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Or, Lies, Damned Lies and Quote Mines


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Darwin Quotes

Quote #57

"There are only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation, that life arose from non-living matter was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others. That leaves us with the only possible conclusion that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible; spontaneous generation arising to evolution." (Wald, George, "Innovation and Biology," Scientific American, Vol. 199, Sept. 1958, p. 100)

The poster (or whoever he cribbed it from - one of the dangers of plagiarism is that someone else's mistakes transform into your mistakes without warning) got the reference wrong. If he had photocopies of the paper, that would not have happened. The correct citation is:

Wald, G. 1954. The Origin of Life. Scientific American August: 44-53.

- C. Thompson

I went to the library and found the [September 1958] article. The quote is a complete fabrication. What the article does say is:

The great idea emerges originally in the consciousness of the race as a vague intuition; and this is the form it keeps, rude and imposing, in myth, tradition and poetry. This is its core, its enduring aspect. In this form science finds it, clothes it with fact, analyses its content, develops its detail, rejects it, and finds it ever again. In achieving the scientific view, we do not ever wholly lose the intuitive, the mythological. Both have meaning for us, and neither is complete without the other. The Book of Genesis contains still our poem of the Creation; and when God questions Job out of the whirlwind, He questions us.

Let me cite an example. Throughout our history we have entertained two kinds of views of the origin of life: one that life was created supernaturally, the other that it arose "spontaneously" from nonliving material. In the 17th to 19th centuries those opinions provided the ground of a great and bitter controversy. There came a curious point, toward the end of the 18th century, when each side of the controversy was represented by a Roman Catholic priest. The principle opponent of the theory of the spontaneous generation was then the Abbe Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian priest; and its principal champion was John Turberville Needham, an English Jesuit.

Since the only alternative to some form of spontaneous generation is a belief in supernatural creation, and since the latter view seems firmly implanted in the Judeo-Christian theology, I wondered for a time how a priest could support the theory of spontaneous generation. Needham tells one plainly. The opening paragraphs of the Book of Genesis can in fact be reconciled with either view. In its first account of Creation, it says not quite that God made living things, but He commanded the earth and waters to produce them. The language used is: "let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.... Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind." In the second version of creation the language is different and suggests a direct creative act: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air...." In both accounts man himself--and woman--are made by God's direct intervention. The myth itself therefore offers justification for either view. Needham took the position that the earth and waters, having once been ordered to bring forth life, remained ever after free to do so; and this is what we mean by spontaneous generation.

This great controversy ended in the mid-19th century with the experiments of Louis Pasteur, which seemed to dispose finally of the possibility of spontaneous generation. For almost a century afterward biologists proudly taught their students this history and the firm conclusion that spontaneous generation had been scientifically refuted and could not possibly occur. Does this mean that they accepted the alternative view, a supernatural creation of life? Not at all. They had no theory of the origin of life, and if pressed were likely to explain that questions involving such unique events as origins and endings have no place in science.

A few years ago, however, this question re-emerged in a new form. Conceding that spontaneous generation doe not occur on earth under present circumstances, it asks how, under circumstances that prevailed earlier upon this planet, spontaneous generation did occur and was the source of the earliest living organisms. Within the past 10 years this has gone from a remote and patchwork argument spun by a few venturesome persons--A. I. Oparin in Russia, J. B. S. Haldane in England--to a favored position, proclaimed with enthusiasm by many biologists.

Have I cited here a good instance of my thesis? I had said that in these great questions one finds two opposed views, each of which is periodically espoused by science. In my example I seem to have presented a supernatural and a naturalistic view, which were indeed opposed to each other, but only one of which was ever defended scientifically. In this case it would seem that science has vacillated, not between two theories, but between one theory and no theory.

That, however, is not the end of the matter. Our present concept of the origin of life leads to the position that, in a universe composed as ours is, life inevitably arises wherever conditions permit. We look upon life as part of the order of nature. It does not emerge immediately with the establishment of that order; long ages must pass before [page 100 | page 101] it appears. Yet given enough time, it is an inevitable consequence of that order. When speaking for myself, I do not tend to make sentences containing the word God; but what do those persons mean who make such sentences? They mean a great many different things; indeed I would be happy to know what they mean much better than I have yet been able to discover. I have asked as opportunity offered, and intend to go on asking. What I have learned is that many educated persons now tend to equate their concept of God with their concept of the order of nature. This is not a new idea; I think it is firmly grounded in the philosophy of Spinoza. When we as scientists say then that life originated inevitably as part of the order of our universe, we are using different words but do not necessary mean a different thing from what some others mean who say that God created life. It is not only in science that great ideas come to encompass their own negation. That is true in religion also; and man's concept of God changes as he changes.

I think that this extended quote shows that the "quote" is not even correct as a paraphrase. The quote reflects neither the words or the spirit of what Dr. Wald wrote.

- Mike Hopkins

I apologize for the length of this quote. I think it is only fair to give Dr. Wald ample time and space for his views to be expressed.

[The following is] transcribed directly from his paper "The Origin of Life," which appeared in the August 1954 (pages 44-53) issue of Scientific American.

Any mistakes of transcription are of course mine.

I am starting at the top of the center column on page 45.

One answer to the problem of how life originated is that it was created. This is an understandable confusion of nature with terminology. Men are used to making things; it is a ready thought that those things not made by men were made by a superhuman being. Most of the cultures we know contain mythical accounts of a supernatural creation of life. Our own tradition provides such an account in the opening chapters of Genesis. There we are told that beginning on the third day of the Creation, God brought forth living creatures- first plants, then fishes and birds, then land animals and finally man.

Spontaneous Generation

The more rational elements of society, however, tended to take a more naturalistic view of the matter. One had only to accept the evidence of one 's senses to know that life arises regularly from the nonliving: worms from mud, maggots from decaying meat, mice from refuse of various kinds. This is the view that came to be called spontaneous generation. Few scientists doubted it. Aristotle, Newton, William Harvey, Descartes, van Helmont all accepted spontaneous generation without serious inquiry. Indeed, even the theologians- witness the English priest John Turberville Needham- could subscribe to this view, for Genesis tells us, not that God created plants and most animals directly, but that he bade the earth and waters to bring them forth; since this directive was never rescinded, there is nothing heretical in believing that the process has continued.

But step by step, in a great controversy that spread over two centuries, this belief was whittled away until nothing remained of it. First the Italian Francisco Redi shoed in the 17th century that meat placed under a screen, so that flies cannot lay their eggs on it, never develops maggots. Then in the following century the Italian Abbe Lazzaro Spallanzani showed that a nutritive broth, sealed off from the air while boiling, never develops microorganisms, and hence never rots. Spallanzani could defend his broth; when he broke the seal of his flasks, allowing new air to rush in, the broth promptly began to rot. He could find no way, however, to show that the air inside the flask had not been vitiated. This problem was finally solved by Louis Pasteur in 1860, with a simple modification of Spallanzani's experiment. Pasteur too used a flask containing boiling broth, but instead of sealing off the neck he drew it out in a long, S-shaped curve with its end open to the air. While molecules of air could pass back and forth freely, the heavier particles of dust, bacteria, and molds in the atmosphere were trapped on the walls of the curved neck and only rarely reached the broth. In such a flask, the broth seldom was contaminated; usually it remained clear and sterile indefinitely.

This was only one of Pasteur's experiments. It is no easy matter to deal with so deeply ingrained and common-sense a belief as that in spontaneous generation. One can ask for nothing better in such a pass than a noisy and stubborn opponent, and this Pasteur had in the naturalist Felix Pouchet, whose arguments before the French Academy of Sciences drove Pasteur to more and more rigorous experiments.

We tell this story to beginning students in biology as though it represented a triumph of reason over mysticism. In fact it is very nearly the opposite. The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a "philosophical necessity". It is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of our time that this necessity is no longer appreciated. Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing.

I think a scientist has no choice but to approach the origin of life through a hypothesis of spontaneous generation. What the controversy reviewed above showed to be untenable is only the belief that living organisms arise spontaneously under present conditions. We have now to face a somewhat different problem: how organisms may have arisen spontaneously under different conditions in some former period, granted that they do so no longer.

