Creationist Wisdom #533: Darwin Refuted Himself

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Oshkosh Northwestern of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Wikipedia says the town was named for Menominee Chief Oshkosh, whose name meant “claw.” The letter is titled Scientific theories should stand on own. An icon below the headline will take you to the newspaper’s comments feature.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. We found someone with his name who is described as Manager and Caretaker of the Plummers Cemetery in Oshkosh. That may be our man, but it’s not enough for full name treatment, so we’ll use only the writer’s first name, which is Bill. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

“That many and serious objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection, I do not deny.” From the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin himself had doubts regarding “evolution.”

Darwin doubted his own theory? Who knew? That’s amazing! We checked, and yes — it’s true! In Chapter 14 – Recapitulation and Conclusion, Darwin says, with the words quoted by Bill shown in red:

That many and grave objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through natural selection, I do not deny. I have endeavoured to give to them their full force. Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts should have been perfected not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor. Nevertheless, this difficulty, though appearing to our imagination insuperably great, cannot be considered real if we admit the following propositions, namely, — that gradations in the perfection of any organ or instinct, which we may consider, either do now exist or could have existed, each good of its kind, — that all organs and instincts are, in ever so slight a degree, variable, — and, lastly, that there is a struggle for existence leading to the preservation of each profitable deviation of structure or instinct. The truth of these propositions cannot, I think, be disputed.

Darwin’s style was to mention and then refute objections to his theory. Quote-miners like to quote only the objections. Okay, what else does Bill have for us? Here it comes:

However, if one advances any objections today they are labeled as heretical “creationists.” In the year 2000, Chinese paleontologist J.Y. Chen gave a lecture at the University of Washington. … A professor in the audience asked as if in warnings whether he was nervous about expressing his doubts of Darwinism so freely given China’s reputation for repressing dissenting opinions. He replied, “In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the Government. In America you can criticize the Government, but not Darwin.” From Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer.

Bill gives us a quote from a Discoveroid’s book. That’s impressive! Let’s read on:

Scientific theories should stand or fall by the facts and evidence that support or refute them, not “faith” of their proponents.

Says the quote-miner, who offers us no facts. He continues:

That Darwin himself struggles with it, is evidenced by the six different editions of his book published from 1859 to 1872, as well the many years prior.

That’s an original argument. Why did Darwin go through six different editions of his book? It’s obvious that he was hopelessly befuddled.

Then Bill gives us a couple more quotes from Darwin in which he used the word “Creator.” After that he closes his letter with this devastating question:

Did Darwin believe in creation and Evolution?

Well, dear reader — did Bill’s letter convince you to abandon evolution?

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #533: Darwin Refuted Himself

  1. I’m with Bill!!

  2. “Bill gives us a quote from a Discoveroid’s book. That’s impressive!”
    That’s impressive indeed – usually they give the quote and not the source.

  3. Christine Janis

    What’s interesting is that there’s no evidence that Chen ever made this statement. It seems to have started from an unsubstantiated quote from Philip Johnson, later taken up by Johnathan Wells.

    See discussion here

    There’s also a long discussion of this entire episode here

    A poster called Lew sums it up thus,

    According to Wells, a Chinese paleontologist unfamiliar with American academic politics utters a very memorable anti-evolutionary aphorism, but says it only to him. (His English must be excellent to come up with that aphorism, no?) The same Chinese paleontologist then says it two more times to two other creationists. But the same Chinese paleontologist never utters the aphorism within hearing of a member of the press. He never utters it to a non-creationist. He never utters it to a student at the University of Washington or UCSB, or a faculty member at one of those schools.

    Then all three creationists commit independently (or was it a conspiracy?) to keeping the paleontologist’s identity secret because of putative discrimination. One of them commits to it in writing.

    Except five years later, somehow the secret has leaked. And then fifteen years later, two of the creationists are tripping over one another to make the Chinese paleontologist’s identity public. The three creationists were not so concerned about discrimination against Chen after all.

    So, maybe you can say how the new links addresses this abrupt change in concern by Wells?

    “… it’s a silly little epigram that looks like it came out of a fortune cookie”[quoting me here]

    Exactly. Don’t all Chinese speak in epigrams? It’s what a Chinese paleontologist would say if he were in a creationist novel.

  4. English isn’t my first language, but even that part of the quote doesn’t, to me, read like a doubt on his part but rather admitting that some would have serious objections to the theory.

  5. Shorter Bill: “I don’t know what a rhetorical device is, and I don’t know anything about science.”

  6. Christine Janis

    @ makagutu. I’ve always wondered if Chen’s comment (if true) wasn’t meant to be a dig at the Chinese government rather than Darwinian theory.

  7. Wikipedia says the town was named for Menominee Chief Oshkosh, whose name meant “claw.”

    Henceforth, you may call me Megaoshkosh

    Full disclosure: I have visited Oshkosh, b’gosh. In fact, I am an alumnus of a university in nearby Appleton, home town of the vile Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the agile Harry Houdini.

    It was probably the experience of Wisconsion winters that drove me to migrate to the UK, b’gosh.

  8. Megalonyx says: “Henceforth, you may call me Megaoshkosh”

    Olivia suggests Megababulus.

  9. Christine, that seems to me to be the case about Chen’s statement

  10. @Cardinal MegaOshkosh: Damn! You beat me to it. Actually, though, please stay with Megalonyx — it’s long enough to type as it is.
    Unless you choose Megaoshkoshb’gosh&kalamazoo,too. guaranteed to be unique in a Google search.

  11. Christine Janis: “I’ve always wondered if Chen’s comment (if true) wasn’t meant to be a dig at the Chinese government…”

    I was thinking it could be taken that way as well, which makes it highly unlikely that he ever said such a thing.

  12. Our Curmudgeon notes

    Olivia suggests Megababulus.

    Yes–for the aforementioned Senator McCarthy.

    I can attest, as an eyewitness, that a mass micturation on the snow-covered grave of that particular monster (who is buried in Appleton on the banks of the Fox River) was a standard student ritual.

    I can neither confirm nor deny any personal participation in such a ceremony.

  13. If creationists insist on mining quotes, they might at least have the integrity to dig up real, verifiable ones to misrepresent. But perhaps that’s too much work.

  14. Chen was one of the organizers of the 1999 stealth Discoveroid conference in China. Several DI clowns were there, plus many real paleontologists. At the time, we were uncertain whether Chen was “in” on the deceiving nature of the conference, being a platform for intelligent design creationists publishing alongside real scientists in a follow-up conference proceedings volume. Some of us speculated whether language barriers prevented our kind Chinese hosts from understanding what was going on. Heck – I didn’t know what was really going on until near the end of the conference. I was puzzled by several things early on, but it took a while before the situation fully presented itself to everyone.

  15. @Eric Lipps
    One need only observe the way that the Bible is treated as a source for “proof texts”. And how beyond that, how some just make up stuff. All the while claiming that the Bible is their only rule of truth. If that’s the way that they treat the “word of God”, it is small wonder what their imaginations do to “secular” sources.

  16. Techreseller

    I am now a believer in Bill. Evolution is a scam. Sort of like democracy. Worse system there is except for all the other ones we have tried. Hmmm. maybe I am not a believer in Bill.