Whaaaaa? Spurious Paul Nelson quote in The Guardian

| 181 Comments

Here I am, minding my own business, reading this editorial opinion piece in The Guardian about fundamentalists and creationism/ID, stem-cell research, The Rapture, etc. It is by Karen Armstrong, author of the 2000 book The Battle for God. I have not read the book, but I had the impression it was a best-selling history of fundamentalism and a comparative study of the fundamentalist phenomenon in various religions. So I figured that Armstrong probably had some idea of what she was talking about.

So I’m reading the editorial. It overviews some history of Christian fundamentalism and the like, and goes into the Scopes Trial. One minor misstep occurs when “creation science” is dated to 1925, which is not quite accurate (“scientific creationism” was a particular expression of creationism that was codified around 1969 according to Ronald Numbers), but this is the kind of detail that may be lost on people who are not creationism nerds.

But then I read this:

The fundamentalists’ rejection of science is deeply linked to their apocalyptic vision. Even the relatively sober ID theorists segue easily into Rapture-speak. “Great shakings and darkness are descending on Planet Earth,” says the ID philosopher Paul Nelson, “but they will be overshadowed by even more amazing displays of God’s power and light. Ever the long-term strategist, YHVH is raising up a mighty army of cutting-edge Jewish End-time warriors.”

As Jon Stewart would say, Whaaa?

Paul Nelson is a young-earth creationist and therefore has some rather severe disconnects with reality, but this was the first I’d heard of him saying crazy stuff about the Rapture and how Jews for Jesus (or something; I’m guessing here) will be the warriors of the End-time. And believe me, if Paul Nelson had said something like this in writing, someone here at The Thumb would have gleefully posted it by now.

Since spurious quotations are bad in general, and not just when the creationists use them, I figured I should check this one. Googling the quote reveals exactly one hit, to a website named “David’s Tent”. This is apparently the website of Final Frontier Ministries, which is headquartered in Nashville. Instead of doing something rational like evangelizing Trekkies or country music fans, the founders of Final Frontier Ministries live in Israel and evangelize the jews, which I am sure everyone there deeply appreciates. I bet the bit about training up “cutting-edge Jewish End-time warriors” is an especially popular message too, especially in the last few weeks.

Anyway, irresistable sarcasm aside, there is no evidence whatsoever of any connection between Paul Nelson and the quotes from the David’s Tent webpage. For that matter, the word “Nelson” does not appear anywhere on the entire David’s Tent website, according to google. The only mention of “Paul” on the page with the quotes is the Apostle Paul, here:

The Apostle Paul encourages us not only to intercede for Israel, but also to reach out to Jewish people with the message of Yeshua. How shall Israel hear about Him unless someone shows them? And how can people share this message with the Jewish people unless they are sent out (see Rom.10:14)? Israel certainly needs fiery prayers (Jer.31:7) and compassionate hands (Isa.60:5-16).

In other words, a different Paul entirely. Unless Karen Armstrong has some really amazing evidence that none of us have ever heard of before, She Goofed Big Time. A retraction clearly is in order. And it’s quite a shame, really, because this will undoubtedly give the ID advocates something indignant to blog about all week, and will give them a talking point to raise every time Armstrong decides to talk about fundamentalism/creationism/ID. The ID guys say enough silly things, even truly wacky things, that there is no reason to go around wildly misattributing quotes.

[Note: Thanks to an email which pointed out this was an opinion piece, not an editorial from the newspaper editors.]

181 Comments

Have you asked her about the quote?

I left a comment on it at the Guardian article. I’m sure someone will check it out, probably Paul himself…

I’m afraid this doesn’t surprise me. Karen Armstrong is not very rigorous and tends to say other gooey-brained stuff. For example, see here: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com[…].php?num=202.

She really isn’t any friend of rationalist thought.

There are plenty of fundies trolling the article. One post I particularly like. It says that “liberal secularists” want embryonic stem cell funding so they can deny the sanctity of life and thus promote abortion. Why? Because without abortion, the position that you should be allowed to have sex with whom you wish is “untenable.”

Two non-sequiturs in a row. Good job, fundie.

Two non-sequiturs in a row. Good job, fundie.

I think you miscounted:

1) “embryonic stem cell funding” leads to 2) “deny the sanctity of life” leads to 3) “promote abortion” leads to 4) “the position that you should be allowed to have sex with whom you wish”

I count four. Or is it three (fencepost problem)?