Wald spends quite some time dealing with the issue of the probability of life arising spontaneously. I again quote Dr. Wald (p47):

With every event one can associate a probability - the chance that it will occur. This is always a fraction, the proportion of times an event occurs in a large number of trials. Sometimes the probability is apparent even without trial. A coin has two faces; the probability of tossing a head is therefore 1/2. A die has six faces; the probability of throwing a deuce is 1/6. When one has no means of estimating the probability beforehand, it must be determined by counting the fraction of successes in a large number of trials.

Our everyday concept of what is impossible, possible, or certain derives from our experience; the number of trials that may be encompassed within the space of a human lifetime, or at most within recorded human history. In this colloquial, practical sense I concede the spontaneous generation of life to be "impossible". It is impossible as we judge events in the scale of human experience.

We shall see that this is not a very meaningful concession. For one thing, the time with which our problem is concerned is geological time, and the whole extent of human history is trivial in the balance. We shall have more to say of this later.

Wald then describes the difference between truly impossible and just very unlikely. His example is a table rising into the air. Any physicist would concede that it is possible, if all the molecules that make up the table act appropriately at the same time. ".but try telling one [a physicist] that you have seen it happen."

Finally, Wald cautions us to remember that our topic falls into a very special category. Spontaneous generation might well be unique in that it only had to happen once. This is the section to which I was referring in my previous post:

The important point is that since the origin of life belongs in the category of at-least-once phenomena, time is on its side. However improbable we regard this event, or any of the steps which it involves, given enough time it will almost certainly happen at lest once. And for life as we know it, with its capacity for growth and reproduction, once may be enough.

Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two [sic] billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless here. Given so much time, the "impossible" becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait; time itself performs the miracles.

As I composed this, it came to me that here was a real authority on the spontaneous generation of life: Wald is a Nobel Laureate, his work on photopigments is classic. This is the perfect rebuttal to the Hoyle nonsense about tornadoes.

Finally, I would repeat that any errors herein are mine, except one. Dr. Wald estimated the age of the planet at two billion years. Since 1954 we have more than doubled that figure, based on new information. I can't help but think he is tickled pink at that kind of mistake.

- C. Thompson

For another quote mine of Wald, go to Quote #4.19: Spontaneous generation of living organisms is impossible.

Quote #58

"All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did." (Urey, Harold C., quoted in Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 1962, p. 4)

Here is the relevant text:

Dr. Harold C. Urey, Nobel Prize-holding chemist of the University of California at La Jolla, explained the modern outlook on this question by noting that "all of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere.

And yet, he added, "We all believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great it is hard for us to imagine that it did."

Pressed to explain what he meant by having "faith" in an event for which he had no substantial evidence, Dr. Urey said his faith was not in the event itself so much as in the physical laws and reasoning that pointed to its likelihood. He would abandon his faith if it ever proved to be misplaced. But that is a prospect he said he considered to be very unlikely.

I bet you are just dying to know what the question referred to in the first sentence is, aren't you? The preceding section was on panspermia vs abiogenesis:

This theory had been proposed before scientists knew how readily the organic materials of life can be synthesized from inorganic matter under the conditions thought to have prevailed in the early days of the earth. Today, Dr. Sagan said, it is far easier to believe that organisms arose spontaneously on the earth than to try to account for them in any other way.

This is a misquote, pure and simple. With the reporting style used, you can't string together the items in the quote marks and assume he said those things in order.

- Tracy P. Hamilton

Quote #59

"If living matter is not, then, caused by the interplay of atoms, natural forces and radiation, how has it come into being? I think, however, that we must go further than this and admit that the only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it." (H.J. Lipson, F.R.S. Professor of Physics, University of Manchester, UK, "A physicist looks at evolution" Physics Bulletin, 1980, vol 31, p. 138)

However, in a later issue of Physics Bulletin, Lipson clarifies his position:

Several people have given clear indications that they do not understand Darwin's theory. The Theory does not merely say that species have slowly evolved: that is obvious from the fossil record.

- H. J. Lipson, "A physicist looks at evolution - a rejoinder", Physics Bulletin, December 1980, pg 337.

Note that he claims that it's obvious that species have evolved, something that can be seen in the fossil record.

Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #60

"To the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favor of special creation. Can you imagine how an orchid, a duck weed, and a palm have come from the same ancestry, and have we any evidence for this assumption? The evolutionist must be prepared with an answer, but I think that most would break down before an inquisition." (E.J.H. Corner "Evolution" in A.M. MacLeod and L.S. Cobley, eds., Evolution in Contemporary Botanical Thought, Chicago, IL: Quadrangle Books, 1961, at 95, 97 from Bird, I, p. 234)

This is a heavily edited version of something that Corner wrote in a chapter he contributed to Contemporary Botanical Thought. (MacLeod, A.M. and Cobley, L.S. (eds) 1961. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, page 97).

In order to appreciate and understand Corner, we need two things: 1) an understanding of who Corner was (he died in 1996), and what was the full unedited context of the chopped bit used by creationists.

First of all, Corner was a botanist who specialized in tropical plants. His entire career was dedicated to the study of tropical plants and ecology. Evolutionary theory was to him as obvious and as natural as breathing. Consider his remark as to the origin of seaweed:

"Living seaweeds are the modern actors of the old drama. Two or three thousand million years ago, crowded plankton cells were pushed against bedrock and forced to change or die. They changed and became seaweeds."

Corner, E. J. H. 1964. The Life of Plants.

Corner also seemed to be a man who liked to have a good time:

He (Ahmad Abid Munir (1936 - )) remembers the rollicking return from Britain en route to Borneo of the famous E.J.H. Corner, the former Director of the Gardens and a global expert on figs, fungi, seeds and just about everything else. He is infamous for the monkeys that he trained to climb trees and throw down herbarium material. A great party was had. Munir describes him as "charismatic, jolly, friendly, knowledgeable".

"Ahmad Abid Munir, on the occasion of his retirement from the Australian National Botanic Gardens." W.R.(Bill) Barker, Plant Biodiversity Centre, Adelaide. Munir, Ahmad Abid (1936 - )

Nor was he someone to be easily intimidated as he had survived the Japanese occupation of the Malay Peninsula during World War II.

In addition to his life long devotion to tropical ecology, Corner is best known for his 'Durian Theory':

which placed tropical plants in the center of importance to plant evolution. It is this last item that allows the honest interpretation of the full and proper quote from Contemporary Botanical Thought. [From Carl Drews: Internet References]:

"The theory of evolution is not merely the theory of the origin of species, but the only explanation of the fact that organisms can be classified into this hierarchy of natural affinity. Much evidence can be adduced in favour of the theory of evolution - from biology, bio-geography and palaeontology, but I still think that, to the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favour of special creation. If, however, another explanation could be found for this hierarchy of classification, it would be the knell of the theory of evolution. Can you imagine how an orchid, a duckweed, and a palm have come from the same ancestry, and have we any evidence for this assumption? The evolutionist must be prepared with an answer, but I think that most would break down before an inquisition.

Textbooks hoodwink. A series of more and more complicated plants is introduced - the alga, the fungus, the bryophyte, and so on, and examples are added eclectically in support of one or another theory - and that is held to be a presentation of evolution. If the world of plants consisted only of these few textbook types of standard botany, the idea of evolution might never have dawned, and the backgrounds of these textbooks are the temperate countries which, at best, are poor places to study world vegetation. The point, of course, is that there are thousands and thousands of living plants, predominantly tropical, which have never entered general botany, yet they are the bricks with which the taxonomist has built his temple of evolution, and where else have we to worship?"

Prof. E. J. H. Corner (Professor of Tropical Botany, Cambridge University, UK), 'Evolution' in Contemporary Botanical Thought", Anna M. Macleod and L. S. Cobley (editors), Oliver and Boyd, for the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, 1961, p. 97.

The first sentence, and the first part of the typically chopped up second sentence clearly focuses us on the truth of evolution. The second half of the second sentence (the part most often quoted by creationists) is obviously a criticism of the plant fossil record. And from what we know about Corner's career, and from his next paragraph, we know that his criticism is particularly directed at the fossil tropical record. This is not the understanding that professional creationists try to force on us. The second paragraph completes Corner's criticism and makes his meaning crystal clear: the Botanical establishment's focus on European plants and paleontology can not provide the answers to the (then) important issues in plant evolution. Corner's answer is that the tropical ecologies, and paleontology where the answers were and that textbooks and field work should be revised accordingly.

