Stephen E. Jones

Creation/Evolution Quotes: Evolutionist misquotes

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At the challenge of a member of my list CED to provide examples of evolutionist misquotes, I thought it would be an instructive excercise to document how evolutionists can be as guilty of misquoting anti-evolutionists as vice-versa. I will present evolutionist misquotes in their various categories (which I haven't thought of yet!), and will add my comments in square brackets under them, explaining why I claim they are misquotes. This will include quotes out-of-context, quotes where words that bear on the quote are left out, and where the quote is just plain wrong. The latter are not misquotes in the usual sense in that they involve no actual quotation of another's words, but rather are misquotes in the senseof quotes that misrepresent the anti-evolutionist position. In the nature of the case, since evolutionists are the authorities, there are far less evolutionist quotes of anti-evolutionists than vice-versa, so the majority of evolutionist misquotes will probably be in this latter category. I will add misquotes only as I think of them, meaning this will be a slow work-in-progress.

  1. Misquotes
    1. Misquoting Intelligent Design (ID) advocates
      1. "...suboptimal designs and deadly diseases ... were caused by "the fall" in the Garden of Eden."
  2. Falsehoods
    1. About creationists
      1. Richard Dawkins about Gillian Brown
      2. The Kansas Board of Education in 1999 ["banned", "deleted", "eliminated", "removed", "wiped out", etc] the teaching of evolution in its schools
  3. Misleading
    1. Misleading about creationism
      1. "... the antievolution movement. ... instead of lobbying for state laws to put creation "science" in the classroom ..."
  4. Wrong
    1. Wrong about creationism
      1. "Creationism has not been revised or altered since the Book of Genesis was composed ..."
      2. "Biblical Creationist... beliefs include ... a young earth, perhaps less than 10,000 years old ..."


  1. Misquotes
    1. Misquoting Intelligent Design (ID) advocates
      1. "...suboptimal designs and deadly diseases ... were caused by "the fall" in the Garden of Eden."
      2. "On March 9, I debated ID scholar Stephen Meyer at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. After two hours of debate over the scientific merits (or lack thereof) of IDT, Meyer admitted in the question-and-answer period that he thinks that the intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian God and that suboptimal designs and deadly diseases are not examples of an unintelligent or malevolent designer, but instead were caused by "the fall" in the Garden of Eden." (Shermer M., "Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science," Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2005. )
        [This is a flagrant misrepresentation of what Meyer said (he did not even mention "the fall" or "the Garden of Eden"):
        "In the second part of my answer I addressed the question of disease. I explained that part of the program of design research was to distinguish the evidence of aboriginal design from the evidence of subsequent decay in biological systems. I had earlier explained that design theorists think diseases arose as the result of the degradation of well-functioning original designs, not from actions that can be directly attributed to a designer. In my answer at the close of the question time, I cited an important biological case that clearly supports this view. I argued that genetic evidence shows that the virulence capacity of Yersinia Pestis, the bacterium responsible for the plague, had arisen from (1) a mutational insertion in a master control gene and (2) the expression of genetic information out of its original context as the result of mobile genetic units (plasmids) having entered the bacteria. In short, I gave a scientific answer that attributed deadly disease (in this case the plague) to evolutionary processes that degrade or alter an original design. I did note (correctly) in passing that this observation was consistent with the expectation of many theologians and religious believers who think, based on their understanding of Judeo-Christian doctrine and scripture, that the physical world should show evidence of both design and subsequent decay. But I did not say disease was caused by "the Fall." I said disease was caused by evolutionary processes of decay such as mutation and the random transmission of mobile genetic units. Instead, it was Shermer who introduced the term "the Fall" into the debate as caricature of my answer to the student's question. Indeed, after I had finished my answer to the student, Shermer responded with ridicule saying “that’s it, the Fall, that’s your explanation!” After that there was no further discussion of the concept, nor was there any discussion in any part of the debate about the Garden of Eden, contrary to the claim in Shermer’s LA Times editorial. Indeed, after Shermer’s statement about "the Fall" our hosts ended the debate, we walked across the stage and shook hands. " (Meyer S.C., "Stephen Meyer Responds to Michael Shermer's Falsehoods in the Los Angeles Times," Discovery Institute News, March 31, 2005]
  2. Falsehoods
    1. About creationists
      1. Richard Dawkins about Gillian Brown
      2. "On September 16, 1997, Keziah Video Productions, in the persons of Gillian Brown and Geoffrey Smith, came to my house in Oxford to film an interview with me. I had agreed to see them, on the misapprehension (as it later turned out) that they were from a respectable Australian broadcasting company. I had no idea they were a creationist front and I would not have granted them an interview had I known this, because of my policy as mentioned above. The interview began. I have considerable experience of television work, and I was initially surprised at the amateurishness of their filming technique, but I carried on without voicing my surprise. As the interview proceeded, I became increasingly puzzled at the tone of the questions. Puzzlement gave way to suspicion that Keziah was, in fact, a creationist front which had gained admittance to my house under false pretences. The suspicion increased sharply when I was challenged to produce an example of an evolutionary process which increases the information content of the genome. It is a question that nobody except a creationist would ask. A real biologist finds it an easy question to answer (the answer is that natural selection increases the information content of the genome all the time - that is precisely what natural selection means), but, from an evolutionary point of view, it is not an interesting way to put it. It would only be phrased that way by somebody who doubts that evolution happened. Now I was faced with a dilemma. I was almost certain that these people had gained admittance to my house under false pretences - in other words, I had been set up. On the other hand, I am a naturally courteous person, especially in my own house, and these were guests from overseas. What should I do? I paused for a long time, trying to decide whether to throw them out, and, I have to admit, struggling not to lose my temper. Finally, I decided that I would ask them to leave, but I would do it in a polite way, explaining to them why. I then asked them to stop the tape, which they did. The tape having stopped, I explained to them my suspicions, and asked them to leave my house. Gillian Brown pleaded with me, saying that she had flown all the way from Australia especially to interview me. She begged me not to send her home empty handed, after they had travelled such a long way. She assured me that they were not creationists, but were taking a balanced view of all sides in the debate. Like a fool, I took pity on her, and agreed to continue. I remember that, having had quite an acrimonious argument with her, when I finally agreed to resume the interview I made a conscious effort to be extra polite and friendly. ... As it happens, my forthcoming book, Unweaving the Rainbow, has an entire chapter (`The Genetic Book of the Dead') devoted to a much more interesting version of the idea that natural selection gathers up information from the environment, and builds it into the genome. At the time of the interview, the book was almost finished (it is to be published in November, 1998). That chapter would have been in the forefront of my mind, and it is therefore especially ludicrous to suggest that I would have evaded the question by talking about fish and amphibians. If I'd wanted to turn the question into more congenial channels, all I had to do was talk about `The Genetic Book of the Dead'. It is a chapter I am particularly pleased with. I'd have welcomed the opportunity to expound it. Why on earth, when faced with such an opportunity, would I have kept totally silent? Unless, once again, I was actually thinking about something quite different while struggling to keep my temper?" Dawkins R., in Williams B., "Creationist Deception Exposed," The Skeptic, Vol. 18, No. 3. September 1998)

