Three Darwin quote-mines corrected…

Tracy Zdelar posts about God and evolution on Hall of Fame Moms: 5/13: {Part 2} Darwin & the Bible? (16 July 2010). Her post is punctuated with quotes from Charles Darwin, and seeing that what she has to say about evolution is negative, we can expect the worst (if not dishonesty, then ignorance). Let me provide some context.

Quote #1 If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed[,] which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive[,] slight modifications[,] my theory would absolutely break down.

Context This passage, in Darwin’s hand, comes from chapter 6 (p. 189) of On the Origin of Species (1859, Murray: London), “Difficulties on theory,” in a section where he covers organs of extreme perfection. Immediately following the quoted passage, Darwin wrote: “But I can find out no such case.” This is a perfect example of quote-mining in which a sentence immediately following a passage that works for creationist purposes (to make Darwin seem like he doubts his own theory or idea) is simply not shown.

—–

Quote #2 Such simple instincts as bees making a beehive could be sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.

Context These are not Darwin’s exact words. Here is what he actually wrote, in the chapter on instinct in On the Origin of Species (p. 207): “The subject of instinct might have been worked into the previous chapters; but I have thought that it would be more convenient to treat the subject separately, especially as so wonderful an instinct as that of the hive-bee making its cells will probably have occurred to many readers, as a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory. I must premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of the primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental qualities of animals within the same class.” Essentially, although some might think this would be a problem for Darwin’s theory, he did not think it was.” Again, the sentences after what is quoted are crucial to understanding what he was stating.

—–

Quote #3 Often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may have not devoted myself to a phantasy.

Context This quote comes from a letter from Darwin to his mentor, the geologist Charles Lyell, from 23 November 1859, whilst On the Origin of Species was being published. Darwin expressed how much it means to him that he has Lyell’s support, and here is the quote in context: “I rejoice profoundly that you intend admitting doctrine of modification in your new Edition. Nothing, I am convinced, could be more important for its success. I honour you most sincerely:—to have maintained, in the position of a master, one side of a question for 30 years & then deliberately give it up, is a fact, to which I much doubt whether the records of science offer a parallel. For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for think-ing of the many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often & often a cold shudder has run through me & I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth like you & Hooker can be wholly wrong; & therefore I feel that I may rest in peace.” Here we have another instance of a very telling sentence being omitted from a quote, Darwin stating that he did not feel that he had been devoting himself to a phantasy.

Tracy, your use of these quotes to attempt to undermine Darwin’s credibility and thoughts about his own theory, is, if not dishonest, then a sign of your ignorance when it comes to Darwin’s writings. Will you correct your post?

File under: quote-mining

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32 thoughts on “Three Darwin quote-mines corrected…

  1. As I said on Twitter, the quotes came from the dvd(s) we watched. I should have clearly stated that in my post. But its referenced in my reply to your comment of the above info you shared at my blog. I posted your reply and that will stand as your ‘Darwin’ defense.

    But let me ask, when you look at a bridge do you wonder how it got there? or do you understand immediately someone built it? Same with a painting, did it happen by chance? That would be pure foolishness. Same thing with people, animals, trees, the universe…to think it happened by pure chance is utterly ridiculous. Its plain as day that there is a Creator behind creation and I don’t care what scientist disagrees.

    But you made my evening a little bit more interesting and I have enjoyed meeting you online :) I hope you feel likewise.

  2. Traci, sure, the point about chance seems like an obvious one but your reference to “pure chance” is a tricky one that Christians should be careful to understand when used in accusation. Pure chance, I take you to mean as being undirected actions. I’m all about the sovereignty of God but I also know that I can describe his actions in terms of chance quite well and that doesn’t detract from him still being the author of those events. You would agree that the sex of all babies is determined by God but you could also predict with great accuracy that 50.005% of live births will be boys or that there is a 50.005% chance of an individual birth as being a boy. If someone can make this prediction without reference to God does than mean that we must deny the ability to predict birth sex ratios. Chance as described in statistics describes this very very well. The development of complexity from similar “random” actions can certainly result when natural selection occurs. The appearance is of change/evolution over time as the result of chance happenings. Even if they are not truly happening by chance, events can be accurately described by probabilistic statistics. The world is constructed via principles which we recognize as natural laws but which of these are not also God’s laws? those laws can be shown to very effectively organize material in a manner that results in the development of matter and life over time. Darwin is very much describing the world as it works and the mechanisms of natural selection, genetic drift and mutations are powerful forces which do shape our world today, in the past and will in the future. You may choose to believe that organisms did not evolve over time and were created by special fiat but that does not negate the fact that these are mechanisms of change that are plainly seen in creation and are effective agents of change.