There are two really irritating things about this abuse of Corner's work. First, the professional creationists waited until near Corner's death before they started to misuse his then 35 year old book chapter, which denied him the opportunity to defend his work. Just think about it, in 1961 not even one gene had been sequenced. Second is the way that the professional creationists habitually misrepresent the facts in their effort to bail out their sinking literalist ship.

- Dr.GH

Quote #61

"The more one studies paleontology, the more certain one becomes that evolution is based on faith alone; exactly the same sort of faith which it is necessary to have when one encounters the great mysteries of religion." (More, Louis T., "The Dogma of Evolution," Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, 1925, Second Printing, p.160)

1925? Do we really have to say more?

More was apparently a professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati. He seems to have been most famous as a Newton biographer, and I have found reference to a biography of Robert Boyle as well. I found a used copy of Dogma of Evolution available for a trivial price via an online book search. Since it was so cheap, I decided to go ahead and order it. Perhaps I'll have an interesting update when it arrives [See below].

- Mark VandeWettering

Some info on Dr. More from The Creationists by Ronald Numbers [Numbers, Ronald L., The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, New York: Knoph, 1992].

On page 72:

. . . Louis T. More (1870-1944), a physicist and dean at the University of Cincinnati who had just written a book, The Dogma of Evolution (1925), protesting the extension of evolution from biology to philosophy, replied that he accepted evolution as a working hypothesis.[2] . . .

That endnote [2] is on page 370:

. . . According to Slosson, L.T. More "admits evolution of a sort and is equally persona non grata to the fundamentalists as he is to the evolutionists.". . .

Of course it does not seem to me very kosher to be quoting a non-biologist from 1925 -- it amazes me that anyone would have the nerve to do this. That is before the development of the Modern Synthesis and before a great many fossils were found.

- Mike Hopkins

I judge this one to be in context. But we still have some problems. As has been already stated this man's field is not relevant and he lived a long time ago. Thumbing through the book one very quickly discovers that Dr. More was a fan of Lamarck and believed in the inheritance of acquired traits. Such a belief in soft inheritance was when Dr. More wrote his book was dying and yet he clearly thought it was the wave of the future. This is the "authority" on the strength of his say-so the creationist would want us to reject evolution?

Let me quote the final paragraph of chapter five on page 184:

Owing to the reverence for Darwin and the blind submission to his views which prevailed for so many years, it was a difficult task to live down Darwin's contempt. Only after facts had multiplied, showing the inadequacy of natural selection, did biologists begin timidly to take Lamarck's doctrine seriously. If one can read the signs aright, we may expect to have an increasing attempt to explain the cause of evolution by the inheritance of aquired traits. The reluctance of the biologists to accept this doctrine does not rest so much on the lack of experimental verification as it does on the fact that Lamarck's cause of variation is fundamentally vitalistic in so far as it acknowledges the influence of the will or desire. To admit such a cause is contrary to scientific and mechanistic monism.

This sound a lot like Phillip Johnson and his "intelligent design" cronies. An examination of this 1925 book might be profitable for critics of the ID movement today.

Dr. More seems to have a poor grasp of relevant history. He writes on page 182 that "It is well know that Lyell had a high estimation of Lamarck's work and theory, and that it had a great influence on him when he wrote his Principles of Geology, . . ." Of course Lyell, in volume II of that work, strongly argued against Lamarck.

- Mike Hopkins

Also see the comment by Wesley R. Elsberry at An evening in the Wood's Hole MBL Library.

Quote #62

"At the present stage of geological research, we have to admit that there is nothing in the geological records that runs contrary to the view of conservative creationists, that God created each species separately, presumably from the dust of the earth." (Dr. Edmund J. Ambrose, The Nature and Origin of the Biological World, John Wiley & Sons, 1982, p. 164)

On the inside back cover of the book, Dr. Ambrose is introduced as Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology, University of London. Is he a creationist? No, he's not, as we'll see. A more complete quote than what was provided would be:

We need to remember that the only evidence about the way events occurred in the past is found in the geological records. However sophisticated advances in molecular genetics and molecular engineering may become eventually, the fact that a genetic change or even a new species might be generated eventually in the laboratory does not tell us how new species arose in the past history of the earth. They merely provide possible mechanisms. At the present stage of geological research, we have to admit that there is nothing in the geological records that runs contrary to the view of conservative creationists, that God created each species separately, presumably from the dust of the earth. My own view is that this does not strengthen the creationists' arguments.

So Ambrose believes that the fossil record is incomplete, but doesn't feel that this strengthens the creationist's hand. But he does feel that the geological record supports evolution, as we can see on page 103:

It is strikingly clear in the geological records, when life had reached the stage where organisms were capable of living in a previously unoccupied region of the planet, such as the move from estuaries to dry land, the appearance of plants growing to great heights which provided a location (habitat) for climbing animals, or when birds and insects actually moved up and flew in theair[sp] above the earth's surface. Large numbers of new species appeared at these times; this has been called radiation, a spreading out of life.

And contrary to the seemingly pervasive belief that all evolutionist are atheists, further down the page on which the quote-mined section was on we find this:

Surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Creator utilised existing life forms to generate new forms. I have already suggested that the Creator would operate within the framework of the universe He had created in forming the physical world. May this not be the same for the biological world?

It seems that Ambrose is a theistic evolutionist.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #63

"One of its (evolutions) weak points is that it does not have any recognizable way in which conscious life could have emerged." (Sir John Eccles, "A Divine Design: Some Questions on Origins" in Margenau and Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos, p. 203)

From the preface of the book from which the below quotes are taken:

"Cosmos, Bios, Theos makes no pretension of being a statistically significant survey of the religious beliefs of modern scientists. The scientists interviewed for this anthology are, for the most part, known to be theistic or at least sympathetic to a religious view of reality." (xiii)

First of all, the page number is wrong; this quote appears on p.163

Second, his 1963 Nobel was in Physiology/Medicine.

Third, he believes in a strong version of the Anthropic principle, that the universe "was wonderfully organized and planned to give the immensity, to give the size, to give the opportunity for the Darwinist evolutionary process that give rise to us." (p.162) He believes that "...brain and body are in the evolutionary process but not yet fully explained in this way. But the conscious self is not in the Darwinian evolutionary process at all. I think it is a divine creation." (p.164) It appears that he does not doubt evolution at all, but reserves the "ensoulment of humanity" to the work of providence.

- Hier05ant

"Scientists have to be humble. We have not said the last word. It is the best story we have got but it has to be amended all the time. It should be regarded not as a doctrine but as a scientific hypothesis. We have to look at it all the time to see its weak points and point them out and not try to cover up the weak points. One of its weak points is that it does not have any way in which conscious life could have emerged, in which living organisms could become conscious in the evolutionary process and how in the end they could become self-conscious as we are." page 163 [sic!]

- Tom (TomS) Scharle

Quote #64

"I am convinced, moreover, that Darwinism, in whatever form, is not in fact a scientific theory, but a pseudo-metaphysical hypothesis decked out in scientific garb. In reality the theory derives its support not from empirical data or logical deductions of a scientific kind but from the circumstance that it happens to be the only doctrine of biological origins that can be conceived with the constricted worldview to which a majority of scientists no doubt subscribe." (Wolfgang, Smith, "The Universe is Ultimately to be Explained in Terms of a Metacosmic Reality" in Margenau and Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos, p. 113)

[Note the above quote from the preface of the book, Cosmos, Bios, Theos, regarding quote number 63.]

First, he is a Professor of Mathematics, specializing in aerodynamics problems. (p.111)

Second, he is not an evolutionist. The sentence immediately preceding the quoted material is "I am opposed to Darwinism, or better said, to the transformist hypothesis as such, no matter what one takes to be the mechanism or cause (even perhaps teleological or theistic) of the postulated macroevolutionary leaps." That's right folks: he denies speciation entirely, and thinks that even God Himself cannot account for the origin of species (someone call the [Discovery Institute]...)

