Spectacular Quote Mining

I was digging through a few of my older bits of crap from the internet, and found a side-by-side article I wrote in early 2012. To be honest, it’s a bit long and cruddy, but the inanity of the article being critiqued – especially towards the end – doesn’t fill me with the impetus to have another shot at it.

Anyway, I rediscovered this quote from the original, written by Philip Vander Elst:

Richard Dawkins, for instance, describes the idea of God as “a very naive, childish concept,” and has explicitly expressed his relief that Darwinism enables him to be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Earlier Darwinists made similar comments. In 1943, for example, Professor D.M.S. Watson wrote: “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or…can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” (Quoted in “Science and the BBC”, Nineteenth Century, April 1943). But if Darwinism is being embraced because of an unexamined philosophical (or emotional) prejudice against God and the idea of creation, why should it be accorded any respect as a scientific theory?

Elst’s point here is that evolution has been almost invented entirely to get rid of God – even where the data clearly doesn’t fit. Evolutionists are out to disprove God, and that’s their one and only motive. And look, he has the quotes to prove it! Right there! Look!

You know what I call it? Shameless. Truly shameless. Truly fucking shameless. It’s a quote mine that is so common, so mundane, and so over-used by creationist asshats, that it even has a Wikipedia section dedicated to it – not that I’m accusing Philip Vander Elst of being a literal, Ussher-chronology young earth creationist, but his work does fall into the black pit of the worst apologetics I’ve read. Actually, that could be misleading because calling it “worst” implies that I’ve found apologetics that are reasonable.

It takes little-to-no effort to track down the source, as I did in the original side-by-side of Elst’s oversized derp-wagon. For instance, you can find the original sourced to a 1929 article in Nature, while Elst had clearly only gotten as far as taking C.S. Lewis’ word for it when he wrote that bullshit above – it’s almost word-for-word how Lewis quoted and described Watson’s position. Indeed, how apt for someone who is somewhat of a scholar of C.S. Lewis (if such a thing can be a genuine academic occupation) and for a post that is mostly a quasi-plagiarised rehash of C.S. Lewis’ own apologetics.

This is Watson’s original quote from his article (Lewis/Elst’s extract is highlighted in douche-y green):

Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.

Look carefully at the quote-mined version, you’ll spot an ellipsis – as clearly Watson’s paragraph there only looks a little like the Elst/Lewis’ extract. In fact, most of the sentence is removed. This isn’t just clearing up some extraneous detail for brevity – this is actually hiding things. The second part of the quote mine comes a page or so later, and combined with the above clearly makes the point that “incredible” is being used in a literal sense (meaning “not credible”). It is presented as so:

The extreme difficulty of obtaining the necessary data for any quantitative estimation of the efficiency of natural selection makes it seem probable that this theory will be re-established, if it be so, by the collapse of alternative explanations which are more easily attacked by observation and experiment. If so, it will present a parallel to the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.

It’s pretty clear putting all of Watson’s comments together that he’s simply heading off the usual anti-evolutionist objections that evolution cannot be observed. Indeed, how can it, per se? We live, at best, 100 years; can a single person observe the evolution of a shrew-like creature into a primate? Of course not. But we have much more evidence for it than that – and such “direct” evidence isn’t required. Further, the alternative anti-evolutionary views suffer from a complete lack of evidence or any logical founding that makes them plausible. Of course D. M. S. Watson would say this, and not offer some tacit admission that he thinks evolution is wrong but likes how it destroys God – the man had expertise on the subject and amassed a list of accolades I doubt I’ll ever achieve. Why would anyone think for a moment that such a person would say “evolution is wrong”? It’s this sort of behaviour that really makes some apologists the lowest of the low in terms of honesty, intelligence and general credibility both scientific and academic. They are, literally, incredible.

C.S. Lewis, the originator of the quote-mine, put it as so – and, in doing so, shamelessly invented the page-long ellipsis to go with it.

More disquieting still is Professor D. M. S. Watson’s defense. “Evolution itself,” he wrote, “is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or… can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” Has it come to that? Does the whole vast structure of modern naturalism depend not on positive evidence but simply on an a priori metaphysical prejudice. Was it devised not to get in facts but to keep out God?

So, what did Elst want to achieve in 2003 by citing a quote originally made in 1929, using a quote-mine first published in 1941? Back when I wrote that original side-by-side, I described this as “intellectually vacuous”. I still can’t think of a better term to sum it all up.

How Do You Tell if Someone is a Real Scientist or Not?

