Brett J. Vickers Colin Patterson quote misuse (ftqz's quoting) Not long ago, Gene Newman (
Brett J. Vickers
Colin Patterson quote misuse (ftqz's quoting)
Not long ago, Gene Newman (ftqz) posted the following quotes by
British paleontologist Colin Patterson, trying to give the impression
that he had dumped the notions of evolution and common descent.
'In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion;
almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared
to 'bend' their observations 'It is easy enough to make up
stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find
reasons why the stages should be favored by natural selection.
But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way
of putting them to the test.' Personal letter (written April
10, 1979) from Dr. Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist at
the British Museum of Natural History in London, to Luther D.
Sunderland; as quoted in DARWIN'S ENIGMA by Luther D.
Sunderland, Master Books, San Diego, 1984. p. 89.
'One of the reasons I started taking the anti-evolutionary
view, or lets call it a non-evolutionary view, was last year
I had a sudden realization that for over twenty years I had
though I was working on evolution in some way. One morning
I woke up and something had happened in the night, and it
struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty
years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That's
quite a shock to learn that one can be misled for so long.
Either there was something wrong with me or there was
something wrong with evolutionary theory. Naturally, I know
there is nothing wrong with me, so for the last few weeks
I've been putting a simple question to various people and
groups of people. Question is: Can you tell me anything you
know about evolution, any one thing that is true? I tried
that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of
Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I
tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology
Seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body
of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long
time and eventually one person said, "I do know one thing --
it ought not to be taught in high school".' Dr. Colin
Patterson (Senior Paleontologist, British Museum of Natural
History, London). Keynote address at the American Museum
of Natural History, New York City, November 5, 1981.
As someone else recently mentioned, the winter '92 issue of _NCSE
Reports_ covers the misuse of Patterson's quotes by creationists. The
following are quotes of Patterson's referring to the disingenuous
behavior of creationists.
"I was too naive and foolish to guess what might happen:
the talk was taped by a creationist who passed the tape
to Luther Sunderland... Since, in my view, the tape was
obtained unethically, I asked Sunderland to stop circulating
the transcipt, but of course to no effect. There is not much
point in my going through the article point by point. I was
putting a case for discussion, as I thought off the record,
and was speaking only about systematics, a specialized field.
I do not support the creationist movement in any way, and in
particular I am opposed to their efforts to modify school
curricula. In short the article does not fairly represent my
views. But even if it did, so what? The issue should be
resolved by rational discussion, and not by quoting
'authorities,' which seems to be the creationists' principal
mode of argument." (Letter from Colin Patterson to Steven W.
Binkley, June 17, 1982).
Patterson's absolutely right. Creationists like ftqz use appeals to
authority, rather than their brains, to make their weak cases. Also:
"Chelvam asserts that 'we are drowning' in evidence against
darwinism. He cites nothing beyond the remarks attributed
to me. It seems possible that he confuses two theories under
the name of darwinism, the general theory of common ancestry
or descent with modification, and Darwin's special theory of
mechanism, natural selection. If he knows of evidence
inconsistent with the general theory of common descent, he
should tell us what it is. I know of none." (Colin
Patterson in a letter to the editor, _Nature_ 332:580, 1988).
So Patterson is no ally of the creationists, nor does he doubt the
veracity of common descent. Eugenie Scott, the author of the article
in _NCSE Reports_, concluded:
"The 'Patterson story' illustrates two common creationist
enthusiasms: taking statements out of context, and refusing
to recognize corrections when made."
She's absolutely on the mark, and the creationists are completely off
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