- Hier05ant

"I am opposed to Darwinism, or better said, to the transformist hypothesis as such, no matter what one takes to be the mechanism or cause (even perhaps teleological or theistic) of the postulated macroevolutionary leaps. I am convinced, moreover, that Darwinism (in whatever form) is not in fact a scientific theory, but a pseudo-metaphysical hypothesis decked out in scientific garb. In reality the theory derives its support not from empirical data or logical deductions of a scientific kind but from the circumstance that it happens to be the only doctrine of biological origins that can be conceived within the constricted Weltanschauung to which a majority of scientists no doubt subscribe."

- Tom (TomS) Scharle

Quote #65

"The origin of life is still a mystery. As long as it has not been demonstrated by experimental realization, I cannot conceive of any physical or chemical condition [allowing evolution] . . . I cannot be satisfied by the idea that fortuitous mutation . . . can explain the complex and rational organization of the brain, but also of lungs, heart, kidneys, and even joints and muscles. How is it possible to escape the idea of some intelligent and organizing force?" (d'Aubigne, Merle, "How Is It Possible to Escape the Idea of Some Intelligent and Organizing Force?" in Margenau and Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos, p. 158)

[Note the above quote from the preface of the book, Cosmos, Bios, Theos, regarding quote number 63.]

First, d'Aubigne is "[h]ead of the Orthopedic Department at the University of Paris". (p.157)

The ellipses are a bloody mess, cutting across his answers to multiple questions during the interview. The end of the first sentence elided is ". . . where proteins could spontaneously arrange themselves in an organism bound to maintain itself with a continuous combination with oxygen and to reproduce itself." In other words, he has problems with the Tornado in a Junkyard Theory. The second elision restored is "selected by modifications in conditions for life". The sentence immediately following concludes. "This problem is likely to remain a mystery."

- Hier05ant

"The origin of life is still a mystery. As long as it has not been demonstrated by experimental realization, I cannot conceive of any physical or chemical conditions where proteins could spontaneously arrange themselves in an organism bound to maintain itself with a continuous combination with oxygen and to reproduce itself."

. . .

"Many facts support today the neo-Darwinian doctrine of evolution: if this theory is accepted, production of Homo sapiens is coherent with the appearance of mammals after progressively complex varieties of animals.

"Personally, I cannot be satisfied by the idea that fortuitous mutation selected by modifications in conditions for life can explain the complex and rational organization of the brain, but also of lungs, heart, kidneys, and even joints and muscles. How is it possible to escape the idea of some intelligent and organizing force? This problem is likely to remain a mystery."

- Tom (TomS) Scharle

Quote #66

"Life, even in bacteria, is too complex to have occurred by chance." (Rubin, Harry, "Life, Even in Bacteria, Is Too Complex to Have Occurred by Chance" in Margenau and Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos, p. 203)

[Note the above quote from the preface of the book, Cosmos, Bios, Theos, regarding quote number 63.]

Professor Rubin is, in fact, a molecular biologist. (p.202)

The text immediately following reads "I believe it was 'created' in the sense that Elsasser defines creativity in his recent book, Reflections on a Theory of Organisms. This is not a literal interpretation of the Bible story, in other words, it occurred perhaps billions of years ago. Applied here, creation in Elsasser's sense means the appearance of hereditary novelty that is not mechanistically traceable. It accepts evolution but not the Darwinian mechanisms such as natural selection or gradual accumulations of changes in DNA."

- Hier05ant and Tom (TomS) Scharle

Quote #67

"The theory of evolution suffers from grave defects, which are more and more apparent as time advances. It can no longer square with practical scientific knowledge, nor does it suffice for our theoretical grasp of the facts." (Fleischmann, Albert, Victoria Institute, Vol. 65, pp. 194-195)

I know people pointed out the CRSQ quote is an obviously creationist and not an evolutionist source. But has anyone pointed out that Albert Fleischmann (1862-1942) was a creationist? In 1907 it was pointed out that he was the only biologist of "recognized position" who was known to have rejected evolution. Those interested in this can read Ronald Numbers excellent The Creationists. [1] The quote-miner might consider that the Henry Morris gave that book a good review.

- Mike Hopkins

[1] Numbers is discussing, ironically enough, an early 20th Century example of one of those creationist lists of scientists who allegedly share their point of view:

The one lone biologist [on the list] was Albert Fleischmann (1862 - 1942), a reputable but relatively obscure German zoologist who taught for decades at the University of Erlangen in Bavaria. In 1901 he published a scientific critique of organic evolution, Die Descendenztheorie, in which he rejected not only Darwinism but all theories of common organic descent.

Numbers, Ronald L., The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism, New York: Knoph, 1992, p. 51 - 52.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

I haven't come across the original of this quotation, but I've found a trail of quoters-of-quoters:

Professor Fleischmann sums up his estimate of the Darwinian theory of the descent of man by affirming that "it has in the realms of nature not a single fact to confirm it. It is not the result of scientific research, but purely the product of the imagination."

This is from an essay called "Evolutionism in the Pulpit" "By an occupant of the pew". From "Herald and Presbyter," November 22, 1911, Cincinnati, OH.

Reprinted as Chapter II in Volume VIII of "The Fundamentals, A Testimony to the Truth", pages 27- 35. The quotation is from page 29.

It, in turn, is reprinted in Volume 3 of "The Fundamentals, A Testimony to Truth", ed. George M. Marsden, Garland Publishing, 1988.

Not quite the quotation that you are looking for, but it does tell us something about how much of an "evolutionist" Fleischmann was. Perhaps I can find another trail for this particular quotation from Fleischmann.

- Tom (TomS) Scharle

Presumably this refers to that certain Albert Fleischmann whose anti-evolution views were published in the 1933 issue of The Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute [2], an institute with the stated object of:

First. - To investigate fully and impartially the most important questions of Philosophy and Science, but more especially those that bear upon the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture, with the view of defending these truths against the oppositions of Science, falsely so called.

- Bobby D. Bryant

[2] See Creation Digest: What Kids Should Know: Coronation of King "Charles" which gives this citation to a secondary source:

Albert Fleischman (University of Erlangen zoologist), "The Doctrine of Organic Evolution in the Light of Modern Research," Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 65 (1933): 194-95, 205-6, 208-9. See John Fred Meldau, ed., Witnesses Against Evolution (Denver: Christian Victory Publishing, 1968), p. 13.

Note that various creationists sites are not consistent in the spelling of the name, with some having one "n" at the end and some two. Based on Ronald Numbers' proven scholarship (as well as a reference in the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia), the two "n" spelling is probably correct.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

Quote #68

"The arguments for macroevolution fail at every significant level when confronted by the facts." (Haines, Jr., Roger, "Macroevolution Questioned", Creation Research Society Quarterly, Dec. 1976, p. 169)

Mr. Haines hardly qualifies as an "evolutionist" and the Creation Research Society Quarterly would hardly publish an article of his if he was.

Here is the abstract of the article:

Macroevolution Questioned

Roger W. Haines, Jr., J.D.

This article is intended as a critique of the whole doctrine of macroevolution, particularly as the doctrine is commonly presented at schools and colleges. The well known textbook, Physical Anthropology, by Lasker, is cited to show how the doctrine is, in fact, presented. Citations from many authors show that practically every assumption of the macroevolutionary doctrine is, at best, questionable.

It will be understood that this article is not intended as an attack on Lasker, nor on his book. Rather, it is a criticism of the doctrine which the author assumed in his book.

CRSQ Abstracts: Volume 13, Number 3

In fact, he is not even a scientist but an attorney for the California Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

Quote #69

"The third assumption was the Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa and the higher animals were all interrelated...We have as yet no definite evidence about the way in which the Viruses, Bacteria or Protozoa are interrelated." (Kerkut, G.A., Implications of Evolution, Pergammon Press, 1960, p. 151)

This is from a list of conclusions at the end of the book. The full quote is:

The third assumption was that Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa and the higher animals are all interrelated. It seems from the available evidence that Viruses and Bacteria are complex groups both of which contain a wide range of morphological and physiological forms. Both groups could have been formed from diverse sources so that the Viruses and Bacteria could then be an assembly of forms that contain both primitive and secondarily simplified units. They would each correspond to a Grade rather than a Subkingdom or Phylum. We have as yet no definitive evidence about the way in which the Viruses, Bacteria, or Protozoa are interrelated.

