January 29, 2011
There was great joy in the atheist world during 2010, where they celebrated the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin! Sigh.....that left Jehovah's Witnesses doubly out in the cold: we don't worship Darwin and we don't do birthdays. Nonetheless, it's a Charles Darwin statement that will be used as a starting point for this post. It's taken from Origin of the Species, chapter VI. Call my recognition a belated birthday present, if you must.
“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.”....
Q: If you quote this line, do you really have to add: “of course, this is not to suggest that Darwin does not believe in his own theory of evolution by natural selection”?
I would never have thought so. I mean, what do you expect his next words to be? “Thus we can see that my entire theory is a load of horse manure. But I'm in this to win the praise of my peers, who for some reason, eat this stuff up. That, and maybe there's a buck to be made. So I'm putting lipstick on this pig. I'm sticking to my guns, even though you know, and I know, that it's all nonsense.”??
No! He's not going to say that! He's going to say something like: “Still, many now-established truths seemed equally absurd when first proposed. Evidence is scanty with relationship to the eye's development....no one's saying otherwise..... but we can expect future researchers to uncover corroborating material.”
That's my prediction (without peeking). In fact, he says almost exactly that:
“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 ["the voice of the people = the voice of God "], 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 certain 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, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.”
Alright, then. Pretty much what I predicted he would say. Any donkey ought to realize Darwin's not throwing in the towel on his own theory by admitting evolution of the eye sounds ridiculous. If you use his quote to suggest he considers himself a charlatan, that's dishonest. But if you use his quote to show he acknowledges some pretty high hurdles exist in proving his theory.....well, what's wrong with that?
Now, statements like that of Darwin appear all the time in evolutionist literature. And Watchtower publications have been known to pick up and run with them, without appending the “of course, so-and-so still believes in his own theory.” So the whiners and grousers have accused them of deliberate misquoting. But Watchtower hasn't done that at all. They've used all such quotes properly. (Though I won't vouch for non-Witness publications, some of which may well use such quotes in misleading ways)
Regarding quotes, you may have noticed that if you quote someone and don't reach the same conclusion he does, he will invariably say you must consider his context. If you do that, and still don't agree, he will want you to expand the context. If you do that, even to the point of quoting the entire article, and still don't agree, he will call you a fool. That's just the way people are.
Whenever the Watchtower quotes an evolutionist, it's understood that he believes his own theory! You don't have to spell that out. If he says something that sounds far-fetched, and the Creation book picks it up, do you really think the authors wish to imply that he is gleefully lying through his teeth, willfully advancing a fraudulent notion? Of course not! It's obvious he believes his own belief! Anybody howls dishonesty when their quotes are used to support a conclusion they themselves have not reached. All you have to do when quoting someone is relay their words accurately, as they were stated, without insertions or deletions. If you can't even do that, then you shouldn't allow cross-examination in jury trials....where an opposing lawyer uses a witness's own words to trip him up. It shouldn't be allowed! Just ask the witness what impression he wishes to make upon the court, and leave it at that.
Nonetheless, to placate the crybabies, Watchtower just released new material geared to defending creation at the 2010 District Conventions, and they've taken to pointing out, whenever quoting an evolutionist discussing some glitch in his theory, that “nonetheless, so-and-so still believes his own idea.” I don't think it's ethically necessary. But I see why they did it.
For example, on page 5 of The Origin of Life: Five Questions Worth Asking, (published by Watchtower, 2010), Prof Robert Shapiro of New York University discusses the famous 1953 experiments of Stanley Miller. He says “Some writers have presumed that all life's building blocks could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites. This is not the case.” Shapiro probably says this because evolution textbooks have implied just that for the past 50 years. He further states that the likelihood of a RNA molecule arising from such a mixture “is so vanishingly small that its happening even once anywhere in the visible universe would count as a piece of exceptional good luck.”
And at this point, there is a footnote, explained at the bottom of the page:
*”Professor Shapiro does not believe that life was created. He believes that life arose by chance in some fashion not yet fully understood.”
