Quote Mining in EoE

A new ID book, a new selection of yummy delicious quote mines. Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution (EoE) offers quite the smorgasbord

I’m not surprised that Jerry Coyne would have such a visceral negative reaction to anything Michael Behe writes. He was the victim of one of the more egregious ID quote-mines of recent memory. In Darwin’s Black Box (DBB), Behe quotes Coyne as follows:

Jerry Coyne, of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, arrives at an unexpected verdict:

We conclude — unexpectedly — that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak. (pp. 29)

This from a section in which Behe presumes to convince us that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is a black pit of unanswered questions.

The quotation comes from a paper Coyne coauthored with biologist H. Allen Orr. Going back to the original text reveals that Behe not only removed the quotation from its proper context (to make a small criticism about an esoteric part of the theory appear to be a criticism of the whole shebang), but actually doctored the text as well:

Although a few biologists have suggested an evolutionary role for mutations or large effect (Gould 1980; Maynard Smith 1983: Gottlieb, 1984; Turner, 1985), the neo-Darwinian view has largely triumphed, and the genetic basis of adaptation now receives little attention. Indeed, the question is considered so dead that few may know the evidence responsible for its demise.
Here we review this evidence. We conclude–unexpectedly–that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation. We hasten to add, however, that we are not “macromutationists” who believe that adaptations are nearly always based on major genes. The neo-Darwinian view could well be correct. It is almost certainly true, however, that some adaptations involve many genes of small effect and others involve major genes. The question we address is, How often does adaptation involve a major gene? We hope to encourage evolutionists to reexamine this neglected question and to provide the evidence to settle it. (Emphasis Added)

As Coyne himself noted, doctoring a sentence to make it appear to mean something different from what it actually means is not just sloppy scholarship, it is deliberate distortion.

Fast forward to EoE. On pages 188-189 Behe writes:

The next unwitting evo-devo point is even more striking: Basic features of life were totally unpredicted by Darwin’s theory. In fact, reasoning straightforwardly in terms of Darwin’s theory led badly astray even the most eminent evolutionary biologists, who reached conclusions completely opposite to biological reality. (Emphasis in Original).

This is rather like indicting the germ theory of disease for not predicting the motions of the planets. Darwinian evolution is a marvelous thing, but it by its nature it has little to say about the minutiae of embryological development or the structure of the genome. It can tell you in broad terms what you should expect to find in those disciplines, but the details have to be worked out the old-fashioned way.

Behe then offers five bullet-point quotations to back up this assertion. All are out of context, the basic error being to present any erroenous prediction made by an evolutionary biologist as the direct result of Darwinian thinking. (Evolutionists do think about other things, you know.) But this one really caught my eye:

Mathematicians, too, were fooled, “Many theoreticians sought to explain how periodic patterns [such as fruit fly embryo segments] could be organixed across large strucutres. While the maths and models are beautiful, none of this theory has been borne out by the discoveries of the last twenty years.” “The continuing mistake is being seduced into believing that simple rules that can generate patterns on a computer screen are the rules that generate patterns in biology.”

You must wade into the endnote section of EoE to find out where these quotes come from. Turns out they are two separate quotes from two separate pages of Sean Carroll’s book Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The first comes form page 123:

The revelation of how these stripe-making switches work clarified a long-standing question in the study of pattern formation in biological structures. For several decades, mathematicians and computer scientists were drawn to the periodic patterns of body segmentation, zebra stripes, and seashell markings. Heavily influenced by a 1952 paper by the genius Alan Turing (a founder of computer science who helped crack the German Engima code in World War II), “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” many theoreticians sought to explain how periodic patterns could be organized across entire large structures. While the math and models are beautiful, none of this theory has been borne out by the discoveries of the last twenty years. The mathematicians never envisioned that modular genetic switches held the key to pattern formation, or that the periodic patterns we see are actually the composite of numerous individual elements. (Emphasis Added).

We find that Behe not only deleted the first half of the sentence, but also did not provide an ellipsis to indicate that something had been cut.

It is easy to see why he would do that. The first half of the sentence makes it clear that it was not straightforward reasoning from Darwinian theory that led mathematicians astray in this case. Rather, it was an inadequate, 1950’s view of embryology that led to the error. This becomes especially clear when you look at the Turing paper Carroll mentions. The paper has nothing to do with Darwinism or even with evolution. It is actually a valiant attempt, from a time when little was known about the details of embryological development, to devise a mathematical model for the process of morphogenesis. It was various principles of physics and chemistry that led Turing to his model, not Darwinism.

How about that second quote? That comes from page 318, in the notes to Carroll’s book. He is fleshing out his earlier statement about how certain theoreticians were led astray by pretty mathematics. Just prior to the quote Behe cites, Carroll provided three examples of recent scientists following in Turing’s footsteps by providing computational models of pattern formation in nature. The three scientists? S. Kauffman, P. Ball, and S. Wolfram. After mentioning books written by these people, Carroll makes his statement about the continuing error of such approaches.

Since Behe is keen to argue that these folks represent the error and confusion that arises when people think in Darwinian terms, it seems only reasonable to point out that none of these gentleman has an especially high opinion of Neo-Darwinism. Kauffman and Ball are more interested in carving out a niche for the idea of self-organization in evolution, while Wolfram holds certain outre views about the importance of cellular automata. None of them was led astray by an adherence to Darwinian principles. Just the opposite, actually.

So let’s take stock. Behe deleted part of a sentence and gave no indication that he had done so. By doctoring the sentence in this way he removed crucial context that directly contradicts his explanation of the statement’s importance. He presented a second quotation, which described errors made by people arguing from a non-Darwinian perspective, as if they were errors made in applications of Darwinian theory.

Not a bad haul for one bullet point. Anyone want to guess what we’ll find if we look into the others?

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Elzinga
    June 21, 2007

    Mark Hausam, on one of the threads at PT, has been directed to the quote-mining tendencies of the ID/Creationists.

    You have provided a convenient starting point for him. Thanks.

  2. #2 Skeptic8
    June 21, 2007

    Thanks for the digging. It has been apparent that the whole ID corpus is a tuned misrepresentation- I didn’t realise how craftily it is fitted.
    I am used to the grand “explanations” of geological features compressed into a 6K pseudohistory but this careful counterfeiting is a whole new deception for me.

  3. #3 Ginger Yellow
    June 21, 2007

    “I’m not surprised that Jerry Coyne would have such a visceral negative reaction to anything Michael Behe writes.”

    Indeed. If a creationist or ID sympathiser ever uses the “You evolutionists are so angry” line, show them this. It’s profoundly dishonest, and more than that, it’s a personal insult for the people who are deliberately misquoted.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 21, 2007

    I hadn’t been finding much to add to the list of late, so this makes a welcome addition!

  5. #5 Doc Bill
    June 21, 2007

    Scientific slander is not a crime, otherwise Behe would be doing more time than Paris Hilton, his intellectual equivalent.

  6. #6 RBH
    June 21, 2007

    Skeptic8 wrote

    Thanks for the digging. It has been apparent that the whole ID corpus is a tuned misrepresentation- I didn’t realise how craftily it is fitted.

    In view of Philip Kitcher’s characterization of ID as “dead science”, the appropriate phrase is “the whole ID corpse.” :)

  7. #7 Larry Fafarman
    June 22, 2007

    Jason,

    You charged that the following writing of Behe is quote mining —

    Mathematicians, too, were fooled, “Many theoreticians sought to explain how periodic patterns [such as fruit fly embryo segments] could be organixed across large strucutres. While the maths and models are beautiful, none of this theory has been borne out by the discoveries of the last twenty years.” “The continuing mistake is being seduced into believing that simple rules that can generate patterns on a computer screen are the rules that generate patterns in biology.”