We can now see that Kerkut isn't questioning evolution, but how the "family tree" is put together. Did all Bacteria descend from a common ancestor, or was there more than one? In fact, the previous entry on his list questions whether life arose only once, and he raises the possibility that different groups of life may have had independent origins. But Kerkut does accept the fact of evolution, and lest there be any doubt, on page 153 we find this:

We are on somewhat stronger ground with the assumption that the fishes, amphibia, reptiles, birds and mammals are interrelated.

And later on page 155, discussing specific and intra-specific evolution:

It is possible that this type of evolution can explain many of the present-day phenomena, but it is possible and indeed probable that many as yet unknown systems remain to be discovered and it is premature, not to say arrogant, on our part if we make any dogmatic assertion as to the mode of evolution of the major branches of the animal kingdom.

Note that Kerkut states that it's dogmatic to assert as to the mode of evolution, not the fact of evolution. He clearly believes that evolution has occurred.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #70

"Scientists have no proof that life was not the result of an act of creation." (Jastrow, Robert, The Enchanted Loom: Mind In the Universe, 1981, p. 19)

A more complete quotation of would be:

Scientists have no proof that life was not the result of an act of creation, but they are driven by the nature of their profession to seek explanations for the origin of life that lie within the boundaries of natural law. They ask themselves, "How did life arise out of inanimate matter? And what is the probability of that happening?" And to their chagrin they have no clear-cut answer, because chemists have never succeeded in reproducing nature's experiments on the creation of life out of nonliving matter. Scientists do not know how that happened, and, furthermore, they do not know the chance of its happening. Perhaps the chance is very small, and the appearance of life on a planet is an event of miraculously low probability. Perhaps life on the earth is unique in this Universe. No scientific evidence precludes that possibility.

But while scientists must accept the possibility that life may be an improbable event, they have some tentative reasons for thinking that its appearance on earthlike planets is, in fact, fairly commonplace. These reasons do not constitute proof, but they are suggestive. Laboratory experiments show that certain molecules, which are the building blocks of living matter, are formed in great abundance under conditions resembling those on the earth four billion years ago, when it was a young planet. Furthermore, those molecular building blocks of life appear in living organisms today in just about the same relative amounts with which they appear in the laboratory experiments. It is as if nature, in fashioning the first forms of life, used the ingredients at hand and in just the proportions in which they were present.

Jastrow certainly isn't arguing in favor of creation.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #71

"...we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not." (Eldredge, Niles "Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p44)

It's actually on page 144, and here is the full quote and context, starting on the previous page:

"And one might ask why such a distortion of the grosser patterns of the history of life has come about. For it truly seems to me that F. J. Taggart was right all along. The approach to the larger themes in the history of life taken by the modern synthesis continues the theme already painfully apparent to Taggart in 1925: a theory of gradual, progressive, adaptive change so thoroughly rules our minds and imaginations that we have somehow, collectively, turned away from some of the most basic patterns permeating the history of life.<p144> We have a theory that -- as punctuated equilibria tells us -- is out of phase with the actual patterns of events that typically occur as species' histories unfold. And that discrepancy seems enlarged by a considerable order of magnitude when we compare what we think the larger-scale events ought to look like with what we actually find. And it has been paleontologists -- my own breed -- who have been most responsible for letting ideas dominate reality: geneticists and population biologists, to whom we owe the modern version of natural selection, can only rely on what paleontologists and systematic biologists tell them about the comings and goings of entire species, and what the large-scale evolutionary patterns really look like.

"Yet on the other hand, the certainty so characteristic of evolutionary ranks since the late 1940s, the utter assurance not only that natural selection works in nature, but that we know precisely how it works, has led paleontologists to keep their own counsel. Ever since Darwin, as philosopher Michael Ruse (1982) has recently said, paleontology has occasionally played the role of the difficult child. But our usual mien has been bland, and we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not. And part of the fault for such a bizarre situation must come from a naive understanding of just what adaptation is all about. We'll look at some of the larger patterns in the history of life in the next chapter -- along with the hypotheses currently offered as explanations. Throughout it all, adaptation shines through as an important theme; there is every reason to hang on to that baby as we toss out the bathwater. But before turning in depth to these themes, we need to take just one more, somewhat closer, look at the actual phenomenon of adaptation itself: what it is and how it occurs."

So: Eldredge is agreeing that evolution occurs, and that adaptation via natural selection is real and important. He is saying that (as at 1985) paleontology needed to be more explicitly about the fact that evolution is not slow and steady, but rapid and static in turns. The snippet that is quoted is deliberately chosen to suggest that Eldredge is admitting some deep error in evolutionary biology; but what he is saying is that some biologists have overlooked some data they should factor in, and that we should not expect that evolution will be gradual.

- John Wilkins

Quote #72

"With the benefit of hindsight, it is amazing that paleontologists could have accepted gradual evolution as a universal pattern on the basis of a handful of supposedly well-documented lineages (e.g. Gryphaea, Micraster, Zaphrentis) none of which actually withstands close scrutiny." (Paul, C. R. C., 1989, "Patterns of Evolution and Extinction in Invertebrates", Allen, K. C. and Briggs, D. E. G. (editors), Evolution and the Fossil Record, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C., 1989, p. 105)

Once again we find that the passage quoted isn't a criticism of evolution, but of gradualism.

The most significant contributions of Eldredge and Gould's theory are the acceptance of patterns as preserved in the fossil record, and the recognition of stasis (Lewin 1986). Hitherto, no morphological change had been equated with no data, and just ignored. With the benefit of hindsight, it is amazing that palaeontologists could have accepted gradual evolution as a universal pattern on the basis of a handful of supposedly well-documented lineages (e.g. Gryphaea, Micraster, Zaphrentis) none of which actually withstands close scrutiny. (For example Micraster shows sudden appearances of new taxa (Stokes 1977, Figure 2) and relatively sudden changes in morphological features (Drummond 1983, figure 1).) The evidence that the vast majority of species appeared equally suddenly, had well-defined periods of existence, and then disappeared equally suddenly, was just ignored. Furthermore, because evolution was known to be gradual, very few palaeontologists documented actual patterns preserved in the fossil record. Eldredge and Gould (1972) did a great service in prompting a re-examination of the evidence.

What are the "well-documented lineages" that Paul mentions? Gryphaea is an extinct mollusk related to the oyster. On UF Scientist's Oyster Discovery Gives Glues About Evolution we find this passage:

Determining why the fossil oyster Gryphaea evolved the way it did is a classic riddle that has befuddled scientists since the publication of a provocative paper by paleontologist Edward Trueman in 1922. One of the best documented cases of evolution in the fossil record, the paper showed how the oyster changed from being as small as a penny and flat to larger and coiled, Jones said.

Micraster is a type of sea urchin. See the following pages for more info:

Zaphrentis is a variety of coral. See these pages for more info:

The ironic thing is that Gryphaea, Micraster, and Zaphrentis would probably be recognized as three different "kinds" by a creationist, who would then claim that the sudden changes in morphological features observed by Paul are just variations with their respective "kinds".

But does Paul feel that evolution has been discredited? At the end of the paper on page 119 we find this:

Indeed, the real merit of all three major ideas discussed in this chapter (see p. 99) has been their stimulus to detailed collecting and documentation of the patterns preserved in the fossil record. Even if all three should eventually be rejected, they will have advanced the state of knowledge of the fossil record and rendered invaluable service to palaeontology and evolutionary science in general.

Evolutionary science hasn't been harmed, but rendered an "invaluable service". These are not the words of an opponent of evolution.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #73

"The rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery." (Darwin, Charles R., letter to J.D. Hooker, July 22nd 1879, in Darwin F. & Seward A.C., eds., "More Letters of Charles Darwin: A Record of His Work in a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Papers," John Murray: London, 1903, Vol. II, pp. 20-21)

The letter is reproduced entirely below, from Project Gutenberg's online copy of More Letters:


Down, July 22nd [1879].

