Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Darwin's Demise" A partial review.

White, Joe, Nicholas Comninellis
2001 "Darwin's Demise: Why Evolution Can't Take the Heat" Green Forest AR: Master Books

From the rear cover, "Authors Joe White and Nicholas Comninellis have a passion for truth? " Sadly this passion is nowhere evident in their book. The falsehoods misrepresentations and plain old fashion lies start from the first page and continue on and on. I could not find a single page in the first two chapters without at least one significant error of fact, or reasoning. Most pages have many errors (I counted at least eight on several separate pages).

One thing the authors truly excel at is the use of "quote mines." The false, or out-of-context quote is a favorite tactic of professional young Earth creationists' efforts to undermine science and reason. This is so widely recognized among those who follow these efforts that it has come to be called "quote mining" and a compilation of many examples and their corrections has been published at "The Quote Mine Project." The Answers in Genesis Ministries, formerly the Creation Science Foundation of Brisbane, Australia, even produced a book of quotes called "The Revised Quote Book (copyright 1990)" that has been debunked at "Cretinism or Evilution? No. 3".

At the moment, I want to detail just one quote mining example from Darwin's Demise that stands as a classic of the practice, and characterizes the sort of "truth" the authors so passionately employ.

White and Comninellis wrote, "In stark contrast to his theological training, Darwin later demonstrated his enormous contempt for anything Christian. He wrote: "The Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the earth, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindus, or the beliefs of any barbarian. The New Testament is a damnable doctrine. [I can] hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true" (The Origin of Species, 1859). (From Darwin's Demise pg 8-9).

This a breathtaking misrepresentation. No, it is a lie because Darwin never showed contempt for "anything Christian." White and Comninellis with their "passion for truth" have torn apart sentences separated by pages, inverted their orders, added words and concepts, deleted clarifying material and all and all have lied to their readers. (James 3:1. Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment).

What Charles Darwin actually wrote in his Autobiography (published 1904) (Not in the Origin of Species published 1859) was a description of how over years his faith changed from a devout orthodox young theology student, to theist and eventually agnostic. His first realization was that the geological features of the earth did not correspond to those described in the Old Testament. There were no geological evidences for a global flood, no anthropological evidences for a Tower of Babel, and he came to reject the Old Testament theology of a violent "jealous God." Much later in his life (particularly following the early death of his daughter Anna at age 10), Darwin came to reject the doctrine of damnation and eternal torture for all unbelievers- a doctrine he called itself "damnable." At no time in his life did he express contempt for Christianity. Indeed, you will see below that he generally admired the New Testament moral code, inspite of his growing doubts about religion.

In the following quote from Darwin Online, I have bolded the sections that White and Comninellis have corrupted, and placed the words they used in italics. Readers will easily see they have also added words without indicating their alteration of the text.

"DURING THESE two years (October 1836 to January 1839 GH) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian. The question then continually rose before my mind and would not be banished,?is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, would he permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, &c., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament. This appeared to me utterly incredible.

By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,?that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,?that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us,?that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events,?that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses;?by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief;?I feel sure of this for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine.

Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws." (Autobiography, 85-87)

A few paragraphs later, Darwin wrote;

"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. And again later, "I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems (regarding the origin of moral thought, gh). The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic."

Six months after her husband's death Mrs. Darwin annotated the passage above in her own handwriting. She writes:?"I should dislike the passage in brackets to be published (from "and have never since doubted"?. to "damnable doctrine" GH). It seems to me raw. Nothing can be said too severe upon the doctrine of everlasting punishment for disbelief?but very few now wd. call that 'Christianity, ?"

A few pages later she wrote in another note, "... and [it] would give an opening to say, however unjustly, that he [Charles Darwin] considered all spiritual beliefs no higher than hereditary aversions or likings, such as the fear of monkeys towards snakes." She finished, "I should wish if possible to avoid giving pain to your father's religious friends who are deeply attached to him, and I picture to myself the way that sentence would strike them, even those so liberal as Ellen Tollett and Laura, much more Admiral Sullivan, Aunt Caroline, &c., and even the old servants.

Yours, dear Frank,

E. D."

(Notes and text adapted from Darwin, C. R. 1958. The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow. London: Collins.)