Obtaining a fair result

September 26, 2009

John Pieret has a nice piece up on the latest DI missive. In it he points out further egregious use of Darwin’s own words in Origins. Witness the DI’s quotation:

Few scientists understood the importance of critical thinking better than Charles Darwin. When he first proposed his theory of evolution in Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin faced intense intellectual opposition from both the scientific community and the culture of his day. To help restore objectivity to the debate over evolution, Darwin wisely counseled, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” [Emphasis in DI original]

And now look at the original:

This Abstract [Origin], which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.

As John points out, Darwin is not claiming that all sides are equal – and should thus be given equal time – in the debate regarding evolution. Instead he is noting that he had been unable to include all his relevant “facts and arguments” (because of the rushed nature of Origin) and that a “fair result” (i.e. acceptance of his theory) can only result when all the evidence is examined. The DI intentionally omit both the context of the quote and the complete sentence because, let’s face it, it would make their argument untenable.

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  1. September 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    And even if it hadn’t been out-of-context, even a fair balance wouldn’t compensate for a difference in the weight of fact and argument. Nor imply that public schools are the best place to do the weighing.

  2. johnpieret
    September 27, 2009 at 4:42 am

    I also find it fascinating how they can demonize Darwin as a “racist,” “sexist,” “eugenicist” and progenitor of Nazism but then turn around and appeal to his critical thinking skills with a (seemingly) straight face.

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