    For the following reasons, I think it is grossly unfair to call this quote mining:

    You said,

    Behe deleted part of a sentence and gave no indication that he had done so.

    I don’t think it is always customary to use an ellipsis where preceding text is deleted. Sometimes, if a word is not capitalized in the original because it is not at the beginning of a sentence, then the quote might put the capital in brackets, e.g., “[M]any . . ”

    You said,

    By doctoring the sentence in this way he removed crucial context that directly contradicts his explanation of the statement’s importance. He presented a second quotation, which described errors made by people arguing from a non-Darwinian perspective, as if they were errors made in applications of Darwinian theory.

    What you call “context” here was not in the original but contains a great amount of your own elaboration, e.g., the sentence’s first half that was deleted by Behe said, “Heavily influenced by a 1952 paper by the genius Alan Turing (a founder of computer science who helped crack the German Engima code in World War II),” but then you added,

    The first half of the sentence makes it clear that it was not straightforward reasoning from Darwinian theory that led mathematicians astray in this case. Rather, it was an inadequate, 1950’s view of embryology that led to the error. This becomes especially clear when you look at the Turing paper Carroll mentions. The paper has nothing to do with Darwinism or even with evolution. It is actually a valiant attempt, from a time when little was known about the details of embryological development, to devise a mathematical model for the process of morphogenesis. It was various principles of physics and chemistry that led Turing to his model, not Darwinism.

    Behe’s statements were essentially correct — you only added some background information and your own personal opinions.

    I think that you owe Behe an apology here.

  8. #8 Torbj�rn Larsson, OM
    June 22, 2007

    A basic rule on the web is never to feed a troll.

    However, this time were was in fact a real question (for me) among the non-sequitur. Where is brackets to be used?

    Sometimes, if a word is not capitalized in the original because it is not at the beginning of a sentence, then the quote might put the capital in brackets, e.g., “[M]any . . ”

    Turns out that this is entirely wrong (and I was using brackets fairly correctly). Purdue university has an online style guide:

    If you leave words out of a quotation, use an ellipsis mark to indicate the omitted words. If you need to insert something within a quotation, use a pair of brackets to enclose the addition.

    Examples given:

    full quotation:
    The welfare agency representative said, “We are unable to help every family that we’d like to help because we don’t have the funds to do so. [Colon replacing table formating.]”

    omitted material with ellipsis:
    The welfare agency representative said, “We are unable to help every family . . . because we don’t have the funds to do so.” [Colon replacing table formating.]

    added material with brackets:
    The welfare agency representative explained that they are “unable to help every family that [they would] like to help.” [Colon replacing table formating.]

    If this gets trolled, I hope the clarification is worth it.

  9. #9 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 22, 2007

    Actually, following Purdue more closely, I should have used the following quote manner:

    full quotation[:]
    The welfare agency representative said, “We are unable to help every family that we’d like to help because we don’t have the funds to do so.” [Table format removed.]

    Oh, well.

  10. #10 Mark Duigon
    June 22, 2007

    The Chicago Manual of Style explains that “…an original lowercase letter following the four dots [i.e., where quoted material skips something following the end of a quoted sentence and picks up again mid-sentence–period plus 3 dots] should not be capitalized, so that the reader attempting to locate the quotation in its source will not be misled. If a change is made, brackets may be used to indicate it.”
    In the situation at the beginning of the quote, the case of the leading letter depends on the overall syntax and does not take brackets, except in legal works (when a change either to uppercase or lowercase is bracketed).
    (CMS 10.49)

    This is the difference between scholarly and Creationist quoting. The former strives to present material honestly and in a way that allows the original to be found more easily; the latter is designed to appear to support the writer’s contention.

  11. #11 Pete Dunkelberg
    June 22, 2007

    Skeptic8 writes:

    I am used to the grand “explanations” of geological features compressed into a 6K pseudohistory but this careful counterfeiting is a whole new deception for me.

    Where have you been? Check
    Quotations and Misquotations
    and
    The Quote Mine Project.

  12. #12 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    June 22, 2007

    Mark, thanks for the tip to CSM! That is going into my bookmarks since it is the

    … bible of the publishing and research community …

    Elsewhere I have seen that there may be slight differences between US and english styles.

    For example, it seems ‘In US style the punctuation is kept within the quote.’

    While I prefer the international style since ‘In english style the punctuation is placed outside the quote, which seems more structured and I assume gives freedom to chose emphasis according to the needs of the main sentence’!

    ‘ ‘One can also blend styles,’ which should be useful at times’?!

  13. #13 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    June 22, 2007

    “CSM” – CMS.

  14. #14 Stephen
    June 22, 2007

    Couple of small typos: ‘organixed’ and ‘strucutres’ (before some sad ID-er starts complaining about inaccurate quoting).

  15. #15 Traces
    June 22, 2007

    What I don’t get is this: what does Behe get out of egregious quote-mining? What are his motivations? He surely knew, as soon as he typed the misquotes above, that he would be rapid-fire exposed. Does his base simply not care?

  16. #16 TheBlackCat
    June 22, 2007

    His base doesn’t care and will go out of its way to avoid being exposed to anybody who might care and might have bothered to check.

  17. #17 Glen Davidson
    June 22, 2007

    So in other words, the non-evolutionary explanations failed (while the “Darwinists” were broadly correct), and the lying Behe implied the exact opposite. It sounds so…so…normal for ID.

    Anyway, for anyone who has the honest version of the story the moral is clear: Don’t trust non-evolutionary explanations. Such an absolutist declaration isn’t warranted either, but seems to be appropriately placed the dogmatist’s mouth at this point in time and space.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  18. #18 Glen Davidson
    June 22, 2007

    So in other words, the non-evolutionary explanations failed (while the “Darwinists” were broadly correct), and the lying Behe implied the exact opposite. It sounds so…so…normal for ID.

    Anyway, for anyone who has the honest version of the story the moral is clear: Don’t trust non-evolutionary explanations. Such an absolutist declaration isn’t warranted either, but it seems to be appropriately placed into the dogmatist’s mouth at this point in time and space.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  19. #19 Mark Perakh
    June 22, 2007

    I know for fact that Behe tried to justify his doctoring the quote in question by telling Coyne that doctoring was done by his editors. A fine explanation, isn’t it? Since Behe in fact thus admitted (albeit not publicly) the fact that the quote was doctored, this also negates the awkward attempt by a notorious troll in this thread to exonerate Behe.

  20. #20 Frank J
    June 22, 2007

    Traces,

    I think that the relationship between Behe and his base is summarized nicely here:

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/30329.html

  21. #21 Jim Wynne
    June 22, 2007

    Larry said:

    I don’t think it is always customary to use an ellipsis where preceding text is deleted. Sometimes, if a word is not capitalized in the original because it is not at the beginning of a sentence, then the quote might put the capital in brackets, e.g., “[M]any . . “

    We can now add writing to the growing list of subjects Fafarman opines about, but in so doing proves he’s laughably ignorant.

  22. #22 Inoculated Mind
    June 22, 2007

    Quote Mining, what a surprise!

  23. #23 Larry Fafarman
    June 22, 2007

    Torbjorn Larsson, OM said ( June 22, 2007 06:36 AM ) —

    A basic rule on the web is never to feed a troll.

