Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Speaking of D. James Kennedy, a reader left a link in a comment below about the time-honored practice of tracking down creationist misquotations. Anyone involved in the evolution debate has had to do this at least once. A creationist gives you some juicy quote from a famous scientist that you know just couldn’t possibly be accurate, so you ask for a specific citation. On the rare occasions you actually get one, it turns out to be false. Tracking down these things can be quite annoying. It’s like playing the telephone game and watching a quote get more and more distorted as it’s passed along from one creationist to another. Over time, everything changes – the source, the timing, the author, the text. What comes out the other end is unrecognizable.

The particular link dealt with Kennedy’s constant use of a misquotation from Julian Huxley. Here’s the “quote”:

I almost fell out of my chair. A public television interviewer had just asked Sir Julian Huxley, a leading defender of evolution until his death in 1975, why he thought Darwin’s idea caught on so quickly. His answer astonished me.

“[I suppose the reason] we all jumped at the Origin [Darwin's On the Origin of Species],” Huxley said, “was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.” “Mores,” of course, is a secular term for morals.


Note the personal tone of the statement from Kennedy. You’d think he had just watched this show himself and seen Julian Huxley say that. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now here comes the fun part. Several people have contacted Kennedy’s organization to get an actual source for the quote and they’ve been given numerous citations, all of them wrong. Of the innumerable creationists who use this quote in various forms, some of them attribute it not to Julian Huxley but to Aldous Huxley.

For more on this adventure in misquotation, check out these posts by Ed Babinski and Joe Bageant.

Comments

  1. #1 Gretchen
    July 10, 2006

    Gee, I wasn’t aware that “morals” was a sacred word.

  2. #2 tacitus
    July 10, 2006

    D James Kennedy is not much better than Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind, both of whom he has entertained on his show in years past, when it comes to objectivity and truth telling.

    I remember Kennedy drooling over a fossilized mallet that Baugh has brought with him one time a few years back, and then there’s the “Gospel in the Stars” nonsense he’s so fond of.

  3. #3 Treban
    July 10, 2006

    Gee, I wasn’t aware that “morals” was a sacred word.

    Well, duh! How anyone expects people without my God in their life to understand anything about true morality is beyond me. I mean everybody knows that atheists are really Satanists who force virgins into orgies and cap it off by eating newborn babies. If only you had my God you would understand beating old ladies down with their cats and stealing their medications is just wrong. Will nobody think about the children?

  4. #4 kehrsam
    July 10, 2006

    “everybody knows that atheists are really Satanists who force virgins into orgies and cap it off by eating newborn babies.”

    Wait a minute — TOM CRUISE is involved????

  5. #5 Toddard
    July 10, 2006

    Here’s a quote for all of the creationists who use the tactic above:

    “It is an established maxim and moral that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false is guilty of falsehood, and the accidental truth of the assertion does not justify or excuse him.”

    — Abraham Lincoln, chiding the editor of a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper, quoted from Antony Flew, How to Think Straight, p. 17

  6. #6 Troy Britain
    July 10, 2006

    I mean everybody knows that atheists are really Satanists who force virgins into orgies and cap it off by eating newborn babies.

    That is not true, we are not Satanists and we certainly never eat babies…

  7. #7 386sx
    July 10, 2006

    There are similes and metaphors. There are synecdoches and there are litotes and there are many other figures that might not be as familiar as that. There is metalepsis. There is hypallage. There is also allegory, apologue, paroinia. There are types and symbols. There are engimas and polyhymnia. There is ironia and intima and oxymoron, and about 790 other species of figures of speech that are found in the Bible.

    Wow, is that some vintage D. James Kennedy, or what? Maybe it’s just me, but D. James Kennedy always looks like he’s pretending he has magic “God rays” shooting out of his orifices whenever he speaks.

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    July 10, 2006

    Kennedy speaks so slowly that it annoys me. Forget diagramming his sentence, you could keep a diary during one. “Day 3….still no sign of the predicate.”

  9. #9 Keanus
    July 10, 2006

    ?Of the innumerable creationists who use this quote in various forms, some of them attribute it not to Julian Huxley but to Aldous Huxley.”

    I’m sure to Kennedy and other creationist, if you’ve heard of one Huxley you’ve know them all, to paraphrase Reagan.

  10. #10 Flex
    July 11, 2006

    Cracky,

    ‘Mores’ is a Latin term for the customs of a society which have become so generally observed as to have the force of law. They are sometimes codified into laws.

    ‘Morals’ deal with what conduct a society considers right, and what conduct a society considers wrong. Usually assigned terms like ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

    Mores are not morals. Not picking your nose in public is an example of the uncodified mores of our society, but has nothing to do with the moralality of the picker.

    Doesn’t anyone use a dictionary anymore?

    -Flex

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