Frank Hagan’s Point

Check out » Quote Mining Examples. That’s a follow-up comment to a post about a documented quote mine by the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin.

Hagan simply cannot overlook the fact that antievolution materials and antievolution advocates often do not tell the truth.

Its uncomfortable agreeing with the strident atheists and hostile agnostics, and they certainly don’t welcome me to their fold. But lies are the not the product of the Spirit of God. They are a product of our own failed natures at best.

One reason I reconsidered my position on the origins was that I found lies in the Creationist’s literature when I started checking out the original sources. I encourage Christians to visit The Quote Mine Project and see for themselves.

Some time ago, I wrote the following:

The topic of debate that Dr. Silver reported was “Is ID science?” One approach is to show that the claims of ID fail as science. That’s how I approached the task I had in 2001, and that’s the approach of Why Intelligent Design Fails from Rutgers University Press. The other approach is to show that religion underlies “intelligent design”. In 2002, I gave a talk on evolution and “intelligent design” at the CSICOP Fourth World Skeptics Conference. In that one, I did show how the “intelligent design” movement was run by religious people for religious purposes. And that’s the approach of Creationism’s Trojan Horse from Oxford University Press.

But in neither case was my goal to tell the followers of ID that their own views of religion were wrong. And it is that part of Dr. Silver’s first report that strikes me as not just poor tactics, but as Lenny Flank notes, directly counter to the cause of promoting good science education. It sure wasn’t something that would separate ID advocates from their followers. It isn’t even exposing the ID movement as inherently religious, which I have used as a tactic myself (CSICOP 2002). If you want to drive a wedge between an audience of evangelical Christians and the professionals in the ID movement, you need a third approach: show that the ID advocate on stage with you has been lying to his followers. Show misquote after misquote; demonstrate error after checkable error, and make the audience understand that if the ID advocate claims that the sky is blue, their next step had better be to look out the window to see for themselves. Evangelicals do want to take Christ’s message to the world, but they also have a deep loathing of liars. Of the three approaches, the last one requires the most preparation and care in delivery.

Dr. Silver’s approach, on the other hand, requires very little in the way of preparation. One does not need to acquaint oneself with the arguments of the opposition, with the history of the opposition, or even the failings of the opposition. Irrelevancy does have some benefits after all. But the downside is that simply doing forty minutes of religious nay-saying does not convince people that “intelligent design” is not science; it does not convince people that “intelligent design” is another religious form of antievolution; and it does not convince people that “intelligent design” advocates are unreliable sources of information. It does help to convince those people that the “intelligent design” advocates are right when they cast the issues in terms of atheists attempting to indoctrinate kids.

I came in for a fair amount of criticism from antievolution cheerleaders, mostly because they mistakenly thought I was talking about inventing stuff about IDC advocates lying. Why invent something that exists in copious abundance? But beyond that, I’d just like to note that Frank Hagan is an example of the sort of person who may not agree on various points of technical discussion, but who can readily appreciate when it is pointed out that one side of this socio-political controversy can’t seem to do much of anything without the aid of fibbing.

And, Frank, if you happen to read this, not everyone actively opposing the antievolution movement is an atheist or “hostile agnostic”.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “Frank Hagan’s Point

  • 2008/03/25 at 2:03 am

    Hear, hear!

    I want to thank you, Dr. Elsberry, for this post. As a Christian and an enthusiastic Darwinian, it’s refreshing to hear a point of view to which I am in total sympathy, as I was with this post.

    And, Mr. Hagan, thank you for your intellectual integrity. Ethical people exist on both sides of the evo/creo wars, but our ability to dialog with each other is compromised when allow ourselves to be manipulated by unethical people who we take to be on our ‘side’. This is why creationism is something of a cottage industry within Christianity, because it serves the interests of a minority to promote distrust and hostility toward a secular enterprise. But there are many of us who are believers within that enterprise, and we are hard-pressed when our fellow Christians fail to do what you have done, which is to test the fruits, by which we shall know them. So I commend you strongly for following the evidence, no matter where it led.


  • 2008/03/25 at 10:24 pm

    I think the frequent use of the quote-mine by intelligent design and creationism advocates is due to the lack of any primary research supporting their position. Thus, the quote-mine remains one of the few polemical weapons in the creationist arsenal.

  • 2008/03/26 at 9:09 am

    I tend to think of the quote mine as the extension into the secular domain of the behavior known as “proof-texting”. If one can find some fragment of scripture to support an argument, that often passes for a completely sufficient defense of the argument in certain religious circles. It is very confusing for someone used to that style of argumentation to try to interact with those trained in the sciences, who generally, even if they are themselves Christian, simply don’t see quotations from papers and books as dispositive of much of anything, and certainly not if what is quoted is supposed to be accepted merely on the authority of whatever source is given.

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