Sunday, June 11, 2006

Re: Would Jesus stoop to quotemining? #4

AN (cc. CED with further changes)

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

[Graphic: Photoreceptor, Department of Physics, University of Florida]

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

Continued from part #3.

>Young Earth creationists (YECs) and at least one OEC invariably use only the first few lines and omit the part beginning "Yet reason tells me,". Obviously, using the full quote destroys the creationists' argument. Even Answers in Genesis, the most influential YEC web site, has advised their followers not to use the Darwin eye quote because "Citing his [Darwin's] statement at face value is subtly out of context". See Arguments we think creationists should NOT use.

That depends on what the creationist's argument is. As I explained to Stear in my response of 7 Mar 2004, my argument was only that "Darwin admitted it seemed `absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection":

"I cannot answer for other creationists, but all I say in my quote of Darwin is the truth that, "Darwin admitted it seemed `absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection":
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Darwinism (including Neo-Darwinism) #4 - Difficulties:
Organs of extreme perfection [...] Eye
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 my response says, "all I say in my quote of Darwin is the truth that, "Darwin admitted it seemed `absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection."

Nevertheless, to be consistent with my other instances of the same quote, I have now replaced the above with the following:

"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. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," 1872, Sixth Edition, Senate: London, 1994, pp.143-144)

However, I stand by the heading, that "Darwin admitted it seemed `absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection," because it is the truth, being: 1) what Darwin wrote and left unchanged in all six editions of his Origin of Species (1859-1872); and 2) what he confided to his friends in his private correspondence (see part #2).

I will leave it up to you whether you inform Stear of this change, although I expect you (or someone) would have let him know and he is monitoring these posts.

>I emailed Mr Jones and took him to task for deliberately misleading visitors to his site by selectively quoting Charles Darwin. Mr Jones responded this morning in an email to a group (copying his response to me rather than directly replying). Bearing in mind that he had the full text of Darwin's statement in front of him, his response was nothing short of staggering. He said:

Even back then it was my normal practice to copy private messages I received on creation/evolution/ design topics to my then functioning Yahoo list, CreationEvolutionDesign. However (from memory) unless the email was replied directly to the list (i.e. not cc'd), it would not always be accepted by Yahoo's membership verification system. Here on my Google blog that is not a problem, so I send responses direct to the person and cc. to my blog (as with these posts).

>Thanks. But the above makes *no* difference to the point that I was making, namely that "Darwin admitted it seemed 'absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection." [Mr Jones' emphasis]

No doubt as a true-believing Darwinist, Stear finds this "staggering". Nevertheless, it is the plain truth: Darwin did "admit... it seemed 'absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection. To the Darwinist mind, Darwin's adding of his error-ridden (see part #3), question-begging, last part:

"Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory."

it is as though Darwin never wrote his first part, "To suppose that the eye ... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree" (emphasis mine)!

>Surely it would be clear to a reasonably literate person that Darwin was pointing out that it only seems to be a difficulty and then goes on to demonstrate that in fact it isn't a difficulty at all.

The above sentence was not in Stear's post to me.

And I disagree with Stear that "Darwin ... goes on to demonstrate that in fact it isn't a difficulty at all." As I have pointed out in part #2, Darwin did not convince his contemporaries nor even himself that the eye could have been formed by the natural selection of "slight, successive, favourable variations" (or random micromutations in Neo-Darwinism).

As I mentioned in another previous post where Dawkins makes the same claim as Stear that after "Darwin's famous phrase, to suppose that `the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances ... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.' He then goes on to explain it":

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins
Beliefnet, October 2005, Interview by Laura Sheahen ... Are there one or two phrases you've heard repeatedly quoted out of context that you'd like to set the record straight about?

Well, that's one of them, about the Cambrian Explosion. Another one is Darwin's famous phrase, to suppose that "the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances"-he goes on about the complications of the eye-"could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." He then goes on to explain it, and they never quote that. They just stop there. Dishonest. [...]

Darwin did not go on to explain how the eye could have been formed by the natural selection of "slight, successive, favourable variations."As I mentioned in that other previous post, "I had also critiqued Darwin's entire argument on the eye, first on an evolution-run list Jan 8, 2001 #1 and #2 and then on my list CED, Mar 27, 2001 #1/2 and #2/2 offering to debate it but there were no takers! Evidence that Darwin's explanation of the origin of the eye is inadequate is that (to my knowledge), no Darwinist (including Dawkins) has ever used it!

>Mr Jones continued:
In fact in the extended quote above Darwin says that "the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection" was "insuperable by our imagination"!

The interesting thing is what "would be clear to a reasonably literate person" is that something which was "insuperable by our imagination" is a real problem, whereas to true believing Darwinists like Stear (and Dawkins) it "isn't a difficulty at all"!

>I repeat, Darwin clearly said, "the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real." That is, the "difficulty" cannot be considered real.

This was not in Stear's post to me either, but he makes it sound like it was.

Also, for someone who professes to be concerned about accuracy in quotes, Stear (either ignorantly or knowingly), is here basing his argument on the 1859 First Edition of the Origin, where Darwin has "... then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real" (my emphasis).