There! Happy? Don't ask what congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses he attends. He's not one of ours. He's one of theirs.
On the next page, the booklet mentions “researcher Hubert P Yockey, who supports the teaching of evolution, [and] ….. states 'It is impossible that the origin of life was proteins first'” [an order long insisted upon by evolutionary theory, as proteins are building blocks for RNA].
See? Don't lose your cookies. No one's saying he's one of ours. He supports the teaching of evolution, even though he points out the long supported protein-RNA sequence of events is “impossible.” (quote marks mine) There must be some other sequence that is “possible,” he apparently thinks. All that remains is to discover it.
Apparently, both proteins and RNA molecules have to simultaneously appear at the same place and same time....one cannot precede the other.... for their life-forming cooperation to take place. “'The probability of this happening by chance (given a random mixture of proteins and RNA) seems astronomically low,' says Dr Carol Cleland, [who adds] 'most researchers seem to assume that if they can make sense of the independent production of proteins and RNA under natural primordial conditions, the coordination will somehow take care of itself,'” with all efforts to explain that coordination being not “very satisfying.”
And again a footnote. *”Dr Cleland is not a creationalist. She believes that life arose by chance in some fashion not yet fully understood.”
Okay? Again, Watchtower doesn't suggest she one of us. She's not.
At this point, the booklet observes: “Similarly, if scientists ever did construct a cell, (see eighth paragraph of link) they would accomplish something truly amazing – but would they prove that the cell could be made by accident? If anything, they would prove the very opposite, would they not? …..All scientific evidence to date indicates that life can come only from previously existing life. To believe that even a “simple” living cell arose by chance from nonliving chemicals requires a huge leap of faith. Given the facts, are you willing to make such a leap?”
And on it goes. Other scientists are quoted: Radu Popa, Richard Feynman, Francis Crick, Eric Bapteste, Michael Rose, David M Raup, Henry Gee, Malcolm S Gordon, Robin Derricourt, Gyula Gyenis, Carl N Stephan, Milford H Wolpoff, and maybe some I missed. Each and every time, the publishers point out, usually in separate footnote, that these folks do not believe in creation. They believe in evolution. It's just that each of them have pointed to separate long-held tenets of the belief to observe that....um....it doesn't....ahh....exactly work the way it has long been supposed to. That's not to say they've thrown in the towel. No! They're merely wrung it out and jumped into the fray afresh. It almost seem silly to include so many footnotes...as if catering to the whiners. Still, there's a lot of whiners, and they make a lot of noise. Maybe this will shut them up for a moment or two.
All of those quoted are respected scientists. None of them believe in creation. They all accept evolution, and they'll continue to accept it, more likely than not. That way they get to remain respected scientists. No, they are not in our camp. They are “hostile witnesses,” every last one of them. They say things we latch onto, even though they don't agree with us. But there's nothing wrong with quoting them. Where would Perry Mason, Bobby Donnel, or the Boston Legal crew be if they couldn't cross-examine hostile witnesses?
‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’ No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash
Thanks for commenting on my post. I thought I would return the favour (at the risk of whining and grousing).
To use one example you use above, let's look at this quote: “'The probability of this happening by chance (given a random mixture of proteins and RNA) seems astronomically low,' says Dr Carol Cleland, [who adds] 'most researchers seem to assume that if they can make sense of the independent production of proteins and RNA under natural primordial conditions, the coordination will somehow take care of itself,'” with all efforts to explain that coordination being not “very satisfying.”
Dr Cleland is on record saying thus: "My work has been used before by these people and it really angers me because they are using it to defend views that I reject..... it is deeply dishonest for theists to deliberately distort the words of scholars for their own purposes; as I recall , this is a sin"
In the quote Watchtower selected, Dr Cleland was responding to the fact that only Creationists claim that the first cells arose by random chance, in an attempt to make it sound absurd. And they're right, it is absurd, and it is precisely the the opposite of what science actually claims. The laws of chemistry are not random and cell formation would have proceeded down pathways consonant with natural laws. Many such hypotheses exist if you're willing to allow a little codnitive dissonance in.