  3. Thanks for these examples. I only recently found your blog and I immediately added it to my skeptic/atheist/science link list to visit every day. I completely support those views.

    In this article, though, one thing you say confused me. Could you examine this statement closely to make sure it says what you intended to say:

    “This is a perfect example of quote-mining in which a sentence immediately following a passage that works for creationist purposes (to make Darwin seem like he doubts his own theory or idea) is simply not shown.”

    The sentence structure really threw me.

    Thanks for your work and sharing of it!

  4. threeoutside – Let me clarify. Creationists and other anti-evolutionists would like to make it appear that Darwin doubted his own ideas. If that is the case, then his credibility is damaged.

    One tactic in quote-mining is to provide a quote that looks like he is doubting his theory, but then to not show the next sentence(s) that show otherwise.

    Thanks for reading!

  5. Thanks for the clarification! I thought that was what you meant but it’s good to be sure!

  6. Knowing this probably won’t help …

    “But let me ask, when you look at a bridge do you wonder how it got there? or do you understand immediately someone built it? Same with a painting, did it happen by chance?”

    Have you ever seen a bridge reproduce itself? You have children. Did you “build” them? Or did they come about by the natural means of sex, development and birth? Are they identical to you? Are they exactly what you planned when you got pregnant?

    All of this was pointed out as an objection to the “watchmaker” argument (though you probably don’t realize you are making it) by the great philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the 1700s.

    Nor does evolutionary theory propose “pure chance.” That’s what natual selection is about.

    “… the quotes came from the dvd(s) we watched.”

    That’s not much of an excuse, since there is a searchable database of most of what Darwin wrote online:

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/

    But ignorance, they say, is bliss.

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  8. It doesn’t matter about the integrity of the makers of the DVD, nor what Darwin did or did not write, apparently. Just know that evolution is wrong and every living thing was created by God.

    That is Tracy’s line of thinking…

    I love how she states in the comments, “Regardless of anything Darwin says, God created everything. Period.”

    But she is the one bringing out quotes from Darwin and sharing them. If what he says doesn’t matter, then why did she bother?

  9. I happened to see your post link in my stats so hopped over for another visit. I know the reason you bothered to point out my post, etc etc was because Darwin was in it, but look, Darwin may be the center of the theory of evolution that you believe in but he isn’t center at ALL in the theory that I believe in.

    God created and I believe science DOES back that up- just watch the scientific dvds I mentioned in THAT post and you’ll see some amazing scientific evidence that cannot be explained by evolution!

    Science should be about finding the truth – not defending someone’s biased theories no matter how much you love that person. Are you willing to do that? Because I sense you have a devotion to “Darwin”.

    Go to your local library and see if they have the same dvd’s I mentioned in my post. Our local library did: “Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution”. – I think there are at least 3 in the series.

    I hope you will and if you do, send me a Tweet @tzdelar and let me know what you thought of it. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    Have a great rest of the week ;)

  10. Even if the entire context was not included, the quote “often a cold shudder has run through me & I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy” still shows that Darwin had doubts “OFTEN”.

  11. You don’t have to go to the library if you have netflix. All three volumes of “Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution” are available on “instant view”. I especially like the story of the muscle (first story on Volume 3), but all of the animals featured prove Darwin was wrong. Another favorite of mine is the Pacific Golden Plover. This bird would be in the drink and extinct unless he was made exactly how he is. I will read and watch anything on evolution because I want the truth to be known. I was inundated with it from Kindergarten through college. But once the truth is revealed, you just know it. Challenge yourself and do the research. Dr. Jobe Martin, who does the book and video set, was a college professor who taught evolution. He changed his tune when he really started to look at the intricacies of the different animals.

