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Author Topic:   evolution?
Minnemooseus
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Posts: 3775
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 31 of 73 (8277)
04-07-2002 3:56 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Robert
04-07-2002 2:12 PM


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Robert:

Jerry Coyne of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago writes:

"We conclude - unexpectedly - that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak."[/B][/QUOTE]

From http://www.dontveter.com/notes/scifaith.html (a creationist site):

quote:
The catch is that the articles cited by Catalano and Ussery do not address the issue that Behe is talking about. Lots of papers can
contain the words "molecular" and " evolution" and still not address the issue of how irreducibly complex systems can evolve. Some honest analysis by other believers in evolution show how deceptive Catalano and Ussery are. In Behe's response to critics: Irreducible Complexity and the Evolutionary Literature: - Response to Critics Behe writes:

For example microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago declared in National Review that "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." (Shapiro 1996). In Nature University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne stated, "There is no doubt that the pathways described by Behe are dauntingly complex, and their evolution will be hard to unravel. . . . [W]e may forever be unable to envisage the first proto-pathways." (Coyne 1996)

In a particularly scathing review in Trends in Ecology and Evolution Tom Cavalier-Smith, an evolutionary biologist at the University of British Columbia, nonetheless wrote, "For none of the cases mentioned by Behe is there yet a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the probable steps in the evolution of the observed complexity. The problems have indeed been sorely neglected--though Behe repeatedly exaggerates this neglect with such hyperboles as 'an eerie and complete silence.'" (Cavalier-Smith 1997)

So the experts who believe in evolution agree that Behe is right while other believers in evolution spin the facts to deceive the public. It is yet another indication that they know evolution is in trouble.


This quote (from Coyne, J. A. (1996). God in the details. Nature 383, 227-228) is still outside of the broader context. It seems to be a concession that documenting the details may indeed be difficult, but it is not a condemnation of the theory of evolution, in general.

Maybe someone can track down that Nature issue, and see what the entire article looks like. I'll try to do such, on my next visit to the University. (I'm sitting in on a class covering Precambrian Geology).

Moose

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 04-07-2002]


This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by Robert, posted 04-07-2002 2:12 PM Robert has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Robert, posted 04-07-2002 6:22 PM Minnemooseus has responded

  
Robert
Inactive Member


Message 32 of 73 (8282)
04-07-2002 6:22 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Minnemooseus
04-07-2002 3:56 PM


Greetings:

Thank you, Moose, for that thoughtful reply. I hope you can track down that article and either send it to me or give me a good summation of its contents. I will look for it as well.

I realize that people who have a vested interest in evolution and are honest enough to see the biochemical problems that Behe presents would like to remain "optimistic" that evolution will oneday explain the process, but I will remain skeptical.

A mousetrap is irreducibly complex...

Darwin in Origin of Species, pg. 154 writes:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight, modifications, my theory would absolutely break down...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 31 by Minnemooseus, posted 04-07-2002 3:56 PM Minnemooseus has responded

Replies to this message:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3775
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 33 of 73 (8285)
04-07-2002 7:05 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by Robert
04-07-2002 6:22 PM


A Scirus search for "Coyne God in the Details:
http://scirus.com/search_simple/?frm=simple&query_1=Coyne+God+in+the+Details&wordtype_1=all&dsweb=on&hits=10

Comments from Jerry Coyne, from http://www-polisci.mit.edu/BR22.1/coyne.html :

quote:
I am painfully and personally acquainted with Behe's penchant for fiddling with quotations. On page 29 of Darwin's Black Box he writes:

Jerry Coyne, of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, arrives at an unanticipated verdict: "We conclude--unexpectedly--that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak."

Apparently I am one of those faint-hearted biologists who see the errors of Darwinism but cannot admit it. This was news to me. I am surely numbered among the more orthodox evolutionists, and hardly see our field as fatally flawed. The paper in question (actually by Allen Orr and myself)3 addresses a technical debate among evolutionists: are adaptations based on a lot of small genetic mutations (the traditional neo-Darwinian view), a few big mutations, or some mixture of the two? We concluded that although there was not much evidence one way or the other, there were indications that mutations of large effect might occasionally be important. Our paper cast no doubt whatever on the existence of evolution or the ability of natural selection to explain adaptations.

