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Expelled and Quote Mines

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on February 4, 2009

[Originally posted at: Religion, Sets, and Politics]

A “quote mine” is a quote which has been taken out of context. A quote mine is distinct from a generic out of context quote in that a quote mine is generally taken from a famous person. Thus, quote mining makes an implied argument from authority. Frequently, the individual whose quote is mined is not a reputable authority on the subject in questions Purveyors of pseudoscience and other fringe ideas they frequently quote mine scientists. Creationists are very fond of quote mining.

One of the most famous quote mines is Charles Darwin’s comment about the human eye. The quote mind is:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

This quote is from the sixth chapter of The Origin of Species. Immediately after this quote, Darwin goes into great detail describing just how the eye could in fact have formed by natural selection. This is thus an excellent example of a quote mine; it is both out of context and relies on an argument from authority. Like many quote mines, the authority in question is poor; in this case, Darwin died over a century ago. Given the nature of scientific progress, it is laughable that this 100 year old quote is persuasive evidence.

Quote mines are common occurrences in creationist circles. There are entire books of quote mines including Andrew Snelling’s The Revised Quote Book. Snelling’s book includes quotes from modern biologists; the implication is that biologists readily admit the failings of evolution when they are only talking to other biologists in their obscure journals. Many of Snelling’s quotes are either misquoted, woefully out of context or unpersuasive for other reasons.

[Read the rest of this post at: Religion, Sets, and Politics]


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