I really hope that fundie had incest in mind when he wrote that, because homosexuality, which seems to be the bigger threat to fundiness, is not a reproductive coupling and thus cannot have anything to do with abortion.

I still find the “sanctity of life” argument from fundies quite funny since they have no problem killing people that threatens that catchphrase, nor do they hesitate in sending death threats to people that threatens their ignorance.

A creationist is misquoted in a “July 31, 2006” article and here I am on July 31, 2006 seeing the quote debunked here on the Thumb.

If Ms. Armstrong had misquoted an “evolutionist”, we would not be seeing any debunking in creationist sites, they would repeat it.

Anonymous_Coward Wrote:

1) “embryonic stem cell funding” leads to 2) “deny the sanctity of life” leads to 3) “promote abortion” leads to 4) “the position that you should be allowed to have sex with whom you wish”

5) That starts with ‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P’ that stands for ‘Pool’.

(I’m dating myself, I know!)

A creationist is misquoted in a “July 31, 2006” article and here I am on July 31, 2006 seeing the quote debunked here on the Thumb.

If Ms. Armstrong had misquoted an “evolutionist”, we would not be seeing any debunking in creationist sites, they would repeat it.

Very very very true.

“Cutting-edge Jewish End-time warriors”

Great name for a rock band…

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be a retraction or correction. The Guardian is usually pretty scrupulous about that kind of thing.

And respect for calling BS on a supposed quote from an opponent. I’m pretty certain the gesture wouldn’t be reciprocated if the roles were reversed.

I’m pretty certain the gesture wouldn’t be reciprocated if the roles were reversed.

I don’t get what’s all this talk about “if” the roles were reversed.

We’re seeing the reversal right now. Someone arguing for “our” side made a mistake.

Before, it was the creationists who would misquote, misrepresent and even fake quotes and a lot of them haven’t retracted anything. Furthermore, some of them had “retracted” it, but continues to make the same claim.

Our case was made long before this error occurred.

PT and folks at the NCSE are the champion quote-miners, routinely quoting the pope’s statements on human evolution as if he gave his blanket endorsement to the standard garden-variety view of the diversity of life as championed on this site. As long as you guys are around, all other quote-miners can hope for no more than second best.

and Heddle, as long as you are around we can be assured of humour. Go cry somewhere else…

PT and folks at the NCSE are the champion quote-miners, routinely quoting the pope’s statements on human evolution as if he gave his blanket endorsement to the standard garden-variety view of the diversity of life as championed on this site. As long as you guys are around, all other quote-miners can hope for no more than second best.

Heddle, you’re a little slow, so I should point out that it is the wicked PT secularists who are pointing out the erroneous quote. Have you *ever* seen an ID or Creationism advocate VOLUNTARILY disavow a quote they had claimed the other side made? That is, have you ever seen a Creationist say “guys, the Evolutionists didn’t really say this, we shouldn’t claim they did”, without being pressured to? Your whininess is misplaced here.

A creationist is misquoted in a “July 31, 2006” article and here I am on July 31, 2006 seeing the quote debunked here on the Thumb.

If Ms. Armstrong had misquoted an “evolutionist”, we would not be seeing any debunking in creationist sites, they would repeat it.

And this sort of thing is one reason I have far more respect for PT than I do for, say, UD.

Gary Hurd linked: We have already seen how Dembski defends his quote minning. He claims it is just fine!

Wow-these threads date back to a year before I started reading PT. You guys have been at this fight for a long time and IDists still don’t understand the concept of intellectual honesty! Do any of these ID movement leaders ever come clean when they make mistakes? No wonder you get so annoyed when newbies show up spouting the same old trash. My hat is off to all of you who are in this for the long haul.

Gary Hurd Wrote:

We have already seen how Dembski defends his quote minning. He claims it is just fine!

What’s worse (for them) about the link you provided:

Dembski Wrote:

My post took a few minutes to write up. Evolutionists wrote detailed responses many times its length on places like the Pandasthumb to justify that the problem with the Cambrian explosion was not really a problem.

Yet, in another thread, some person with a few pieces missing complained that a poster did not write a long enough rebuttal to Casey Luskin’s already-rebutted-at-length piece.

My hat is off to all of you who are in this for the long haul.

Collect some money for us while you’re at it…

Would I appear old-fashioned if I suggested checking for spelling mistakes? The Grauniad does have a certain reputation.