I have just read Ball's Essay.* It is pretty bold. The rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery. Certainly it would be a great step if we could believe that the higher plants at first could live only at a high level; but until it is experimentally [proved] that Cycadeae, ferns, etc., can withstand much more carbonic acid than the higher plants, the hypothesis seems to me far too rash. Saporta believes that there was an astonishingly rapid development of the high plants, as soon [as] flower-frequenting insects were developed and favoured intercrossing. I should like to see this whole problem solved. I have fancied that perhaps there was during long ages a small isolated continent in the S. Hemisphere which served as the birthplace of the higher plants--but this is a wretchedly poor conjecture. It is odd that Ball does not allude to the obvious fact that there must have been alpine plants before the Glacial period, many of which would have returned to the mountains after the Glacial period, when the climate again became warm. I always accounted to myself in this manner for the gentians, etc.

Ball ought also to have considered the alpine insects common to the Arctic regions. I do not know how it may be with you, but my faith in the glacial migration is not at all shaken.

[Footnote from More Letters]

* The late John Ball's lecture "On the Origin of the Flora of the Alps" in the "Proceedings of the R. Geogr. Soc." 1879. Ball argues (page 18) that "during ancient Palaeozoic times, before the deposition of the Coal-measures, the atmosphere contained twenty times as much carbonic acid gas and considerably less oxygen than it does at present." He further assumes that in such an atmosphere the percentage of CO2 in the higher mountains would be excessively different from that at the sea-level, and appends the result of calculations which gives the amount of CO2 at the sea-level as 100 per 10,000 by weight, at a height of 10,000 feet as 12.5 per 10,000. Darwin understands him to mean that the Vascular Cryptogams and Gymnosperms could stand the sea-level atmosphere, whereas the Angiosperms would only be able to exist in the higher regions where the percentage of CO2 was small. It is not clear to us that Ball relies so largely on the condition of the atmosphere as regards CO2. If he does he is clearly in error, for everything we know of assimilation points to the conclusion that 100 per 10,000 (1 per cent.) is by no means a hurtful amount of CO2, and that it would lead to an especially vigorous assimilation. Mountain plants would be more likely to descend to the plains to share in the rich feast than ascend to higher regions to avoid it. Ball draws attention to the imperfection of our plant records as regards the floras of mountain regions. It is, he thinks, conceivable that there existed a vegetation on the Carboniferous mountains of which no traces have been preserved in the rocks. See "Fossil Plants as Tests of Climate," page 40, A.C. Seward, 1892.

Since the first part of this note was written, a paper has been read (May 29th, 1902) by Dr. H.T. Brown and Mr. F. Escombe, before the Royal Society on "The Influence of varying amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the Air on the Photosynthetic Process of Leaves, and on the Mode of Growth of Plants." The author's experiments included the cultivation of several dicotyledonous plants in an atmosphere containing in one case 180 to 200 times the normal amount of CO2, and in another between three and four times the normal amount. The general results were practically identical in the two sets of experiments. "All the species of flowering plants, which have been the subject of experiment, appear to be accurately 'tuned' to an atmospheric environment of three parts of CO2 per 10,000, and the response which they make to slight increases in this amount are in a direction altogether unfavourable to their growth and reproduction." The assimilation of carbon increases with the increase in the partial pressure of the CO2. But there seems to be a disturbance in metabolism, and the plants fail to take advantage of the increased supply of CO2. The authors say: -- "All we are justified in concluding is, that if such atmospheric variations have occurred since the advent of flowering plants, they must have taken place so slowly as never to outrun the possible adaptation of the plants to their changing conditions."

Prof. Farmer and Mr. S.E. Chandler gave an account, at the same meeting of the Royal Society, of their work "On the Influence of an Excess of Carbon Dioxide in the Air on the Form and Internal Structure of Plants." The results obtained were described as differing in a remarkable way from those previously recorded by Teodoresco ("Rev. Gen. Botanique," II., 1899)

It is hoped that Dr. Horace Brown and Mr. Escombe will extend their experiments to Vascular Cryptogams, and thus obtain evidence bearing more directly upon the question of an increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere of the Coal-period forests.)

The quote seems accurate as far as it goes, but it is hardly damning to the theory of evolution that Darwin did not (indeed, could not, given the evidence known in his time) have a theory that described the evolution of plants. It was written in 1879 after all.

- Mark VandeWettering

[Commenting on above]

Of course, the quote miners want people to make a conclusion from this that is nothing more than an appeal to (Darwin's) ignorance. It is also extremely out-of-date. Of course the creationist quote omits potential solutions. But as quotes go, I will not call this creationist quote dishonest. Google shows mainstream science sites using the quote as well, like Origin of the Angiosperms.

- Mike Hopkins

. . . The basic premise is no longer valid: "higher" plants no longer are so isolated in recent geological times. There is a long fossil history of plants in which they become less and less modern in aspect the further back one looks.

. . . [I]n 1879 Darwin's basic ideas were still controversial and being debated in the scientific community (as is right and proper for any new theory). This letter is simply part of that debate - one in which Darwin admits to not knowing one particular answer.

- Stanley Friesen

Quote #74

"An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle." (Francis Crick, Life Itself, Its Origin and Nature, 1981, p. 88)

Again there is an unmarked deletion, this time at the end, following right after "miracle,":

" . . . so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth's surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against."

Crick's book is about his proposition that life on Earth may have been the result of "directed panspermia." It should be noted that, in the book, he assumes that the aliens who he posits might be "seeding" the universe are, themselves, the product of evolution. In this quote, Crick is simply pointing out how, in the absence of evidence, the appearance of life on Earth might seem like a miracle. But he specifically admits that abiogenesis may have occurred on Earth as a result of ordinary chemical processes that require no resort to outside intelligence. Leaving out that part of it, by cutting off what immediately follows, is deeply dishonest.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

Quote #75

"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed must be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory." (Darwin, Charles, Origin of Species, 6th edition, 1902 p. 341-342)

As this specifies the 6th edition, I've made use of the edition that's on line at Online Literature Library since the Talk.Origins archive has the 1st edition.

The above quote is from Chapter 10 - "On the Imperfection of the Geological Record". Darwin's writing style was to ask a rhetorical question and then give an answer, as we see below:

But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.

In the first place, it should always be borne in mind what sort of intermediate forms must, on the theory, have formerly existed. I have found it difficult, when looking at any two species, to avoid picturing to myself forms DIRECTLY intermediate between them. But this is a wholly false view; we should always look for forms intermediate between each species and a common but unknown progenitor; and the progenitor will generally have differed in some respects from all its modified descendants. To give a simple illustration: the fantail and pouter pigeons are both descended from the rock-pigeon; if we possessed all the intermediate varieties which have ever existed, we should have an extremely close series between both and the rock-pigeon; but we should have no varieties directly intermediate between the fantail and pouter; none, for instance, combining a tail somewhat expanded with a crop somewhat enlarged, the characteristic features of these two breeds. These two breeds, moreover, have become so much modified, that, if we had no historical or indirect evidence regarding their origin, it would not have been possible to have determined from a mere comparison of their structure with that of the rock-pigeon, C. livia, whether they had descended from this species or from some other allied species, such as C. oenas.

So with natural species, if we look to forms very distinct, for instance to the horse and tapir, we have no reason to suppose that links directly intermediate between them ever existed, but between each and an unknown common parent. The common parent will have had in its whole organisation much general resemblance to the tapir and to the horse; but in some points of structure may have differed considerably from both, even perhaps more than they differ from each other. Hence, in all such cases, we should be unable to recognise the parent-form of any two or more species, even if we closely compared the structure of the parent with that of its modified descendants, unless at the same time we had a nearly perfect chain of the intermediate links.

The Quote Miner only quotes the question, not the answer that follows, in which Darwin states his belief that the geological record is incomplete, and then outlines which transitional forms he would expect to find if they're found at all.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #76

"Often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may have not devoted myself to a fantasy." (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters, 1887, Vol. 2, p. 229)

I looked at volume 2 of Life and Letters, but cannot find anything remotely similar to that quote in the pages in that vicinity.

- - - - -

Ah, the pleasures of books on the web: searchable books!

