Darwinian Debating Device #5: The False Quote Mining Charge
|October 16, 2014||Posted by Barry Arrington under Darwinian Debating Devices|
UPDATE: UD has started a new “Darwinian Debating Devices” category. I am re-publishing this post to add it to the category.
One of the Darwinists’ favorite tactics is the “False Quote Mining Charge.” For those who do not know what “quote mining” is:
Quote mining is the deceitful tactic of taking quotes out of context in order to make them seemingly agree with the quote miner’s viewpoint or to make the comments of an opponent seem more extreme or hold positions they don’t in order to make their positions easier to refute or demonize. It’s a way of lying.
In summary, to accuse someone of quote mining is to accuse them of lying. It is a serious charge. Let us examine a recent example of the charge to illustrate.
In Origin of Species Darwin wrote this about the lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record:
But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.
In a prior thread I asked Alan Fox the following question:
Are you suggesting that the fossil record now reveals the “finely graduated organic chain” that in Origin Charles Darwin predicted would be ultimately revealed as the fossil record was explored further?
As far as it reveals anything, yes. The current record is certainly not incompatible with gradual evolution over vast periods of time.
Again, leading Darwinists disagree:
Darwin’s prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.
Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.
In response, in three separate comments, Mr. Fox charged me with quote mining:
Nice selection from the Bumper Book of Quote-mines, Barry
The quote-mine lifted (and I bet not by Barry) from a book implies that Eldredge has a problem with evolutionary theory.
Returning to the thread topic and Barry’s quote mine of Eldredge:
Let us summarize:
1. I quoted Darwin for the proposition that the fossil record should show a “finely graduated organic chain” and the fact that is does not show any such chain is the strongest objection to his theory.
2. I asked Alan Fox whether he believed the fossil record does show such a chain, and he said yes and that the record was not incompatible with gradual evolution.
3. I quoted Eldredge for the proposition that “Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.” VERY IMPORTANT: When I quoted Eldredge I called him a “leading Darwinist.”
4. Alan begins screaming “Quote mine”!
Now let’s go back to the beginning. To accuse someone of quote mining is to accuse them of quoting a source out of context to make it appear as though they agree with you when they don’t. It is a form of lying.
The proposition that I was advancing was that the fossil record has not turned out as Darwin expected. Alan disagreed. I quoted Eldredge to support my claim. Alan accused me of quoting Eldredge out of context to support my claim. This means Alan was accusing me of taking Eldredge’s words out of context to support my claim when in context they do not. He then said that I implied Eldredge has a problem with evolutionary theory. Bottom line: He accused me of lying and gross deceit.
But the truth is that I did not quote Eldredge out of context. Eldredge wrote that change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record, and that is exactly what he meant. Nothing in the context of the quotation changes that. He has never changed his views.
I never implied that Eldredge had a problem with evolutionary theory. Indeed, the whole point of quoting him is that his is an admission against interest. I called him a “leading Darwinist.” Alan’s charge is not only false it is imbecilic. He said I implied that a leading proponent of a theory has a problem with the theory, and that is absurd on its face.
In summary, Alan Fox should be ashamed of himself. He came onto these pages and falsely accused me of lies and deceit. He is now in the moderation sandbox and will not come out until he apologizes.