        [The interviewer, Gillian Brown, responded: "Dr Dawkins makes a number of incorrect statements: RD: On September 16, 1997, Keziah Video Productions, in the persons of Gillian Brown and Geoffrey Smith, came to my house... GB: I was accompanied by a former geologist, Philip Hohnen, not Geoffrey Smith. RD: ... I was challenged to produce an example of an evolutionary process which increases the information content of the genome. It is a question that nobody except a creationist would ask... GB: That question actually came at the end of the interview. At the beginning, Philip Hohnen asked several general questions on the origin of new information. These questions are recorded on tape and may be viewed, either on tape or transcripted, by anyone interested in the exact nature of the questions. Dawkins objected to the questions and stopped the recording. He claimed that questions on the origin of new information were invalid, and that nobody ever asked him such questions. I responded that the question of information was perfectly valid, and very important to the evolution-creation debate. RD: The tape having stopped, I explained to them my suspicions, and asked them to leave my house. GB: This is untrue. At no time did Dr Dawkins ask us to leave his house. A second camera, (newly purchased, which we were testing), was inadvertently not switched off until later, so it recorded most of the ensuing conversation. This remains on record to expose such false statements and clarify supposed "lapses of memory". RD: Gillian Br"#FF0000">Gillian Brown pleaded with me, saying that she had flown all the way from Australia especially to interview me. GB: Actually that was a comment made by Philip. RD: She assured me that they were not creationists... GB: We were not asked if we were creationists. I made no assertion or denial regarding our personal views. RD: ...but were taking a balanced view of all sides in the debate. Like a fool, I took pity on her, and agreed to continue. GB: I stated that our production was looking at both sides of the debate, and named the other people who were being interviewed. Dr Dawkins objected that he was the only anti-theistic evolutionist in the production, but agreed to participate. RD: I remember that, having had quite an acrimonious argument with her, when I finally agreed to resume the interview I made a conscious effort to be extra polite and friendly. GB: This is untrue. There was certainly no "acrimonious argument", the conversation was at all times courteous. RD: As it happens, my forthcoming book, Unweaving the Rainbow, has an entire chapter (`The Genetic Book of the Dead') devoted to a much more interesting version of the idea that natural selection gathers up information from the environment, and builds it into the genome. At the time of the interview, the book was almost finished . That chapter would have been in the forefront of my mind, and it is therefore especially ludicrous to suggest that I would have evaded the question by talking about fish and amphibians. GB: After he asked for the camera to be switched off, Dawkins asked that his answers to the first few questions would not be used (and they have not been used). He then agreed to make a statement, but refused to take more questions from Philip. We resumed recording, then after he finished his statement I asked for a concrete example in which an evolutionary process can be seen to have increased information on the genome. The long pause seen on the video immediately followed my question, he then asked me to switch off the camera so he could think, which I did. After some thought he permitted the camera to be switched on again and his final answer was recorded, the answer which appears in the video, which, as can be seen, does not answer the question. Because my question was off-camera and off-mike (though clearly audible on the tape), it could not be used in the finished production, that is why the presenter was recorded later, repeating my question as I had asked it. .... No, the pause followed by an irrelevant answer was in response to that exact question, a question which Dr Dawkins could not answer and would have preferred not to even discuss. "Ludicrous" perhaps, but the question was indeed evaded. ... RD: If I'd wanted to turn the question into more congenial channels, all I had to do was talk about `The Genetic Book of the Dead'. It is a chapter I am particularly pleased with. I'd have welcomed the opportunity to expound it. Why on earth, when faced with such an opportunity, would I have kept totally silent? Unless, once again, I was actually thinking about something quite different while struggling to keep my temper?" GB: Whatever he may have been thinking about I don't know, but it is clear that he did not answer the question." (Brown G., in Williams B., "Creationist Deception: a Response," The Skeptic, Vol. 18, No. 4 December 1998. Bold initials and colour added for clarity). See also: 1. "Skeptics choke on Frog: was Dawkins caught on the hop?" Answers in Genesis, 3 November 1998; 2. evolutionist Glenn Morton's confirmation that "the audio tape of the interview 100% supports Gillian Brown's contention that Dawkins couldn't answer the question." (Morton G.R., "Dawkins Video," 17 July 1998; and 3. Olson R., "Richard Dawkins And The 11 Second Pause: What Happened During The Filming Of "From A Frog To A Prince"? Twin Cities Creation Science Association, February 2, 2004. See also my further comments in CED message #13085]