I went back to see exactly what Orr and I had written. It turns out that, in the middle of our sentence, Behe found a period that wasn't there. Here's the full citation, placed in its context:

Although a few biologists have suggested an evolutionary role for mutations or large effect (Gould 1980; Maynard Smith 1983: Gottlieb, 1984; Turner, 1985), the neo-Darwinian view has largely triumphed, and the genetic basis of adaptation now receives little attention. Indeed, the question is considered so dead that few may know the evidence responsible for its demise.
Here we review this evidence. We conclude--unexpectedly--that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation.
We hasten to add, however, that we are not "macromutationists" who believe that adaptations are nearly always based on major genes. The neo-Darwinian view could well be correct. It is almost certainly true, however, that some adaptations involve many genes of small effect and others involve major genes. The question we address is, How often does adaptation involve a major gene? We hope to encourage evolutionists to reexamine this neglected question and to provide the evidence to settle it.

By inserting the period (and removing the sentence from its neighbors), Behe has twisted our meaning. Our discussion of one aspect of Darwinism--the relative size of adaptive mutations--has suddenly become a critique of the entire Darwinian enterprise. This is not sloppy scholarship, but deliberate distortion.

Perhaps I unduly belabor this point, but we know what they say about God and the details. Can anyone who alters quotations be trusted to give an unbiased view of the scientific data?

One of the blurbs on the cover of Darwin's Black Box was contributed by Peter Van Inwagen, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame (Behe apparently had trouble finding biologists to endorse his book): "If Darwinians respond to this important book by ignoring it, misrepresenting it, or ridiculing it, that will be evidence in favor of the widespread suspicion that Darwinism functions more as an ideology than as a scientific theory. If they can successfully answer Behe's arguments, that will be important evidence in favor of Darwinism."

Behe has been answered. Can we now expect him to retract his views? I'm not holding my breath.


See the cited link for the entire article.

I was unable to track down any on line version of the Nature article. Will have to resort to looking at things on paper. Hopefully I will get that done this coming monday.

Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Cobra_snake
Inactive Member


Message 34 of 73 (8289)
04-07-2002 7:58 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by nator
04-07-2002 9:26 AM


quote:
Originally posted by schrafinator:
I wonder, have you read any entire books by Gould or Dawkins, not just selected quotes found in Creationist literature?


I must admit that I have never read entire books by them, but I have read a bit of the Blind Watchmaker. I have also read Abusing Science, written by Philip Kitcher, which was supported by Stephen Jay Gould.

What's wrong with selected quotes found in Creationist literature?

[This message has been edited by Cobra_snake, 04-08-2002]


This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by nator, posted 04-07-2002 9:26 AM nator has responded

Replies to this message:
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Cobra_snake
Inactive Member


Message 35 of 73 (8290)
04-07-2002 7:59 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by Minnemooseus
04-07-2002 7:05 PM


Just so you know, Behe has responded:

"Professor Coyne seems really to have been traumatized by being quoted in my book (page 29). He should relax. My purpose in quoting him and others was to show that many thoughtful biologists found Darwinism to be an incomplete theory of life. I did not say that Coyne or the others agreed with intelligent design. Indeed, for several of the people I quoted (Stuart Kauffman and Lynn Margulis) I specifically discuss their alternative theories to Darwinism. I start off the section by saying “A raft of evolutionary biologists examining whole organisms wonder just how Darwinism can account for their observations.” After a few other people, I quote Coyne as saying, “We conclude—unexpectedly—that there is little evidence for the neo?Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak.” In Coyne’s paper, the sentence did not stop there; it continued with “and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation.” I do not see, however, where that changes the sense of the sentence at all. In my manuscript I had his quote ending with an ellipsis, but the copy editor took out all ellipses in this section and put in periods, so I assume that it is in keeping with standard editorial practices. It is extremely difficult for me to understand why Coyne thinks his idea is anything other than a doubt about the efficacy of Darwinism, or what context could possibly change its plain meaning. Coyne goes on to quote the entire paragraph in which the sentence appeared, but that changes nothing of the basic thrust as far as I can see."


