Inherently dishonest: Creationism


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.


WordPress’s “tags” feature collects blog posts that have the same tag as some I’ve used; nominally, of course, the tags would be on the same topic. 4Simpsons blog showed up in my tags collection when I discussed the melodramatic program Coral Ridge Ministries produced, claiming Hitler’s driving philosophy was from Darwin. (That is a dubious claim that ignores European history, economics, and the fact that Darwin opposed in his life all forms of tyranny — but that’s rather the point: Creationists don’t let the facts get in the way of a pulpit pounding exposition. Even when the claims are silly, they get treated with utmost regard.)

4Simpsons chief author is a fellow from Houston, Neil Simpson. I gather he is a member of a Houston Methodist congregation, and he appears to be kind of guy you like to have as a neighbor. He plays guitar, appears to spend a lot of money, and he does civic work, like flying to Africa to build houses for orphans.

But on creationism, he leaves reason and charity behind.

I had commented on a couple of posts, and then got engaged in a several-posts long discussion of several things. And he rather abruptly announced our discussion was going nowhere, and cut out my last response in one thread. Rather rude, I thought — but it’s his blog. (Earlier he complained when I pointed out that Stalin was anti-Darwin, taking a similar position to Simpson — in the creationism looking glass, it’s expected that they can draw specious connections between science and evil, but it’s “unfair” and “ad hominem” to point out that creationism’s ties are stronger.)

Simpson laid out a set of demands requests for what he wants “Darwinists” to do, a list that I found unreasonably, fanatical, and wrong. I left two posts with comments on small parts of his rant (so many errors, so few electrons). Both of my posts disappeared.

You can go read the thread. Here are the two most recent posts that got cut.

About 7:00 p.m. CDT, September 15:

You want scientists to stop demonizing religious people?

Here in America, for three weeks last month, we were deluged with D. James Kennedy’s bizarre, demonizng sermons claiming that there is a direct line from Darwin to Hitler.

I have no problem failing to “demonize” creationists. They tend to do that themselves. I do have problems with campaigns like Kennedy’s which is filled with links that stretch logic past the breaking point, and false claims that any high school journalist can easily debunk.

And then, if I point out that the man told what would be considered a lie to most normal people, inevitably someone will claim I’m “demonizing” him. I’m only pointing where the demons are.

We do acknowledge the Piltdown hoax, and the Haeckel hoax. Scientists discovered the hoaxes. Now, will you acknowledge the hoax that says Piltdown misled science (few, if anyone, ever granted much credence to it), and that says evolution is wrong because of Haeckel’s drawings (his point was overstated, but now we have photos, which verify the evolution point)?

And, I’m still waiting for anyone on the creationist side to acknowledge the many new hoaxes of Dr. Jonathan Wells. His mis-citations of moth studies, to pick one egregious chapter in one of his books, would be enough to lead to academic suspension for students at many good colleges. They are dishonest, things that embarrass me as a Christian (and there’s some question whether Wells, as a Moonie, should be counted among us).

And then there is the hoax about no fossil evidence . . .

Oh, yeah, I think I begin to see the problem here.

And, when I reread Simpson’s complaints about First Amendment claims and the Cobb County Textbook Massacre, I wished I had included something there, so I said:

September 15th, 2006 at 7:08 pm

Am I on a roll?

I’d love to hear creationists stop claiming to be First Amendment specialists when they have difficulty with the separation of church and state. The Cobb County case is pretty clean, it seems to me — 2,000 people petitioned to put Jesus in the biology books, and they got caught.

Creationism has no science behind it. That was the testimony of the creationists in the Arkansas trial, and again, recently, in Pennsylvania. Consequently, it doesn’t belong in science texts as science. The First Amendment protects our right to believe things that cannot be demonstrated. It creates no right to insist others believe that way, or that students be instructed incorrectly.

The Cobb County stickers carry improper, inaccurate instruction. They run afoul of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and should be banned.