Here the letter is, in its entirety, from pages 24-26 (another example of much-copied errors in hand-me-down quote-mining), at: The Writings of Charles Darwin on the Web: Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Chapter I

Ilkley Wells, Yorkshire,

November 23 [1859].

My dear Lyell,

You seemed to have worked admirably on the species question; there could not have been a better plan than reading up on the opposite side. I rejoice profoundly that you intend admitting the doctrine of modification in your new edition;* nothing, I am convinced, could be more important for its success. I honour you most sincerely. To have maintained in the position of a master, one [Page 25] side of a question for thirty years, and then deliberately give it up, is a fact to which I much doubt whether the records of science offer a parallel. For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for, thinking of so many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often and often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth, like you and Hooker, can be wholly wrong, and therefore I rest in peace. Thank you for criticisms, which, if there be a second edition, I will attend to. I have been thinking that if I am much execrated as an atheist, etc., whether the admission of the doctrine of natural selection could injure your works; but I hope and think not, for as far as I can remember, the virulence of bigotry is expended on the first offender, and those who adopt his views are only pitied as deluded, by the wise and cheerful bigots.

I cannot help thinking that you overrate the importance of the multiple origin of dogs. The only difference is, that in the case of single origins, all difference of the races has originated since man domesticated the species. In the case of multiple origins part of the difference was produced under natural conditions. I should infinitely prefer the theory of single origin in all cases, if facts would permit its reception. But there seems to me some à priori improbability (seeing how fond savages are of taming animals), that throughout all times, and throughout all the world, that man should have domesticated one single species alone, of the widely distributed genus Canis. Besides this, the close resemblance of at least three kinds of American domestic dogs to wild species still inhabiting the countries where they are now domesticated, seem to almost compel admission that more than one wild Canis has been domesticated by man. [Page 26] I thank you cordially for all the generous zeal and interest you have shown about my book, and I remain, my dear Lyell,

Your affectionate friend and disciple,


Sir J. Herschel, to whom I sent a copy, is going to read my book. He says he leans to the side opposed to me. If you should meet him after he has read me, pray find out what he thinks, for, of course, he will not write; and I should excessively like to hear whether I produce any effect on such a mind.


*It appears from Sir Charles Lyell's published letters that he intended to admit the doctrine of evolution in a new edition of the 'Manual,' but this was not published till 1865. He was, however, at work on the 'Antiquity of Man' in 1860, and had already determined to discuss the 'Origin' at the end of the book.

So, once again we see Darwin's modesty (and Victorian style) being used by a crasser age to make it look as if Darwin harbored real doubts about his theory when, in fact, he held it would be "morally impossible" for it to be wrong, especially since it had passed the test of convincing such men as Lyell and Hooker.

His prescience concerning his fate at the hands of bigots is also notable.

- Mike Dunford and J. (catshark) Pieret

This is the worst of the misquotes uncovered by this project in my humble opinion. I hereby award this misquote the Keith Davies Award for Extreme Misquoting. (Keith Davies being the guy who quoted some astronomers having saying there was a mystery and clipped the end of the sentence that said "is also solved." See either the Supernova or the Quotes FAQs.)

I notice the creationist quote it as a word as "fantasy" and the letter quoted has "phantasy." I guess one of the quote miners must have assumed the quote mine he was copying from had a typo without checking the original. Lets see what Google gives when we use "phantasy" spelling is used:

Same Google search but with the standard American spelling.

The context for the second statement can be found in The writings of Charles Darwin on the web: The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Chapter XII.


July 14th [1857?].

. . . I write now to supplicate most earnestly a favour, viz., the loan of Boreau, Flore du centre de la France, either 1st or 2nd edition, last best; also "Flora Ratisbonensis," by Dr. Fürnrohr, in 'Naturhist. Topographie von Regensburg, 1839.' If you can possibly spare them, will you send them at once to the enclosed address. If you have not them, will you send one line by return of post: as I must try whether Kippist* can anyhow find them, which I fear will be nearly impossible in the Linnean Library, in which I know they are.

I have been making some calculations about varieties, etc., and talking yesterday with Lubbock, he has pointed out to me the grossest blunder which I have made in principle, and which entails two or three weeks' lost work; and I am at a dead-lock till I have these books to go over again, and see what the result of calculation on the right principle is. I am the most miserable, bemuddled, stupid dog in all England, and am ready to cry with vexation at my blindness and presumption.

Ever yours, most miserably,


[Ellipsis put there by Francis Darwin.]


*The late Mr. Kippist was at this time in charge of the Linnean Society's Library.]

Another flagrant out-of-context quote. Maybe it is not in this list but since it so commonly associated with the quote-miner's list, it might be a good idea add it to the compilation.

- Mike Hopkins

Quote #77

"The geological record has provided no evidence as to the origin of the fishes." (Norman, J., A History of Fishes, 1963, p. 298)

This book is out of print, the latest versions printed in 1976. The original was printed in 1949! Needless to say there have been quite a few discoveries regarding the origin of fish since 1949.

The 1949 version must have been a reprint also, as Norman died of endocarditis in 1944. Any statements about the geological record before 1944 would now be very much out of date.

- Dana Tweedy

Quote #78

"None of the known fishes is thought to be directly ancestral to the earliest land vertebrates." (Stahl, B., Vertebrate History: Problems in Evolution, Dover Publications, Inc., NY, 1985, p. 148)

This is a Dover paperback reprint of a 1974 text book. According to it's out of print. It's not longer available through Dover Publications . . .

Dr Barbra J. Stahl is a profession of biology at St. Anselem University in Manchester NH, a small Catholic University. She is quoted in quite a few creationist quote mines. Her book is apparently a favorite of Phil Johnson, and the quote above is most probably cribbed from Johnson's "Darwin on Trial". Interestingly enough, nearly all quote mines cite the 1985 Dover reprint, rather than the 1974 original printing by McGraw Hill.

There have been quite a few discoveries since 1974 relating to fish/amphibian transitionals, which leaves Dr Stahl's book more than a little out of date.

- Dana Tweedy

"Although the relationship of the rhipidistians to the amphibians will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter, it should be said here that none of the known fishes is thought to be directly ancestral to the earliest land vertebrates. Most of them lived after the first amphibians appeared, and those that came before showed no evidence of developing the stout limbs and ribs that characterize the primitive tetrapods. While paleontologists hope to find remains of the rhipidistian line in which these structures evolved, they have no intention of neglecting the history of the other members of the group."

The next chapter, pg. 194:

"Despite the importance that terrestrial vertebrates were to have, however, their initial evolution was not in any way unusual or spectacular. The amphibians were not the last survivors of a lesser class but one of a number of new forms produced as the early bony fishes diversified rapidly in the Devonian period. At their first appearance, they gave the impression less of a revolutionary new group than of fishes peculiarly adapted for special habits of life. Outwardly, except for their legs, they resembled the rhipidistian fishes from which they sprang. Very likely, they continued to swim in the shallows, as their sharp-toothed forebears had, preying on the abundant placoderms and early paleoniscooids to be found there. Paleontologists are quite certain of the relationship between the rhipidistians and the amphibians even though they have not discovered the animals intermediate between the finned and limbed forms. The remains of the oldest tetrapods in their collections leave no doubt about the derivation of the axial skeleton from fishes of the rhipidistian group."

- Prof Weird

For an example of newer information, see Pederpes finneyae.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

Quote #79

"The pathetic thing is that we have scientists who are trying to prove evolution, which no scientist can ever prove." (Millikan, Robert A., Nashville Banner, August 7, 1925, quoted in Brewer's lecture)

Well, this is from 1925, for one thing.

Also, here is a biography of Millikan:

He was a physicist (though a Nobel Prize winner), but not a biologist or otherwise an expert in evolution.

- J. (catshark) Pieret

Quote #80

"Evolution is accepted by zoologists not because it has been proved or observed, but because creation is incredible." (Watson, D.M.S., Nature, August 10, 1929)

I have previously looked up this quote and the results are archived in D.M.S. Watson Admitted Evolutionists Dogmatically Rejected Creation?

In short the reason why creation is incredible is that it is contrary to the observable facts.