This message is a reply to:
 Message 33 by Minnemooseus, posted 04-07-2002 7:05 PM Minnemooseus has responded

Replies to this message:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3775
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 36 of 73 (8293)
04-07-2002 8:40 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by Cobra_snake
04-07-2002 7:59 PM


Thank you CS.

I agree that Behe's response has considerable truth to it. The question is: When quotes are taken out of context, are the being used to be a blow to evolutionary theory in general, or are they being used mearly to illustrate that there is scientific debate over the details of evolutionary theory.

I think that everyone recognizes that the state of the art of evolutionary theory extends beyond Darwinism. Is that "state of the art" what is being termed as "neo-Darwinism"? Or is it beyond neo-Darwinism?

Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe


This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by Cobra_snake, posted 04-07-2002 7:59 PM Cobra_snake has responded

Replies to this message:
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Cobra_snake
Inactive Member


Message 37 of 73 (8296)
04-07-2002 9:54 PM
Reply to: Message 36 by Minnemooseus
04-07-2002 8:40 PM


"Thank you CS."

You bet.

"I agree that Behe's response has considerable truth to it. The question is: When quotes are taken out of context, are the being used to be a blow to evolutionary theory in general, or are they being used mearly to illustrate that there is scientific debate over the details of evolutionary theory."

I believe that such quotes are used in order to display to the everyday person that there is a considerable debate even among the evolutionary community. I don't think the everyday Joe is aware that there is such an intense debate about evolution.

I think that this is why Creationists and IDers use such quotes. Unfortunately, many evolutionists interpret this as misquotation and quoting out of context.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 36 by Minnemooseus, posted 04-07-2002 8:40 PM Minnemooseus has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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Robert
Inactive Member


Message 38 of 73 (8299)
04-07-2002 10:14 PM
Reply to: Message 36 by Minnemooseus
04-07-2002 8:40 PM


Greetings Moose!

I am glad to hear that you are a trained geologist and that you are a professor of Geology. In reading your answers it seems that you are already biased in favor of evolution, but I will ply you with a question nonetheless.

Here is a link: www.trueorigin.org/geocolumn.asp to an article by John Woodmorappe entitled, "The Geologic Column: Does it exist?" If what the article says is truen, then one would have to conclude that the "geologic column" is not a fact of science but a speculation or interpretation of the geologic data.

I understand that you have both a personal and a professional stake in the factual nature of the geologic column, but I would like to know your thoughts on the article anyway.

Robert


This message is a reply to:
 Message 36 by Minnemooseus, posted 04-07-2002 8:40 PM Minnemooseus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 39 by Minnemooseus, posted 04-08-2002 12:27 AM Robert has not yet responded
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3775
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 39 of 73 (8304)
04-08-2002 12:27 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by Robert
04-07-2002 10:14 PM


You may wish to look at some of the geology topics. The first two are ones I started, and are not too many pages long.

Back to the fundamentals
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=11&t=14&p=12

Uniformitarianism
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=1&t=54&p=12

The following have more pages.

The Geologic Column
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=11&t=13&p=12

Is the Global Flood Feasible
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=11&t=7&p=12

I've seen the John Woodmorappe article before. Please consult the Geologic Column topic listed above. Also, I believe http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/geocolumn/ may be a direct response to the Woodmorappe article.

And by the way, the B.S. degree is a fairly lowly degree. And Whatsamatta U is something out of a Marx Brothers movie. ( Whatsamatta U )

Moose

Edited to correct spelling of "Whatsamatta".

Added by edit:

quote:
In reading your answers it seems that you are already biased in favor of evolution, but I will ply you with a question nonetheless.

I am certainly an old earth evolutionist. That's what the worldly evidence indicates. I am also very anti-young earth (and the related 6 literal days) creation. I am agnostic about old earth/long period of time creationism.