I guess it was too much of a roll for Simpson.

Dear Reader: Is my post so offensive? Or, do you suspect, as I do, that this guy is wrong, and overly sensitive about his position?

In the internet world we have regular ravings of anti-Darwinists in places like the blog known as Uncommon Descent, perhaps the leading blog of intelligent design fans. The keepers of that blog find it “clever beyond measure” to ban people from posting there, generally those who do not toe the intelligent design party line, especially scientists or anyone else who may know a thing or two about evolution. As in Stalin’s Soviet Union, the place can be treacherous because the party line may change from day to day, and no one can really predict how, why or when. The blog steps all over itself in comments, editing comments to please the poobahs, or just deleting any comments that make a cogent case against ID, or in favor of evolution.

Consequently, Uncommon Descent unintentionally provides amusement to scientists and groups of people who study evolution. Few days go by that at least one howler does not occur at Uncommon Descent, where people well out of their depth say luidicrous things about nature, about science, or about each other. The blog has had a rough year, too — the crushing decision against creationism in the Pennsylvania trial was at least partially to blame on the blog’s major boss, William Dembski (he had agreed to be an expert witness, then backed out mysteriously, and with rancor).

If one is amused by that sort of thing, 4Simpsons is another blog for your amusement.

13 Responses to Inherently dishonest: Creationism

  1. […] is where I think Ed Darrell may be mis­taken in his post Inherently dis­hon­est: Creationism. I don’t ques­tion his logic or his argu­ment. I cer­tainly don’t ques­tion the […]

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  2. Coral says:

    I also posted a comment at 4simpsons site, which read:

    What sort of Christian defiles the recently deceased (Sally Clark)?
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    With the benefit of hindsight, this eminent Professor, Terry Hamblin, posted the above message into his blog
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    http://mutated-unmuated.blogspot.com/
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    24 hours after Sally Clark’s death. He deleted it, then reposted the same message 48 hours after her death. He then deleted it for good, but there was a Google cached copy, which has also been deleted. A snapshot copy can be viewed here:
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    http://jkn.com/View?j=784939.998232583196
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    It is now on record that the deliberately erroneous, arrogant opinions of Professor Terry Hamblin may have marred potential referrals to him, which could be considered to be unsafe and not in the public interest in the event of his being called upon as an expert in his field.
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    http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/site/content/view/217/63
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    Twelve senior academics (including Professor Terry Hamblin of Southampton University) have written to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary in the U.K. in support of Truth in Science.

    The Dept of Education in the UK has received the nuclear fall-out from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute in the shape of thousands of CD’s and work-packs which have been circulated to every high school called “Truth in Science”. This is just another version of carefully construed re-branding, repackaged (evolved)form of creationism. But the damage has already been wreaked upon developing minds. The information packs have been used in the classroom, have been evaluated and feedback has been processed by the “Truth in Science” pepetrators.

    This quote from Caroline Crocker (the second proponent of ID emanating from the University of Southampton – the most vociferous ID pusher being Professor Terry Hamblin of Southampton Uni) who has been barred by her Department from teaching Evolution and Intelligent Design in the USA.

    “There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution,”

    “Without the accountability of Judgment Day and Hell, why would people follow the Ten Commandments?”
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    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7037/box/4341062a_bx1.html
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    The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at George Mason University said:

    “I’m a Buddhist, but I don’t think we should teach reincarnation in biology classes.”

    Science operates on academic integrity. “Truth in Science” is based on lies. The authors distort scientific facts and libel dead people.
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    http://thesquire.blogspot.com/2005/03/being-nice-takes-longer.html
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    TAKE BACTERIAL ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. EVOLUTION DESCRIBES THE MECHANISM FOR ITS DEVELOPMENT AND THE SAME THEORY SUGGESTS MEANS TO SLOW DOWN THE DEVELOPMENT OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. HOW DOES INTELLIGENT DESIGN, WHICH DENIES THAT MUTATIONS CAN BE BENEFICIAL TO AN ORGANISM, DEAL WITH ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?