    That’s right — I shouldn’t feed you, but I will.

    Purdue university has an online style guide:

    If you leave words out of a quotation, use an ellipsis mark to indicate the omitted words.

    Of course, an ellipse should always be used when omitting words from within a quotation, but the Purdue style guide says nothing about using an ellipsis for omitting a sentence part that precedes or follows a quotation. I generally use an ellipsis in such a situation but I am not going to say that Behe was wrong for not doing so.

    (Purdue style guide) If you need to insert something within a quotation, use a pair of brackets to enclose the addition.

    Brackets are often used for any changes in the quotation, not just additions — e.g., brackets are used for changing from lower case to upper case (as in the example I showed) or when changing the tense of a verb (as going from [ed] to [ing]).

    Also, a lot of people don’t use the Purdue style guide and a lot of people (and I am not ashamed to say that I am one of them) have not even heard of it.

    Mark Duigon said ( June 22, 2007 09:09 AM ) —

    The Chicago Manual of Style explains that “…an original lowercase letter following the four dots [i.e., where quoted material skips something following the end of a quoted sentence and picks up again mid-sentence–period plus 3 dots] should not be capitalized, so that the reader attempting to locate the quotation in its source will not be misled. If a change is made, brackets may be used to indicate it.”

    That still does not answer the question of whether an ellipsis should be used when a sentence part that precedes or follows a quotation is omitted.

    (Chicago Manual of Style) In the situation at the beginning of the quote, the case of the leading letter depends on the overall syntax and does not take brackets, except in legal works (when a change either to uppercase or lowercase is bracketed).

    See, the rules are different for different situations, even within a given style guide.

    Jim Wynne said ( June 22, 2007 12:17 PM ) —

    We can now add writing to the growing list of subjects Fafarman opines about, but in so doing proves he’s laughably ignorant.

    There are always those self-appointed cyberbullying blogosphere goons who won’t even give a commenter a chance to respond before they make a disparaging remark.

    Mark Perakh said ( June 22, 2007 12:01 PM ) —

    I know for fact that Behe tried to justify his doctoring the quote in question by telling Coyne that doctoring was done by his editors. A fine explanation, isn’t it? Since Behe in fact thus admitted (albeit not publicly) the fact that the quote was doctored, this also negates the awkward attempt by a notorious troll in this thread to exonerate Behe.

    I said nothing about Behe’s quotation of Coyne, but I will now. Behe said,

    Jerry Coyne, of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, arrives at an unexpected verdict:

    We conclude — unexpectedly — that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak. (pp. 29)

    Here is what Coyne actually said:

    We conclude — unexpectedly — that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak . . .

    I agree that Behe quoted Coyne grossly out of context, but the charge that Behe “doctored” the quote implies that he changed the wording, and he did not. It is a verbatim quote.

    Anyway, no one has answered my charge that Jason wrongly charged that Behe’s quotation of Sean Carroll’s book “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” was a quote mine — see my discussion in my comment of June 22, 2007 01:00 AM .

    I am again calling on Jason to retract his charge that Behe’s quotation of Sean Carroll’s book was a quote mine. I am now also asking Jason to retract his charge that Behe “doctored” his quotation of Coyne.

  24. #24 Phobos
    June 22, 2007

    What is it with creationists and quote mining?!? I guess that’s all you have to fall back on without doing any actual science. Perhaps they’ll notice someday that scientific papers make a case by presenting data, not quotes.

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 22, 2007

    Larry-

    Changing the punctuation within a sentence certainly qualifies as doctoring the sentence. In both the Coyne example from DBB, and the Carroll example from EoE, Behe presented part of a sentence as if it were the whole thing, without giving any indication that words had been cut. If you object to describing that as doctoring, what term would you prefer?

    As for the substance, in both cases the phrase that was cut made it clear that the sentence did not mean what Behe said it meant. In the DBB example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that Coyne was addressing a minor side question, and not Neo-Darwinism generally. In the EoE example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that the theoreticians Carroll was critizing were not led astray by Darwinian thinking, but in fact were not even discussing evolution at all.

    I see no reason to apologize for anything I wrote. Instead, Behe should apologize for his comical inability to represent accurately the views of other scientists.

  26. #26 Mark Duigon
    June 22, 2007

    The point of using ellipsis points, brackets, etc. is to make clear what you are quoting and how accurately you are quoting the material. If you omit very important material that affects the meaning or applicability of the quoted material, you are not being honest. This is what Behe has done. If it is his editors’ fault, he will doubtless write a correction in the next edition or elsewhere will write a corrected version.

    Many years ago, Mad magazine printed a series of famous quotes in their actual context. My favorite was Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “You’re mother’s got me on this blasted diet, so I want you to go into the kitchen, SPEAK SOFTLY to the cook, AND CARRY up A nice, BIG STICKy chocolate sundae for me.” Perhaps that issue contained a major lesson plan for Creationists.

  27. #27 Mark Duigon
    June 22, 2007

    Jason is quite right. Referring again to CMS (10.42)on using ellipses between sentences:

    Four dots–a period, followed by three spaced dots–indicate the omission of (1)the last part of the quoted sentence, (2)the first part of the next sentence, (3)a whole sentence or more, or (4)a whole paragraph or more.

    Some smart guy wrote

    It will not do to write so that you can be understood, but you must write so well that you cannot be misunderstood.

  28. #28 MarkH
    June 22, 2007

    I’m in agreement with Jason. The more important aspect of quote-mining is that the original intent of the words is skewed to mean something they do not. Additionally, the grammatical changes falsely make it appear as if this is a complete sentence and a whole thought – rather than a fragment of one.

    This is a nice catch Jason – and nicely in line with the predictions of crank/denialism theory.

  29. #29 harold
    June 22, 2007

    Fafarman –

    You are a true troll because you hide behind indefatigable verbosity. Yet I will indulge, once, in luxury of mole-whacking, before moving on.

    You are wrong here, plain and simple, because any quote which deliberately distorts the quoted author’s opinion is deeply dishonest and deserves to be called quote mining.

    An accidental quote which distorts the quoted author’s opinion, unlikely to be an issue here, is incompetent.

    Your childish attempt at a legalistic and technical defense of quote-mining suggests an absence of ethical development.

  30. #30 Larry Fafarman
    June 22, 2007

    Jason said,

    Larry-

    Changing the punctuation within a sentence certainly qualifies as doctoring the sentence.

    The changes in punctuation were so minor that I hardly noticed them — e.g., a period was added to the quote from Coyne. To me, “doctoring” means or implies changing the wording of the quotation. To me, omitting an important part of a sentence is not “doctoring” but is just quote mining. To me, quote mining is quote mining — omitting an important part of a sentence is no different to me than omitting other important text. Charging Behe with quote-mining Coyne — a charge I agree with — was bad enough; you didn’t have to gild the lily by making the additional largely false charge that Behe “doctored” the quotation. You just got greedy by trying to make two charges for the price of one.

    In the DBB example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that Coyne was addressing a minor side question, and not Neo-Darwinism generally.

    I think that it would have taken more than that to make the context clear, but I do agree that Behe quote-mined Coyne.

    In the EoE example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that the theoreticians Carroll was critizing were not led astray by Darwinian thinking, but in fact were not even discussing evolution at all.