Jay Seegert recently wrote a guest article titled “How Do You Tell if Someone is a Real Scientist or Not?” Being riddled with so much derp that just cannot be allowed to stand, I thought I’d write a response. Alas, I was beaten to the punch by one of my partners-in-crime on Facebook. Here is what he had to say on the subject:

Nice strawman, Mr. Seegert. You really are a class act, here, knowing full well that your target audience will have no inclination or desire to overcome their internal confirmation bias to either confirm or deny your claims.

Consider the following exchange…

Please source this “exchange”, or admit that you made it up entirely. No one who seriously engages a creationist on terms of defining “science” or other terms would make the careless misstep of circular reasoning that you portray here. Science is not something to “believe” in, in the first place. It is something to be observed, tested, and questioned, even when one thinks that they know all there is to know about a given subject.

Creationists, one the other hand, such as Eric Hovind, Paul Taylor, and Sye Ten Bruggencate are on record numerous times in print and video admitting that their worldview not only RELIES but is ENTIRELY BASED ON circular reasoning (i.e., Creation is true, because the Bible says it and the Bible is true, because it’s the word of God, and the Bible is the word of God because it says so in the Bible, which also says that Creation is true, …)


Produce a single publication refusal stating “We can’t publish anything from you… You’re not a real scientist!”

A high school dropout could, theoretically, publish in a major peer-reviewed science journal without a credential to their name IF the science is sound and passes peer review. The problem with creationist articles is that they cannot pass peer review because they are bad science. Any field of science needs to take into account the observations and data from related and often disparate fields of science that impact the hypothesis being tested.

“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”:

Please. Citing a propaganda film of that nature is on par with using “Super Size Me” as a dietary guideline. You insult the intelligence of your readers by using it. Instead, perhaps you could post some links to scanned copies of rejection and censorship letters that explicitly say words to the effect of “This journal will not publish your article because you believe in God”? My guess is that such documents don’t exist, because the rejections are based on fundamental scientific errors that are readily apparent upon reading, even to novices in the appropriate field.

Kirschner quote:

My good sir… This is a BREATHTAKING example of a “quotemine”. Absolutely stunning. I marvel at your ability to take a quote so far out of context as to mean exactly the opposite of what its speaker intended. This quote ignores the fact that the ENTIRE ARTICLE was about a shift in biology away from reductionism (e.g., the way that Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, etc.look at individual parts of life to study their intricacies) and toward an interdisciplinary approach to describe and study evolutionary processes on a macro scale.

To wit:

For too long, they say, researchers in its different domains-from evolutionists in the field to cell biologists in the lab-have remained isolated. ‘I wouldn’t call it an antagonism as much as one not knowing anything about the other,’ Gerhart offers.

Kirschner likes to invoke the much-quoted declaration of famed 20th-century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ (the title of a 1973 essay). ‘In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself,’ Kirschner declares. ‘Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.’

As a result, scientists working on genetics, cells, and molecules-a background Kirschner and Gerhart share-have not always considered how components of an organism reveal both its physiological properties and evolutionary properties and provide a window into the history of the organism. Evolutionary science, argue Kirschner and Gerhart, will advance as more biologists place their lab research within this evolutionary framework.

Nonetheless, many scientists think a convergence of biology’s disciplines is now at hand. Whereas evolutionary biologists have famously debated whether the gene, organism, or even species is the proper unit of natural selection, current research increasingly integrates these things. ‘This is where it’s happening,’ says Daniel Hartl, an evolutionary geneticist at Harvard. ‘Evolutionists and others in the field are not arguing about reductionism any more. What’s exciting is putting it all together, from the genetic level to the organism.


Relevance to medicine:

You provide an orthopedic surgeon’s response. Ask a pathologist, epidemiologist, or virologist the same question and see what kind of an answer you get.

Founding of disciplines of science:

So? Algebra was founded by Muslims. Does that mean that mathematics owes its existence to the Koran? Geometry was founded by polytheistic Greeks. I guess we should thank Zeus for the value of Pi (which the Bible gets wrong, by the way)! Pagan druids founded astronomy. That’s why telescopes require the sacrifice of a virgin goat in order to work properly.

Do you see how silly you sound yet?

Those are the major points and I think I’ve made my case clear. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. You should be ashamed of yourself. Not on some theological “God vs. The Haters” level or even a “Creation vs. Evolution” one, but on the simple fact that you would even attempt to publish this tripe in defense of your creationist view when your points are so easily and readily rebutted and debunked.