    Intelligent Design is just as valid as the Time Cube, which is not scientifically valid. ID is an attempt to force Fundamentalist Christian beliefs into the public discourse by means of suppressing rational, evidence-based science.

    Once RNA machinery, and then proteins, got going, all that was needed to create the most primitive cell would be to enclose a ribosome, some other RNAs, some amino acids, and some free nucleotides in a lipid bilayer (most likely formed from a bubble in the sea where this all occurred). Who’s to say that God did not use this method to create a cell, over spans of geologic time? Remember, God has all the time in the world. He can be patient. Since God is not necessarily excluded from creation, even though evolution exists, there is no moral vacuum. Science is not atheistic, and neither is evolution. SCIENCE IS AGNOSTIC, BECAUSE THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF GOD CANNOT (currently, and likely for some time) BE PROVEN FROM DIRECT, RE-CREATABLE OBSERVATION.

    Regards,
    Coral

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  3. […] 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, … Posted by edarrellVery nice article. Thanks to authorLink to original article […]

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  4. toucantoad - (Terry Maxwell) says:

    One of the obvious reasons I would never submit to publicly debating a creationist is that I could never marshal the power or beauty of argument evident in Ed’s posts – I could not represent our position of rationality with as much sting. I know Ed is not searching for complements, and I know that this blog is primarity one of history and teaching, but please continue to comment on this iconic battle of the culture war. I’m furiously taking notes.

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  5. Alun says:

    …and if you don’t want to read the post above the highlight is Ed’s comment which shows it’s probably me who’s mistaken.

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  6. […] This is where I think Ed Darrell may be mistaken in his post Inherently dishonest: Creationism. I don’t question his logic or his argument. I certainly don’t question the importance of his topic – I think children have a right to an education. I do however think that the target of his post is a waste of his talent. He tackles a list of requests from a chap who is… umm… sincere – for a given definition of sincere. The blog Ed Darrell discusses is 4Simpsons, which according to technorati has links from just two blogs. Ed Darrell has rewarded what he calls dishonesty with a third link and visitors aplenty coming to see what the fuss is about. […]

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  7. elbogz says:

    Ed, your comment was nearly as brilliant as your original article.

    It would be easier to prove that the earth is flat, than the claims of most creationists. At least, in the case of a flat earth, the earth kind of looks flat, if you don’t look very hard, or very far. The claims of the creationist, don’t even look true, let alone are true.

    What really makes me sad is the youth in the church are going to hear these same lies, and believe them for a while. Then one day, they will be gazing at the amazement of butterfly, or 200 million years of geology in Utah, and think, and realize everything the church taught them was a lie.

    Jesus once said,

    Matthew 18:6 But who so shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.

    It seems of all the times Jesus used the word hypocrite; it was almost always in reference to the great religious teachers of the time. He was kind and loved the sinners and as angry at the religious teachers. Perhaps it’s best summed up with

    Mathew 7:22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
    Mathew 7:23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

    Perhaps more importantly to the debate, is the 9th commandment.

    Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

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  8. bernarda says:

    The only resemblance between Stalin and creationists is that they were/are equally ignorant of science. But it also seems obvious that creationists have stalinist tendancies. They place their desires above fact. Fortunately for the moment, creationists don’t have Stalin’s power.

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  9. edarrell says:

    It’s Saturday, and Sunday’s coming — let me restrict this to a few issues of fact right now. A more full response may be merited later.

    I’ll ignore the Stalin argument for the moment. I didn’t compare you to Stalin; I asked about your adopting the same stance towards Darwin that Stalin held. The argument may be too subtle, but it’s clear that you don’t yet apprehend what I was trying to say. That may be my fault, and it may be solely your spin on the argument. We can discuss later.

