Discovery Institute: Workin’ in the Quote Mine

Buffoon Award

THERE is no denying it — things are truly tragic for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

We once again have to deal with a Discoveroid blog post by John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”). The last time we wrote about one of Westie’s blog articles was here: Absolute Desperation. It’s in Westie’s honor that we have adorned this post with our jolly Buffoon logo. If you already know who he is, you can skip this indented paragraph:

West is a winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award. He’s a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (the DI), where he is Associate Director of their Center for Science and Culture — the creationist public relations and lobbying operation that consumes almost half of the Discoveroids’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes West one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from: How Not to Defend Darwin on “Survival of the Fittest”. Westie says, with bold font added by us:

Evolutionary biologists make poor historians, especially when it comes to Charles Darwin. So intent on preserving the reputation of St. Charles, evolutionists typically do their best to paper-over Darwin’s less-than-savory views on issues like race or the application of natural selection to society.

What “less-than-savory views” is he talking about? Let’s read on:

British biochemist and theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander runs true to form in a newly posted interview at BioLogos.

The Discoveroids dislike BioLogos, because those people are theistic evolutionists. They don’t object to the “theistic” part, but the geniuses in Seattle can’t abide the theory of evolution. In particular, they never miss an opportunity to demonize Darwin, even if they have to — shall we say — stretch the truth.

The post at BioLogos by Alexander is a brief refutation of the old creationist lie that Darwin was a big-time racist. We’ve dealt with that fiction a few times before, for example here: Racism, Eugenics, and Darwin. Let’s continue with Westie’s blog article:

Darwin opposed slavery (to his credit), but he also was a thoroughgoing racist who thought natural selection provided a scientific rationale for why we should expect to see races with different intellectual capacities. In his book The Descent of Man, Darwin disparaged blacks and observed that the break in evolutionary history between apes and humans fell “between the negro or Australian and the gorilla,” indicating that he considered blacks the humans that were the most ape-like.

Then he pulls one more quote out of the same paragraph from Darwin:

Darwin also predicted that “[a]t some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”

Westie gives this link to support both of his quotes: Darwin, Descent of Man (1871), vol. I, p. 201.

That’s classic creationist quote-mining. We’ve specifically dealt with this one before. See: WorldNetDaily — Worthless Creationist Rag!, where we quoted the entire passage from Darwin’s book so you can see it in context. WND had grabbed only one of the two portions “quoted” by Westie, but that’s not important. You can read the whole thing in our earlier post and see for yourself that Darwin wasn’t talking about racism or genocide — he was talking about gaps in the fossil record for human ancestry.

It’s true that Darwin suggested the negro looked more like an ape than the Caucasian does. A superficial glance at some facial features can give that impression; but it shouldn’t be overlooked that in the very same book, Darwin declared the exact opposite of what Westie claims he said — that “he considered blacks the humans that were the most ape-like.” He definitely did not — despite the superficialities that have misled so many others. We’ve posted this before, but it’s worth repeating:

In The Descent of Man, Chapter 21 – General Summary and Conclusion, Darwin says, with bold font added by us:

Through the means just specified, aided perhaps by others as yet undiscovered, man has been raised to his present state. But since he attained to the rank of manhood, he has diverged into distinct races, or as they may be more fitly called, sub-species. Some of these, such as the Negro and European, are so distinct that, if specimens had been brought to a naturalist without any further information, they would undoubtedly have been considered by him as good and true species. Nevertheless all the races agree in so many unimportant details of structure and in so many mental peculiarities that these can be accounted for only by inheritance from a common progenitor; and a progenitor thus characterised would probably deserve to rank as man.

Get that, Westie? All human races (or so-called sub-species) are one species — man. This was a radical position at the time.

There’s not much else to be said about Westie’s post. It’s typical creationist propaganda — just what we expect from their Seattle “think tank.” Nice going, guys!

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9 responses to “Discovery Institute: Workin’ in the Quote Mine

  1. Jeffrey Shallit

    This is just the typical behavior of the intelligent design advocate – dissemble, invent falsehoods, repeat lies.

  2. A common question about human evolution is why we see such a “distance” between humans and other apes. In those quote-mined paragraphs Darwin was answering this very question in two ways:

    1. The distance does not look that much if you look at savages rather than civilized men. Not because civilized are “more evolved” (what the IDiots want it to mean, and leaving aside the misleading use of the “less evolved” concept), but because divested of the clothing and the “civilized” paraphernalia, humans don’t look that much different to other apes.

    2. There is, still, an apparent distance between humans and other apes. Which Darwin explained as been due to ancestral hominid species killing competing ones. That such would have happen was evident from what was happening by Darwin’s times, and had happened before, that “civilized” societies had been killing other, less civilized (though not “less evolved”), societies.

    Darwin was using the language of his times. Nobody can blame him for that. But to put meanings that were not intended into those paragraphs is despicable. The worst part being that then these IDiots claim that “evolutionists” have no source of morality. Irony? Nope. Just hypocrisy.

  3. Am I the only one who read that title to the tune of Martin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine”?

    Working in the quote mine
    Digging up an out-of-context line
    Oh I’m working in the quote mine
    I don’t even have to use my mind

  4. I was thinking of the song “Working in the Coal Mine.”

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    I’m a little yooung for Mowtown, so I actually thought of Spinal Tap’s “Sex Farm”:

    Working on a sex farm
    Trying to raise some hard love
    Getting out my pitch fork
    Poking your hay

    It doesn’t get better.

  6. Gabriel Hanna gets quote-mined:

    “I’m … Working on a sex farm … It doesn’t get better.”

  7. Great post, Carmudgeon. I’ve met Alexander; he’s everything West isn’t. Learned, thoughtful and an actual scientist.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    “We once again… deal with a… blog post by John West (whom we affectionately call “Westie”)….It’s in Westie’s honor…the geniuses in Seattle … never miss an opportunity to…[talk] about gaps in the fossil record for human ancestry….Nice going, guys!”

    Two can play, sir.

  9. Even if what the quote-miners claimed were true, it still would have no bearing on the truth of evolutionary theory. What they are doing is trying to piggy-back on modern prejudices (racism = bad) to try to do a guilt-by-association smear.

    They are totally opportunistic. In a parallel universe where white supremacy was still the unchallenged popular view, they’d by citing Darwin’s relative liberalism and lack of racial prejudice as “evidence” against evolutionary theory. You wouldn’t trust the word of a man who didn’t believe in the innate superiority of the white man, would you? Would you?

    It’s all hectoring and bluff. They simply appeal to the popular prejudices of the day.