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 04-08-2002]

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 04-08-2002]


This message is a reply to:
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Joe Meert
Member (Idle past 3993 days)
Posts: 913
From: Gainesville
Joined: 03-02-2002


Message 40 of 73 (8305)
04-08-2002 2:12 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by Robert
04-07-2002 10:14 PM


quote:
Originally posted by Robert:
Greetings Moose!

I am glad to hear that you are a trained geologist and that you are a professor of Geology. In reading your answers it seems that you are already biased in favor of evolution, but I will ply you with a question nonetheless.

Here is a link: www.trueorigin.org/geocolumn.asp to an article by John Woodmorappe entitled, "The Geologic Column: Does it exist?" If what the article says is truen, then one would have to conclude that the "geologic column" is not a fact of science but a speculation or interpretation of the geologic data.

I understand that you have both a personal and a professional stake in the factual nature of the geologic column, but I would like to know your thoughts on the article anyway.

Robert


JM: How interesting that you bring Woodmorappe (aka Jan PEczkis) to the table. This is the same person who writes evolutionary old earth articles (as Jan Peczkis) and young earth creationist articles (under a pen name John Woodmorrappe). I am convinced that Jan really is a young earther, but I am still puzzled by his professional publication in J. Vert Paleo that clearly is an old earth evolutionary stance..
On to his comments on the geologic column. Woody is making a series of absurd claims. I discuss Woody's attempt to discredit the geologic column here http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jmeert/paleosol.htm

Cheers

Joe Meert


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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 4186 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 41 of 73 (8308)
04-08-2002 5:46 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by Cobra_snake
04-07-2002 9:54 PM


quote:
Originally posted by Cobra_snake:
"I agree that Behe's response has considerable truth to it. The question is: When quotes are taken out of context, are the being used to be a blow to evolutionary theory in general, or are they being used mearly to illustrate that there is scientific debate over the details of evolutionary theory."

I believe that such quotes are used in order to display to the everyday person that there is a considerable debate even among the evolutionary community. I don't think the everyday Joe is aware that there is such an intense debate about evolution.

I think that this is why Creationists and IDers use such quotes. Unfortunately, many evolutionists interpret this as misquotation and quoting out of context.


Hi Cobra: I think you've literally hit the nail on the head, here. This is the principal problem with creationists using quotations from actual researchers and scientists on evolution. Because the political agenda of the main creationist organizations and writers is to cast doubt on evolutionary sciences, their use of selected quotations is at the very least disengenuous.

I fully concur that there are numerous marvelous debates among scientists concerning the mechanisms of evolution (the "how" as it were). Some even become fairly acrimonious (no one is more passionate than a scientist arguing about his pet theory). Creationists typically use these arguments and disagreements as alleged evidence that evolution is false or that it is something fundamentally flawed. After all, if there isn't 100% concordance among practitioners, how can it be True (TM)?

The contention that everybody has to be in complete agreement or the idea is false, even among people who should know better like Dr. Behe, is a dangerous fallacy. The creationist naive claim that they are merely "display[ing] to the everyday person that there is a considerable debate even among the evolutionary community" is highly misleading. Not because the scientists in question didn't say the words, but rather because in many (if not most) cases, the creationist using the quote deliberately neglects to provide the context or any explanatory parenthetical information. In other words, how can the "everyday Joe" be expected to recognize or understand the intent of the quoted scientist without further clarification?

I have been involved with this debate for a while now - both online and in print - and never, not once, have I seen one of these quotes explained by the quoter, nor have I ever seen any context provided. Invariably, if any comment is provided at all, it ultimately boils down to the non-sequitur, "See, even evolutionary scientists don't believe in evolution." Picture it this way: if all creationists were trying to do was to show there was disagreement over certain aspects of evolutionary theory, why not simply say so? Or even provide an explanation of what those disagreements consist of? Instead, they selectively use quotations without context (or even heavily modified quotations) in the intellectual equivalent of "Nana nana boo boo." This is supposed to inform the layman? Why resort to intellectual dishonesty? What point are they trying to make?

