subscribe to the RSS Feed

Sunday, December 21, 2014

You Cannot Promote Truth With Lies!

Posted by jlwile on June 20, 2012

Not long ago, I wrote an article about how Dr. Richard Dawkins attributed a quote to St., Augustine, but the quote turned out to be 100% false. A while before that, I wrote an article about how an evolutionist and a young-earth creationist both mangled quotes by C.S. Lewis in order to make it sound like Lewis believed things that he didn’t believe. Well, here’s yet another example of someone using made-up quotes in an attempt to prove her point of view.

This article comes from World Net Daily, which is not exactly a paragon of responsible journalism. It was written by Marylou Barry, and it tries to make the case that scientists don’t believe in evolution because of the evidence. Instead, they believe it because they dogmatically reject the idea of a Creator. This, of course, is absurd, as there are many, many Christians who believe in evolution. If belief in evolution is based on the rejection of a Creator, no Christian would accept it. Nevertheless, Marylou Barry tries to make the case, and she does so by quoting famous scientists. Some of the quotes sounded a bit odd to me, so I did some checking. It turns out that many of them are either made up or taken completely out of context.

Let’s start with a simple one. Ms. Barry reports:

“Evolution is unproved and improvable, we believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable,” wrote the late Sir Arthur Keith, physical anthropologist and head of the Anatomy Department at London Hospital.

Since she doesn’t bother to source any of her quotes, I had to do a bit of research. The only source that has been given for this quote can be found in Comparative Views on Origins. The author (Brock Lee) claims that this quote comes from the forward to 100th anniversary edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, 1959.1 The problem with this reference is that Sir Arthur Keith died on January 7, 1955. That’s a full four years before this book was supposed to have been published! Keith did write an introduction to an edition of The Origin of Species that was published by J. M. Dent. However, it was published in 1928, and Keith’s introduction does not contain anything even approaching the quote that Barry gives. In the end, then, this is simply a made-up quote, and it doesn’t belong in any legitimate discussion of evolution.

Now if this were just one example among many quotes, I might be able to overlook Barry’s irresponsible behavior. Unfortunately, several other quotes in the story are either made up, edited, or taken way out of context.

Here is another example of a quote that is essentially made up:

Yet none puts it more plainly than Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize winner and professor emeritus of biology at Harvard University.

“I do not want to believe in God,” Wald admitted to Scientific American magazine. “Therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution.”

Once again, because Barry gives no reference, I had to do some digging. It turns out that Dr. Wald doesn’t appear very often in Scientific American, and there is only one article in which he uses the phrase “spontaneous generation.” It was written in 1954 and entitled “The Origin of Life.”2 Nowhere in the article does he use the phrase “I do not want to believe in God.” In addition, he never uses the word “impossible” in reference to spontaneous generation. Instead, he says that spontaneous generation doesn’t happen now, but if conditions were right at one time, it would. He then says that life will, in fact, inevitably arise wherever the proper conditions exist. Then he says:

I do not tend to make sentences containing the word God; but what do those persons mean who make such sentences? They mean a great many different things; indeed I would be happy to know what they mean much better than I have yet been able to discover. I have asked as opportunity offered, and intend to go on asking. What I have learned is that many educated persons now tend to equate their concept of God with their concept of the order of nature. This is not a new idea; I think it is firmly grounded in the philosophy of Spinoza. When we as scientists say then that life originated inevitably as part of the order of our universe, we are using different words but do not necessary mean a different thing from what some others mean who say that God created life.

So in the end, he is actually trying to make the case that you can believe in God and believe in the origin of life as espoused by evolutionists, as long as your concept of God includes the idea that He created a universe with the right kind of order.

The most obviously made-up quote in the entire story comes right after the Wald quote:

Sir Julian Huxley, the late president of UNESCO and grandson of Darwin’s colleague Thomas Huxley, put an even finer point on the argument:

“I suppose the reason we leaped at the origin of species was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores,” he wrote.

