Creationist Wisdom #373: Texas Genius

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Lufkin Daily News of Lufkin, Texas. It’s titled Missing the link.

That newspaper has installed a feature on its website that we’re encountering more and more in recent months. After a couple of paragraphs of the letter are displayed, this appears on screen: Subscription Required. An online service is needed to view this article in its entirety.

Signing up isn’t a big deal. We’d have to provide a screen name, a password, and an email address. Then, presumably, we’ll be graciously allowed to behold the wonders within that newspaper. We’re not going to register. What little we can see is entertaining enough for our purposes. If any of our readers feel like signing up and reading the rest, that’s your choice.

So here are a few — very few — excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Because we don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians or otherwise in the public eye), we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:

There is no proof for evolution! It has to be believed, therefore it’s a faith, therefore it’s a religion!

Seriously, dear reader … would you go through the bother of registering at some far-away newspaper in order to read the rest of that? We won’t. But here’s more of what’s freely available:

Even the great high priest and founding father of this new false faith, Charles Darwin himself, confessed that “the belief (note the emphasis on belief) in natural selection (evolution) must at present be grounded entirely on general considerations. … When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed … nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory.”

Isn’t that sweet? The letter-writer is citing Darwin as an authority against his own theory. That’s such a clever tactic! As expected, this effort at quote-mining is one of those debunked at the TalkOrigins Quote Mine Project. They have a big article about a bunch of Darwin quotes that are often misused. If you search on “descend to details” you’ll be taken right to what today’s letter-writer is using. It’s in a section labeled Quote #2.7.

TalkOrigins says: “First of all, the quote is from a “P.S.” to a letter to G. Bentham, May 22, 1863.” Here’s a link to the complete text of that letter, but you may need to blunder around until you find it. To save you the bother, we’ll give you the entire Postscript from which today’s letter-writer got his “evidence.” The material shown in brackets seems to be an editorial insertion by Francis Darwin, who compiled his father’s correspondence. The part mined by today’s letter-writer is shown in red:

In fact the belief in Natural Selection must at present be grounded entirely on general consierations. (1) On its being a vera causa, from the struggle for existence; and the certain geological fact that species do somehow change. (2) From the analogy of change under domestication by man’s selection. (3) And chiefly from this view connecting under an intelligible point of view a host of facts. When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed [i.e. we cannot prove that a single species has changed]; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why some species have changed and others have not. The latter case seems to me hardly more difficult to understand precisely and in detail than the former case of supposed change. Bronn may ask in vain, the old creationist school and the new school, why one mouse has longer ears than another mouse, and one plant more pointed leaves than another plant.

So there you are. Does that tell us anything about the validity of the theory of evolution, as we understand it today? While you’re pondering that, we’ll mention that the next part of today’s letter gives us yet another quote, one from Thomas Huxley, described in today’s letter as “Darwin’s ardent apostle and dedicated disciple.” We’re going to ignore it. Why?

Because it doesn’t matter what Huxley is alleged to have said, nor does it matter what he may have actually said. This isn’t bible class! We don’t care what someone spake unto to the multitude, or what someone declared before a host of witnesses. This is science, and what we care about is data — verifiable data — and testable explanations thereof. Who cares if someone claims that Orville and Wilbur Wright announced to the League of Nations that heavier-than-air flight is impossible, or that Thomas Edison did the same regarding the electric light? We care about facts, not tales of testimony.

Even if the anti-evolution quotes presented by creationists were word-for-word accurate, and not taken out of context, so what? Don’t forget that Galileo actually did renounce the solar system (see Indictment and Abjuration of 1633). That doesn’t change reality; the planets orbit the sun nevertheless.

That’s all we can see of today’s letter. The rest is forever hidden from us. Somehow, we’ll have to get along without knowing what other wonders the letter-writer may have revealed.

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

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #373: Texas Genius

  1. Our Curmudgeon concludes:

    The rest is forever hidden from us. Somehow, we’ll have to get along without knowing what other wonders the letter-writer may have revealed.

    Don’t worry, you have missed nothing you haven’t seen many times before. The only thing remarkable is why the letter-writer chose to illustrate his ignorant rant with photographs taken by a Voyeur Cam installed in your bathroom, which struck me as utterly non-sequitur and an unwarrented intrusion into your privacy–but Cretards work in mysterious ways…

  2. “Somehow, we’ll have to get along without ….”
    I have all the confidence in the world that you will.
    The Francis Darwin quote reminds me of what Arthur Eddington claimed around 1920: that only two people in the world understood General Relativity. Now there must be ten thousands.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    The lead-off logic could work for about anything, just fill in the blank:
    There is no proof for [Obama’s citizenship]! It has to be believed, therefore it’s a faith, therefore it’s a religion!

  4. Four of the last six examples of creationist wisdom have come from Texas. Insert your own joke here.

  5. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Mark: There is no proof that all Texans are creationists! It has to be believed, therefore it’s a faith, therefore it’s a religion!

  6. Good Grief… Lufkin? Is that how far our great Curmudgeon has sunk?

    Being from the area, Lufkin isn’t even big enough to be considered a pimple on the armpit of Texas. I think it has a stop light now. I remember when the town got their first sit down restaurant… Dairy Queen.

