The Sensuous Curmudgeon, whose Blog I read on a regular basis pointed out a little quote-mining, a topic I haven't mentioned on here in a while. To refresh, Quote-Mining is a disreputable tactic of taking the words someone said and using them in context different from the intention of the source. We've talked about it many times, "DI Mouthpiece and Quote-mining", "Expelled: and Quote Mining", and "More on Quote Mining" are a few examples.
Ben Stein quoted Charles Darwin:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
Old Bennie made it sound like Darwin was supporting and even encouraging Eugenics, but when you look at the actual quote, not just the parts Bennie quote-mined, you get an entirely different context. To make it easy, I bolded the parts Bennie used:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.As you can see, the appropriate context, including the entire quote and not just the pieces you can string together to change the meaning, shows something very different than what Bennie claimed Darwin said.
Well, this next example, from SC, isn't quite as bad, or nearly as lengthy, but it does show you a good example of how Creationists like to twist things around. In this post from SC, "Discoveroids Adopt a Ken Ham Doctrine" you can read the details for yourself. But the bottom line is DI pseudo-historian Richard Weikart takes part of a quote from Richard Dawkins and completely misrepresents what Dawkins said! Weikart claims that Dawkins said:
"What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question."Dawkins did say those words, the quote-mining comes in because Weikart failed to place Dawkins words within the context of the actual discussion. It wasn't a discussion about Hitler's atrocities, but a discussion on the shifting of moralities. Here is Dawkins comment in context:
“What defines your morality?” [The question put to Dawkins]
There was an extended pause as Dawkins considered the question carefully. “Moral philosophic reasoning and a shifting zeitgeist.” He looked off and then continued. “We live in a society in which, nowadays, slavery is abominated, women are respected, children can’t be abused — all of which is different from previous centuries.”
[Follow-up question]“As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”
“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”SC's comment here shows why this is nothing more than another quote-mine:
"That’s all there is on the subject. Did Dawkins say that he, personally, had difficulty deciding that Hitler was wrong? No, he obviously didn’t, but that’s what Weikart wants us to believe."One last current example, something I read today, it's also from the Discovery Institute, 'Now It's Bill Nye the "Jailing Science Skeptics as War Criminals" Guy'. Since the conversation is about quote-mining, I bet you are guessing that the DI is misrepresenting what Bill Nye actually said. You would be correct.
What Bill was talking about was not all climate change deniers, but those who are denying climate change for the purposes of making a profit. The DI forgot to mention another analogy Bill said:
"Was it appropriate to jail people from the cigarette industry who insisted that this addictive product was not addictive and so on? And you think about in these cases — for me as a taxpayer and voter — the introduction of this extreme doubt about climate change is affecting my quality of life as a public citizen. So I can see where people are very concerned about this and are pursuing criminal investigations as well as engaging in discussion like this.”You see what I mean. Bill Nye isn't considering jail time for all climate change deniers, he is thinking that the possibilities exists for people who are denying climate change in order to profit by it! At the same time, these deniers are preventing us from moving ahead and dealing with the problem! If it was criminal for the tobacco industry to deny the dangers of tobacco for decades . . . and earning millions at the same time . . . shouldn't people who are denying climate change AND profiting from it to the tune of millions and billions be held responsible?
[They] are leaving the world worse than they found it because they are keeping us from getting to work. They are holding us back.” (Source)