    I strenuously disagree. The rest of the sentence did not expressly say that these theoreticians “were not led astray by Darwinian thinking” or that these theoreticians “were not even discussing evolution at all” — here is what the rest of the sentence said: “Heavily influenced by a 1952 paper by the genius Alan Turing (a founder of computer science who helped crack the German Engima code in World War II) . . . .” Incidentally, not that it matters so far as your charge of quote mining is concerned, but you provided no evidence that those theoreticians “were not led astray by Darwinian thinking” or that those theoreticians “were not even discussing evolution at all” — in fact, the evidence shows that your latter claim is false, because you said that those theoreticians were studying “the process of morphogenesis.”

    I see no reason to apologize for anything I wrote. Instead, Behe should apologize for his comical inability to represent accurately the views of other scientists.

    IMO Behe should apologize for quote-mining Coyne and you should apologize for charging that he “doctored” quotes and that his EoE book quote-mined Carroll.

  31. #31 Chris Lawson
    June 22, 2007

    So Behe should apologize for quote-mining AND Jason should apologise for pointing out that Behe had quote-mined. Now I’ve seen everything.

  32. #32 fairlane
    June 22, 2007

    Larry said,

    “The rest of the sentence did say that these theoreticians ‘were not led astray by Darwinian thinking’ or that these theoreticians ‘were not even discussing evolution at all’.”

    “You provided evidence that those theoreticians “were not led astray by Darwinian thinking”…that those theoreticians “were not even discussing evolution at all” — in fact, the evidence shows that.”

    “The changes in punctuation, I noticed them. To me, “doctoring” means omitting an important part of a sentence.”

    “In the DBB example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that Coyne was addressing a minor side question, and not Neo-Darwinism generally.”

    “I agree. No reason to apologize Jason.”

  33. #33 Ritchie Annand
    June 22, 2007

    His editors chopped down a quote that didn’t support what he was trying to claim into one that did?

    A nod and a wink just won’t do here. This rivals some of the excuses parents make for their children caught cheating in school. We all know the truth, but we take the lie in polite company.

  34. #34 Larry Fafarman
    June 22, 2007

    Chris Lawson driveled ( June 22, 2007 06:37 PM ) —

    So Behe should apologize for quote-mining AND Jason should apologise for pointing out that Behe had quote-mined.

    No, dingaling, what I said was that Behe should apologize for quote-mining one thing and Jason should apologize for falsely accusing him of quote-mining something else. Jason should apologize for charging that Behe made two quote mines when Behe only made one. And I also said that Jason should apologize for unfairly charging that Behe “doctored” quotes. Sheeeesh.

  35. #35 Grodge
    June 22, 2007

    Traces asks: “What I don’t get is this: what does Behe get out of egregious quote-mining? What are his motivations? He surely knew, as soon as he typed the misquotes above, that he would be rapid-fire exposed. Does his base simply not care?”

    Not sure what Behe’s motivation is, but consider that if he chose a more traditional role in science, he would sell less books and be less well-known, and he would be required to do all manner of undesirable tasks from teaching intro courses and engaging in primary research, humping for tenure, etc.

    As one of the few “maverick” scientists who eschew science, he achieves instant rock star status among the fearful masses of fundies and neocons. And they do not care if he is misquoting valid scientists, they are operating on an emotional level.

  36. #36 delphi_ote
    June 22, 2007

    Fafarman and Behe have the same problem. Neither understands the content of Carroll’s writing, so they’re forced to misrepresent his views. They don’t comprehend the diversity of thinking outside their narrow worldview. I don’t think they can help it. They pick out the few words they actually understand and link them together with a comforting fictional narrative.

    If they actually understood the context of these quotes, it would be obvious to them that Kauffman, Ball, and Wolfram are far closer to the creationist line of argument than anyone in mainstream science. They’d also know better than to slag them and exoect it to somehow damage commonly accepted modern evolutionary theory. While each brilliant in his own way, those three are totally off in their own little worlds.

  37. #37 Larry Fafarman
    June 22, 2007

    delphi_ote said ( June 22, 2007 09:37 PM ) —

    Fafarman and Behe have the same problem. Neither understands the content of Carroll’s writing, so they’re forced to misrepresent his views. . . . .
    If they actually understood the context of these quotes, it would be obvious to them that Kauffman, Ball, and Wolfram are far closer to the creationist line of argument than anyone in mainstream science.

    You missed my point entirely. All I said was that Behe did not quote Carroll out of the context of what Carroll actually said and therefore Behe’s quotations of Carroll are not quote mines. Jason did not quote anything from Carroll that said that these theoreticians “were not led astray by Darwinian thinking,” that these theoreticians “were not even discussing evolution at all” (they were in fact discussing evolution — Jason said that “Kauffman and Ball are more interested in carving out a niche for the idea of self-organization in evolution, while Wolfram holds certain outre views about the importance of cellular automata”), “that none of these gentleman has an especially high opinion of Neo-Darwinism,” or that “Kauffman, Ball, and Wolfram are far closer to the creationist line of argument than anyone in mainstream science.” It is one thing to argue that Behe is wrong and something else entirely to charge that Behe quote-mined Carroll. I am astonished that I need to explain this difference to you people.

  38. #38 M. H.
    June 23, 2007

    You can’t reason with Larry, as I found out here.

  39. #39 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 23, 2007

    Larry-

    Carroll was quite clear that what led the theoreticians astray in this case was Turing’s 1952 paper. That paper had nothing to do either with Darwinism or evolution, as I said in my post. You are welcome to follow the link and read Turing’s paper if you wish to see for yourself. Furthermore, the problem under discussion was not anything to do with Darwinian evolution. The problem was the mechanics of morphogenesis. The solution to that problem is certainly relevant to evolutionary theory, but evolutionary theory itself has little light to shed on the solution to that problem.

    Let me make this even simpler. Behe said the scientists were led astray by Darwinian thinking. We know that is not true because (a) Carroll specifically says the problem was a misguided paper from the 1950’s, and this paper had nothing to do with Darwinism, and (b) the problem the theoreticians were addressing was not one about which Darwinism has much to say. Therefore, Behe has quote-mined Carroll.

    Regarding the second quote, Carroll was discussing three scientists who were explicitly not starting from Darwinian principles. For Behe to pretend otherwise is likewise highly dishonest.

    The ice you are standing on is far too thin to support the rudeness of your previous comment. I will not be replying to any further comments from you.

  40. #40 delphi_ote
    June 23, 2007

    Larry, let me dumb down my previous post a bit: the only reason you don’t see that Carroll’s quote was taken out of context is that you don’t understand the context. If you are interested in learning about that context, Jason already explained it to you. Try reading it again more slowly. If you don’t understand some of the words he uses, maybe try looking them up.

  41. #41 LarryFarma@aol.com
    June 23, 2007

    Jason said,

    Carroll was quite clear that what led the theoreticians astray in this case was Turing’s 1952 paper.

    Wrong — Carroll only said that Turing’s paper “influenced” those theoreticians — he did not say that Turing’s paper “led [them] astray.”

    That paper had nothing to do either with Darwinism or evolution, as I said in my post.

    That was what you said in your post, but you did not show that Carroll said that in his book. In fact, the title of the paper, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” suggests that it has something to do with evolution.

    You are welcome to follow the link and read Turing’s paper if you wish to see for yourself.

    So far as the question of whether Behe quote-mined Carroll is concerned, Behe was not responsible for knowing what was in Turing’s paper — Behe was only responsible for knowing what Carroll said in the contexts of Behe’s quotations of him.

    Furthermore, the problem under discussion was not anything to do with Darwinian evolution.

