Pharyngula

A reader brought to my attention this outrageously dishonest mangling of a quote by that creationist, Casey Luskin. He writes:

In January, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences weighed in on this debate, declaring that “[t]here is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution,”1 because neo-Darwinism is “so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter2 it. As an undergraduate and graduate student taking multiple courses covering evolutionary biology at the University of California San Diego, that is what I was told as well. My science courses rarely, if ever, allowed students to seriously entertain the possibility that Darwin’s theory might be fundamentally flawed.

First rule of reading creationist literature: never trust an ellipsis. They always leave something significant out to change the meaning. Second rule of reading creationist literature: if they don’t use an ellipsis, they’re still going to distort a quote. Basically, you can’t trust anything these guys say. Luskin is claiming to be quoting something from the National Academy of Sciences booklet, Science, Evolution, and Creationism. How honest is his scholarship?

The first part of the quote is from page 52, near the end of the book. Here it is in context:

1There is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution. In this sense the intelligent design movement’s call to “teach the controversy” is unwarranted. Of course, there remain many interesting questions about evolution, such as the evolutionary origin of sex or different mechanisms of speciation, and discussion of these questions is fully warranted in science classes.

Where do you think we’ll find the second half of his quote? Page 53, maybe? Page 54? No. You’ll have to thumb backwards through the book, to a place near the beginning: page 16.

2Many scientific theories are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the Sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics).

So what Casey Luskin has done is to flip through the book and manufacture quotes by splicing together clauses from scattered sentences. Students who tried to pull this kind of unethical crap in a term paper would get an automatic “F” from me…yet Luskin reportedly has a law degree.

Aren’t journalists supposed to have some kind of ethical standards about this sort of thing? Do they simply suspend any regard for reasonable journalistic values when some right-wing think-tank like the Discovery Institute mails in some PR pablum?

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 10, 2008

    Many journalists tend to practice what I like to call “perverse egalitarianism,” the idea that both sides are equally right or valid. Why they do this is unclear;

    Because — in the USA at least — they start from the assumption that there are two sides to every issue. It doesn’t even enter their heads that sometimes there’s just one or three or five or ten.