- Mike Hopkins

Quote #81

"Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable." (Keith, Arthur, forward to 100th anniversary edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, 1959)

The quote that is attributed to Sir Arthur Keith is a figment of the creationists imagination. I researched that quote a month or two ago and could not find a trace of it. No library in the Atlanta metro area has this particular edition and neither Amazon nor Barnes and Noble has this edition. I am in nine newsgroups and no one in these NGs had a copy or had ever seen one. A search of the internet showed many references for this quote but every one of them was from a creationist site. It is also amazing because that Sir Arthur died in 1955 and the 100th anniversary edition would not have been issued until 1959. Tell me, did "God" write this for Sir Arthur from heaven?

- Tom

As Tom points out this quote is indeed a figment of the creationists' imagination.

However, Sir Arthur Keith did indeed write an introduction to the Origin of Species (Keith, 1928), although he did so over 30 years before any centennial edition would have been printed. And considering that Keith died in 1955, he wouldn't have been in a position to write one had he wanted to. Did Keith write another introduction later in his life? This is doubtful as well, since the author of a later introduction to the Origin, W. R. Thompson, states right at the beginning of his own effort:

When I was asked by the publishers of this new edition of The Origin of Species to write an introduction replacing the one prepared a quarter of a century ago by the distinguished Darwinian, Sir Arthur Keith, I felt extremely hesitant to accept the invitation. (Thompson 1958)

Does the supposedly quoted material reflect Keith's views? Describing Darwin's arrival at the Galapagos Islands, Keith writes:

And why should each of the islands have its own peculiar creations? Special creation could not explain such things.

We see that Keith doesn't believe that that special creation is an alternative at all, since he doesn't feel that it can explain the fauna of the Galapagos. And later on he writes:

The Origin of Species is still the book which contains the most complete demonstration that the law of evolution is true.

It's obvious that Keith believes in evolution not because he doesn't like the alternatives, but because he believes evolution to be true.


Keith, Arthur. Introduction to "The origin of species by means of natural selection", by Charles Darwin. London: J.M. Dent, 1928.

Thompson, William Robin. Introduction to "The origin of species", by Charles Darwin. London: J.M. Dent, 1958.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #82

"Not one change of species into another is on record...we cannot prove that a single species has been changed." Charles Darwin, My Life & Letters

Charles Darwin never wrote any book by that title.

It's commonly misquoted on many a creationist site.

His son edited, after his father's death, a book called The life and letters of Charles Darwin.

In which you can track down the second half of the "quote" above, but without any trace of the first half.

Many of Darwin's books (including The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin) are available via Project Gutenberg. I tracked this down and reported what I found in Re: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.

- Mike Hopkins and Mark VandeWettering

Quote #83

"The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional (missing) links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative." Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

I'll use the copy of Origin that's in the Talk.Origins archive:

This is from the near the end of chapter 10 of the 1st edition (funny how no edition number is given with the quote).

I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect; that only a small portion of the globe has been geologically explored with care; that only certain classes of organic beings have been largely preserved in a fossil state; that the number both of specimens and of species, preserved in our museums, is absolutely as nothing compared with the incalculable number of generations which must have passed away even during a single formation; that, owing to subsidence being necessary for the accumulation of fossiliferous deposits thick enough to resist future degradation, enormous intervals of time have elapsed between the successive formations; that there has probably been more extinction during the periods of subsidence, and more variation during the periods of elevation, and during the latter the record will have been least perfectly kept; that each single formation has not been continuously deposited; that the duration of each formation is, perhaps, short compared with the average duration of specific forms; that migration has played an important part in the first appearance of new forms in any one area and formation; that widely ranging species are those which have varied most, and have oftenest given rise to new species; and that varieties have at first often been local. All these causes taken conjointly, must have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.

He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative species, found in the several stages of the same great formation. He may disbelieve in the enormous intervals of time which have elapsed between our consecutive formations; he may overlook how important a part migration must have played, when the formations of any one great region alone, as that of Europe, are considered; he may urge the apparent, but often falsely apparent, sudden coming in of whole groups of species. He may ask where are the remains of those infinitely numerous organisms which must have existed long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited: I can answer this latter question only hypothetically, by saying that as far as we can see, where our oceans now extend they have for an enormous period extended, and where our oscillating continents now stand they have stood ever since the Silurian epoch; but that long before that period, the world may have presented a wholly different aspect; and that the older continents, formed of formations older than any known to us, may now all be in a metamorphosed condition, or may lie buried under the ocean.

Passing from these difficulties, all the other great leading facts in palaeontology seem to me simply to follow on the theory of descent with modification through natural selection.

Note that while Darwin does admit that "He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory", he reiterates several reason why these views should be accepted, reasons he feels are quite legitimate, but that are left out by the Quote Miner. Darwin feels that the geological record is consistent with evolution, and that his theory can only be rejected on geological grounds if his views of geology, which at that time were fairly orthodox, are rejected as well.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #84

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species

This is from roughly halfway through chapter 6 of the 1st edition:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

Darwin didn't feel there was an organ that could not have evolved, and there is no reason to think otherwise today.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #85

"If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life all at once, that fact would be fatal to the theory of descent with slow modification through natural selection." Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

This is from approximately five sevenths of the way through chapter 9 of the first edition:

If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life all at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of descent with slow modification through natural selection. For the development of a group of forms, all of which have descended from some one progenitor, must have been an extremely slow process; and the progenitors must have lived long ages before their modified descendants. But we continually over-rate the perfection of the geological record, and falsely infer, because certain genera or families have not been found beneath a certain stage, that they did not exist before that stage. We continually forget how large the world is, compared with the area over which our geological formations have been carefully examined; we forget that groups of species may elsewhere have long existed and have slowly multiplied before they invaded the ancient archipelagoes of Europe and of the United States. We do not make due allowance for the enormous intervals of time, which have probably elapsed between our consecutive formations, longer perhaps in some cases than the time required for the accumulation of each formation. These intervals will have given time for the multiplication of species from some one or some few parent-forms; and in the succeeding formation such species will appear as if suddenly created.

And once again, Darwin gives explanations he feels are quite legitimate, and in fact the whole chapter, as well as the following one, is devoted to explaining his reasoning on the subject. Is there reason to think that several species of the same family have started all at once?

What all of the above quotes have done is taken advantage of Darwin's style of writing to cast doubt on his belief in his own theory. But rather than try to understand the concept, and argue against it, Quote Miners mindlessly repeat particular words.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Quote #86

[And the quote from the Anointed One site left out by the poster]

"Whatever ideas authorities may have on the subject, the lungfishes, like every other major group of fishes that I know, have their origins firmly based in nothing." (Quoted in W. R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited [Nashville: Regency, 1991; originally published by Philosophical Library, 1987], 1:62-63)

Anointed One mangled that reference. A fuller one is in Correspondence with Dave.

Errol White, "A Little on Lung-fishes," "Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London," Vol. 177, Presidential Address, January 1966, p. 8.

- J. (catshark) Pieret


Starting at the bottom of page 7:

It is evident that the separation between the lung-fishes and the other two groups, the rhipidistians and the coelacanths is such as to warrant placing them in a Sub-class separate from the Crossopterygii (e. g. Berg, 1940). How far they are separated we do not yet know, for like all the other groups of fishes their origins are masked in obscurity. There are those who see in their dentition, so unlike that of all other living fishes except the chimaeroids, relationships with that group and, through the chimaeroids, connection with the extinct arthrodires, to the similarity of whose dentition we have just drawn attention; and it was next to the arthrodires that Smith Woodward placed them many years ago (1891:234) and so perhaps back to the elasmobranchs, to which Agassiz (1838:129) at first referred the teeth of Ceratodus. But whatever ideas authorities may have on the subject, the lung-fishes, like every other major group of fishes that I know, have their origins firmly based in nothing, a matter of hot dispute among the experts, each of whom is firmly convinced that everyone else is wrong.

Obviously White believes that evolution occurred, and even outlines several possible lines of descent. Later on the same page he writes:

What we do know for certain is from the evidence of geology, which tells us that the remains of organic beings from the oldest rocks to the latest form a succession, greatly imperfect, in which the overall picture is that of creatures, both animals and plant, of increasingly modern aspect.

- Jon (Augray) Barber

Darwin Quotes

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