    You said, “Kauffman and Ball are more interested in carving out a niche for the idea of self-organization in evolution, while Wolfram holds certain outre views about the importance of cellular automata.” So Kaufman’s and Ball’s work was definitely about evolution and Wolfram’s work could be.

    Behe said the scientists were led astray by Darwinian thinking.

    What Behe attributed to Carroll was the idea that scientists were led astray by “[the belief] that simple rules that can generate patterns on a computer screen are the rules that generate patterns in biology.”

    (a) Carroll specifically says the problem was a misguided paper from the 1950’s , and this paper had nothing to do with Darwinism, and (b) the problem the theoreticians were addressing was not one about which Darwinism has much to say . . .

    . . . Regarding the second quote, Carroll was discussing three scientists who were explicitly not starting from Darwinian principles.

    Nothing that you cited from Carroll’s book says any of those things (and as I noted above, the title of Turing’s paper and the subjects of the work of at least two of the three other scientists indicated that their work did have something to do with Darwinism), except perhaps for your statement that Turing’s paper was the cause of the problem of erroneous attempts to create particular computer models of evolution, but Carroll only said that Turing’s paper “influenced” those other researchers, not that Turing’s paper led them astray, and Carroll didn’t call Turing’s paper “misguided.” Here is what you said about Behe’s second quote of Carroll —

    How about that second quote? That comes from page 318, in the notes to Carroll’s book. He is fleshing out his earlier statement about how certain theoreticians were led astray by pretty mathematics. Just prior to the quote Behe cites, Carroll provided three examples of recent scientists following in Turing’s footsteps by providing computational models of pattern formation in nature. The three scientists? S. Kauffman, P. Ball, and S. Wolfram. After mentioning books written by these people, Carroll makes his statement about the continuing error of such approaches.

    I can’t believe this. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland — maybe at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — trying to reason with characters who are completely irrational and nonsensical.

    The ice you are standing on is far too thin to support the rudeness of your previous comment.

    You call that “rudeness”?

    I will not be replying to any further comments from you.

    Thank you — I don’t think I could stomach any more of your arguments.

    BTW, the title of the post is wrong. Since you only showed an instance of quote mining in “Darwin’s Black Box” and failed to show one in “The Edge of Evolution,” the title of the post should be, “Quote Mining in DBB.”

  42. #42 Science Avenger
    June 23, 2007

    I can’t believe this. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland — maybe at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — trying to reason with characters who are completely irrational and nonsensical.

    In a sane world, the insane man appears insane.

  43. #43 Larry Fafarman
    June 23, 2007

    In a sane world, the insane man appears insane.

    Is that supposed to be a gem of wisdom?

  44. #44 John Farrell
    June 23, 2007

    Excellent post, Jason. The fundamental intellectual dishonesty of Behe (and his lapdogs) needs to be pointed out again and again.

  45. #45 Larry Fafarman
    June 24, 2007

    Here is an inconsistency that I didn’t catch, from Jason’s comment of June 23, 2007 @ 02:51 PM. And it is noteworthy that the inconsistency occurs in the same comment.

    Some statements say that Turing’s paper has “nothing” (or “not anything”) to do with Darwinism:

    Carroll was quite clear that what led the theoreticians astray in this case was Turing’s 1952 paper. That paper had nothing to do either with Darwinism or evolution, as I said in my post . . . Furthermore, the problem under discussion was not anything to do with Darwinian evolution . . . Carroll specifically says the problem was a misguided paper from the 1950’s, and this paper had nothing to do with Darwinism. (emphasis added)

    “Nothing” and “not anything” to do with Darwinism means exactly “nothing” and “not anything” to do with Darwinism. But another statement in Jason’s same comment says that the paper does have something to do with Darwinism, even if it doesn’t have a lot to do with Darwinism:

    The problem was the mechanics of morphogenesis. The solution to that problem is certainly relevant to evolutionary theory, but evolutionary theory itself has little light to shed on the solution to that problem. (emphasis added)

    You are just talking through your hat, Jason.

    Sorry to rain on your parade, Jason, but you have utterly failed to show that Behe quote-mined Carroll. All of the insults and ad hominem attacks against me here are not going to change that fact.

  46. #46 harold
    June 24, 2007

    Fafarman –

    I think that the quote-mining here may be less obvious than the earlier quote-mining, but it still deserves to be called “quote-mining”.

    The rational standard for evaluating whether a quote is used appropriately is to ask – “Is an isolated quote being used to falsely imply that the author’s view or thesis is different from what it actually is?”

    You can quote authors you disagree with, you can even use quotes in discussion of an issue the original author didn’t raise.

    What you shouldn’t do, though, is use a quote to deceptively imply that the original author advanced some view, when this is not the case.

    It’s really that simple.

    Caroll obviously did not write with the intention of stating that the theory of evolution led mathematicians astray and was therefore wrong. That was not Caroll’s intention.

    Behe could have written something like “Although Caroll’s work is supportive of mainstream evolutionary theory, he discusses a situation which I, personally, interpret differently, and as a challenge to the theory of evolution”. Then he would have been wrong, but have avoided using the quote inappropriately.

    Instead he used the quote in a deceptive way.

    It is the equivalent of a pro-science author using a Behe quote in a way that implies that Behe supports the theory of evolution. Would defend that with hour upon hour of feverish internent posts?

  47. #47 Larry Fafarman
    June 24, 2007

    Harold said,

    I think that the quote-mining here may be less obvious than the earlier quote-mining, but it still deserves to be called “quote-mining”.

    It is not a quote mine, period, whether less obvious, more obvious, or neither. Behe did not quote Carroll out of context. Behe did not misrepresent Carroll’s stated views. Jason’s citations of Carroll’s book do not say any of those things about Darwinism, e.g., that Turing’s paper and the books of the three others had nothing to do with Darwinism and that these theoreticians were not led astray by Darwinism. And Jason even contradicted himself by first saying that Turing’s paper has nothing to do with Darwinism and then saying that the paper does have something to do with Darwinism.

    Behe could have written something like “Although Caroll’s work is supportive of mainstream evolutionary theory, he discusses a situation which I, personally, interpret differently, and as a challenge to the theory of evolution”.

    Jason never claimed that Carroll’s work is “supportive of mainstream evolutionary theory,” and that is irrelevant anyway. What counts is that Jason failed to show that Behe’s quotations of Carroll misrepresented Carroll’s views on the particular subject of the quotations: computer modeling of evolution.

    By your loose definition of “quote mine,” any quotation that is used in a disputed way would be a quote mine. As I said, it is one thing to argue that Behe is wrong and another thing entirely to charge that Behe quote-mined Carroll.

  48. #48 John Farrell
    June 24, 2007

    BTW, this isn’t the first time that Behe has been caught distorting what people have written. John Derbyshire at National Review has pointed this out in the past, as has Ken Miller, if I’m not mistaken.

  49. #49 mcmillan
    June 24, 2007

    In fact, the title of the paper, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” suggests that it has something to do with evolution.

    You’ve made this point a couple times, and it makes me think you don’t actually know what morphogenesis is. The title simply tells me that it’s discussing mechanisms of development. I haven’t actually looked at the Turing paper, but it is certainly possible (and given what I know about the history of developmental biology it’s likely) that the paper discussed the basis for morphogenesis in currently living organisms without even thinking about the connection to the evolutionary past. Whether the mechanisms evolved or were poofed into existence by the “Intelligent Designer” could be irrelevant to the level of discussion in the original paper.