    1. Under Georgia’s constitution, no arm of the state may establish religion, and that includes counties (which are arms of the state), and Cobb County. However, such issues usually get into federal court, because the general rule is that the Bill-of-Rights-doesn’t-apply-to-states issue was put to bed with the 14th Amendment, after the Civil War. Under the scheme Madison thought he had created in the First Amendment, no government agency may establish religion. The County may make rulings in science that are supported by science. The issue once again is, is there any science behind Cobb County’s board of education’s decision? The evidence shows not only that there is no science, but that the reasons for the disclaimer sticker were explicitly religious.

    Under our First Amendment, no governmental entity may advocate for one religion or for religiosity. Cobb County, so far as it is part of the United States, is covered under that law.

    2. No serious geologists or paleontologists say there is any problem with fossils with regard to evolution theory. You can see the views of the Geological Society of America in detail, here: http://www.geosociety.org/educate/NatureScience.pdf.

    The claim that there is a problem with fossils is an easy one to clear up. You could call Dr. Louis Jacobs at Southern Methodist University (the leading university of your denomination, I believe), and ask him. In an op-ed article in the Dallas Morning News in 2003, Dr. Jacobs said, “A top-notch science curriculum would leave out the misrepresentations and misunderstandings of intelligent design, emphasize chemistry, physics and biology, and include earth sciences equally.”

    I regard the continuation of the attempt to hoax the public into thinking there is a problem with fossils to be well outside the realm of conduct acceptable to Christians. I think if you check the official beliefs of your church, you’ll see that such claims run counter to your church’s position, too: http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=1820.

    When you call for an end to hoaxes, as I noted in the post you censored, you should look first to your own house and clean up that mess. Creationists advocate hoaxes like this one, contrary to the theology of their churches, contrary to good science, and contrary to the truth. Some repentance and atonement is due here, from creationists.

    Whom should we believe? The geologists and the Methodist church disagree with you. Who, indeed, should get credence?

    3. I don’t like “partial birth abortion.” On the other hand, I’ve been involved in the care of hydrocephalics whose delivery compromised the health of their mothers, and whose continued lives was at very high expense — though the kids had no brains at all. I suppose such beings are nominally human, but our ability to keep tissue technically alive with machines has exceeded our moral abilities. I don’t think this area is a good place for the government to enter with jackboots and blackline laws that compromise the health of the mother and strain the moral underpinnings of any definition of mercy.

    Is there any other medical procedure that Congress has ever regulated so? No. Why now? If abortions are done illegally in the third trimester, use the law that presently outlaws such abortions on the basis of the life of the baby, but which also allow protection of the life of the mother. Preventing the use of this procedure lends no more force to the law than is available now — it only restricts the ability of medical providers to choose appropriate procedures in difficult situations. Was the procedure ever used unwisely? I have no doubt that is so; I don’t think that forms a good basis to sacrifice women in the future.

    If there were appropriate provisions allowing the life of the mother to be weighed against the life of the baby, these laws would have been supported by the federal courts. Their being struck down was due solely to the fact that the laws placed the lives of probably unviable babies above the lives of the mothers. I find that a morally corrupt position. I wondered how you justify it, why it is that you discount the life of the mother in those situations, and you merely claimed (contrary to the court cases) that I had the law wrong. If I am wrong on the law, show me. If I am not wrong on the law, I’d like to know how you overbalance the equation against women, and why.

    And none of that has anything whatever to do with evolution. I’m mystified why you even brought it up.

    4. My point escapes you on why it is a waste of money to fight off creationist attacks instead of doing science, on the basis of your failure to recognize the value of evolution in medicine, I can’t help you. If my claim really is silly, surely there must be some evidence to that effect. Several times now you’ve said you find the argument silly — but you have not contested with substance my claim that evolution is the basis for much of modern medicine, except to say you don’t believe it.

    Once again it’s an issue of faith versus the facts.

