Creationist Wisdom — Example 63

TODAY’S creationist wisdom comes to us from that blessed land we call The Florida Ark, home to a great number of creationists. It’s that concave stretch of coast — an arc, get it? — starting at the Alabama border and then sweeping down the shore of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Tampa, and perhaps a bit beyond. We coined this Curmudgeonism here.

And so, dear reader, straight from the Florida Ark, we present to you: Flawed theory, a letter-to-the-editor which appears at the website of Tampa Bay Online, the internet presence of a few papers in the Florida Ark. We think this one is either in the Tampa Tribute or Highlands Today.

We’ll copy today’s letter in its entirety (well, almost) omitting the writer’s name and city, and we’ll add our Curmudgeonly commentary between the excerpted paragraphs. The bold font was added for emphasis:

It has been a number of years since I took a course in anthropology, but as the course progressed and during the ensuing years, I have become increasingly convinced that Darwin’s Origin of the Species Philosophy is only grasping after a straw.

Clearly we are reading the product of a brilliant mind. Note that he refers to “Darwin’s Origin of the Species Philosophy.” To our own limited intellect, there is either the title of Darwin’s book, or the theory of evolution described within it, but today’s letter-writer labels the whole thing a “philosophy.” When you encounter a mind so original that new terminology is required to express its ideas, you know you’re in for a treat. Let’s read on:

I am not alone. Following are a few who take a similar position:

Okay, now brace yourself, because what follows is a veritable festival of creationist quote-mining. Here it comes!

In a letter to Harvard professor Asa Gray, Darwin admits, “I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of science.”

Asa Gray was a contemporary of Darwin’s, with whom Darwin corresponded. All of Darwin’s writings are available online, but we can’t find that quote. Therefore we assume it’s a creationist invention. We are always amused, however, when creationists attempt to disprove evolution by citing Darwin.

We found something like the letter-writer’s “quote” here, in Darwin’s “The variation of animals and plants under domestication,” for which Asa Gray wrote a preface. Darwin’s words are these, and we’ll highlight the words that perhaps “inspired” the fraudulent quote:

It is the consideration and explanation of such facts as these which has convinced me that the theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection is in the main true. These facts have as yet received no explanation on the theory of independent Creations; they cannot be grouped together under one point of view, but each has to be considered as an ultimate fact. As the first origin of life on this earth, as well as the continued life of each individual, is at present quite beyond the scope of science, I do not wish to lay much stress on the greater simplicity of the view of a few forms, or of only one form, having been originally created, instead of innumerable periods; though this more simple view accords well with Maupertuiss philosophical axiom “of least action.”

Not quite what today’s letter-writer would have us believe, but that’s the only time Darwin said “quote beyond the scope of science,” which is at least close to the bogus quote in today’s letter. If we find something closer, we’ll add an addendum to this post.

We continue:

Dr. Louis Bounourd, Director of the Zoological Museum and Director of Research at the National Center of Scientific Research in France confessed, “Evolution is a fairy tale for grownups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.”

Well! That’s certainly convincing. Actually it’s not, because the “quote” has already been debunked for us at the Talk.Origins site here. On with today’s letter:

Steven J. Gould, former Harvard University professor of paleontology says, “The American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. I will lay it on the line, there is not one such fossil for with one could make a watertight argument.”

The only place we can find that “quote” is at creationist websites. It appears to be yet another fabrication. Oh, wait — Talk.Origins debunks that one too. It’s #56, found here. Funny, the bogus quote originally wasn’t even attributed to Gould, it was Colin Patterson.

Speaking of Patterson, misquoting him used to be a favorite ploy of the creationists, and the rest of today’s letter consists of an alleged quote from him. We won’t bother you with that one, but here’s yet another debunking essay from Talk.Origins: Patterson Misquoted.

It’s possible that the letter’s next — and final — paragraph isn’t supposed to be from Patterson, but there’s no close-quote so we can’t tell. It doesn’t really matter.

So that’s today’s creationist wisdom from the Florida Ark — a classic case of fabrications, misquotes, ignorance, and various other devices. And they wonder why they’re not respected.

