Saturday, June 10, 2006

Re: Would Jesus stoop to quotemining? #2


----- 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.]

Continued from part #1. As before, this is being copied to my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, minus your personal identifying information and some further changes. In fact it is really intended for my blog's readers, not to you (since all you did was send me John Stear's web page criticism of me with no comment from you, except the subject line). For added clarity, my words are in bold, to distinguish them from Stear's.

>The incomprehensible creationist - the Darwin "eye" quote revisited
John Stear, 7 March 2004
[Updated 16 May 2005]

John Stear is the owner of the "No Answers in Genesis" website. Wikipedia describes him as an "Australian atheist and skeptic ... a retired civil servant." There is no mention that Stear has any science or other relevant qualifications.

Being an atheist, Stear has no option but to believe in some form of fully naturalistic evolution, irrespective of the evidence. As Christian geneticist David Wilcox observed, "One can be a theistic `Darwinian,' but no one can be an atheistic `Creationist'":

"I conclude that the easy acceptance of neo-Darwinism as a complete and adequate explanation for all biological reality has indeed been based in the metaphysical needs of a dominant materialistic consensus. One can be a theistic `Darwinian,' but no one can be an atheistic `Creationist.'" (Wilcox, D.L., "Tamed Tornadoes," in Buell, J. & Hearn, V., eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? ," Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, 1994, p.215)

>I've had an interesting albeit frustrating exchange with West Australian old Earth creationist (OEC), Steve Jones. Mr Jones hosts a web site that includes a collection of quotes, one of which is the infamous Charles Darwin quote concerning the evolution of the eye. The quote is often used by YECs in an effort to convince their credulous followers that Darwin had doubts about some aspects of evolution. [...]

As far as I can recall, Stear sent me one message on 7 March 2004, to which I responded (copy to my discussion group) the same day. And by "frustrating," presumably Stear means that I did not roll over and admit he was right, including his claim that I "lie" and am "disingenuous":

"I must say that the most surprising thing about creationists is their ability to lie and mislead in a vain attempt to get their point across ... It's unlikely I'll investigate your site further as I'm sure it's contents will be, in the main, as disingenuous as your selective use of quotes."

As I responded to Stear, "Nothing like an open-minded evolutionist!" At least Stear notes that I am an "old Earth creationist."

As for Stear's "effort to convince their credulous followers that Darwin had doubts about some aspects of evolution," either Stear is ignorant of Darwin's writings (which is not unusual for evolutionists-my namesake British geneticist Steve Jones wrote that he has "never met a biology undergraduate who has read The Origin of Species"):

"I have never met a biology undergraduate who has read The Origin of Species. Even scientists, familiar as they are with its contents (or what they believe them to be), honour it in the breach rather than the observance." (Jones, J.S., "Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated," Doubleday: London, 1999, p.xxvii)

or he must think that Darwin was being disingenuous or lying when he wrote of his doubts about some aspects of evolution, e.g. 1) in his Origin of Species that "the eye with all its inimitable contrivances ... 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, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," 1872, Sixth Edition, Senate: London, 1994, pp.142-143. My emphasis)

2) in his private correspondence, which was only published after Darwin's death, Darwin admitted to his American confidant, Harvard botanist Asa Gray, a few months after the publication of his Origin of Species, that he agreed that his "attempt to account for the formation of ... eyes ... by natural selection" was one of the "weak points" in his book and confided that "The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder" (my emphasis):

"Well, what seems to me the weakest point in the book is the attempt to account for the formation of organs, the making of eyes, &c., by natural selection." [Gray A., letter to Darwin C.R., January 23rd, 1860] "...About the weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder." (Darwin C.R., Letter to Asa Gray, February, 1860, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.66-67)

3) in another private letter about the same time, Darwin wrote to another of his confidants, geologist Charles Lyell, that Cambridge botany professor John Henslow, "also shudders at the eye":

"Henslow is staying here; I have had some talk with him; he is in much the same state as Bunbury, I and will go a very little way with us, but brings up no real argument against going further. He also shudders at the eye! " (Darwin, C.R., Letter to Charles Lyell, February, 15th, 1860, in ibid., p.79)

4) in 1844, in a sketch of his theory discovered after his death, Darwin wrote (presumably in the margin because I cannot see it in the webbed copy) that the origin of "the eye ... was `the greatest difficulty to the whole theory":

"In July 1844, when Annie was three, Charles wrote a note for Emma: `I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If, as I believe ... my theory is true, and if it be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science. I therefore write this, in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn and last request, which I am sure that you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote £400 to its publication: He showed the essay to Emma and she found time to read it carefully, noting a few places where she did not understand his train of thought. She also questioned one important point in his argument. Paley in his Natural Theology and generations of naturalists before him had found the structure and functioning of the eye the most persuasive of all the proofs of the existence of God `from design: It was clearly the contrivance of a Creative mind, and Paley claimed it was impossible to imagine how such a complex mechanism could have developed by a chance succession of small steps from an organ with another function. Charles recognised that if he was to persuade others to accept his theory, he must be able to show that the structure could have evolved in this way by a purely natural process. He wrote in the essay that this was `the greatest difficulty to the whole theory' and offered an ingenious suggestion as to how the development might have occurred. But Emma was not persuaded by his argument, and wrote in the margin 'A great assumption - E.D.' Charles's suggestion was, indeed, a `great assumption', and Emma knew that it was a key part of the argument for the theory which he hoped would be a major contribution to science. It was only ever a conjecture; the evidence for it was widely scattered, indirect and fragmentary. For Emma to question the point in the direct way that she did was to strike at the heart of the theory." (Keynes, R., "Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution," Fourth Estate: London, 2001, p.79-80. Ellipses Keynes')

It is by the way not only creationists who take Darwin at his word that he had doubts about some aspects of evolution. Evolutionist anthropologist Barbara Noske wrote that "Even Darwin himself was occasionally seized by doubt while contemplating organs of extreme perfection" and citing Darwin's admission that "The eye gives me a cold shudder":

"Bypassing the recent wave of Creationism in the US and its criticism of Darwin's theory, a number of objections can be made against the notion of natural selection, some of which I will mention here. Such intricate changes have arisen in nature, involving such immensely complex series of mutations that mathematicians find it almost impossible to attribute these to blind chance. Rattray Taylor mentions several instances of features which evolved long before they were of any advantage so that they hardly can have been caused by natural selection. Even Darwin himself was occasionally seized by doubt while contemplating organs of extreme perfection. `The eye gives me a cold shudder,' he wrote." (Noske, B., "Humans and Other Animals: Beyond the Boundaries of Anthropology," Pluto Press: London, 1989, p.65)

This part #2 has become too long for my blog, so I will continue it in part #3.

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

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