    For Behe to say that this is an example of Darwinian thoughts is certainly dishonest. And it’s continuing the dishonesty to combine this quote with another from a different section of the book which also dealt with mathematical models that were not inspired by Darwin’s thinking.

  50. #50 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 24, 2007

    It’s interesting to see how Turing starts his paper:

    In this section a mathematical model of the growing embryo will be described. This model will be a simplification and an idealization, and consequently a falsification. It is to be hoped that the features retained for the discussion are those of greatest importance in the present state of knowledge.

    Wise words.

  51. #51 Larry Fafarman
    June 24, 2007

    mcmillan said —

    In fact, the title of the paper, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” suggests that it has something to do with evolution.
    You’ve made this point a couple times, and it makes me think you don’t actually know what morphogenesis is. . . .
    it is certainly possible . . that the paper discussed the basis for morphogenesis in currently living organisms without even thinking about the connection to the evolutionary past.

    Sigh. Jason’s comment of June 23, 2007 @ 02:51 PM said, “The problem was the mechanics of morphogenesis. The solution to that problem is certainly relevant to evolutionary theory, but evolutionary theory itself has little light to shed on the solution to that problem. “(emphasis added) And Jason’s opening post said that the research of at least two of the three others was related to evolution: “Kauffman and Ball are more interested in carving out a niche for the idea of self-organization in evolution, while Wolfram holds certain outre views about the importance of cellular automata.”

    For Behe to say that this is an example of Darwinian thoughts is certainly dishonest. And it’s continuing the dishonesty to combine this quote with another from a different section of the book which also dealt with mathematical models that were not inspired by Darwin’s thinking.

    Nothing that Jason cited from Carroll’s book said that none of these mathematical models — including Turing’s — were inspired or influenced by Darwin’s thinking.

    Blake Stacey, OM said,

    It’s interesting to see how Turing starts his paper:

    As I said: So far as the charge of quote-mining Carroll is concerned, Behe is responsible only for what Carroll said and not for what Turing said.

    I will say it one more time: It is one thing to argue that Behe is wrong and it is something else entirely to charge that Behe quote-mined Carroll.

    John Farrell said —

    BTW, this isn’t the first time that Behe has been caught distorting what people have written. John Derbyshire at National Review has pointed this out in the past, as has Ken Miller, if I’m not mistaken.

    You did not give any more instances of Behe’s alleged quote-mining. The only instance of real quote-mining given here is from “Darwin’s Black Box,” which was published in 1996, and Coyne exposed that quote-mining in 1997. That was a long time ago. I hope that Behe has learned his lesson.

  52. #52 Larry Fafarman
    June 24, 2007

    BTW, Jason said,

    A new ID book, a new selection of yummy delicious quote-mines to ponder. EoE offers up quite the little smorgasbord.

    All that Jason provided on this “little smorgasbord” of “yummy delicious quote-mines” was just two quotations of Sean Carroll that were not quote-mines at all.

    — and Jason also said in the introduction over on Panda’s Thumb,

    Over at EvolutionBlog I analyze a tediously commonplace example of Behe not merely removing a quotation from its proper context, but actually deleting part of it to give a false impression of its meaning.

    As I said, I don’t see any difference between ignoring a crucial part of a sentence and ignoring other crucial text. It is all just quote mining to me.

  53. #53 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 24, 2007

    Larry-

    I’ve long had a policy of allowing people to post whatever comments they wanted at this blog, as long as they weren’t vulgar or libelous. But your behavior in this thread has been so obnoxious and your remarks so idiotic that you have forced me to reevaluate that policy. So on a whim I decided to follow the link back to your blog, just to see the kinds of things you post. In addition to post after post of nearly incoherent name-calling directed towards people who do not deserve it, I noticed that you write things like this:

    Idiot-savant Eugene Volokh, a blogger on the popular Volokh Conspiracy blog, is just one in a long line of well-known people who I never even imagined had Jewish ancestry. People like him strengthen my argument that a “systematic” holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no reliable way of identifying Jews. There are blond-and-blue-eyed Jews and black Jews. There are all kinds of Jews.

    This under the title, “Funny, He Doesn’t Look Like a Jew. Who Knew?”

    I’ve been barely tolerating you as it is, but you are not going to be using my blog to promote holocaust denial and anti-semitism. You are no longer welcome to comment here. I understand now why so many other bloggers have seen fit to ban you in the past.

  54. #54 Tyler DiPietro
    June 25, 2007

    Jason,

    Just a forewarning, Larry has in the past proven himself rather fond of morphing IP’s and screen-names to get around bans and troll the blogs of those who’ve banned him. You’re probably in for a reasonably long game of whack-a-mole.

  55. #55 Paul
    June 25, 2007

    Interesting post.

    First, although it was entitled “Quote Mining in EoE”, a third of it was actually about “DBB”. What’s the opposite of quote mining? Text padding, perhaps?

    Next, regarding the analysis of Coyne’s quote, you have failed to explain in what way the context you provide contradicts Behe’s quote from Coyne that there is little evidence for neo-darwinism. I would say the context actually strengthens Behe’s argument – that the evidence for the conventional neo-darwinist view is slight.

    Note that Behe isn’t arguing either that Coyne is not a neo-darwinist, nor that he doesn’t think it can be proved, nor that he doesn’t want to prove it. Just that his belief in neo-darwinism is at least for now an unverifiable leap of faith. Which seems to describe the case very well.

  56. #56 MartinM
    June 25, 2007

    What’s the opposite of quote mining?

    That would be quoting honestly. Difficult concept, I know.

  57. #57 Paul
    June 25, 2007

    Well, since the writer has failed to show in what way the “mined quote” is dishonest, I’m afraid that the writer of the post does not share your use of language.

  58. #58 Anonymous
    June 25, 2007

    Paul said,

    regarding the analysis of Coyne’s quote, you have failed to explain in what way the context you provide contradicts Behe’s quote from Coyne that there is little evidence for neo-darwinism.

    But Jason did explain that — he said (June 22, 2007 03:11 PM), “In the DBB example, citing the whole sentence would have made it clear that Coyne was addressing a minor side question, and not Neo-Darwinism generally.” I don’t think the side question was “minor,” but it was a side question. Even Larry Fafarman agreed that Behe quote-mined Coyne. However, IMO Larry convincingly argued that Behe did not quote-mine Carroll in the EoE example.

    Note that Behe isn’t arguing either that Coyne is not a neo-darwinist, nor that he doesn’t think it can be proved, nor that he doesn’t want to prove it. Just that his belief in neo-darwinism is at least for now an unverifiable leap of faith. Which seems to describe the case very well.

    You folks’ problem is that you are trying to read too much into the contexts of these alleged quote mines. These contexts should be taken at face value.

  59. #59 Dave S.
    June 25, 2007

    In case you’re wondering, yes that last post by “Anonymous” was almost certainly by none other than Larry Fafarman himself. He MUST make his points, no matter if he’s banned or not. He has a long history of being banned and then making new identities to get right back in and keep on posting.

    Oh, and he’s also a moon landing denier.

  60. #60 John Farrell
    June 25, 2007

    He no doubt also believes that Shakespeare isn’t the real author of the plays and that Einstein’s relativity is wrong. What are you willing to bet this guy is an electrical engineer or technician?

  61. #61 ben
    June 25, 2007

    Larry once also aspired to be a meteor shower explanation-denier, but that was too idiotic even for him.