    The word “hick” comes to mind, but that doesn’t even convey the full meaning of the backwoodness of that town.

  7. Isn’t Lufkin just down the road a piece from Cut and Shoot? 🙂

  8. Well, Lufkin has 10,000 more people than Corsicana, but Corsicana is home to the Collin Street Bakery, fruitcake capital of the world!

  9. I’ve always wondered about this “evolution = faith” assertion by the anti-evolution lobby. No, not about its truth, it’s clearly bunk. I wonder why they make it in the first place and I wonder what they hope to gain from it because it seems to me a peculiarly self-defeating position to take. The logic’s a bit like an able-bodied athlete (a very klutzy one, mind) saying that he wants to amputate his legs because those paralympians are doing so well.

  10. @Con-Tester: My niece is a Paralympic Sledge Hockey player for Team USA. Legs or no, I wouldn’t get on the ice with them, and I have been invited to do so.

  11. Paul S, I don’t for a second doubt the courage or the capabilities of paralympians, but I would question the sanity and the motives of someone who will voluntarily maim themselves to become one.

  12. Retired Prof

    Like Con-Iester I see the “evolution is another religion” idea as self-defeating. If creationists are implying “therefore nobody needs to pay attention to it,” then the same implication curls back and attacks their own faith. On the other hand, evolutionists have an opportunity to counter, “Since you expect us to respect your religious belief, you should stop ridiculing ours.”


    No faith needed. Evolution is the logical conclusion that a rational mind will come to after examining all the evidence. The problem is, so many minds have been so indoctrinated with the mythology they were taught as young children in Sunday School that they will never accept the evidence.

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if all religions simply focused on teaching ethics to the children, and stopped tainting their minds with “It’s turtles all the way down” absurdities?

    Do you want your child to always tell the truth? Then be a good role model.

  14. Every time I turn around the “accepted” science of a theory changes. As I recall Al Gore started his great scientific crusade against global warming that has now morphed somehow into climate change. There’s enough evidence in their own email trail to question the science of the climate warriors.
    I hasten to state that I have not read the posting rules about anything here so I hope you will bear with me. No doubt you all have covered this ground countless times and needn’t do it again but, it is still the Theory of Evolution, right? When Michelson-Morley attempted to measure the aether’s impact on the speed of light they were attempting to use rigorous scientific methods right here in my town to measure a universally accepted cast-iron scientific fact. There was quite a bit of actual science leading up to the Theory of Special Relativity.
    It’s interesting to me that just about everybody who bothers to comment here or write here has totally closed their mind to any input on any topic which they are willing to opine about. I occasionally drop in and see what’s new at Chaos Manner and there too they are discussing some of the interesting developments in the study of evolution. What’s refreshing is how open they all are to new ideas or even old ideas. They can also get around all sides of any debate without anybody calling anybody else names or belittling the believes or knowledge that is brought to discussion.
    I meant to comment on the 3rd letter to Republicans but the comments appear to be closed. I think it is downright fascinating to watch the smart and intelligentsia here belittle people of another party because they find them to be of low intelligence. Do you feel that what the Democrats, working alone, in the dark, all by themselves, when they ripped health insurance in this country to pieces is a suitable measure of the intelligence and integrity of that political party? If you like your plan you can keep it? If you like your doctor you can keep him/her? The average family will save $2500/year on health insurance?
    There are problems in this country, and in Detroit. If the theory of evolution is to be believed then what happens to an organism that repeats the same mistake over and over again should be apparent to all when it is done politically. The TEA guys can see the handwriting on the wall that is invisible to many here. The institutional left is working its way to turn this place into Argentina or Venezuela. That’s redistribution and attacking profits carried to its silly and predictable end.

  15. @ Curtis: Quite a wide sweep of topics there, lad. But how’d you manage to omit Obama’s birth certificate, flouridation of drinking water, the communist bias of the MSM, the plotting by the Illuminati to bring about One World Government, and the faked Moon Landings?

  16. Curtis complains

    Every time I turn around the “accepted” science of a theory changes.

    Might just be because science constantly seeks out new data, constantly challenges its own assumptions, and thereby constantly moves towards a more accurate (but never complete or infallible) understanding of our natural world.

    And that might just explain why your doctor knows more than the doctor your grandparents went to, or why your computer now is 600 times more powerful than it was a few years back, why your telephone fits in your pocket, &c. &c.

    It’s all to do with valuing empirical investigation rather than embracing political dogma or spiritual oogity-boogity.

    Every time I turn around, the “accepted” religion of a place is spewing out the same oogity-boogity and, as like as not, the same old tribal hatreds and bigotry.

  17. @Curtis, regarding your concerns about science and constantly changing theory, I recommend you read Asimov’s essay “The Relativity of Wrong.” There is also a book by the same name, but the essay is easily found on the internet.

  18. what I found really funny was this comment ” smart and intelligentsia here belittle people of another party” seems he thinks Curmudgeon is a Democrat, and not a mostly republican backing person who wishes the Republican Party would turn more sane