  12. Sorry Tim Pedersen, Dr Martin was teaching on the evolution of the tooth, when his dentistry students brought to his attention the potential flaws in what he taught. There are many aspects of evolution to teach. It was his investigation on this matter that brought him to the conclusion the theory hinged on many assumptions. I know that dentistry seems to not give Martin the proper credentials to talk about evolution. But, many doctors and scientists in seemingly distant fields of expertise are taught evolution as the foundation to their specialty. It is in these fields that people investigate that foundation. Just as an eye doctor may come to a place that he questions such assumptions. It is not a complete knowledge of the theory of Evolution that each person must first understand before they find the truth. It is we that need to hear the experts of the eye and the tooth etc to see that maybe our assumptions are greater than we realize. Darwin is not mis quoted to show he doubted his own theory. He is quoted due his amazing intelligence. I think he believed whole heatedly his theory. I also hold dear his words that if one animal could be found that did not evolve (para-phrasing if you will allow) his theory would breakdown. Not be destroyed but have a hole in an otherwise sealed theory. It is this statement that many search for just one creature. Well, there have been many found that are worthy more investigation. So this began with birds and I believe there also lay the answer.

  13. You are free to believe whatever pleases you. The proof of creation are the events that cannot be accurately described by probabilistic statistics, therefore evolutionist will have to answer to the obvious Creator a later date.
    Most evolutionist will be satisfied with their world view till their last breath, that is absolutely normal. People are naturally against the creator.

  14. Quoting Darwin in is this quote “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed[,] which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive[,] slight modifications[,] my theory would absolutely break down.” is not being dishonest or ignorant, it is simply pointing to a thing that he said to demonstrate what his toughts where about the matter. Using this is perfectly sound.
    It appears according to what we know today, that he was correct in this statement. There is ample proof of this, but pro evolutionists don’t like this at all, as we can see from the original poster’s writings.

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  16. so TRUTH is less important that what Darwin thinks about his theory?
    have one simple question to all evolutionists :Are you seakers of truth or just haters of God?
    i dont know what must be done for hardcore evoulutionist to just consider other posibilities
    i am Christian ,yes.
    every morning i consider other things and every evening i lay down more convinced
    Thank God for giving me a brain for thinking

  17. I agree it is shady to not include the entire context, and yes, I also watched the video in which they put the quote without the whole context. Knowing what I know about quotes, I immediately googled the phrase and came upon your blog. I will say to those who say creationists are all “bald faced liars” there are countless scientists and scientific facts/studies that have been “left out” in order to help along an evolutionary argument. There is bias and cloudiness on both sides.

    Regardless of the misuse of the quote, it still has validity in the argument of which it is used. Irreducible complexity is a legitimate question that natural selection cannot answer. I know there are arguments that somewhat “invalidate” the concept, but they seem to be vague at best.

  18. Jake, when I post about quote-mining, I am concerned with the practice of writing history. So it does matter when a historical figure’s words are taken out of context. However one feels about the scientific evidence, it is wrong to make others think Darwin thought or said something when they know he did not.

    You say, “Regardless of the misuse of the quote, it still has validity in the argument of which it is used.” I disagree. The argument in which it is used is in the context of Darwin’s writing. If one is talking about current thoughts about design, irreducible complexity, leave Darwin’s words out. He cannot speak for today, only what was available to him in his time.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  19. Evolution seems to be as much a religion as any I’ve known. Devotion to Darwin at all cost. I also find it odd that evolutionists feel they can judge someone else. Calling them names like, ”bald face liars” If you believe yourself to be related to the earthworm and simply a random accident you should only be concerned with survival of the fittest and perhaps getting your next meal. Where do you get your idea of what is right and what is wrong? And why should you care? It’s all meaningless. And Darwin DID say, “often a cold shudder has run through me & I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy” and it does show that Darwin had doubts. And OFTEN. It seems as though the only thing that eased his conscience and helped moved him along his chosen path, was that some other men were also believing in evolution with him. Pretty weak.

  20. Blind faith is required to accept evolution as a fact where nothing has been documented as repeatable or observable to demonstrate one kind becoming another kind.

  21. John

    What is a “kind”? You creationists repeatedly refuse to classify, in detail, what a “kind” is.

  22. Dog, Cat, Fish, Bird, Cow, Bacteria are examples of “kind”. Nothing has been documented as repeatable or observable to demonstrate one “kind” becoming another “kind”. Science requires these demonstrations. It’s not sufficient to make a statement that evolution is true because the Professor says it’s true. That would require “blind faith”.

