When an anti-evolutionist attempts to publicly “explain” a scientific paper, it usually signals two things: you should read the paper for yourself, and you should not be surprised to find that the creationist “explanation” misrepresents what the paper really says. A new blog post by Paul Nelson is no exception. Nelson, descending from the (relative) intellectual heights of the Discovery Institute to join the crowd at Dembski’s Whine Cellar, tells his readers that scientists did not grasp the true point of a 1975 paper because they did not read it all the way through.
The paper in question is a relatively famous one - it’s a paper in Science by Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson that compared the available measures of genetic difference between humans and chimps with what was known about the morphological, behavioral, and cultural differences between the two species. King and Wilson, in this paper, calculated that there was a 1% genetic difference between humans and chimps, and that this difference is not enough to account for how different the two species really are. Nelson claims that scientists focused on the first finding because it was reported early in the paper, and missed the second part because it came later, after us lazy lab boys had given up on reading. (Nelson apparently believes that scientists share his work ethic.)
Posted by Nick Matzke on September 17, 2006 | Comments (469)
Anyone who has been a “creationism watcher” for any length of time is familiar with the venerable creationist tactic of “quote mining.” Since creationists, essentially universally, can’t (or don’t want to) deal with actual scientific data pertaining to evolution, they attempt maintain a facade of respectibility by quoting statements from biological authorities. This can take many forms; for example, for the 1987 Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard case, the creationist lawyer Wendell Bird, apparently with the help of Paul Nelson, assembled a massive 500-page brief that consisted almost entirely of thousands of quotes from authorities on every topic bearing on “creation science”, from astrophysics to biology to philosophy to religion. This failed to convince the Supremes, but Bird turned his brief into a large two-volume book, The Origin of Species Revisited. Other elaborations on creationist quote-mining include various “Quote Books”, including The Quote Book (1984 booklet, inserted in Creation magazine I believe) and The Revised Quote Book (1990) from Answers in Genesis, the Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter (now online), and Henry Morris’ That Their Words may be used against Them (comes with CD!). Then we have endless collections of quotes on creationist websites, 50 of which were recently surveyed and ranked against the Talk.Origins Quote-Mine Project. Sometimes these quotes evolve and mutate over time (here is an example from Of Pandas and People), and sometimes they even spontaneously generate from thin air, as with this imaginary quote from Clarence Darrow.
You may be saying, “Surely this is a problem, but only famous authorities get quote mined. It would never happen to me!” Think again. On September 5, 2006, an article I coauthored in Nature Reviews Microbiology on flagellum evolution was published on the NRM website as an Advanced Online Publication. Before the ink was even dry – heck, before the ink was even wet, the October issue hasn’t come out yet – Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute is quote mining it! The mining occured in Luskin’s insta-response to the revised edition Chris Mooney‘s book The Republican War on Science. Check this out:
Continue reading “Alert! Alack! I have been quote mined!”
Posted by Ed on February 11, 2006 | Comments (51)
There is a quote that I’ve seen all over the place, and I believe even used myself over the years, from the founder of the ID movement, Philip Johnson. Here is the quote as it is usually given:
“The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally ‘introduced to Jesus.’”
The quote appears on over 400 webpages according to Google, and the source cited is the April 1999 edition of Church and State magazine. That magazine is published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and this article was written by Rob Boston. The problem is that this is not a quote from Philip Johnson, it’s a quote about Philip Johnson, and as it has gotten passed around it has often been attributed to Johnson himself. For the full text of the article, go here. Given how often we have criticized the creationists about inaccurate and out of context quotations, it is imperative that we avoid using this quotation ourselves.
Update: This is a good example, I think, of how our side handles such situations compared to the other side. I emailed Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic, last night because he had recently used the quote in an article, and I informed him that it was a paraphrase, not a quote. His immediate response was to say thank you for the correction and to call his publisher because the quote also appears in his forthcoming book and he wanted to make sure it got taken out so it wouldn’t get disseminated any further. Kudos to Shermer.
Posted by Pim van Meurs on September 10, 2005 | Comments (182)
Dembski quotes Dawkins but somehow drops relevant parts of the sentence…
What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote?
Quotes like “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” and “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” are right up there, but my all-time favorite is “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” (All these quotes are from The Blind Watchmaker.)
It’s comforting that evolutionary theory is in the capable hands of rigorous empirical scientists like Dawkins.
As opposed to ‘rigorous empirical scientists’ like Dembski he probable means? Of course there are some interesting problems with his ‘logic’. First of all Dawkins is among thousands if not tens of thousands of capable scientists who move evolutionary theory forward. What does ID have to offer? Poof…. But let’s explore the ‘empirical evidence’ presented by Dembski with respect to Dawkin’s quote:
Continue reading “Dembski quote mining Dawkins”
Posted by Pim van Meurs on August 30, 2005 | Comments (61)
In the August 29 issue of the Scientist, Phil Skell writes in his opinion piece “Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology” the following:
Despite this and other daculties, the modem form of Darwin’s theory has been raised to its present high status because it’s said to be the comerstone ofmodem experimental biology. But is that correct? “While
the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,’ most can conduct their work quite happily without
particular reference to evolutionary ideas,”
A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000. “Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.”
I decided to investigate the quote. Guess what?
Continue reading “From the Quote Mines: Phil Skell”
Posted by Pim van Meurs on June 6, 2005 | Comments (47)
Coyne as quoted by Behe in Darwin’s Black Box:
We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak.
I decided to check the actual text and guess what? In the actual text the period is a comma and the text continues as follows:
and there is no doubt that mutations of large effects are sometimes important in adaptation.
Continue reading “From the quote mines: Behe quotes Coyne”