      3. The Kansas Board of Education in 1999 ["banned", "deleted", "eliminated", "removed", "wiped out", etc] the teaching of evolution in its schools
        1. "Sophistication shows up where least expected: the Kansas Board of Education creationists who recently banned Darwin from Kansas schools accept the reality of microevolution (evolution within species); they just don't like macroevolution (one species descending from another)." (Pagel M., Darwin's evolution." Review of "Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species, Updated," by Steve Jones, Doubleday, 1999. Nature, Vol. 401, October 28, 1999, pp.853-854).
          "On Wednesday, a majority of the Kansas Board of Education may vote to pass a new statewide science curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade that wipes out virtually all mention of evolution and related concepts: natural selection, common ancestors and the origins of the universe. (Rosin H., "Creationism Evolves: Kansas Board Targets Darwin," The Washington Post, August 8, 1999, p.A01)
          "The decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to eliminate evolution from the state's science assessments and standards gives us a moment of pause." (Smith M.J., "Evolution and the Nature of Science (Education)," Geotimes, October 1999, p.26)
          "EVERYTHIN'S up to date in Kansas City. Not any more it ain't. In the words of the song, "They've gone about as far as they can go" but not in the direction of what we would call progress. The Board of Education in the State of Kansas has now voted to remove the teaching of evolutionary theory from its schools. A mighty victory has been won by the so-called Creationist school. What Kansas did yesterday, other states will doubtless wish to do tomorrow, or at some time in the future." (Wilson A.N., "Land of the Born Again Boneheads," The Evening Standard, London, August 13, 1999, p.13. My emphasis here and below).
          The Kansas board has a famously zigzag record with respect to evolution. In 1999, it acted to remove most references to evolution from the state's science standards. The next year, a new - and less conservative - board reaffirmed evolution as a key concept that Kansas students must learn." (MacDonald G.J., "Now evolving in biology classes: a testier climate," The Christian Science Monitor, May 03, 2005)
          "In 1999, the Kansas board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards." ("Evolution hearings end on bitter note," AP/MSNBC, May 13, 2005). See also "Kan. Agency to Review Evolution Proposal", AP/MSNBC, June 15, 2005.
          [The above are falsehoods. Far from having "voted to remove the teaching of evolutionary theory from its schools," "eliminate[d] evolution from the state's science assessments and standards," or "banned Darwin from Kansas schools," the Kansas State Board of Education actually increased it (but not by as much as the evolutionists wanted):
          "Wizard of Oz jokes are in vogue as the news media scramble to ridicule Kansas for downplaying, eliminating, or even banning evolution in its public schools. But the people who are writing such stuff apparently haven't read the Kansas Science Education Standards. The truth is that the August 11 School Board decision actually increased public school emphasis on evolution. The old science standards, in effect since 1995, devoted about 70 words to biological evolution. Standards proposed to the Board earlier this year by a 27-member Science Education Standards Writing Committee would have increased this to about 640 words. The standards actually adopted by the Board on August 11 include about 390 words on the subject. So the Kansas State School Board, asked to approve a ninefold increase in the standards for evolution, approved a fivefold increase instead. Of course, word counts don't tell the whole story. But the 390 words approved by the Board include many of the provisions recommended by the Committee. For example, the Board adopted verbatim the Committee's summary of Darwin's theory: "Natural selection includes the following concepts: 1) Heritable variation exists in every species; 2) some heritable traits are more advantageous to reproduction and/or survival than are others; 3) there is a finite supply of resources available for life; not all progeny survive; 4) individuals with advantageous traits generally survive; 5) the advantageous traits increase in the population through time." It would be difficult to find a better summary of Darwin's theory of natural selection; Kansas students will now be tested on it. The Board also required students to understand that "microevolution...favors beneficial genetic variations and contributes to biological diversity," and listed finch beak changes as an example. The Board declined, however, to adopt the Committee's proposal requiring students to understand that microevolution leads to macroevo-the origin of new structures and new groups of organisms. The Board's reluctance is understandable, since even some biologists doubt that changes in finch beaks can explain the origin of finches in the first place." (Wells J.W., "Ridiculing Kansas School Board is Easy, But it's not Good Journalism, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, SD, October 14, 1999. Access Research Network, February 4, 2000. My emphasis) [top]
  3. Misleading
    1. Misleading about creationism
      1. "... the antievolution movement. ... instead of lobbying for state laws to put creation "science" in the classroom ...."