On a final note, let's look briefly at why Dr. Coyne was so upset. Put yourself in his place for a moment. Here we have a man who's devoted his entire adult life to the study of one aspect of evolution. He's confronted by an out-of-context quotation of his own words that seems to support the premise of a book written as a direct refutation of everything he's spent his life doing. Wouldn't you be just the least bit upset? Dr. Behe's reply is, at the very least, disengenuous and doesn't at all address the lack of referants that Dr. Coyne complains about. It would seem to me that intellectual honesty would at minimum compel Dr. Behe, when confronted by the author, either to retract the statement, apologize in writing, or at the very least address Dr. Coyne's concerns in any future writing. He has NOT done so, nor given any indication of so doing in the future.

Bottom line: There have been so many scientists so misquoted so often that the credibility of ANY quote from creationists - legitimate or not, and for whatever ostensible reason - is now suspect. Sorry, but there it is. Creationists are hoist on their own petard. I, for one, find it impossible to accept these quotations anymore without fully investigating the original sources. And I'm relatively familiar with a lot of the science - including the disagreements. How do you think the "everyday Joe" will interpret them?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by Cobra_snake, posted 04-07-2002 9:54 PM Cobra_snake has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 43 by Cobra_snake, posted 04-08-2002 2:39 PM Quetzal has responded

  
joz
Inactive Member


Message 42 of 73 (8323)
04-08-2002 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 34 by Cobra_snake
04-07-2002 7:58 PM


quote:
Originally posted by Cobra_snake:
What's wrong with selected quotes found in Creationist literature?

If I was to quote a person Dr A (a recognised authority in the field of X) as saying...

quote:
Theory Y is deeply flawed

The obvious conclusion is that Y is flawed...

By quoting Dr A in this way I am attempting to discredit Y, not show that there is ongoing discussion about it...

Especially given that the original verbage was...

quote:
If we were to find evidence Z,Q and R we would have to say, theory Y is deeply flawed

You see the problem?

[This message has been edited by joz, 04-08-2002]


This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by Cobra_snake, posted 04-07-2002 7:58 PM Cobra_snake has not yet responded

  
Cobra_snake
Inactive Member


Message 43 of 73 (8336)
04-08-2002 2:39 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by Quetzal
04-08-2002 5:46 AM


quote:
Originally posted by Quetzal:
Hi Cobra: I think you've literally hit the nail on the head, here. This is the principal problem with creationists using quotations from actual researchers and scientists on evolution. Because the political agenda of the main creationist organizations and writers is to cast doubt on evolutionary sciences, their use of selected quotations is at the very least disengenuous.

I don't think that the quotation problem is due to the political agenda of creation scientists. I really don't think that they are attempting to be dishonest. I simply think it is a large misunderstanding.

First of all, creation scientists generally quote authorities that are casting doubt upon NEO-DARWINIAN theory, which is the primary textbook orthodoxy as of right now. I don't think this is dishonest at all. For example, Lynn Margulis may very well believe in the "Gaia theory", however, these personal beliefs are of little importance. Creation scientists are trying to show that the current textbook orthodoxy is incorrect, or at least under serious debate.

Obviously, anyone who quotes an evolutionists in order to convey the idea that they don't believe in evolution- that is dishonest. However, in my experience, almost every time a creationist quotes an authority, they are sure to indicate that authorities stance on the creation/evolution issue. So, if a quoted authority is an evolutionist, and they say something like "the neo-Darwinian view has little scientific support", they are obviously going to have some sort of other explanation.

Stephen Jay Gould is often enfuriated by creationist quotations of him. This is because he has given some frank admissions of the large gaps in the fossil record. Of course, he has a substitute theory- punctuated equilibrium. But every time I've read creationist literature, the author makes sure to include the fact that Gould believes in punctuated equilibrium, and they generally include a critique of that theory. The overall effect is very persuasive, because here we have an expert admitting huge gaps in the fossil record, followed by a critique of the theory in which this expert thinks solves the problem. I don't see any problem with this technique.

I'm sure that there are creationists who are guilty of misquotation and quoting out of context. But I don't believe that this is the rule.