This quote has two sources, when those who use it try to cite a reference. Some claim it goes back to a book by Henry M. Morris, The Troubled Waters of Evolution.3 The problem is that the book by Henry Morris contains no such quote. Indeed, on the page where the quote supposedly appears, Morris is talking about Dr. Julian Huxley’s grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley! Others reference various books by D. James Kennedy, such as What If the Bible Had Never Been Written?4 The problem with this reference is that Kennedy claims that he heard Dr. Julian Huxley say this in an interview on public television, but he never gives the title of the program or even the year that it aired. Dr. Julian Huxley died on Februrary 14, 1975. To believe Kennedy, we must believe that he remembers a quote from a television show that he cannot name and that couldn’t have been made after Februrary 14, 1975. To me, that seems like a bit of a stretch…

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It is very easy these days to scrape quotes off the internet. The problem is that such quotes are hardly reliable. A real journalist or scholar will actually check sources before listing quotes, so unless a quote is strictly documented, you should simply ignore it. Even if it is strictly documented, I would still take it with a grain of salt until you can actually check the source. The fraudulent quote of Huxley, for example, is sometimes strictly documented, but it still turns out to be a fabrication.

There is a bigger point to this, of course. Marylou Barry tried to use these falsified quotes to convince people that there is no serious evidence for evolution. I tend to agree with her on that point. There is some evidence for evolution, but it is far outweighed by both the evidence for creation and the evidence directly opposed to evolution. In the end, then, I think Barry is trying to promote an idea that is true. However, she is trying to convince people of this true idea by using a bunch of false quotes. That’s not the way to promote the truth; you cannot promote truth by telling lies!

I doubt that Marylou Barry knew the quotes she used were lies when she wrote her article. However, that’s why a good journalist or scholar checks references thoroughly. Had Barry done just a bit of research, she would have learned the fraudulent nature of the quotes she was using. It is unfortunate that she didn’t bother. I contacted World Net Daily with these concerns, and I truly hope they get communicated to Marylou Barry. If nothing else, I hope my readers learn from her mistakes.

REFERENCES

1. Brock Lee, Comparative Views on Origins, UCS Press 2009, p. 155
Return to Text

2. Wald, G., “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191(2):44-53, 1954
Return to Text

3. Henry M. Morris, The Troubled Waters of Evolution, Creation-Life Publishers 1974, p. 58
Return to Text

4. Dennis James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written?, Nelson 1998, p. 26
Return to Text

Comments

16 Responses to “You Cannot Promote Truth With Lies!”
  1. gracekalman says:

    Remember everyone, “You can’t believe every quote you read on Facebook, some of them are just not correct.” ~George Washington

  2. jlwile says:

    That’s awesome, Grace!

  3. mimivirus says:

    Grace, very funny!

  4. Kathy Mokris says:

    Dr. Wile, been wanting to ask and this seems like a good topic for the question. Recently, I’ve heard two people, a scientist and a theologian/preacher, talk about how serious scientists are turning away from evolution and looking for another theory. This turning away would be based on DNA’s information and code. I can’t remember if you also commented on that.

    At the same time, I recently read in a news article that, based on overwhelming evidence, or some such reason, everyone will believe in evolution in a few years.

    One of these ideas must be wrong or false! Any thoughts? Thanks.

  5. jlwile says:

    Kathy, I think the news article you are talking about is this one. In it, Dr. Richard Leakey says that sometime in the next 15 to 30 years, the evidence for evolution will become so overwhelming that even the skeptics will believe in it. Honestly, I see that as nothing but wishful thinking on his part.

    There are at least two lines of evidence that indicate the scientist and theologian you heard are right and Leakey is wrong. The first comes from lists like this one and this one. In both lists, you have highly-qualified scientists who have decided that evolution cannot explain the origin of species. These lists have been growing over the past 10 years. If Leakey were right, they should be shrinking. In addition, even the secular, peer-reviewed literature is starting to publish critiques of evolution. This was unheard of before 2004, but it is now happening more and more often.

    These two trends, when put together, indicate to me that Leakey is wrong. As we learn more and more about the world, the evidence points away from evolution as the explanation for how we all got here.

  6. Kathy Mokris says:

    Thank-you, Dr. Wile. I value your opinion because I know that you look objectively at what’s going on, unlike the World Net writer mentioned above.

