Saturday, June 10, 2006

Re: Would Jesus stoop to quotemining? #1


----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Saturday, June 10, 2006 12:30 AM
Subject: Would Jesus stoop to quotemining?

[Graphic: Dr George Matsumoto, BioForum, California Academy of Sciences.]

Thank you very much for your message - or rather, just sending me John Stear's "The incomprehensible creationist - the Darwin "eye" quote revisited" criticism of me for the following quote of Darwin on the eye one of my web pages:

Darwinism (including Neo-Darwinism) #4 - Difficulties: [...]
* Eye
o Darwin admitted it seemed "absurd in the highest degree" that the eye could have been formed by natural selection

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." (Darwin, Charles R. [English naturalist and founder of the modern theory of evolution], "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," [1872], Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.167)

As is my normal practice when I receive a private message on a creation/evolution/design topic, I have copied my response to my blog CreationEvolutionDesign, after removing your personal identifying information (and making some further changes by way of clarification).

Please don't interpret this as an invitation to debate this issue-it isn't. As I have explained many times before: 1) it is my long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions on creation/evolution/design issues; and 2) after more than a decade (1994-2005) of publicly debating evolutionists on Internet discussion groups, I closed down my own Internet discussion group in order to post to my blog and write my book "Problems of Evolution" (and more recently to take a ~1-year detour classify my ~10,000 online quotes into an `Evolution Quotes Book'). So this is almost certainly my first and last response to you.

The reason why I thank you very much for your message, is that while Googling I had noticed Stear's criticism of me and I had thought of posting a response to my blog, and now you have given me the opportunity to do so.

Because of its length, I will divide this post into four parts, this part #1 dealing with your allegation of "quotemining" and whether Jesus would "stoop" (using your word) to it; and parts #2, #3 & #4, responding to Stear's page about Darwin's `explanation' of the eye.

So, first, a comment on your subject line question: "Would Jesus stoop to quotemining?" If by "quotemining" you mean "quote ... to speak or write (a passage) from another usually with credit acknowledgment" + "mining ... to extract from a source " (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary), then I enthusiastically plead guilty! Especially since I presume evolutionists real concern is one of Webster's alternative definition of "mining ... to dig under to ... cause the collapse of (an enemy position)"!

There is nothing wrong with selecting out from a larger body of writing, a quote to make a specific point. In fact both Jesus and the Apostles did it. For example, in Acts 17:22-33, the Apostle Paul addressed the Athenian philosophers and in v.28 quoted from their own pagan philosopher-poets, as my NIV Study Bible comments:

"ACTS ... 17:28, some of your own poets. There are two quotations here: (1) `In him we live and move and have our being,' from the Cretan poet Epimenides (c. 600 B.C.) in his Cretica, and (2) `We are his offspring,' from the Cilician poet Aratus (c. 315-240) in his Phaenomena, as well as from Cleanthes (331-233) in his Hymn to Zeus. Paul quotes Greek poets elsewhere as well (see 1Co 15:33; Tit 1:12 and notes)." (Barker, K., et al., eds., "The NIV Study Bible," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1985, p.1680).

And, as it happens, in my morning devotions about a week ago, in which I am going through the Messianic prophecies of Old Testament, I came to Isaiah 61:1-2:

"1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,"

which Jesus part-quotes from in Luke 4:18-19, stopping mid-sentence to make His specific point:

18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

My NIV Study Bible comments:

"ISAIAH ... 61:2 year of the LORD'S favor. Corresponds to the `day of salvation' in 49:8 (see note there) and the `year of my redemption' in 63:4. Christ ended his quotation at this point (Lk 4:19-20), probably because the `day of vengeance' will not occur until his second coming. day of vengeance. See 34:2,8 and notes." (Barker, 1985, p.1106) .

Now, no doubt Paul's and Jesus' opponents of that day (and indeed their modern equivalents) could, to avoid having to deal with the substance of their arguments, claim that Paul and Jesus "selectively," quote-mined," "out-of-context"!