I was going to give Stear the benefit of the doubt that he was merely ignorant (inexcusably so for one who claims to be enough of an authority on Darwin to go around correcting others) that by his final 1872 Sixth Edition of the Origin, Darwin had watered that down to the rather lame, "... then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory" (my emphasis).

But then I realised that Stear must know the difference, because my quote that he is criticising is from Darwin's Sixth Edition (see it as it originally was in my Yahoo list post of 7 March 2004). Why would one use a quote from a First Edition to counter use of the same quote in a work's Sixth Edition? It cannot be because the First Edition is online and the Sixth Edition wasn't, because the same site, Literature.org, whose online First Edition Stear used, also has an online Sixth Edition, which I know for a fact has been in existence since at least 2003. So it seems inescapable that Stear deliberately chose to use Darwin's First Edition, so that he could base an argument on its stronger wording "can hardly be considered real," which Darwin himself had later abandoned!

If this is so, then Stear is a hypocrite! Bearing in mind Stear's one and only post to me where, without even waiting to find out my side of the story, but as the usual (in my experience) Darwinist judge, jury and executioner, he accused me of lying and misleading to get my point across and being "prepared to deliberately omit a part of a quote to further your own ... ends, an act that you should surely consider a sin":

--Original Message Text---
From: John Stear
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 2004 11:38:50 +1000
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. And as you are a committed Christian I find it extraordinary that you are prepared to deliberately omit a part of a quote to further your own (and creationism's) ends, an act that you should surely consider a sin.

However, I don't claim that Stear is a hypocrite, as he could merely be incompetent (although I doubt that he could be that incompetent), or there could be some other explanation that I haven't thought of. I will leave it up to him to decide which cap fits.

>If it weren't for the fact that Mr Jones must be aware that he is misrepresenting science in order to further his cause, one might be forgiven for wondering where he was on the day his high school class studied English comprehension.

It is a standard tactic of Darwinists to identify Darwin with "science" itself, so that anyone who they claim is misrepresenting Darwin, is thereby "misrepresenting science"! For the record, I have no problem with Darwin's (or Darwinists') actual science (I accept universal common ancestry, for example). My problem is with Darwin's (and Darwinists') materialist philosophy masquerading as science.

And see above for who is having problems with "English comprehension"!

>Note: It's now over twelve months since I pointed out to Mr Jones his use of at least one "out of context" quote. Today, 28 September 2005, the quote, still "out of context", remains on Mr Jones' web site.

Well, I have now added more of the "context" (see above) but I would be surprised if that will satisfy Stear (or you).

Thanks again for your message which gave me the opportunity to publicly respond to Stear's criticism. As I said at the start in part #1, as it is my long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions on creation/ evolution/design issues, this four-part response is almost certainly my first and last to you.

Because this response blew out to four parts, which may be resented, in future where I respond publicly on CED to a private creation/evolution/design message, and a longer than one post response is likely, I am going to post only a brief acknowledgment to the sender, telling him/her that my response will be posted only to my blog.

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

2 comments:

MarkAustin said...

You stated:

That depends on what the creationist's argument is. As I explained to Stear in my response of 7 Mar 2004, my argument was only that "Darwin admitted it seemed `absurd in the highest degree' that the eye could have been formed by natural selection"

Then your argument falls at the first fence, for Darwin admitted no such thing. Darwins exact quote is:

"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 possible degree"

He is using a rhetorical device: that of stating the problem - the appararent absurdity of the evolution of the eye - before going on to propose a solution. I will not repeat his solution, as you admit its existance, but dispute its significance as a result of the first statement.

He does not say that the evolution of the eye is absurd, but that it seems absurd - and your exclusion of the word seems from the quotes from Darwin obscure this point. This is critical, as, I repeat, he is stating the problem: a problem he then goes on to resolve.

You also mention Darwin writing of "shuddering" at the thought of the implications to his theory of the eye. You do not mention his subsequent resolution of this problem in his own mind. He states in a letter: "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 to Asa Gray [a Christian minister] Feb. ?, 1860). I believe this is the letter you quote.

He later states: "...I remember well the time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of the complaint, and now small trifling particulars of structure often make me feel uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!" (Darwin to Asa Gray Apr. 3, 1860)

To cut off another hare, fifteen years later he writes "black-shouldered peacock, the so-called Pavo nigripennis given in my 'Var. under Domest.;'...the variety is in many respects intermediate between the two known species." (Darwin to August Weismann Dec. 6, 1875), thus removing the previous doubt.

Mark Austin

Stephen E. Jones said...

Mark

Thanks for your comment.

>He is using a rhetorical device: that of stating the problem - the appararent absurdity of the evolution of the eye - before going on to propose a solution.

We must agree to disagree. Despite the fact that Darwin in his private correspondence (where there was no need to use "a rhetorical device") admitted that he had difficulty believing that the eye could have been formed by the natural selection of chance variations, in my experience, `true believing' Darwinists cannot accept that.

We must also agree to disagree that Darwin went on "to propose a solution." His so-called "solution" in his Origin of Species was just one "rhetorical device" (to use your own words) piled upon another, which is why Darwin admitted he had difficulty believing it, as did even his fellow Darwinists like T.H. Huxley and Asa Gray.

Stephen E. Jones