common for Europeans (based on an older notion of a &quot;chain of being from lowest to highest&quot;) to think that Africans (&quot;negroes&quot;) were all of one subspecific form, and were less developed than &quot;Caucasians&quot; or &quot;Asians&quot;, based on a typology in around 1800 by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenach. In short, Darwin is falling prey to the same error almost everyone else was . . . So far as I can tell, he was not hoping for the extermination of these &quot;races&quot;, though. ... Throughout his life, Darwin argued against slavery and for the freedom and dignity of native populations under European slavery. Darwin was not perfect. But he was no racist.
  10. 10. “ Quote-mining,” or “proof-texting” The intentional misquoting of supporters of a particular viewpoint by removing particular passages of their writings from their original context to make it seem they were stating something different from their original intent  Nick Matzke: Quoted statements “have alternative, much less nefarious interpretations, compared to the interpretation they provoke in… naively ideological fundamentalist reader[s]” (The Panda’s Thumb, August 12, 2010) Abuse of the historical record by: <ul><li>- creationists, intelligent design proponents, other antievolutionists </li></ul><ul><li>climate change deniers </li></ul><ul><li>supporters of a “Christian Nation” history to founding of US </li></ul>
  11. 11. 1997 <ul><li>Context of quote-mining </li></ul><ul><li>Fits with a variety of ways in which antievolutionists attack the theory of evolution by not discussing the actual science itself </li></ul><ul><li>- Attacks on Darwin or other figures in history of science connecting them to Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, and other 20 th century genocides </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting Darwin/evolution to school shootings (Columbine) </li></ul><ul><li>Referring to Darwin as a racist (he did live in the 19 th century!) although he was an abolitionist (see recent book by Desmond and Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause ) </li></ul>
  12. 12. 1997 Context of quote-mining Antievolutionists can only sustain their claim that even experts in biology doubt their own work if they selectively mine quotes Quotes are blindly taken, trusted, and then spread taking on a life of their own, without much thought about the original context by those whom the quotes are intended Sometimes references not cited, sometimes they are. I think the act of showing a citation is enough for some people and they will not go further to look at the original material themselves
  13. 13. 1997
  14. 16. So where do we find quote mines?
  15. 18. Response to Stein from Mikel Hensley
  16. 19.
  17. 21. “ Still, doubts about the sequence of man's emergence remain. Scientists concede that even their most cherished theories are based on embarrassingly few fossil fragments, and that huge gaps exist in the fossil record. Anthropologists, ruefully says Alan Mann of the University of Pennsylvania, &quot;are like the blind men looking at the elephant, each sampling only a small part of the total reality.&quot; His colleagues agree that the picture of man's origins is far from complete. Perhaps no one is trying harder to fill in the blanks than Richard Leakey. ”
  18. 22. Display at a creation museum in Cabazon, California, inside the famous roadside dinosaurs
  19. 23. “ Asa Gray's new gospel contributed not a little to Harvard University's stature as the American center of Unitarian thought. Gray was concerned about the absence of transition fossils to support Darwin's theory, while at the same time he was more positive than Darwin and saw in nature evidence of intelligent design. Darwin confessed to being in &quot;an utterly hopeless muddle&quot; over the question of design. Conscious that literal belief in the Bible ran very high in America, Gray was concerned that, for this reason, Darwin's theory with its atheistic overtones would not be accepted by the majority of people.” (1999) “ Yesterday I read over with care the third Article; & it seems to me, as before,  admirable . But I grieve to say that I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design. I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.— To take a crucial example, you lead me to infer (p. 414) that you believe “that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines”.— I cannot believe this; & I think you would have to believe, that the tail of the Fan-tail was led to vary in the number & direction of its feathers in order to gratify the caprice of a few men. Yet if the fan-tail had been a wild bird & had used its abnormal tail for some special end, as to sail before the wind, unlike other birds, everyone would have said what beautiful & designed adaptation. Again I say I am, & shall ever remain, in a hopeless muddle.—” Quote in context, letter to Asa Gray, November 26, 1860:
  20. 24. From this book’s companion blog:
  21. 25. Answers in Genesis 1976 Quote in context, letter to C. Collingwood, March 14, 1861: So natural selection, I look at as in some degree probable, or possible, because we know what artificial selection can do.— But I believe in Nat. Selection, not because, I can prove in any single case that it has changed one species into another, but because it groups & explains well (as it seems to me) a host of facts in classification, embryology, morphology, rudimentary organs, geological succession & Distribution.—
  22. 26. 2009
  23. 27. 2009
  24. 28. 1974
  25. 29. 2000
  26. 30. 2006 Morris leaves out Darwin’s next sentence: “The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
  27. 31. 1987 After quoting Darwin on the complexity of the eye, Morris and Parker write:
  28. 32. 2002 From the 6 th edition of On the Origin of Species: “ I have now considered enough, perhaps more than enough, of the cases, selected with care by a skilful naturalist, to prove that natural selection is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures; and I have shown, as I hope, that there is no great difficulty on this head. A good opportunity has thus been afforded for enlarging a little on gradations of structure, often associated with changed functions,—an important subject, which was not treated at sufficient length in the former editions of this work. I will now briefly recapitulate the foregoing cases.”