Hey, the letter-writer omitted a few other gems, so we’ll help him out:

The check’s in the mail. I’ll respect you in the morning. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. Read my lips, no new taxes.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom — Example 63

  1. Also, Gould’s first name was Stephen, not Steven.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    If they had truth on their side, they wouldn’t have to lie.

    David Klinghoffer admitted that “Darwinism” has little to do with Darwin:

    “Darwinism” designates a stream of thought that extends back before the historical Darwin was born.

    He’s given himself a license to call anything he disapproves of “Darwinism”, and then claim that by arguing against things Darwin isn’t responsible for he argues against things Darwin actually said.

  3. Curmudgeon wrote: “We’ll copy today’s letter in its entirety (well, almost)”

    That’s one big “almost.” You snipped all of his alternate “theory.” You could have at least left in his position 0n the age of life and common descent.

  4. A small point, but the title of Darwin’s book does not say “the Species”. It is “On the Origin of Species …”. It is not about some specified species, but about species in general.

  5. Wow. Check the last sentence: “I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists and all I got was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, ‘I do know one thing, it ought not to be taught in High Schools’!”

    Note that he cleverly avoids saying who said the quoted statement. Was it one of the “prestigious body of evolutionists,” indicating merely that detailed questions about evolution are more appropriate at the college level? Or was it another clueless rube in the audience? Either way someone should tell him that the DI does advocate teaching evolution in high school. As long as the standard misrepresentations of it are given the last word.

  6. The Talk.Origins quote mine project gives a different source for Darwin’s remark to Gray (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part2.html). The issue here is quite interesting to serious philosophers and historians of science, but irrelevant to creationists — namely, how did Darwin think?

    For several hundred years, scientists were “Baconians”, that is, they argued inductively. Darwin did not reason inductively, as he recognized and was understandably anxious about. Instead he proceeded in terms of what we today recognize as hypothetico-deductive reasoning. Ghiselin’s “The Triumph of the Darwinian Method” is very good on this.

    Intelligent design, on the other hand, is an inductive generalization — but not a testable one. That’s why it seems to be science, but is not.

  7. Glenn Branch says: “Also, Gould’s first name was Stephen, not Steven.”

    Creationists are allowed a certain latitude in these things.

  8. @Carl Sachs:

    How is “intelligent design” an inductive generalization?

    What is a statement of the generalization? What are the X and Y in the “All X’s are Y’s”?

  9. Curmudgeon wrote: “Creationists are allowed a certain latitude in these things.”

    Also it’s usually “Jay,” not “J.” “Evolutionists” probably occasionally make the same mistake, but with creationists there is a certain pattern in the sloppiness toward what is not crucial to their point, vs. the the items (e.g. mined quotes) that are. The most common mistake I notice is when I ask them the age of life and they give me the age of the Earth instead.

  10. The first quote can be found here (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-2109.html), but it appears that he is talking about extinction of disjoined species.

  11. Frank J says: “The most common mistake I notice is when I ask them the age of life and they give me the age of the Earth instead.”

    At most there’s only a day or two difference.

  12. Robert Krampf says: “The first quote can be found here …”

    Very good! Thanks. Here’s a link to the introduction Six things Darwin never said – and one he did , which is necessary reading, and here’s a link to the letter: Letter 2109 — Darwin, C. R. to Gray, Asa, 18 June [1857].

  13. Curmudgeon wrote: “At most there’s only a day or two difference.”

    Even less as they were both last Thursday. 🙂

    Actually OECs make that mistake as often as YECs. Although ~2/3 I have asked over the past 4 years simply evade the question. At least half that do answer make the mistake.

    You might also recall the creationist (OEC I think) at the Kansas Kangaroo Court who was clearly asked the age of the Earth, and replied with the age of the Universe.

    The obvious explanation is that key words, whether heard or read, cause them to immediately go to their rehearsed “script” regardless of how relevant to the question. Rule No. 1 of the “script” these days is to change the subject to “weaknesses” of “Darwinism” at every opportunity.