Creationist Wisdom #363: The Quote Miner

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel of Lodi, California. It’s titled Evolution should not be taught as fact.

We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Because we don’t like to embarrass people, we’ll omit the letter-writer’s name and city — but we did locate a refrigeration repair company in Lodi owned by a man with a similar name. Okay, here we go:

Robert Jastrow, astronomer and professor of earth sciences (1981-1992) and chairman of NASA’s space program, was asked what he believed about creation. He stated, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which they can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on earth.”

Jastrow seems to have said that. It appears in the Wikipedia article on Robert Jastrow. However, our letter-writer left out Jastrow’s next words:

And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact

That’s a strange thing for a scientist to say, but it doesn’t mean anything. Quote-miners love Jastrow, however. He popped up before in Creationist Wisdom #318. Let’s read on from today’s letter:

Jastrow was not alone in his belief about the origin of life.

Aaaargh!! Jastrow was talking about the origin of the Big Bang. No matter, the letter goes on:

Other leading scientists also expressed their views on creation, and physicist Emerson Cooper stated, “The most established law in science, the second law of thermodynamics, refutes evolution.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Wikipedia never heard of the guy and we’re not going to waste time hunting for him. The letter continues:

Physicist H.S. Lipson, realizing the odds against a spontaneous origin for life said, “The only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory (creation) that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion.”

That’s popped up before too. We discussed it in Creationist Wisdom #328, where we said:

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.

Here’s more from today’s letter:

Zoologist Albert Fleischmann of the University of Erlanngen declared, “The Darwinian Theory of descent has not a single fact to confirm in the realm of nature. It is not the result of scientific research, but purely the product of imagination.”

His name is also in the TalkOrigins Quote Mine Project — scroll down to #67. It’s not that quote (which we can’t find anywhere), but creationists seem to attribute a lot of nonsense to him. Don’t leave us yet — our letter-writer has another one:

Louis Bounoure, director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, and later director of research at the French National Center of Scientific Research, stated in 1984, “Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the process of science, it is useless.”

Another name unknown to Wikipedia. TalkOrigins has it (and rebuts it) here: Old, Out of Context Quotations from French Scientists.

And now we come to the end of the letter:

The list goes on and on, but you begin to see that what once was taught as “fact” is anything but fact. Today’s high school textbooks still teach evolution as fact. Why? They were all written by evolutionists!

Observe, dear reader, that like all creationists, our letter-writer 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 — mostly bogus — while ignoring over 99% of the real authorities. Another fine addition to our collection.

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

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12 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #363: The Quote Miner

  1. Concerning Emerson Cooper, here is his book Origin Of The Universe at Amazon:

    [The clouds part, and a Curmudgeonly Hand reaches down to provide a better link:]

    The Origin of The Universe

    The book is published by WinePress, a self-described Christian self-publishing company.

    Cooper’s bio there at Amazon:

    EMERSON A. COOPER is a graduate of Oakwood College (B.A.), the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (M.S. in Chemistry), and Michigan State University (Ph.D.). For forty-four years he has taught chemistry at a small liberal arts Christian college.

    Not exactly a world-beating phyicist.

  2. Opps, sorry. I did not expect the Amazon link to embed the cover shot.

  3. John Pieret, I don’t know what you’re apologizing for. My link goes to the same place yours did.

  4. Thanks.

    He has another book, Why Darwin Was Wrong.

    Amusingly, the book description begins with: Repeating a false statement doesn’t make it true.

    Just about a perfect description of creationism.

  5. I am happy to confirm JP’s research:

    Oakwood University has a lemma on Wikipedia. Read it and you’ll know why Cooper worked there for so long.
    I like to hunt down those guys, especially because creacrappers even tend to get these facts wrong. Cooper was not a physicist.

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    These guys could spend some worthwhile time sharing quotes from people who have proven that tiktaalik or archaeopteryx are not transitional forms. Woops don’t have any. Shucks, then go ahead and drag out non-specific quotes by no-bodies and see if I believe you.

  7. And lo! The very first reader to add a comment to the Lodi News-Sentinel article is none other than our very own and redoubtable Herman Cummings, who wisely notes:

    By teaching only evolution, the religion of Atheism has been taught in schools for decades. However, Creationism is also false, and does not represent the Genesis text.

    The only correct opposing view to evolution, is the “Observations of Moses”.

  8. Regarding the quote “Physicist H.S. Lipson, realizing the odds against a spontaneous origin for life said, ‘The only acceptable explanation is creation.'” Have any of these people considered the odds against the creation of an all-powerful, all-knowing being capable of creating an entire universe using forces that do not exist in our reality? Or do just things that exist in our reality have odds? If you are going to use an “odds” arguent you need both.

    I was at a creationist lecture when he played the game with ten numbered children’s blocks and pointed out that the odds on selecting the ten, one at a time, out of a sack to match any particular order was huge and very unlikely. I responed that if those choices were made at the frequency molecules collide that sequence would come up a billion, billion times per second. If one wants to play the odds game … play the odds game correctly.

  9. Kind of funny, but this place doesn’t seem to know who Emerson Cooper is either.

  10. @stephenpruis – To follow up on your observation about the probability of an all-powerful, all-knowing agent doing such-and-such, and the analogy of the numbered blocks –
    Consider the probability of drawing – oh, let’s say, 0, 1, …., 9. When the person doing the drawing is up to doing just about anything the draws are not restricted to the numbers zero through nine. Who knows what is going to happen, maybe the next number is pi or a complex number or a quaternion or a letter or a picture of an animal? The probability of drawing 0-9 in order is not 1/10!, but much smaller: to a first approximation, the probability is 1/infinity, or zero.
    No matter how small the probability of such-and-such happening by pure chance within the limits of what the laws of nature allow, the probability does not increase when one removes those limits.

  11. stephenpruis says: “I was at a creationist lecture when he played the game with ten numbered children’s blocks and pointed out that the odds on selecting the ten, one at a time, out of a sack to match any particular order was huge and very unlikely.”

    As I once said in William Dembski’s Design Inference: Human conception is preceded by the release of roughly 20 million sperm per milliliter, and the number of milliliters varies with age and other factors. The average for a healthy young male is estimated to be 300-500 million spermatozoa, per, ah … event. To be on the conservative side, let’s say that a specific human zygote has less than a one-in-100 million chance of being conceived. And that’s for one particular fertile moment for the female. A month earlier or later, the zygote will be different. In other words, dear reader, considering the odds against your turning out to be precisely you, it’s obvious that your existence is quite improbable. Nevertheless, there you are.

  12. I always like to bring up two points about arguments against evolution. One is that creationism/design/whatever does not present a solution to the alleged problem. The other is that the argument applies with at least as much force against reproduction.
    WRT the probability calculation argument, above I showed that creationism/design far from being a solution actually makes the probability less.
    And our Sensuous Curmudgeon shows here that the probability argument applies with far greater force against reproduction.