"In other words, how can the "everyday Joe" be expected to recognize or understand the intent of the quoted scientist without further clarification?"

I agree with you that the scientists should generally provide details as to the authors beliefs concerning the issue. However, sometimes the quote is accompanied with the scientist's views on the subject. Once again, though, the vast majority of quotes are used to show that many scientists (or at least some) disagree with the mainstream view of evolution.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 41 by Quetzal, posted 04-08-2002 5:46 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
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Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3775
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 5.0


Message 44 of 73 (8367)
04-09-2002 2:17 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by Minnemooseus
04-07-2002 7:05 PM


Quote of myself:
quote:
I was unable to track down any on line version of the Nature article. Will have to resort to looking at things on paper. Hopefully I will get that done this coming monday.

Note: Responding under the influence of 2 large beers.

The Coyne quote in question seems to have been atributed to the wrong source. I grant this an being an inatvertant mistake by Behe, of no real significance (see my previous post for the true source). [ADDED BY EDIT: ERROR ON MY PART - The information on the source of the quote was actually further back. If anyone really cares, see the cited article in message 33.]

The Nature article turns out to be a review of Behe's "Darwins Black Box". Reviews of this nature seem to be redilly (damn beer ) available, so I won't try to reproduce it from a photocopy I made (unless someone insists).

Figured I should do a reply, before I lost track of things.

Best wishes to all,

Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe
Brain cells currently impaired - Certainly

Signature modified by edit

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 04-09-2002]

[This message has been edited by minnemooseus, 04-10-2002]


This message is a reply to:
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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 4186 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 45 of 73 (8371)
04-09-2002 5:25 AM
Reply to: Message 43 by Cobra_snake
04-08-2002 2:39 PM


Hey Cobra:
quote:
Originally posted by Cobra_snake:
I don't think that the quotation problem is due to the political agenda of creation scientists. I really don't think that they are attempting to be dishonest. I simply think it is a large misunderstanding.

I understand your point. I agree that some advocates of creationism do believe as you state. You personally, for example, are someone from whom I have never seen this tactic. However, and this is a crucial issue for the entire evolution/creation debate, the stated goal of ALL the main creationism organizations is to forward a political agenda. That agenda being the legally enforced teaching of creationism in publically funded schools.

It may be one of the downsides to living in a free and open society such as the US where the "people's voice" can have a significant impact on public policy. Consider the target audience of most creationist writings and activism. The main creationist organizations aren't trying to convince practicing scientists that their "theories" are scientifically valid. They are, in fact, attempting to convince the lay public - not that they are correct, but that evolution is wrong - to force an argumentum ad populum to sway policy makers to promote their agenda. Look at the current debate over science curriculum in Ohio, for instance. What tactics are being used? Presentation of scientific evidence for creationism? Nope: presentation of misleading quotations, out-of-context scientific papers, etc, with the sole and unequivocal objective of convincing the state board that evolution has problems. Apparently, any tactic is valid as long as it forwards the agenda.

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First of all, creation scientists generally quote authorities that are casting doubt upon NEO-DARWINIAN theory, which is the primary textbook orthodoxy as of right now. I don't think this is dishonest at all. For example, Lynn Margulis may very well believe in the "Gaia theory", however, these personal beliefs are of little importance. Creation scientists are trying to show that the current textbook orthodoxy is incorrect, or at least under serious debate.

Again, I have to ask why the creationists are trying to poke holes in scientific theories using scientists whose work does nothing but support those theories. Lynn Margulis gets a lot of flack, primarily for her social and political ideas. And she does have an alternative theory for the relative importance of the mechanisms of natural selection, for ex. Her scientific work, on the other hand, adamantly supports evolution. Read any of her published works. Serial endosymbiosis theory is an elegant (but not the only) explanation for the evolution of eukaryotes from more primitive progenotes (bacteria, in point of fact). In short, her work provides key insights into evolution - and macroevolution to boot! She disagrees with neo-Darwinian synthesis, but so what? This is a scientific debate over the "how", not the "what". Would you be able to gain that insight into the debate if you only heard the quote someone posted in this forum? No? Gee, I wonder why not? Could it be lack of context? To be quoted by creationists as somehow lending support to the idea that evolution is false and by implication that creationism should be taught as science ("alternative theory") instead is utter nonsense. Since I don't believe the creationist organizations who use quotes such as the one from Dr. Margulis as one of their tactics are staffed by morons, I can only conclude they are deliberately obfuscating the issue in order to convince the uninitiated. In short, they are deliberately "lying by ommission".