  62. #62 Raging Bee
    June 25, 2007

    Larry has also appointed himself Confederate Information Minister, and, in the tradition of Muhammed Seed al-Sahaf, firmly denies that slavery had anything at all to do with the South’s decision to secede from the US in 1861, dsepite mountains of evidence that disprove his counter-assertions.

    Prove him wrong on his central thesis, and he’ll simply develop a laughable obsession for subjects of tertiary (if any) significance, desperately looking for something to be right about.

    Unlike most trolls, Larry has proven himself to be, not merely laughably obsessive and ignorant, but mentally ill: he has been known to pretend to be other people, including his own brother, who had to call him out, explain the family situation, and apologize to another sciencceblogger. This is one troll that should not be fed, simply because the attention he gets feeds his mental illness.

  63. #63 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 25, 2007

    Paul-

    Coyne wasn’t talking about the evidence for Neo-Darwinism. He was considering the question of whether mutations of large effect have a significant role to play in evolution. Neo-Darwinians had tended to downplay the importance of such mutations, according to Coyne, and he was arguing that this was a mistake. Absolutely nothing relevant to Behe’s argument was riding on the resolution of that debate.

    Tyler-

    I’m sure you’re right about Larry popping up with other IP’s, but at least he won’t be able to claim credit for his statements and won’t be able to direct people to his blog.

  64. #64 Paul
    June 25, 2007

    Jason: Coyne wasn’t addressing the issue of evidence for neo-darwinism. But in the process of addressing something else, he remarked that this evidence was lacking. Behe’s use of what Coyne said here is not inaccurate, just because Coyne wasn’t talking about this. And indeed, the fact that this evidence was lacking is in part the reason why large-effect mutations are having to be roped into play, when conventional neo-darwinism doesn’t seem to do what it was assumed it would do.

    Isn’t this part of the underlying reason for the tension between Gouldites and Dawkins-ites?

    Put it another way. Which is the more reasonable inference from what Coyne/Orr say –
    1) There is lots of evidence in support of gradual mutations driving evolution?
    2) There is little evidence in support of gradual mutations driving evolution?

    Surely the second of those – and Coyne/Orr are seeking to encourage people to do more work to provide evidence of the evolutionary mechanism – “We hope to encourage evolutionists to reexamine this neglected question and to provide the evidence to settle it.”

    And isn’t that the point that Behe was making?

  65. #65 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 25, 2007

    Paul-

    The evidence that was lacking was not evidence for Neo-Darwinism. Rather, it was evidence that the mutations that are relevant in the evolution of adaptations must necessarily be of small effect. Do you really not see the difference between those two?

    Likewise, the question Coyne/Orr are asking scientists to reexamine is not whether complex adaptations evolve gradually over many years under the auspices of natural selection. They are not talking about the mechanism of evolution, at least not in the sense Behe would have us believe. They are not talking about whether evolution proceeds gradually via the accumulation of small genetic changes. The question is simply whether mutations of large effect play a greater role in the evolution of adaptations than had previously been appreciated.

    Incidentally, in your dichotomy, it doesn’t really make sense to talk about “gradual mutations.” Mutations are not the sort of thing that can be gradual or sudden.

  66. #66 Wesley R. Elsberry
    June 25, 2007

    And isn’t that the point that Behe was making?

    One has to be careful about making that sort of statement. In the history of IDC, I don’t recall an IDC advocate ever admitting that a critic had understood what point the IDC advocate was on about. One would think that after a number of repetitions of that sort of thing, that either the critics would have gotten better, or the IDC advocate might have, perhaps, taken a millisecond or two to wonder whether they were communicating their point clearly in the first place.

    Beyond that, what Jason said.

  67. #67 mark
    June 25, 2007

    …or the IDC advocate might have, perhaps, taken a millisecond or two to wonder whether they were communicating their point clearly in the first place.

    And if they discovered that they accidentally communicated a point clearly, they can back up and obfuscate.

  68. #68 Anonymous
    June 25, 2007

    Wesley Elsberry said,

    And isn’t that the point that Behe was making?

    One has to be careful about making that sort of statement. In the history of IDC, I don’t recall an IDC advocate ever admitting that a critic had understood what point the IDC advocate was on about. One would think that after a number of repetitions of that sort of thing, that either the critics would have gotten better, or the IDC advocate might have, perhaps, taken a millisecond or two to wonder whether they were communicating their point clearly in the first place.

    ???????? What does this have to do with the question of whether Behe quote-mined Coyne?

    You folks are making this much too complicated. You are obscuring the main issue here, the question of whether Behe quote-mined Coyne.

    It is certainly OK for you folks to digress, so long as it is done with the understanding that you are no longer discussing the question of whether Behe quote-mined Coyne.

    BTW, Jason did not give the context of the Coyne quotation in Darwin’s Black Box. Maybe this context in DBB would help shed some light on this discussion. Who knows, maybe if this context were shown, the Coyne quotation might not even look like a quote mine — in other words, maybe Jason quote-mined the alleged quote mine of Coyne. IMO the Coyne quotation definitely looks like a quote mine when viewed in isolation.

  69. #69 Kevin
    June 25, 2007

    La La La Larry!

    Fa Fa Fa Farman!

    Mr. Farfman tried to play “Guess who’s a Jew” on Howard Stern (hosted by Kurt Waldheim, Jr.) but was rejected.

    That’s why he has a lot of bitter posts about Jews.

  70. #70 Rhampton
    June 25, 2007

    Is this an accurate citation, or an example of quote-mining? Only Larry knows…

    At 2:28 AM, Larry Fafarman said�

    I have often been criticized for commenting about books without having read them in their entirety and sometimes not at all. However, reading entire books is very time-consuming and therefore reduces the range of opinions that one can be exposed to. Often I can get all I need to know about a book just by reading small parts of it (e.g., the introduction) and book reviews.

  71. #71 Paul
    June 26, 2007

    Incidentally, in your dichotomy, it doesn’t really make sense to talk about gradual mutations. Mutations are not the sort of thing that can be gradual or sudden. Sigh. A “mutation” isn’t evolution, either. What I was talking about was a series of mutations that led to gradual change, rather than a mutation that led to a sudden change. Had you been interested in the debate, one would have thought that you might have just clarified that point prior to answering it – but no, instead we have the somewhat pompous, “You’ve not used the right words – you must not know what you are talking about.” See “The argument against fancy words” and the “argument of mistaken vocational identity” here.

    Although a few biologists have suggested an evolutionary role for mutations or large effect (Gould 1980; Maynard Smith 1983: Gottlieb, 1984; Turner, 1985), the neo-Darwinian view has largely triumphed …[additional clauses expanding on this]… We conclude–unexpectedly–that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view That says several things:
    1) “Mutations or large effect” (should that be “of”?) are held in contrast to “the neo-darwinian view” of adaptation.
    2) The opinion that “mutations of large effect” are significant is a minority position.
    3) In fact, there is little evidence for the majority view – either for its theoretical basis, or experimentally.

    Are any of those statements wrong? If so, then I would suggest Coyne is not transparent in his use of language. If not, it follows that there is little evidence for this aspect of neodarwinism. Which is what Behe was saying. Coyne and Orr aren’t throwing the whole thing out – and Behe doesn’t claim that they are. He says that they are saying that the evidence in support of neodarwinism in this area is slight. That is thoroughly consistent with the point he was making at that stage in the text.