Interestingly, why don't you quote what Darwin actually said after the paragraph about the eye? It provides a good background for what is argument is actually about. It doesn't look good when you try to explain the Watchtower texts aren't quote mining by quote mining yourself.
Posted by: Fred | January 29, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Ten Impossibilities of Evolution
Posted by: Nick | January 29, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Fred: Actually, I thought I did quote what Darwin said after the paragraph about the eye. At least, that's how it read in my copy of the book.
Dr Cleland is angry? She rejects creation views? Didn't I say as much? She's not a creationalist. She's a "hostile witness." Should it be shocking if a hostile witness actually is hostile?
Are you sure I'm the only one guilty of "quote mining" without having read material thoroughly?
I maintain a good analogy is that of cross-examining a hostile witness. Such a witness sometimes says things most damaging to their cause. The opposing attorney uses such statements to build a picture quite unlike that which the witness would have us all believe, and the jury may come to accept the attorney's view. It’s not dishonest. Or, if it is, then the entire human judicial system is, by design, dishonest.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 29, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Evolutionists have been going to great lengths recently to understand the origin of life. Take the immensely expensive experiment being conducted undergound somewhere in northern Europe.
Dubbed the 'particle colider', my understanding is that they were seeking to prove that life could come about by means of a great collision of particles travelling toward each other at astronomical speed. What did the experiment conclude?
I haven't heard of any new life being created... But even if that were the case. Let's just say it did produce life, what would it prove? That life comes about by chance? Hardly.
How much time, effort and intelligence did they invest in creating the environment where life might be produced? All it would prove is that life came about by means of intelligence and design, which is what Christians believed in the first place.
Posted by: Dave | January 30, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Actually, Dave, the particle accelerator in Europe is a tool used to (1) attempt to find the smallest particles of matter, (2) attempt to recreate snapshots of what happened in the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang (or, if you will, the beginning of the universe). It actually has nothing to do with finding the origins of life in the universe. It is a tool to understand the manner in which the laws of physics developed, and how it affected to development of the universe.
As for proper use of quotations and references, my response was too long to list here and so it is a post on my blog (http://www.screech1976.typepad.com)
Posted by: Screech | January 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Sorry, problem with my blog link: Here is the correct one...
Posted by: Screech | January 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Heh, I thought the same thing when I read all those footnotes. This is nothing new. Dr. Julius Mantey's almost 60-year old angry letter is still used by Trinitarians to show that the Watchtower 'misled' readers by quoting his work in support of the NWT's rendering of John 1:1. Huff and puff he did, yet...his work still did indirectly support the NWT on that point, though clearly(!) he didn't accept that rendering for other reasons.
But that's what makes such evidence so compelling, it's an admittance on a point from a source that you don't expect it from. Darwin does admit that his theory can sound absurd. Yes, he still believes it's true, obviously, but that doesn't change the fact that he admitted that it sounds absurd. In any case, I'm happy with the footnotes, because there's a lot of atheists out there (certainly not all) that will. never. let. it. go.
Posted by: TJ | January 30, 2011 at 05:37 PM
No. HA! They. may. never. indeed. Thanks.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 30, 2011 at 06:58 PM
My apology - you did quote Darwin's second paragraph. Funny cos I remember reading it too!
I think what you misunderstand about quoting sources is the effect that is created in the mind of a reader when a quote it is taken from one context and placed in another. It isn't a far-fetched observation to point out that many creationists sources intentionally do this and "The Origin of Life" relies heavily on this rhetoric technique. I don't doubt that it is an effective strategy - the question I ask is: If such materials need to employ such devices then what are the authors so insecure about? A source claiming to be truth wouldn't need to quote experts out of context. Engaging in such tactics Pointing out the scientist accepts evolution does not amount to being completely honest when engaging in quote mining is scant consolation.