  29. 33. 2002 The second quote appears only in an account of a visit to Darwin’s home, from the series Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great Scientists by Elbert Hubbard (1905): &quot;How can we expect them to see as we do,&quot; he wrote to Gray; &quot;it has taken me thirty years of toil and research to come to these conclusions. To have the unthinking masses accept all that I say would be calamity: this opposition is a winnowing process, and all a part of the Law of Evolution that works for good.&quot;
  30. 34. 2006
  31. 35. 2007 article in Good News
  32. 36. My dear Huxley I meant to have added one other word. You speak of finding a flaw in my hypothesis, & this shows you do not understand its nature. It is a mere rag of an hypothesis with as many flaws & holes as sound parts.— My question is whether the rag is worth anything? I think by careful treatment I can carry in it my fruit to market for a short distance over a gentle road; but I fear that you will give the poor rag such a devil of a shake that it will fall all to atoms; & a poor rag is better than nothing to carry one’s fruit to market in— So do not be too ferocious.— Ever yours | Most truly | C. Darwin Quote in context, letter to TH Huxley, June 2, 1859:
  33. 37. My dear Lyell You seem to have worked admirably on species-question: there could not have been better plan than reading up on opposed side. I rejoice profoundly that you intend admitting doctrine of modification in your new Edition. Nothing, I am convinced, could be more important for its success. I honour you most sincerely:—to have maintained, in the position of a master, one side of a question for 30 years & then deliberately give it up, is a fact, to which I much doubt whether the records of science offer a parallel. For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for think-ing of the many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often & often a cold shudder has run through me & I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth like you & Hooker can be wholly wrong; & therefore I feel that I may rest in peace. Thank you for criticisms, which, if there be 2 d . Edit. I will attend to. Quote in context, letter to Charles Lyell, November 23, 1859:
  34. 38. 1985 Quote in context, letter to Asa Gray, February 8-9, 1860: I quite think a Review from a man, who is not an entire convert, if fair & moderately favourable, is in all respects the best kind of Review. About weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.
  35. 39. <ul><li>A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin </li></ul>
  36. 40. <ul><li>This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be </li></ul><ul><li>imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived.  A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments </li></ul><ul><li>on both sides of each question ; and this </li></ul><ul><li>cannot possibly be here done. </li></ul><ul><li>Charles Darwin, </li></ul><ul><li>On the Origin of Species (1859, 1st ed.) </li></ul>
  37. 41. Creationism in Montana Intelligent design think tank uses this quote for their Academic Freedom Day initiative, celebrated on the same day as Darwin’s birthday, February 12 2010
  38. 42. Contrary to the implication arising from the period the DI inserted where none existed, the quote-mined part was not a complete thought. Darwin was not saying that every  alleged  theory has to be weighed before a fair scientific result can be reached. He was saying that he had many more facts in support of his theory but could not fit them all in the  scant  490 pages he had at his disposal in the Origin. From John Pieret:
  39. 43. Barbara Forrest and Judge Darrell debate on WRKF radio (Baton Rouge) in December 2010: 27:30  Forrest: [in response to White comparing Darwin's rebuttal in a later edition of  On the Origin of Species  to Mivart's criticism that natural selection cannot account for incipient stages of useful structures to intelligent design proponent Michael Behe's claims that cellular structures are irreducibly complex] “Well, here we have a case of, of Darwin being misused for the agenda of the Louisiana Family Forum. What’s happening here is that the Louisiana Family Forum is attacking science in the textbooks, and the work of scientists that they themselves don’t even properly understand. First of all, in Darwin’s  Origin of Species , Darwin was doing what any good scientist does – he recognized the criticisms that might be made against his ideas, and he provided answers to them. And what Mr. White is doing is what creationists always do, they pick quotes, they cherry-pick quotes out of context and try to use them for their advantage.” … 29:47  White: “Well, again, we’re in favor of teaching more Darwin than the textbooks allow, and that would include questions, for example, Darwin himself raised, in his introduction Darwin said ‘a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing all of the facts on both sides of each question.’ The textbooks simply do not do that.”
  40. 44. When did quote-mining of Darwin begin?