  72. #72 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 26, 2007

    Paul-

    This will be my last attempt to explain this to you. The first statement in your trio is not correct. The Neo-Darwinian view of adaptation is that complex structures form gradually over long periods of time by the gradual accretion of small genetic variations. That’s small at the level of the genotype, not necessarily at the level of the phenotype. (That is, small changes at the genetic level can tranlsate into big changes at the level of the physical structure of the organism).

    It was this idea that Behe was criticizing. In this he differs from Coyne and Orr, who were not criticizing this idea. The precise sorts of genetic variations that are relevant in producing adaptations is a side-issue separate from the main ideas of Neo-Darwinism.

    Behe was not criticizing “this aspect” of Neo-Darwinism. He was criticizing the whole thing by quoting scientists who allegedly share his dissatisfaction with it. It was wrong of him to use Coyne and Orr in that effort. Why do you suppose Behe lopped off the second half of the sentence without providing so much as an ellipsis to indicate that he had done so? The answer is obvious. Because the second half of the sentence provided context that fundamentally altered the meaning of the sentence.

    Coyne and Orr were perfectly clear about their intentions, and absolutely nothing they said is helpful to any point Behe was making. In fact, if Coyne and Orr are correct than the situation only gets worse for Behe. They are effectively saying that scientists have more explanatory options in accounting for complex strucutres than was previously appreciated.

  73. #73 Paul
    June 27, 2007

    I’m evidently being really stupid here. Don’t bother trying to explain any more, if you don’t want to. But if you can’t explain things to me, with a university science background, then I wouldn’t hold up much hope of trying to explain anything to laymen. You’ll have to resort to the Myersian approach of rounding up disbelievers and imprisoning them.

    I described how I understood what Coyne and Orr had said. You said that was wrong, but the description of what you said they were saying was exactly what I understood them to be saying – that the conventional and widely assumed neo-darwinian understanding was that adaptation was driven by mutations of small effect, but there was little evidence for this either experimentally or theoretically, and that mutations of large effect may be significant sometimes. There is little evidence for this either (since it is not a widely held view) and so Coyne and Orr were encouraging people to investigate it further.

    Behe was making the point that scientists were wondering “how darwinism can account for their observations”. Coyne and Orr were saying that, in looking at the genetic basis of adaptation, the conventional neodarwinist concept needs to be supplemented with the idea that mutations can sometimes have large effect. I still don’t think that in a reasonable reading of Behe, you can argue that he has gone beyond what Orr and Coyne said.

    This is what Coyne said about this, from the Boston Review:
    I am surely numbered among the more orthodox evolutionists, and hardly see our field as fatally flawed. The paper in question (actually by Allen Orr and myself)3 addresses a technical debate among evolutionists: are adaptations based on a lot of small genetic mutations (the traditional neo-Darwinian view), a few big mutations, or some mixture of the two? We concluded that although there was not much evidence one way or the other, there were indications that mutations of large effect might occasionally be important. Our paper cast no doubt whatever on the existence of evolution or the ability of natural selection to explain adaptations.

    Did Behe suggest that Coyne saw the field as fatally flawed? No – just that there was not much evidence. Did Behe suggest that Coyne doubted the existence of evolution? No – in fact, he specifically stated that most scientists strongly believed in evolution on the next page. Did he suggest that their paper cast doubt on the ability of NS to explain adaptations? Only indirectly, by showing that the concern that Coyne and Orr had was actually a concern about the scientific basis of darwinism that is held by scientists in other areas as well – he didn’t attribute this doubt directly to Coyne and Orr.

    However, there is also the issue of what Coyne himself said about Behe’s book in the Boston Review. “Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity is … untestable.” Not only does EoE suggest limits for a more general concept than IC, but it suggests that they have already been tested by nature, if we care to look at the results. “Behe has exaggerated claims of his own importance.” Does he? I certainly didn’t see that in DBB. He did say that a paradigm shift may be necessary. But if we want to talk about hubris, far more of it, and in a far more patronising form, comes from the darwinist side. “Behe suggests … our side is riven with self-doubt.” Not really – just that “your side” is aware of holes that ought to have gone away, but just seem to get bigger. Coyne can hardly say that his argument is flawed because he says that there are problems with what his opponents think. That itself is a non-argument. “You’re just like Hitler – he didn’t agree with the people he didn’t like, either – and look what happened to him?”

    Aaaaaaanyway. That’s all ten years old, now. What about that malarial organism?

  74. #74 Anonymous
    June 27, 2007

    As I have been saying, the BIG problem here is that we have not been shown quotations of what Behe actually said in the context of his quotation of Coyne.

  75. #75 Paul
    June 27, 2007

    I tried to provide context from Behe here.

  76. #76 slpage
    June 27, 2007

    Paul:
    ” “Behe has exaggerated claims of his own importance.” Does he? I certainly didn’t see that in DBB.”

    Did you actually read DBB?

  77. #77 Anonymous
    June 27, 2007

    Paul,

    Here is what your blog quoted from Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box”:

    Behe prefixes this series of quotations with:

    It is not just paleontologists looking for bones, though, who are disgruntled. A raft of evolutionary biologists examining whole organisms wonder just how Darwinism can account for their observations.

    Behe goes on to add, on the next page:

    Before going further, we should note the obvious: if a poll were taken of all the scientists in the world, the great majority would say they believed Darwinism to be true. But scientists, like everybody else, base most of their opinions on the word of other people. Of the great majority who accept Darwinism, most (though not all) do so based on authority. Also, and unfortunately, too often criticisms have been dismissed by the scientific community for fear of giving ammunition to creationists.

    None of that describes or explains Coyne’s context of Behe’s quotation of him.

    Also, your blog says,

    But has Behe misrepresented what Orr and Coyne said? Did they actually say the opposite – that is, “There is lots of evidence in support of evolution in the area in which we are experts.”

    But Behe’s quotation of Coyne gave the appearance that Coyne was talking about Darwinism in general and not just about Coyne’s area of expertise. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the area of evolution that Coyne was discussing was his own area of expertise. Also, Coyne even said that there may be some good evidence for neo-Darwinism in the area that he was discussing:

    The neo-Darwinian view could well be correct. It is almost certainly true, however, that some adaptations involve many genes of small effect and others involve major genes.

    As I said: viewed in isolation, Behe’s quotation of Coyne looks like a quote mine. You have not persuaded me that this quotation is not a quote mine.

    Meanwhile, it is very odd that Jason is censoring my comments even when I am trying to support him.

  78. #78 Paul
    June 27, 2007

    Yes, I read DBB. It was a sight more coherent than “The Blind Watchmaker” and addressed issues related to how evolution works to a greater extent than “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory”.

  79. #79 some other no name weasel
    June 27, 2007

    Meanwhile, it is very odd that Jason is censoring my comments even when I am trying to support him.
    Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2007 12:47 PM

    He don’t need your stinking support!

  80. #80 Anonymous
    June 27, 2007

    Meanwhile, it is very odd that Jason is censoring my comments even when I am trying to support him.
    Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2007 12:47 PM

    He don’t need your stinking support!

    Well, I am definitely not opposing him on this question of whether Behe quote-mined Coyne — and supporting him is the opposite of opposing him.

    And I didn’t say he needed my support — but he got it.

    I should have just said that my arguments are incidentally in his favor.

    And if you don’t think that my arguments are good ones, why don’t you point out what is wrong with them? Or are you just another bag of hot air?

    You Darwinists are really weird people. I remember that when Larry Farfaman interpreted a court opinion in a way that actually supported Lenny Flank’s views, Lenny sneered, “when did you become a lawyer, Larry?”

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