      2. "The legal setbacks of the 1980s left their mark on the antievolution movement. Now, instead of lobbying for state laws to put creation "science" in the classroom, advocates have returned to the grass roots. By putting pressure on local school boards and teachers, they try to make evolution too hot to handle, or at least to sweep it into the educational background. The low-profile approach has paid off in a series of local victories--small, piecemeal and sometimes short-term, but still troubling to anyone who cares about science education in America. And there are signs that the movement is again starting to flex its muscles at the state level as well." (Scott E.C, "Monkey Business," The Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, January/February 1996, Vol. 36, No. 1; pp.20-25, p.20. Emphasis in original)
        [This implies that "the antievolution movement" as a whole was "lobbying for state laws to put creation `science' in the classroom." But this is simply false and Eugenie Scott (of all people) must have known it to be false. The fact is that only a minority in the creationist movement ever lobbied for legislation to have creation science taught in schools. As Henry M. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research points out, the then two largest creationist organisations, his own ICR and the Creation Research Society have always been opposed to attempts to legislate the teaching of creation in the classroom, and were reluctantly dragged into the subsequent court cases:
        "Now, despite widespread publicity to the contrary, the Institute for Creation Research has always tried to discourage a legalistic and political approach to this issue (as has the Creation Research Society). History shows that neither scientific nor religious principles can be effectively legislated, and since there had been no legal restriction against teaching creation anyway, most creationist scientists have felt rather strongly that, in the long run, education and persuasion would accomplish more than legislation and coercion. Furthermore, the present legal and judicial climate is so humanistic that court decisions, no matter how strong the evidence and how valid the constitutional position, might very likely go against the creationists. Even in the event of a favorable court decision, the creationists would be bound to lose the case in the biased reporting of the news media. Finally such laws would be very difficult to enforce, even if upheld by the courts. Teachers compelled to teach creationism against their will, and without any adequate knowledge of the creationist arguments and evidence, would probably do more harm than good in the classroom anyway. So, although the route of persuasion seems slower than that of compulsion, it holds more promise of ultimate success, and our ICR literature has stressed this repeatedly. However, many creationists have felt otherwise and have tried to use the courts or legislatures to get the two-model approach accepted. This situation has, of course, placed ICR in a difficult position. While not favoring legislative or political action at all, poorly-drawn bills and political defeats would be so harmful that ICR has become inadvertently involved in these activities to try to prevent damaging errors." (Morris H.M., "Evolution in Turmoil: An Updated Sequel to The Troubled Waters of Evolution," Creation-Life Publishers: San Diego CA, 1982, pp.127-128).
        For example, as Scott would have been well aware, an individual named Paul Ellwanger, a Roman Catholic, was the activist behind the balanced treatment legislation:
        "Media accounts and judicial opinions take for granted that the balanced treatment statutes were the work of a highly organized nationwide coalition of creation-scientists, but this has been denied. According to the creation-scientist attorney Wendell R. Bird, most of the national creation-science organizations oppose legislation of this kind, `preferring instead to persuade teachers and administrators of the scientific merit of the theory of creation without legal compulsion.' An individual named Paul Ellwanger appears to have taken the lead in proposing balanced treatment legislation, with the result that some reluctant creation-scientists were drawn into losing battles on ground not of their own choosing. See Wendell R. Bird, "The Origin of Species Revisited," vol. 2, pp. 357-359 (1989)." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.201)] [top]
  4. Wrong
    1. Wrong about creationism
      1. "Creationism has not been revised oraltered since the Book of Genesis was composed ..."
      2. "Creationism has not been revised or altered since the Book of Genesis was composed by primitive tribesmen more than 2,700 years ago. It served well for them because they had no scientific knowledge about natural causes, but it does not serve today as a reliable guide to the history or the nature of the universe." (Newell N.D.[late Curator, American Museum of Natural History, New York and Professor of Geology, Columbia University], "Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality?", Columbia University Press: New York, 1982, p.xxxii)
        [Leaving aside Genesis allegedly having been "composed by primitive tribesmen ~700 BC," this is obviously wrong that "creationism has not been revised or altered since Genesis was composed." The Bible itself has new teachings on creation throughout from Genesis to Revelation, the latter having been written about 90 AD. And creationism itself (being the interpretation of what the Bible says about creation) continues to be revised in the light of scientific discoveries (for example the discovery in the 18th century that the Earth was millions of years old) and deeper analysis of the Biblical text. The very existence of different schools of thought in creationism (e.g. young-Earth creation, old-Earth creation, progressive creation, etc), which in fact have existed throughout Church history, is sufficient evidence of that. It is truly amazing how science professors who have no qualifications in theology, and who emphasise to their students that they must document every point that they make from the relevant literature, have no qualms about making unsubstantiated false claims in books and journals about the Bible and Christianity!]