    Bacteria that mutates is still bacteria, A finch is still a finch no matter what it’s beak mutates to.

    All an evolutionist needs is documentation.

  23. There is tons of documentation for species becoming other species over time. All one needs to do is put down the book with the talking donkeys and talking snakes, and pick up a college (or even high school level) book on evolution. There are also similar “kinds” which cannot interbreed with those of the same “kind” and therefore are different “kinds”.

  24. Typical lying deceit by idiot atheist/evolutionists in their brain dead fixation to continue pretending that evolution is not long past credible.

    Listen, fools and get the plain truth that exposes your absurd self-deception. The “simple cell” that Darwin fantasized *DOES NOT* and never did, exist.

    Hear it from your compadres since you’re too dishonest TO HEAR IT BECAUSE IT’S TRUE:

    And the editor of this special issue was a man named Bruce Alberts, who was the President of the National Academy of Sciences, and in his introduction he states, “We have always underestimated cells. Undoubtedly, we still do today. But at least we are no longer as naive as we were when I was a graduate student in the 1960’s. The chemistry that makes life possible is much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered. Indeed, the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines.” –http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo10.html

    Are you listening, you lying fools? Notice the source of the quote (but don’t take my word for it–copy and paste it and see it’s verbatim.

    Then, notice the author, idiots. It’s not a “televangelist”! It was the President of the National Academy of Sciences, a man with far more knowledge and much a better education than Darwin, trying to get you lying fools to quit pretending that a book that is over 150 years old gives anyone a competent picture of knowledge of the amazing complexity of cells that has now shown THINKING MEN (obviously that excludes idiots who regard a 156 year old book as *the defining authority* on cell development(!) when Darwin, rather than seeing the “complexity of a city” thought it was a “glob,” kind of like pro-abortion idiots suggest to young women considering abortion, “it’s only a glob of tissue,” LYING THROUGH THEIR TEETH about the young child whose heart was beating and circulating *his own blood* throughout his body BEFORE HIS MOTHER EVEN KNEW SHE WAS PREGNANT! (If you’re not too stupid to search the Internet, you can verify that fact also.)

    You lying fools have only two problems. The first is your abject and willful ignorance. The second is your pretense that it’s not so.

    Experience tells me that only idiots and lying fools will respond to my remarks and NOT ONE will provide ANY SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE to dispute one thing I’ve said. That’s the proof of BOTH your ignorance AND your dishonesty.

    The moral of this story is evolutionists and atheists have no morals but they both have a religion (defined in [hilarious and ignorant] self-mockery as “Religion is belief without evidence”(!) which is what atheism and evolution BOTH ARE, and again, if you’re not too stupid to search, you can find you (idiot atheists and evolutionists) are, in fact, the authors of that incredibly self-daming definition and if you think that you can find ONE IOTA of scientific evidence, confirmed (verified) by the scientific method, then YOU PRESENT IT (while I guffaw).

  25. “There is tons of documentation for species becoming other species over time. All one needs to do is put down the book with the talking donkeys and talking snakes, and pick up a college (or even high school level) book on evolution. There are also similar “kinds” which cannot interbreed with those of the same “kind” and therefore are different “kinds”.”

    This is the level of stupidity that you fools pretend passes for knowledge. Of course said “documentation” is nothing more than the rantings of an ignorant evolutionist pushing his religion down someone’s throat. NOT A WORD of said “documentation” contains ONE EXAMPLE of scientific evidence, DOCUMENTED BY THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD (without which it’s NOT “scientific” because a scientist talking about children’s fairy tales doesn’t make those fairy tales “science” because a scientist said them), which Method you hypocritical liars impose on creationists while you ignore your own accountability to the standards which you impose upon others.

    While atheism and evolution are your religions, your main tenets are hypocrisy and continual lying. Here is where you are absolutely unable to prove me wrong. Any quote of any of your favorite documents proclaiming either atheism or evolution, will not only be void of ANY SCIENCE, but I can simply go before and after the quote and show lies in both places. Credibility and integrity is something completely foreign to evolutionists and atheists. I CHALLENGE you to try to prove me wrong, you pack of liars.

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