Wednesday, February 04, 2009



Ow! Ow! Ow!

Does anyone know how to treat third-degree irony burns?

The Discovery Institute has issued a press release (the closest it ever gets to science) that should only be viewed after applying a thick layer of SPF 100 sunscreen or above. Be warned before reading further!

SEATTLE, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "We're celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday by supporting what he supported: academic freedom," says Robert Crowther, Director of Communications at Discovery Institute. "Like Darwin, we recognize the importance of having an open and honest debate between evolution and intelligent design."

Discovery Institute today announced the launch of Academic Freedom Day in honor of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday on February 12, 2009.

In his revolutionary On the Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." This quote is the cornerstone of the Institute's Academic Freedom Day efforts.

That would be the same Darwin that they're honoring that they've called a racist and an eugenicist, who would have probably advocated forced sterilization if only the technology was available in his day and age. And, of course, that would be the same Darwin whose ideas lead to Nazism and the Holocaust.

How, might you ask, does the DI "honor" Darwin? Why, by quote mining him, of course!

Here is the actual quote in context, with the quote-mined part in bold:

This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.

Contrary to the implication arising from the period the DI inserted at the end, the quote-mined part was not a complete thought. Darwin was not saying that every alleged theory has to be weighed before a fair scientific result can be reached. He was saying that he had many more facts in support of his theory but could not list them all in the scant 490 pages he had at his disposal in the Origin.

Well, the quote mine might be dishonest but they were certainly truthful that such activity is the cornerstone of their Freedom Day efforts. After all, if they didn't have dishonesty to fall back on, the DI wouldn't have any arguments at all!

Labels: ,

I disagree. The suggestion that leaving off the last end of the quote (after the semi-colon) changes its meaning is ridiculous. Darwin's comments on both sides of the semi-colon are correct as written: (1) A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question, AND (2) time did not permit him to fully accomplish this task. Dropping the second part of the quote does not negate or misrepresent the first part. Put differently, would Darwin DISAGREE with someone quoting him and leaving off the last few words? No. Obviously.
First of all, it misrepresents him by making it seem like a complete thought, instead of letting the reader know that it has context, i.e. that he is talking about specific evidence he has. That is enough to make it a quote mine. More importantly, Darwin isn't saying that there is a need to "debate" every unscientific idea ... quite the opposite ... he's saying that you have to consider all the evidence, something the DI consistently refuses to do ... on the perfectly sound grounds that they .don't have any for a "Designer".
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education