Re: tolerance

Ed Brayton (
Mon, 31 May 1999 22:49:37 -0400 wrote:

> Accusing someone of "quoting out of context" is not the equivalent of
> accusing them of fraud. Anyone who quotes anything can be accused of
> "quoting out of context" unless they don't supply the whole document.
> Someone who disagrees with the sentiment usually seems to bring out the
> "quoting out of context" charge. It's such a common accusation, I don't
> really know what it means. Claiming degrees one doesn't have is deliberate
> misrepresentation, and I agree is fraudulent.

When I say quoting out of context, I mean quoting in a manner which is clearly
intended to distort the position of the person being quoted. While this is not
academic fraud, it is clearly deceitful and would be enough to kill one's
credibility with one's colleagues in a professional scientific setting, as it
should. I'll give you a very good and very recent example of this, discovered by
my friend Troy Britain. In the March 1999 issue of Back to Genesis, Henry Morris
has an article entitled What They Say. Like many creationist articles, this is
largely a collection of quotes from respected scientists intended to give the
impression that they "admit" some of the problems with evolution. In this article
we find the following:

"There are no evolutionary transitions fossilized anywhere, although billions of
fossils are
there still preserved in the rocks.

One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has
been the origin of major taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds,
whales, that had appeared to rise [sic] suddenly, without any
obvious answers [sic], over a comparatively short period of

Professor Carroll, an eminent Canadian paleontologist, is well aware of
such highly
publicized fossils as archaeopteryx (the alleged half-reptile,
half-bird) and the so-called
walking whale, but he still has to acknowledge that birds and whales
arose suddenly
without obvious ancestors."

Clearly, Morris is implying that Carroll agrees with him that there are no
transitional forms in these lineages. Is this the case? Of course not. Here is
what Carroll actually said, with the context included:

"Is macroevolution conceptually different than microevolution? The main
driving forces
are the same as at the species level: population growth, genetic
variation, and
behavioral plasticity. At both time scales, external factors of the
biological and physical
environment control the rate, scope, and direction of change.

One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has been the
origin of major
taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds, and whales, that had appeared to
arise suddenly,
without any obvious ancestors, over a comparatively short period of
time. Increased
knowledge of the fossil record has greatly increased our understanding
of these and
other transitions, and show that they do not necessarily require
processes that differ
from those known to occur at much lower taxonomic levels·From examples
in this text, it can be seen that adaptive change, morphological change,
and radiation
can be decoupled in that each may occur at a different time. We now see
that the overall
rate of evolution is not greatly faster during the origin of a group
than it is within the
ancestral or the descendant lineages, and with the discovery of
intermediate forms, we
see that they are not necessarily any more poorly represented in the
fossil record than
single lineages might be at other stages of evolution (Carroll 19997:

So here we have Carroll saying the exact opposite of what Morris says he
"acknowledges". The quote he takes is in the past tense, and the rest of the
section And regarding the two specific lineages about which Morris implies that
Carroll "acknowledges" a lack of transitional forms, birds and whales, within a
few pages of the quote that Morris uses, we find the following:

"Despite the enormous gap in anatomy, physiology, and way of life
between modern
birds and the other long-recognized vertebrate classes, the fossil
record provided
singularly informative evidence of the origin of birds long before we
understood the
ancestry of tetrapods, amniotes, or mammals. Historically, the question
of the origin of
birds has concentrated on a single genus, Archaeopteryx from the Upper
which appears as an almost ideal intermediate between "reptiles"
dinosaurs) and birds....until recently little was known of either the
ancestry of
Archaeopteryx or of animals intermediate between this genus and
essentially modern
birds of the later Mesozoic. Within the past twenty years, a host of new
discoveries have
begun to fill in both these gaps, outlining the accumulative evolution
of avian characters
over a period that spans approximately 40 million years, from the
obligatory terrestrial
dinosaurs to an essentially modern avian anatomy." (Carroll 1997: 306-7)

And on whales:

"The transition between mesonychids and primitive but obligatorily
aquatic whales is
represented by a sequence of intermediate animals from the upper portion
of the lower
Eocene and the lower half of the middle Eocene of Pakistan, continuing
into the later
middle and upper Eocene of Egypt and southeastern United States (Fig.
12.20). This
sequence extends over a period of 10-12 million years, beginning with
sediments, including primarily fossils of terrestrial mammals, through
shallow coastal
marine, to deep neritic deposits at the edge of the continental shelf.
Several genera are
recognized, showing the progressive reduction in the size of the
appendicular skeleton,
freeing the tail for aquatic locomotion, and a succession of
modifications in the structure
of the middle ear." (Carroll 1997: 330).

All quotes from the following:

Carroll, R.L., Pattern and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution. New York: Cambridge
U Press; 1997.

Morris H.M., Back To Genesis 1999; 3:b-c.

While this might not fit a definition of "fraud", it is clearly deceitful and
Morris should be hammered for it.

> Bertvan:
> >> I wouldn't not even state with certainty Pitdown was fraud. It could as
> well >>have been a hoax.
> Ed:
> >I'm not sure what distinction you are making between a hoax and a fraud here.
> Bertvan:
> I'd call a hoax a prank, with no intent to gain advantage.

Well, Piltdown was clearly a fraud as it was used by those who found it as real.