I think "whining" as you put it is justified in these cases because many people will receive these materials and not have the skills to adequately critique them. Allowing falsehoods to remain unchallenge is a far bigger crime than not speaking up/grousing/whining about them.
Posted by: Fred | February 02, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Well.....why publish one's views at all? Rather, hunt up someone who's views differ from yours and publish his instead.
Look, on the one hand, maybe I can empathize where you're coming from. The internet abounds with misinformed or slanted material about us, and you want to correct it all, but whenever you try, you just have insults hurled at you.
It's simply a fact that people are going to take the same raw data you have and draw different conclusions from it. It happens in every field, and not just science. When pointing to chaos within the ranks, to discord regarding points that we, the layman, were long instructed were firmly established, it is more than enough to point out that so-and-so has not jumped ship, as might infer from his/her remarks, and are still committed to their side. (more to come, as time permits)
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 02, 2011 at 06:14 AM
That's right Tom, there is so much misinformation out there. I guess my only goal in writing is to at least make people reason a little. That's all. Emotionally satisfying beliefs are great but all I ask is a bit of reason. This is admittedly hard to get many people to understand and it appears to be a waste of time in most cases. Such is the human reasoning/belief defence mechanism. Ideas matter, so let the battle between competing ideas be one on the strength of their evidence and logic. That's my rant. Thanks for providing the forum. It is good to see people can disagree yet still have a civil debate.
Posted by: Fred | February 02, 2011 at 02:30 PM
“I guess my only goal in writing is to at least make people reason a little. That's all. Emotionally satisfying beliefs are great but all I ask is a bit of reason.”
Okay. And here's our pitch:
Living forever in paradise on earth sounds a fairy tail. Pie in the sky. Absurd (like Darwin's eye). But it also sounds very good. Good enough to check it out. But, absurd as it sounds, not good enough to check out if the price is high or the time commitment is great. Hence, the offer of a free home Bible study which is the trademark of Jehovah's Witnesses. Free, convenient, and of short duration:
Yes, let us reason, but humans the world over tend to assume they hold a monopoly on it. As a species, we suck at reasoning. It's not merely weighing the facts, but it's also what facts (and often in what order).
Most church doctrines are not found in the Bible. It's the attempt to read them in that causes people to throw up their hands and say the book is incomprehensible. But study it without such preconcieved notions, and it assembles together without much fuss, and one gets the satisfaction one might get upon seeing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle come together.
If you've ever had that experience with an actual jigsaw puzzle, that is a “fact” which goes some distance in countering those who suggest the whole endeavor is nonsense. A neighbor, whose puzzle lies unassembled in the box, is more easily swayed by such suggestions.
We have facts on our side, too. That's all I'm saying (for now).
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 02, 2011 at 08:18 PM
I think it's absurd for academics to insist their published findings are only used to support the views they personally hold. If findings can be used to draw different conclusions what exactly is the problem as long as they haven't been misquoted. Of course there is the intellectual dishonesty of mangling quotations to present information that is clearly not the intent of the writer, but as long as the conclusion or beliefs of the author are not misrepresented (ie Mr Dawkins, Creationist and believer says.... ) then its a storm in a teacup.
I'm no expert but most articles I read on evolution contain information I think "hmmm, but that supports Creation..." pointing this out is neither a crime nor herasy.
I think its funny when Scientist get all in a huff because someone points out the *obvious*
Posted by: Rosie | February 05, 2011 at 11:43 AM
Sigh.....tell it to Fred.
But I won't say anything bad about Fred (nor are you, I realize). I like his style. It takes courage to go on a site in which you are the (so far) sole dissenter. Of course, it doesn't take courage if you just want to hurl insults, but if you sincerely are attempting to persuade the "opposition".....that's not easy. Fred presents his viewpoint persuasively and respectfully (though I disagree). I appreciate that.
I like what I've seen of his blog, and may visit there again to post a comment or two.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 05, 2011 at 04:19 PM