  41. 45. <ul><li>“ Turn in the Tide of Thought: Thomas Kimber’s Lecture on Science in Relation to Divine Truths,” New York Times (Nov. 25, 1884) </li></ul>
  42. 46. <ul><li>In a discourse delivered before the British Association at Liverpool, after speaking of the theory of evolution applied to the primitive condition of matter as belonging to ‘the dim twilight of conjecture,’ and affirming that ‘ the certainty of experimental inquiry is here shut out,’ I sketch the nebular theory as enunciated by Kant and Laplace… </li></ul><ul><li>John Tyndall, “Virchow and Evolution,” The Nineteenth Century (1878); also Popular Science (1879) </li></ul>
  43. 47.
  44. 48. A further indication of uncertainty in scientific minds is afforded by the statements of Prof. Tyndall, who, in the  Popular Science Review, says that “Evolution belongs to the dim twilight of conjecture. . . Those who hold the doctrine are by no means ignorant of the uncertainty of their data, and they only yield to it a provisional assent. . . ( The Medical Record , Dec. 1, 1883) Probably the following quotations from Prof. Tyndall’s utterances on Evolution, taken from  The Popular Science Monthly, will surprise some of those who have hastily accepted the theory, and based assumptions upon it. “Evolution belongs to the dim twilight of conjecture, and the certainty of experimental inquiry is here shut out. . . . Those who hold the doctrine of Evolution are by no means ignorant of the uncertainty of their data, and they only yield to it a provisional assent. . . ( Friends’ Review , Mar. 22, 1884) If we believe in a great First Cause, as all rational men must, why not assume that all things, visible and invisible, were the product of a special creation instead of a gradual evolution, as asserted by Darwin and his followers ? If God could create the earth, the stars, and the mighty planets, of which our world forms only an insignificant part, could He not also, by a special act, have created all the dwellers therein, from the most minute microcosm up to the most complicated form of animal life? I agree with Professor Tyndall that the whole subject of evolution belongs to the dim twilight of conjecture. ( The Autobiography of Samuel D. Gross, M.D. , 1887)
  45. 49. From Darwinism Stated by Darwin Himself , edited by Nathan Sheppard (1884)
  46. 50. In a review of The Errors of Evolution , from The Old Testament Student , September 1885
  47. 51. From The Self-Revelation of God by Samuel Harris (1887)
  48. 52. From What is Man? His Origin, Life-History and Future Destiny as Revealed in the Word of God by J. Anderson (1888)
  49. 53. From Lectures on the Evidences of Revealed Religion by George Washington Dean (1890)
  50. 54. Aware of their own dishonesty? “ Anyone reading creationist literature for a few years soon becomes aware that we often use quotes by evolutionists which discredit their own belief system. This raises the ire of many in the evolutionary establishment, and often they will accuse creationists of ‘taking their remarks out of context’. This is rarely the case. However, one can imagine that the spectre of condemnation from fellow evolutionists would these days tend to limit any careless remarks from the pro-evolutionary camp.” “ Many people today insist that even Charles Darwin did not really believe his own ideas about evolution. They claim that he saw many flaws in the idea of natural selection as the agent of evolution, and that in his writings he expressed these misgivings. Some even claim that Darwin’s own words show he ultimately abandoned his belief in evolution. This is plainly not the case.
  51. 55. Back cover: (1997) “These relevant quotations bring to light the fatal weaknesses of the entire structure of evolutionism - inadvertently exposed by its own promoters!”
  52. 56. p. 437
  53. 57. 2010 Uses extermination of races quote
  54. 58. 1997 <ul><li>Has the tactic been reversed? </li></ul><ul><li>John Pieret, who started TQMP cannot recall any specific instances, although he’s confident the Discovery Institute’s website would turn up a few </li></ul><ul><li>Recent claims: </li></ul><ul><li>Evolutionists have quote-mined Michael Behe’s testimony from the ID trial in Dover (2005) </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>PZ Myers unjustly accuses ID proponent of quote-mining: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  55. 59. Conlusions Be skeptical about the use of quotes, whether in reading materials or using them in your own work. Join in combating quote-mining if and when you come across it. Get it online, whether on your own blog or commenting on others, or other publishing avenues. Attentiveness to objective use of source material & the ability to find primary documents – increasingly easier to do online – is crucial to maintaining sound argumentative strategies.
  56. 60. 1997 Resources The Quote Mine Project, John Pieret (blog: Thoughts in a Haystack): Darwin Correspondence Project: The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online: Google Books: Internet Archive: /
  57. 61.
  58. 64. Richard Dawkins on Quote-mining
  59. 65. Darwin to JD Hooker, May 11, 1856 <ul><li>… I may thus, it is very true, do mischief by spreading error, which as I have often heard you say is much easier spread than corrected . I confess I lean more & more to at least making the attempt & drawing up a sketch & trying to keep my judgment whether to publish open. But I always return to my fixed idea that it is dreadfully unphilosophical to publish without full details. </li></ul>