    I understand you find these arguments grueling. My estimation is that you did not realize the depth of science behind evolution, nor the dastardy of the creationists whose arguments you had accepted without reservation. It is always uncomfortable to argue when neither the law nor the facts are on one’s side. It is also wasteful, and I would very much like to hear that creationists have decided they have more valuable things to do that waste our time and money with duels before school boards that should never have been, since they were decided in other venues of science and medicine, previously.

    It’s entertaining that, like Stalin and Lysenko, you think censorship can still the truth. Entertaining and sad at the same time.

    Truth wins in a fair fight, Franklin said. That’s why we have evidence rules in federal courts. And it’s why, in official venues, creationism continues to lose. Thank God!

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  10. DavidD says:

    It is amazing to me that someone who claims to be the victim of ad hominem attacks makes so many himself. The truth is obvious to anyone who is willing to see it.

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  11. Neil says:

    Hi, “Simpson” here (I wouldn’t have seen this except for the pingback feature).

    First, perhaps I should have reposted my commenting guidelines once more so you would understand that I don’t let my blog get cluttered with any and every comment, especially those of the ad hominem kind. Your posts were mildly offensive at times, but I really don’t mind alternative viewpoints. Your last posts were no worse than the first. The bigger offenses were the repetition and lack of coherence. I’m guessing that you are a fine citizen and a swell neighbor and friend, but frankly and ironically you are the overly sensitive one in this case.

    My “demands” were in response to a sincere request from another commenter. He asked what I would like from Darwinists and I told him. I stand by my list.

    I am a rather patient person person, probably to a fault. But after politely pointing out multiple times the utter foolishness of many of your points, I fail to see any value in continuing the dialogue. I thought you would get the point. You think I’m wrong on this topic and I think you are wrong. No one is budging. Big deal. Move on.

    Here are a few of the issues I got tired of responding to. I suppose I could have kept repeating my answers, but why?

    – ad hominem attacks saying one must explain why they aren’t like Stalin simply for criticizing Darwinian evolution. That is one of the silliest arguments I have heard. Anyone on any side of a debate could find that their opponent had something in common with some historical bad guy and demand that they explain the connection. You come unglued with the Kennedy / Hitler links so I am surprised you use this type of argument yourself (I didn’t see the show so I can’t comment either way).

    – claiming that having a county (not Congress) approve a sticker for a textbook saying, “evolution is a theory, not a fact” is not only endorsing a religion but establishing one.

    – many leading evolutionists acknowledge the huge fossil problem. Edarrel says we have plenty. Who should we believe?

    – defending partial birth abortion as a constutional right and is useful for saving women’s lives, despite all evidence to the contrary. I know some Christians prize “privacy” over the value of human life in spite of Biblical teachings, common sense and a plain reading of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but you are the first I’ve seen defending partial birth abortion. Once again, the baby is nearly out of the mother and the procedure has to be stopped so the child can be killed. And this allegedly saves the mother’s life?

    – repeatedly claiming that “every dime” spent criticizing Darwinian evolution is a dime not spent to cure cancer or feed starving children. Again, I think most people can see what a flimsy argument that is, how anyone could use it at any time for any position, and how it is designed to shut down debate.

    I think the question shouldn’t be “Why did Simpson leave reason and charity behind” but “Why did Simpson let these threads go on so long? He has so many more important things to do!”

    How fitting that you closed with another Stalin link and make yourself a martyr for having your comments deleted!

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  12. DavidD says:

    No, Ed, it’s not you. Your comments are forceful, but only offensive to someone who insists on living in fantasy.

    While I occasionally get pulled into the fighting about evolution vs. creationism, I see that as pointless, since there are plenty of resources if one is more interested in the science of evolution than in propaganda. Those who are only interested in propaganda show that in many ways, in their sophistry, in their dishonesty, in their obvious bias. There are no words to change that, offensively or lovingly.

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