Collapse of a Texas Quote Mine

Science • Views: 4,188

When the Texas State Board of Education met to consider a draft of their new science standards (tainted with the influence of the Discovery Institute, who managed to plant two DI shills on the panel), board chairman Don McLeroy—a young earth creationist—read into the record a long list of quotes to support his anti-evolution proposals.

Would you be shocked to learn that every single one of these quotes was distorted, made up, altered, or radically out of context? This dishonest creationist tactic is so common that it has a name: “quote mining.”

And here’s a great website that exposes the deceptiveness of McLeroy’s quotes, by showing exactly where they came from (if they weren’t altogether invented), and the context in which they were made: Collapse of a Texas Quote Mine.

Here’s one example, out of many:

Quote as presented by McLeroy

“…natural selection operates essentially to enable the organisms to maintain their state of adaptation rather than to improve it.” Lewontin, Richard C., Adaptation, Scientific American (and Scientific American book Evolution), September 1978

Additional Context

“Van Valen’s theory [the Red Queen hypothesis] is that the environment is constantly decaying with respect to existing organism, so that natural selection operates essentially to enable the organisms to maintain their state of adaptation rather than to improve it. Evidence from the Red Queen hypothesis comes from an examination of extinction rates in a large number of evolutionary lines. If natural selection were actually improving the fit of organisms to their environments, then we might expect the probability that a species will become extinct in the next time period to be less for species that have already been in existence for a long time, since the long-lived species are presumably the ones that have been improved by natural selection. The data show, however, that the probability of extinction of a species appears to be a constant, characteristic of the group to which it belongs but independent of whether that species has been in existence for a long time or a short one. In other words, natural selection over the long run does not seem to improve a species chance of survival but simply enables it to ‘track,’ or keep up with, the constantly changing environment…There is no way to explain and predict such evolutionary adaptations unless a priori niches can be described on the basis of some physical principles before organisms come to occupy them.”

Richard C. Lewontin
“Adaptation”
Scientific American
Vol. 239, No. 3
Sept. 1978
Page 215

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