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Nick Matzke Admits His Quote Mining Accusation Was False; Instead of Apologizing Tries to Change the Definition of “Quote Mining” to “Refusing to Agree With Me”


I am sorry if it appears that I am beating this horse long after it has expired, but I think it is important to expose the perfidy of prominent Darwinists and the depths to which they will sink when it is plain for all to see. By exposing their shenanigans on a matter that is plain to everyone, we will be able to judge their credibility better when they are arguing more subtle issues.

Nick Matzke is one such prominent Darwinist, and his false allegation of quote mining is a case in point. To review, in a previous post I argued that the fossil record did not turn out the way Darwin expected it would. Of course, I will be the first to admit that I am no expert on Darwin’s views, and there is no reason for anyone to care particularly what I say about that topic. So I quoted Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall:

Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.

Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.

Note that I am not arguing here that Darwinian evolution did not occur (though I have views on that). Nor am I arguing that there are no fossils demonstrating transitions between major groups as opposed to sister species (though I have views on that as well). I am asserting a VERY narrow point: The fossil record did not turn out the way Darwin expected it would. And I am quoting Eldredge to support that point.

Matzke came onto these pages and accused me of “quote mining,” which is the deceptive use of an out-of-context quote to make it appear that the author agrees with the proposition one is advancing when they really did not. It is a form of lying and is morally reprehensible.

In a nutshell, Matzke has accused me of morally reprehensible conduct in an internet forum that anyone on the planet with access to a computer can access. That charge is very serious and highly public.

But in order for Matzke’s charge to be true, Eldredge and Tattersall would have had to, in context, mean something other than the proposition for which I quoted them, i.e., that the fossil record did not turn out as Darwin expected. But that is exactly what they meant. Therefore, the quote mining charge is false.

I pointed this out to Matzke and asked him to retract/apologize. He has steadfastly refused.

Nick, I know you are a moral relativist, but even relatively speaking wouldn’t you admit that coming into a highly public forum and accusing someone of lying when they did not is wrong? Again, the only right thing for you to do is to man up, admit you were wrong and apologize.

Of course, Matzke knows his conduct is morally indefensible, but instead of retracting and apologizing he has gone into “full Darwinist spin mode.”

He writes:

As long as you keep refusing to admit the context of the Eldredge quote, you will be guilty of quote-mining when you use it to argue that the fossil record doesn’t support evolution.

(emphasis mine)

If I had argued that the fossil record does not support evolution this statement might have some force. I made no such argument (As I said above, I have views on that matter, but that is beside the point.) I argued something completely different. I argued that the fossil record did not turn out the way Darwin expected it to.

Keep in mind that for purposes of Matzke’s quote mining charge it does not matter whether I am right. It does not matter whether Eldredge was right. What matters is that I advanced a proposition and quoted Eldredge in support of it. The quote mining charge would be true only if I quoted Eldredge out of context and he did not really mean what the sentence I quoted apparently says. But that is exactly what Eldredge meant. He meant to say that the fossil record did not turn out the way Darwin expected, and that is what I meant to quote him for. I plainly did not quote him for some broader proposition.

Matzke goes on:

It wasn’t deliberately deceptive when you first did it,

Then why don’t you withdraw your charge and apologize Nick? Because Nick has his own personal definition of quote mining. You see, it turns out that Nick thinks Eldredge was wrong:

we’ve already been over what Darwin said he expected from the fossil record, and Eldredge got that bit wrong.

Now we get to the bottom of it. It is not that I misquoted Eldredge. My quote was perfectly accurate. Nick just disagrees with Eldredge on the point for which I quoted him, and under his personal definition of the term that makes me guilty of quote mining.

Nick, you don’t get to have a personal definition of phrases. “Quote mining” has a universally accepted meaning. You now admit that under that universally accepted meaning I did not quote mine Eldredge.

I call on you once again to man up, admit you were wrong, and apologize. Stop with the spinning Nick. It only gets you deeper and deeper into the hole.