Fearnside and Holther in their book "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," identify two criteria for determining whether a quote is "out of context": 1) "to make out through a suitable manipulation of the text that an authority is on his side" and 2) "omitting distinctions, exceptions or qualifying remarks, or by otherwise distorting the text":

"There is a special misuse of authority which is notorious under the name of quoting out of context. This may be done in either of two ways that seem especially attractive to the unscrupulous. The first is for one to make out through a suitable manipulation of the text that an authority is on his side. This is done by omitting distinctions, exceptions or qualifying remarks, or by otherwise distorting the text. The second is to treat the opponent as a sort of authority of his own position and to pounce upon something he has said that can be used against him-if the rest is ignored." (Fearnside, W.W. & Holther, W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, Twenty-fifth printing, pp.88-89)

Neither applies in this instance: 1) It should go without saying that I do not make out that Darwin is on my side (indeed an important point in quoting evolutionists with problems over aspects of evolution is that they are evolutionists):

"One more thing needs to be said. Evolutionists have often protested unfair to quoting an evolutionist as if he were against evolution itself. So let it be said from the outset that the vast majority of authorities quoted are themselves ardent believers in evolution. But that is precisely the point, and the value of The Revised QUOTE BOOK. The foundations of the evolutionary edifice are hardly likely to be shaken by a collection of quotes from the many scientists who are biblical creationists. In a court of law, an admission from a hostile witness is the most valuable. Quoting the evolutionary palaeontologist who admits the absence of in-between forms, or the evolutionary biologist who admits the hopelessness of the mutation/selection mechanism, is perfectly legitimate if the admission is accurately represented in its own right, regardless of whether the rest of the article is full of hymns of praise to all the other aspects of evolution." (Snelling, A., "The Revised Quote Book," [1984], Creation Science Foundation: Brisbane QLD, 1990, inside cover. Emphasis original)

And I do not manipulate the text, "omitting distinctions, exceptions or qualifying remarks, or by otherwise distorting the text." As always, I quote directly, with references, from Darwin's (and other evolutionists') own writings to show that Darwin really did have an ongoing problem in believing that the eye could have been formed solely by the natural selection of "slight, successive, favourable variations" (or random micromutations in Neo-Darwinism):

"As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modifications; it can act only by short and slow steps. Hence the canon of `Natura non facit saltum,' [nature does not make leaps] which every fresh addition to our knowledge tends to confirm, is on this theory intelligible." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," 1872, Sixth Edition, Senate: London, 1994, pp.413-414. Parenthesis mine).

2) As for treating Darwin as an "authority of his own position," clearly he is in this context of his own explanation of the origin of the eye solely by the natural selection of random micromutations in his Origin of Species. If evolutionists want to concede that Darwin's explanation of the eye was inadequate, then they have conceded my point. But their problem then is that after ~150 years, there is nothing better, and indeed the problem (as with other long-standing problems of evolution) has only become worse (since if it really happened fully naturalistically, then science should have by now discovered it). Then there would be no need for claims of "quotemining." All evolutionists would need to do is produce the fully naturalistic explanation. Indeed, the more evolutionists employ such "shoot the messenger" defences, the more they show that the critics are right!

In respect of "to pounce upon something he has said that can be used against him-if the rest is ignored," in this context I am only dealing with Darwin's explanation of the eye in his Origin of Species, and I have not ignored anything in respect of that. As will be seen in part #4, on at least two different Internet discussion groups when this issue came up, I quoted Darwin's entire explanation in his Origin of Species of the origin of the eye, interspersed with my critical comments, and invited my evolutionist opponent(s) to debate it with me in detail but there were no takers!

Of course, I do not expect committed evolutionists to concede that I am not "quote-mining," i.e. "dishonestly," "selectively," "quoting out of context" Darwin (or any other leading evolutionists with probems of aspects of evolution). In my experience most (not all) evolutionists work on the principle that: 1) It just simply cannot be that Darwin did not explain the eye (or any other major evolutionist claim); and therefore 2) the critic who presents evidence to that effect by quoting from the original source(s), must be guilty of (deliberately) misquoting Darwin (or other leading evolutionists). QED! It is always easier to "shoot the messenger" than to accept the bad news he brings (but unfortunately that does not change matters if the bad news is real)!

I will now begin to deal with the substance of Stear's argument in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'


Arakrys said...

Quote mining is the practice of purposely compiling frequently misleading quotes from large volumes of literature or speech.

Hope this helps.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Quote mining is the practice of purposely compiling frequently misleading quotes from large volumes of literature or speech.
>Hope this helps.

Thanks. But there are many books of quotations one can buy, some published by prestigious unversities like "The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations," which have been "purposely compil[ed] ... from large volumes of literature or speech," and no one accuses their authors of "quote mining."

So it all depends on whether or not the quotes are "misleading."

And to a committed evolutionist, quotes against evolution could seem to him to be "misleading" even if they were not.

As for my quotes, I am happy to modify or withdraw any of them if it can be shown that it is objectively false or "misleading".

But I don't regard a quote as "misleading" just because an evolutionist claims it is.

And therefore I don't regard my quotes as "quote mining" just because an evolutionist claims they are.

Stephen E. Jones