Back to the Quote Mines

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It was gratifying to see the response by evolutionists to my post about quote-mining on this blog a few days ago (April 26). The quote by Peter Ward that served as my point of departure elicited the usual reaction from evolutionists, for whom justifying evolution means supplying enough words and irrelevant details to cover their ignorance. My post took a few minutes to write up. Evolutionists wrote detailed responses many times its length on places like the Pandasthumb to justify that the problem with the Cambrian explosion was not really a problem. Look: if it wasn’t a problem, we wouldn’t be discussing it.

Here’s another choice morsel for you evolutionists who think the Cambrian explosion is a non-problem, this one by Stephen Jay Gould:

“Nonetheless, these exciting finds in Precambrian paleontology do not remove the problem of the Cambrian explosion, for they include only the simple bacteria and blue-green algae, and some higher plants such as green algae. The evolution of complex Metazoa seems as sudden as ever. (A single Precambrian fauna has been found at Ediacara in Australia. It includes some relatives of modern fan corals, jellyfish, wormlike creatures, arthropods, and two cryptic forms unlike anything alive today. Yet the Ediacara rocks lie just below the base of the Cambrian and qualify as Precambrian only by the slimmest margin. A few more isolated finds from other areas around the world are likewise just barely Precambrian.) If anything, the problem is increased because exhaustive study of more and more Precambrian rocks destroys the old and popular argument that complex Metazoa are really there, but we just haven’t found them yet.”

Quoted from Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (New York: W. W. Norton 1977), 121.

I await your detailed, petulant responses.

2 Replies to “Back to the Quote Mines

  1. 1

    Quote miner, quote miner, pants on fire …

    I was quite relieved that Jason Rosenhouse wrote his piece on William Dembski’s recent bloviations about quote-mining.  Specifically, Dembski was challenging a portion of something written by Dave Mullenix and myself about a year ago publish…

  2. 2
    scordova says:


    Jason Rosenhouse who has occasionally come to my talks about ID at his school responded
    at Pandas Thumb, he said,”Only a diehard ID fanatic could possibly continue to take Dembski seriously after following this exchange. Dembski’s blatant dishonesty and breathtaking arrogance have seldom been on clearer display. If there are any ID proponents with consciences reading this, I’d be curious to know if you still want anything to do with this guy.”

    Rosenhouse is actually a very nice guy in person, one would not gather that from his internet
    persona. His last offerings put me in a tough position, as I do respect him, and he has come out
    to several of my Intelligent Design talks at his school, James Madison University, where we
    have numerous IDEA supporters including the biology students and science faculty (albeit
    quietly). That said, this was my response to his inquiry, I wrote:

    I fully support Dembski, and I do not think he is a liar whatsoever. Although I can understand why you perceive the leaders of our movement that way.

    It’s hard to be put on the spot, Dr. Rosenhouse, especially by you. You among all the rest here at PandasThumb command the most respect from me, and so it is hard to be put on the spot. I was reluctant to post for fear of angering you more.

    My explanations may not be satisfying to you, perhaps you might think we are just blind, since William Dembski, after all is family to us, someone who has been insulted and persecuted like the rest of us IDists…

    Surely I can understand your irritation and anger at my leaders. However, if you are truly curious to understand why we do not perceive Dembski as a liar, it’s actually very easy if you are willing to at least try to understand how IDists and creationists see the world. To us, the physical evidence is not convincing, the Cambrian explosion has no satisfying naturalistic explanation, Ward was wrong to even postulate that there is naturalistic solution, and the same can be said of every other naturalistic evolutionist.

    I myself, having degrees in math, computer science, and electrical engineering understand the language of information theory. Dembski’s writings are far more correct in my view that the offering of his critics. I have even defended his work at ISCID and responded to his Elsberry and his former teacher Shallit. It was through the process of dealing with Bill’s critics, such as Elsberry and Shallit, that I eventually strongly sided with Bill Dembski.

    If one reads my early writings on the net, one will see that I actually was fairly sympathetic to Elsberry at first, and his concept of SAI more than Dembski’s CSI. That changed as I studied the writings of both sides more thoroughly and concluded Elsberry and (Dembski’s former teacher) Shallit were dead wrong in their assessment of CSI.

    I have worked in automatic target recognition, the detection of ID artifacts, and from a professional standpoint Dembski’s work makes sense. I know of an IDist/biologist at George Mason who will be in at the George Mason’s national center for bio defense, and I’m confident she sypmathizes with Dembski’s position, as detection of intelligently design bio agents are crucial to her profession…

    With respect to the creationists at ICR and AiG, I have posted publicly and at your website where I often agree with you. I have criticized publicly ICR for stabbing fellow YECs in the back, so you need not be troubled that I will defend them before you, even though I myself have strong Young Earth leanings.

    However, I consider Bill’s scholarship and conclusions materially accurate. For the theory of naturalistic evolution to be true it must overcome major theoretical and empirical hurdles. You’ve come to my talks at your school, and I’ve explained things at a superficial level (as was appropriate for my audience), and I have referred the students in my group to your website and writings so that they will have access to what I consider the best counter arguments to the ID position.

    We have an IDEA member who has worked in molecular phylogeny for 3 years. The amount of molecular convergence she sees argues against naturalistic interpretations, and the explanations she is given for these phenoman theoretically unsatisfying. She was completely troubled by the molecular clock hypothesis which is used as an explanation for the hierarchical patterns in the molecular sequence divergences. That hypothesis, by the way, was likened by Denton to “a principle more like mideaval astrology than a serious 20th century scientific theory”, and explanation of the hierarchical pattern in his view, “amount to little more than apologetic tautologies”. I can see why Sternberg finally sided with the IDists, and so can she, and so can I.

    Until serious empirical and theoretical problems are resolved, Ward and others will ultimately viewed as being blind to obvious facts, and people like Kurt Wise will continue to graduate from their mentors like Stephen Gould, and people like Dembski will graduate from Shallit’s classes, and IDEA members from your school will graduate from biology programs, all believing that the case for naturalistic evolution are unsupported by scientific facts.

    In the meantime we see what happens to professors of cellular biolgy like Caroline Crocker and that un-named professor who declined and interview with Nature because he was untenured.

    Until your side can offer convincing empirical and theoretical evidence that the complexity of life arose through naturalistic processes, Ward statements in favor of naturalistic evolution can not be viewed as anything more than wishful thinking on Ward’s part. Therefore, Ward’s words only serve as an example to us of the amounts of collective wishful thinking out there, and thus, the quotation by Dembski is used to reference the one part of Wards work we believe agree with the empirical facts, namely, the Cambrian explosion is a major problem for naturalistic evolution.

    So you were curious why I support Dembski, and I have offered some of my reasons.”

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