    I thought maybe you’d blogged about this, but couldn’t find the article. Dr. Stephen Meyer was the scientist I heard speak. He was impressive and I’d hate to think he was being misleading just to get support for his position.

    Wow…one of those scientists’ lists was 20 pages long!

  7. J.S. says:

    Dr. Wile, it’s important to define what “evolution” means to the various players, such as Dawkins and Meyer. It’s my understanding that both Meyer and Dawkins support the common descent of all organisms from a single organism, but that Meyer feels the process was directed, while Dawkins does not. Other scientists feel the evidence supports the one-time appearance of created kinds, with a built-in but limited potential variation–a “multiple common ancestors” hypothesis, in other words.

  8. jlwile says:

    J.S., I am not sure about Meyer. I know that Behe supports the concept of common descent, but he is not convinced of it for all organisms. He does think that humans and apes share a common ancestor. I agree that there are many “flavors” of evolution out there, and even young-earth creationists use evolution to allow for diversification from the created kinds. That is, in fact, one of the problems with evolution. Because of its many definitions, unethical scientists can use a “bait and switch” approach to convince people. I don’t know how many books I have read where the author gives evidence of microevolution and then claims that, because of this evidence, macroevolution must be true.

  9. W. Brown says:

    Although the World Net Daily is certainly not on my reading list, I’m glad you wrote this article. A lot of bloggers would see what they want to see and not bother about checking.

  10. jlwile says:

    It’s not on my reading list, either, W. Brown. I was sent the link by someone who wanted to know if it was a reasonable analysis. I thought everyone could benefit by seeing that it definitely is not.

  11. J.S. says:

    Dr. Wile, that is actually very encouraging to hear about Michael Behe–do you have any sources on that?

  12. jlwile says:

    I don’t have a specific reference for that, J.S. It’s just my overall impression.

  13. Dan says:

    Dr. Jay, you mentioned that WorldNetDaily is “not exactly a paragon of responsible journalism.” What do you mean by that, and are there other examples of irresponsible journalism from this news source?

  14. jlwile says:

    Dan, I can’t take anything from that site seriously. They ran with the “birther” nonsense much longer than any responsible news organization would. They also run conspiracy theories as serious news, giving them much more respect than they deserve.

  15. Steve says:

    RE: Arthur Keith

    In the 30′s and 40′s LM Davies and Douglas Dewar engaged in debates with JBS Haldane and HS Shelton. One of Davies’ favorite catch phrases was ‘Evolution is unproven and unprovable’. I have not determined whether he latched on to something Keith had said or if Davies said something along the lines of ‘Keith’s position supports my claim that ‘Evolution is unproven and unprovable”. It is possible Keith heard the phrase and agreed with it. The latter half of the quote seems to come from DMS Watson famous ‘The extreme difficulty of obtaining the necessary data for any quantitative estimation of the efficiency of natural selection makes it seem probable that this theory will be re-established, it it be so, by the collapse of alternative explanations which are more easily attacked by observation and experiment. If so, it will present a parallel to the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.’

  16. jlwile says:

    Steve, I suppose it is possible that Keith heard that phrase and agreed with it. However, with the absence of any evidence, it is very hard to say.

    Also, that Watson quote comes from an article he wrote in the journal Nature in 1929. It was entitled “Adaptation.” Pretty much right after he says what is contained in that quote, he goes on to say:

    Thus the present position of zoology is unsatisfactory. We know as surely as we shall that evolution has occurred but we do not know how this evolution has been brought about. The data which we have accumulated are inadequate, not in quantity but in their character, to allow us to determine which, if any, of the proposed explanations is a vera causa. But it appears that the experimental method rightly used will in the end give us, if not the solution of our problem, at least the power of analysing it and isolating the various factors which enter into it.

    Earlier in the article, he says:

    Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.

    So while he does seem to be discussing the fact that direct evidence for evolution wasn’t around in 1929, there was indirect evidence for it. All he really seems to be saying is that the data were at that time inadequate to determine the mechanism by which evolution acted. He seemed to expect that, over time, data would be found that would help pin the mechanism down.

home | top