      3. "Biblical Creationist... beliefs include ... a young earth, perhaps less than 10,000 years old ..."
      4. "Biblical Creationists accept on faith the literal Old Testament account of creation. Their beliefs include (1) a young earth, perhaps less than 10,000 years old; (2) catastrophes, especially a worldwide flood, as the origin of the earth's present form, including mountains, canyons, oceans, and continents; and (3) miraculous creation of all living things, including humans, in essentially their modern forms. If you are a Creationist, the Bible-not nature-dictates what you believe. Creationists subordinate observational evidence to doctrine based on their interpretation of sacred texts. The tenets of biblical Creationism are not testable, nor are they subject to dramatic change based on new data. In other words, Creationism is a form of religion." (Hazen R.M. & Trefil J., "Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy," [1991], Anchor Books: New York NY, 1992, reprint, p.243)
        [This simply ignores the fact that there are old-Earth creationists (like me) who accept the scientific evidence that Earth is billions of years old and that Noah's flood was regional rather than global. Also, old-Earth creationists don't see the need to pit nature against the Bible but regard them as two books with the one Author and therefore must complement, not contradict, each other. Again, it is amazing (assuming it is not deliberate dishonesty) that leading scientists like Hazen (a Professor of Earth Science) and Trefil (a Professor of Physics) could be guilty of such sloppy scholarship as to write on a field that is not their own (i.e. Biblical creationism), without doing their homework in the major streams of the creationist literature (e.g. young-Earth and old-Earth/progressive) and then referencing their claims to that literature.] [top]

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Created: 21 March, 2005. Updated: 1 December, 2006.

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