Evolution quote-mining in small town newspaper

I came across this in the Lodi News-Sentinel (21 May 2011):

Scientists weigh in on evolution

Richard Dawkins, the most influential anti-creationist, evolutionist and atheist today, stated, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

Dawkins’ strong sentiment about Darwin’s theory is not unanimous, even among evolutionists. Listen to what reputable scientists have stated about evolution.

Britain’s “New Scientist”: “An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists, argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is not genuine scientific theory at all. Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials.” (The New Scientist, “An Exercise in Science,” by Michael Ruso, June 1981, Page 828).

Swedish biologist Soren Loutrup, 1987: “I believe that one day, the Darwinian myth will be ranked as the greatest hoax in the history of science.”

Sir William Dawson, Canadian geologist; past president, British Association for the Advancement of Science: “This evolutionist doctrine is itself one of the strangest phenomena of humanity, a system destitute of any shadow of proof and supported by vague analogies and figures of speech.

“Now, no one pretends that they rest on facts actually observed, for no one has ever observed the production of even one species.”

Charles Darwin: “If numerous species have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution.” (“Origin of the Species,” Part 2, 1902, Page 83).

Darwin, Page 92: “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in formations has been urged by several paleontologists (fossil experts) as a fatal objection to belief in the transmutation of the species. The case at present must remain inexplicable and may truly be urged as a valid argument against the evolutionary views have entertained.”

Zoologist Albert Fleishmann, University of Erlangen: “The Darwinian theory of descent has not a single fact to confirm it to the realm of nature. It is not the result of scientific research, but purely the product of imagination.”

Evolutionists admit that within human history, no one has ever observed a single species evolve.

Tom Baker


I posted a lengthy comment to this letter:

This letter is nothing but deceptive quote-mining, a common antievolutionist practice that takes quotes out of context, or uses the thoughts of figures in the history of science to comment on the state of scientific ideas in the present.

Re: Dawkins – Read what he has to say about his own quote being misuded: “I first wrote that in a book review in the New York Times in 1989, and it has been much quoted against me ever since, as evidence of my arrogance and intolerance. Of course it sounds arrogant, but undisguised clarity is easily mistaken for arrogance. Examine the statement carefully and it turns out to be moderate, almost self-evidently true.” (http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/dawkins_21_3.html)

Re: Ruso – First, this was written by Michael Ruse, not Ruso, in an article that supports evolution. While the citation is correct, here it is in context starting in the first paragraph: “An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists (particularly academic philosophers), argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all.” The line “Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials” actually appears not in the same paragraph, nor the next, but in the third paragraph. Note that Ruse ends the article with: “In short, therefore, there seems no good reason to deny that in the core of today’s version of Darwinian evolutionary theory we have genuine scientific claims. Furthermore, there seems no reason to deny that these claims transmit down to the various sub-disciplines of the evolutionary synthesis, where again we find genuine science existing and flourishing. This being so, has the time not come to put bogus arguments behind us, and to get on with the important and exciting scientific tasks of extending and, where necessary, correcting the legacy that Darwin and his successor, have bequeathed us?” (http://bit.ly/mPK7Z2)

Re: Loutrup – Google searches for this quote, in and out of quotation marks or just some key words, bring up only 1 or 2 hits, one being this letter to the editor. Where does this quote come from, or is it completely fabricated? [ed: if anyone knows a source for this quote, please let me know!]

