Inherently dishonest: Creationism

September 16, 2006

If you’re interested only in history and education, and if you think there is no overlap between the people who try to censor biology textbooks and those who try to “reform” history books, you may go to the next post and skip this one.

Quote accuracy is a big deal to me. When creationists can’t look you square in the eye and tell the truth about what another human being said, they lose my confidence, and their arguments lose credence. I think all scholars and policy discussants have an obligation to readers, policy makers, and the future, to try to get right quotations of famous people. I think this responsbility is particularly important in health and science issues. It was in the vein of checking out the accuracy and veracity of quotes from creationist publications some (okay — many) years ago for a minor issue Congress was dealing with that I discovered the depths of depravity to which creationists stoop to try to make their case that creationism is science and should be taught in public school science classes — or that evolution is evil, and shouldn’t be taught at all. Famous writings of great men like Charles Darwin regularly undergo a savage editor’s knife to make it appear he wrote things quite contrary to what he wrote with regard to science and evolution, or to make it appear that Darwin was a cruel or evil man — of which he was quite the opposite.

With the great benefit of having the Library of Congress across the street, I would occasionally track down obscure sources of “quotes” from scientists, only to discover in almost every case where creationists claimed science was evil, or wrong, that the creationist tracts had grotesquely distorted the text they cited. It was as if the creationist authors had been infected with a virus that made them utterly incapable of telling the truth on certain things.

Over the years I have observed that dedicated creationists tend to lose the ability to tell when they have stepped over the line in editing a quotation, and have instead changed the meaning of a quotation to fit their own ends. This the inherent dishonesty of creationism. It affects — it infects — almost all creationists to one degree or another. Many creationists seem to be under the influence of a virus that renders them incapable of telling a straight story about science, or Darwin.

I ran into a raging case recently. It would be amusing if not for the fact that the creationist seems to be an otherwise rational person.

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