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Obviously, anyone who quotes an evolutionists in order to convey the idea that they don't believe in evolution- that is dishonest. However, in my experience, almost every time a creationist quotes an authority, they are sure to indicate that authorities stance on the creation/evolution issue. So, if a quoted authority is an evolutionist, and they say something like "the neo-Darwinian view has little scientific support", they are obviously going to have some sort of other explanation.

In my experience, on the other hand, almost every time a creationist either online or in print quotes some authority, the only qualifier they add is "an evolutionist said...". If I personally read a quote from a bishop or other religious figure that said "the biblic view has very little doctrinal support", with no other explanation or context, I would be hesitant to accept it at face value simply because almost by definition the statement is illogical. Why in the world would a bishop say something like that? I would be even more suspicious if the quote was provided by a secular humanist organization. Why can't you see the exact same problem with a creationist quoting an evolutionist?

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Stephen Jay Gould is often enfuriated by creationist quotations of him. This is because he has given some frank admissions of the large gaps in the fossil record. Of course, he has a substitute theory- punctuated equilibrium. But every time I've read creationist literature, the author makes sure to include the fact that Gould believes in punctuated equilibrium, and they generally include a critique of that theory. The overall effect is very persuasive, because here we have an expert admitting huge gaps in the fossil record, followed by a critique of the theory in which this expert thinks solves the problem. I don't see any problem with this technique.

This is another specific area where quoting a scientist without providing explanatory information is grossly misleading - and in fact grossly misrepresents what Gould is saying. Even you have misunderstood Gould's point - and you're one of the more "open" creationists I've debated with at least the beginnings of a good background in the subject. For reference: what Gould was talking about in his famous quote was the apparent lack of microtransistions within lineages. He goes on to say, in the continuation of the exact same quote, that the fossil record shows outstanding macroevolutionary transitions. He is manifestly NOT saying microtransitions do not occur - simply that they occur so "rapidly" that they are not evident from fossils. PE takes this idea, adds to it the observation of stasis in certain lineages, and proposes a mechanism for how it occurs. He never - NOT ONCE IN HIS LIFE - ever proposed that evolution did not occur, or even that Darwinian evolution was not what was happening within the context of PE. He is against an older, strict Darwinian interpretation (i.e., the idea of strict gradualism), but he is NOT against the neo-Darwinian synthesis in any way, shape or form.

Now be honest: would you be able to even catch the glimmer of all that if all you had read was the single two-line quote creationists are constantly harping on?

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I'm sure that there are creationists who are guilty of misquotation and quoting out of context. But I don't believe that this is the rule.

I'm afraid, my friend, that it IS the rule, rather than the exception. Think of all the creationist quotes you've read. How many of them actually provide even as little explanation as I gave in the above paragraph?

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Quetzal: "In other words, how can the "everyday Joe" be expected to recognize or understand the intent of the quoted scientist without further clarification?"

I agree with you that the scientists should generally provide details as to the authors beliefs concerning the issue. However, sometimes the quote is accompanied with the scientist's views on the subject. Once again, though, the vast majority of quotes are used to show that many scientists (or at least some) disagree with the mainstream view of evolution.


I have never seen a creationist - ever - provide any context as you state. I agree with you on the purpose of creationist quotes. There are many scientists who disagree with one or another aspect of evolutionary biology. However, I have tried to show you that absent the why of the disagreement and what implications the disagreement has, the use of carefully selected quotations is highly misleading and often down-right dishonest.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 43 by Cobra_snake, posted 04-08-2002 2:39 PM Cobra_snake has not yet responded

  
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