Re: Dawson – Dawson did indeed write such words, in an 1873 book titled The Story of the Earth and Man, here in context: “This evolutionist doctrine is itself one of the strangest phenomena of humanity. It existed, and most naturally, in the oldest philosophy and poetry, in connection with the crudest and most uncritical attempts of the human mind to grasp the system of nature; but that in our day a system destitute of any shadow of proof, and supported merely by vague analogies and figures of speech, and by the arbitrary and artificial coherence of its own parts, should be accepted as a philosophy, and should find able adherents to string upon its thread of hypotheses our vast and weighty stores of knowledge, is surpassingly strange. It seems to indicate that the accumulated facts of our age have gone altogether beyond its capacity for generalisation; and but for the vigour which one sees everywhere, it might be taken as an indication that the human mind has fallen into a state of senility, and in its dotage mistakes for science the imaginations which were the dreams of its youth.” The science of evolution today is not based on the thoughts of a theologically inclined geologist more than 130 years ago. (http://bit.ly/kWqXAe)

Re: Darwin #1 – In context, from the sixth edition of On the Origin of Species (1872, p. 282-283): “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations, has been urged by several palæontologists—for instance, by Agassiz, Pictet, and Sedgwick—as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species. If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection. For the development by this means of a group of forms, all of which are descended from some one progenitor, must have been an extremely slow process; and the progenitors must have lived long before their modified descendants. But we continually overrate the perfection of the geological record, and falsely infer, because certain genera or families have not been found beneath a certain stage, that they did not exist before that stage. In all cases positive palæontological evidence may be implicitly trusted; negative evidence is worthless, as experience has so often shown. We continually forget how large the world is, compared with the area over which our geological formations have been carefully examined; we forget that groups of species may elsewhere have long existed, and have slowly multiplied, before they invaded the ancient archipelagoes of Europe and the United States. We do not make due allowance for the intervals of time which have elapsed between our consecutive formations,—longer perhaps in many cases than the time required for the accumulation of each formation. These intervals will have given time for the multiplication of species from some one parent-form: and in the succeeding formation, such groups or species will appear as if suddenly created.” (http://bit.ly/ii2wEx)

Re: Darwin #2 – This combines part of passage above with a line from page 287 of Darwin’s book: “The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained. To show that it may hereafter receive some explanation, I will give the following hypothesis.” Note that the word “evolutionary” was added, and that Darwin immediately following the quote went on to offer explanations. (http://bit.ly/ii2wEx)

Re: Fleischmann – He was a German comparative anatomy professor, and he wrote this in Die Descenddenztheorie in… 1901! (Tom McIver, “Anti-Evolution: A Reader’s Guide to Writings Before and After Darwin,” 1992)

One should always be skeptical of quotes, especially when they are being used to argue against a particular idea.

Not that showing the quotes in context will change the mind of Tom Baker, but I hope other readers will find my effort useful, as did David. Here’s a message I received yesterday, after he had read Tom’s letter:

Soon after, you posted a beautiful quote-by-quote rebuttal with full quotes and citations, and gave him the virtual smackdown.

As an atheist from that small little town, thank you.

10 thoughts on “Evolution quote-mining in small town newspaper

  1. Both the author name and quote are a little incorrect. The actual source is Soren Lovtrup’s Darwinism: the Refutation of a Myth (Croom Helm, 1987) p. 422, and reads “I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science.” It’s worth noting that this isn’t any kind of creationist screed, however. Lovtrup’s work is a re-evaluation of Lamarck, Mendel, and others contra micromutationist theories. It may be kooky but it’s not dumb.

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  3. Sounds about right, Richard. I appreciate your commenting with the information.

  4. As regards Soren Lovtrup, I own a copy of his work, “Darwinism; The Refutation of A Myth”, and the quote reads; “I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science. When this happens many people will pose the question: how did this ever happen? The present text surveys some of the answers which have been given, but there is no reason to believe we have yet reached the final one. There will be a lot of work to do for coming generations of historians of biology.” Pg. 422, of the afore-mentioned text, Para. (2).

  5. Of course, Løvtrup is not an anti-evolutionist nor does he dispute the fact of evolution, but rather supports an alternative theory of the mechanism of evolution. His theory has not had many adherents, mainly because he did not support it with empirical evidence. As noted previously, it was presented at least 25 years ago and is almost neglected as a viable substitute for modern evolutionary theory.

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