Creationist Wisdom #328: Living in the Past

We have yet another winner from what is becoming a reliable source — the Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton, Michigan (population 7,708) in the northwestern portion of that state’s Upper Peninsula. Today’s letter-to-the-editor is our fourth from that publication. The others were #307: Evolution Is Un-American, and then #315: Atheist Myth, and most recently #320: Evolution Is Impossible.

The title of the latest letter is Ultimate origins beyond science. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. As we usually do, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:

Evolutionists who ridicule belief in a Creator complain when evolution is described as atheistic theory. If everything evolved then nothing was created and God wouldn’t exist.

*Sigh* Evolution is not an atheistic theory. It might seem so if one’s religion insists on the literal truth of Genesis, but many Christian denominations think otherwise — see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution. On with the letter.

Minor biological changes don’t prove that major changes occurred or are even possible. There are limits to biological change evolutionists often ignore.

Lordy, lordy. It’s the micro-macro mambo (see Common Creationist Claims Confuted). The letter-writer assumes the existence of a Great Barrier that prevents the accumulation of mutations over millions of generations. Let’s read on:

Evolutionists believe, without proof, that birds evolved from reptiles. However, French evolutionist Lecomte du Nouy admitted that birds have all the “characteristics of absolute creation.”

No “proof”? What would that be? We have transitional fossils. And who is Lecomte du Nouy? He probably means Pierre Lecomte du Noüy, who died in 1947 — conveniently before the transitional fossils were found. He apparently said something like the quote in today’s letter. RationalWik includes it in their List of quotes appealing to authority used by creationists. Even if du Nouy said such a thing more than half a century ago, it’s no longer the opinion of knowledgeable biologists. This is why textbooks are frequently updated. The letter-writer continues:

Physicist H.S. Lipson said: “The only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is anathema to physicists…” He said that evolution became a “scientific religion.”

Aaaargh!! Another quote to look up. We found the letter-writer’s quote, more or less, at the website of the Institute for Creation Research in this article: Evolution Is Religion, Not Science. It appears at several other creationist websites too. Googling for Lipson’s name generates more hits for that quote than anything else he’s ever done in his life. TalkOrigins discusses it here, at quote #59: Quote Mine Project. It seems that Lipson retracted his statement, at least a little bit. Strange guy.

The letter-writer then gives us yet another quote. Observe, dear reader, that like all creationists, he gives us no evidence for creationism, and no evidence contrary to evolution. It’s all based on quotes — an appeal to a few carefully selected authorities, while ignoring over 99% of the real authorities.

His next quote, which we won’t bother copying here, comes from Francis Hitching, whom Wikipedia describes as “a British author, journalist and filmmaker; he is also a parapsychologist and a dowser.” A dowser? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! TalkOrigins has an article on him: Francis Hitching: Commonly quoted by creationists. Your Curmudgeon never heard of the fellow before, but from what little we’ve seen here today, we can’t figure out why he’s quoted by anyone — except perhaps in some psychiatric case study.

There’s only one paragraph left in today’s letter, but before we get to it we need to take a moment in order to gather our thoughts. The letter-writer isn’t engaged in the fraudulent practice of quote-mining — presenting distorted quotes or quotes taken out of context, in an effort to misrepresent someone’s thinking. No, there’s something else going on here. The letter-writer’s quotes seem to be genuine — the problem is that the person being quoted is wrong. Either he was babbling about some field where he had no expertise, or he was an expert, and he was giving his best opinion according to what was known at the time. A quote like that is being taken out of its temporal context.

Lecomte du Nouy said what he said, but he had far less evidence available to him than we do now. Quoting him as an authority on bird evolution is like quoting William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), who died in 1907 and who was once President of the Royal Society of England, for the proposition that heavier than air flying machines are impossible. Yes, he made that declaration, but it was before the Wright Brothers flew, and students of physics today aren’t taught Kelvin’s views on that subject.

This business of accurately quoting obsolete material is … hey, it’s the essence of creationism. It’s no different than quoting Genesis as a science text. Yes, it’s exactly the same (except for the religious element) as if there were a contemporary Kelvinist movement that denies the existence of aircraft. Perhaps there’s a name for this disorder; if not we’ll need to think of one. Anyway, here’s the last paragraph of today’s letter:

Ultimate origins are beyond the reach of science but that doesn’t stop evolutionists. They believe the creation created itself by mindless natural forces (wherever they came from). Those mindless forces supposedly created what intelligent scientists are unable to duplicate today.

All creationists say stuff like that. “You can’t explain X, therefore creationism is true.” Some people find that argument persuasive. We call such people “feeble-minded.”

Okay, we’re done here. At first we didn’t think much of today’s letter, but now that we’ve finished with it, we’re glad we found the thing. It actually made us think.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #328: Living in the Past

  1. After reading that, I called on Jethro Tull to help my brain feel better.

  2. Our Curmudgeon aptly names a varient of quote mining:

    A quote like that is being taken out of its temporal context.

    My own favourite exemplar:

    “It will be years – and not in my time – before a woman will lead the party or become Prime Minister.”

    –Margaret Thatcher, 1974

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    The UP of Michigan in known for mining, but not quote mining. Sheesh.

  4. Megalonyx, don’t forget The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism, including this gem:

    The collapse of the Soviet Union put an end to the Soviet myth, just as the scientific collapse of Darwinism, preceded as it was by the discrediting of Marxism and Freudianism, prepared the way for the culture to turn aside from the mythology of naturalism to rediscover the buried treasure that the mythology had been concealing.” — Phillip Johnson

  5. I think I know where the letter-writer learnt, ahem, biology. He is depending 100 % on a cute little Jehovah’s Witness book called Life — How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?. It was first published by the Watchtower Society in 1985, but apparently it is still in print. Creationist literature is not very common here in Norway, but the Witnesses carried this book to my door. I believe it is the first sample of the “genre” that I ever encountered.

    The quote from Lecomte du Noüy (so spelt in the book) is on page 75. The quote from Lipton is found on pp. 52-53. The quotes from Francis Hitching appear on pages 23-24.

    Moreover, in the final paragraphs of his letter, the writer all but identifies himself as an Old Earth creationist, claiming that the “days” of Creation Week may actually be long periods. Life — How Did It Get Here? makes exactly the same point on pages 23-24. (I only have the Norwegian translation before me, but from what I read on the net, it seems pagination is more or less identical in the English original.)

    The Watchtower book overwhelmingly relies on Francis Hitching, whose tome The Neck of the Giraffe is quoted some thirteen times. Entire branches of science are brushed aside on the authority of this or that quote from Hitching. Hitching is presented as an evolutionist and a scientist; in reality he is a TV writer with great interest in paranormal stuff, such as dowsing and “bio-energy in the Maya pyramids”. The clueless Watchtower writing staff apparently thought they had found a great scientific authority who said what they wanted to hear.

    Here is a critical discussion of Watchtower views on evolution, mainly focusing on the book Life — How Did It Get Here?:

    http://corior.blogspot.com/2006/02/part-1-disagreements-about-evolution.html

  6. Thank you, H.K. Fauskanger. It’s always good to trace these things to the source.

  7. Hitching was prominently cited as a science expert by the founder of ID, lawyer Phillip Johnson, in “Darwin on Trial.”

    — Diogenes

  8. And so everything moves in circles. From the TalkOrigins-resource SC linked to above: “Hitching’s book spends much of its time attacking Darwinian evolution, borrowing heavily and uncritically from young-earth creationist arguments. Many of Hitching’s ‘references’ are lifted from young-earth creationist literature rather than being quoted directly from their original sources.”