If nothing else, it always made the crossword interesting.

Bob

“PT and folks at the NCSE are the champion quote-miners, routinely quoting the pope’s statements on human evolution as if he gave his blanket endorsement to the standard garden-variety view of the diversity of life as championed on this site. As long as you guys are around, all other quote-miners can hope for no more than second best.”

All right.….who moved the rock?!

Collect some money for us while you’re at it…

I can at least make a donation to talkorigins. Would that help? Of course, it would be small potatos compared to some of the DI supporters. Just reinforces the idea that being rich does not necessarily mean being wise…

Heddle, have you ever heard of theistic evolution?

W. Kevin Vicklund,

Heddle, have you ever heard of theistic evolution?

You bet! It’s the form of evolution that the Vatican does permit. This is clear when one reads, in-context, Vatican statements on evolution instead of parroting the obfuscating PT and NCSE quote-mining . It (theistic evolution) is completely compatible with non-theistic evolution—however it does not rule out the possibility of a discontinuity due to supernatural intervention. Its methodology in the lab and field would be indistinguishable from its non-theistic cousin. However, underneath the hood it would assume that God’s sovereign plan could not be thwarted in any manner by unforeseen mutations and or natural cataclysms. And, in particular, the theistic evolution that the Vatican finds acceptable includes the notion that our species, singled out for special treatment, was inevitable. It would argue that, much like God uses the secondary cause of gravity to move the planets in their orbits, God uses the secondary cause of evolution to introduce the diversity of life—none of which has caught him by surprise. In other words, theistic evolution is God using evolution to intelligently design life.

So yes, I have heard of it.

When Heddle uses the phrase ‘intelligent design’, it’s important to remember that he means his own unique flavor of ID, which is often in direct contradiction to mainstream ID. In Heddle’s world, theistic evolution is a respectable thing, while in mainstream ID:

As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is an oxymoron, something like “purposeful purposelessness.”

-William Dembski

One minor misstep occurs when “creation science” is dated to 1925, which is not quite accurate (“scientific creationism” was a particular expression of creationism that was codified around 1969 according to Ronald Numbers)

Technically yes, but most of the creation science arguments of Morris et al were invented by George Macready Price in the 20s. The creationists tend not to mention this as it would expose their adventist roots, but Morris has said it is price that ‘opened his eyes’.

Re “purposeful purposelessness.”

That sort of describes any genetic algorithm, doesn’t it? (Loosely speaking, anyway.)

Henry

I found an apparent source of the quote using Google. It appears in Final Fontier Ministries, and the author is not clearly identified. Avner and Rachel Boskey are the key players in this site. I’ve never heard of ID being associated with apocalyptic ideas like this.

As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is an oxymoron, something like “purposeful purposelessness.”

-William Dembski

Hmmm, so, when IDiots say that “some biological structures are too complex to have evolved”, what they really mean is “all biological structures…”?

I saw that editorial and wasn’t very happy with it. It has a good bit of really sloppy thinking in there, mostly to do with equating the very most extreme wing of the Christian right with the Christian right itself.

Any self-decribed “fundamentalist” who does not, in fact, specifically believe that Israel must conquer the middle east so that we can bring Jesus back– or even anyone who knows enough about American religion to know this is not specifically true of all fundamentalists– will likely see Armstrong’s generalizations, realize they are inaccurate, and discard the entire article as factually inaccurate. This precludes getting any useful information out of the article, or reaching any useful conclusions from it (like “gosh, maybe the ‘moderate’ Christian political right is a bit extreme itself” or “I wonder who within the Christian right has more sway over the Republican party, the moderates or the extremists?”).

Even someone who knows little enough about America to take Armstrong’s entire article at face value (this is a Guardian article, after all, I doubt the intended audience is American) will be left with a cartoonish view of American fundamentalism which helps neither them nor us. After all, the reality (where the Christian right is actually a complex alliance including such diverse groups as biblical literalists, pro-lifers, gay-bashers, Left Behind-camp premillenial dispensationalists, dominionists, creationists and pseudo-calvinist capitalists– which are not at all all the same group, but do sometimes partially overlap, are all mostly cheerful about allying against common foes, and are all usually disinclined to contradict one another publicly) is a lot more dangerous than the caricature that Armstrong presents in this article. If all the fundies were premillenial dispensationalists, they’d be a lot easier to defeat in the public sphere.

I sincerely hope that this article wound up this way because of space considerations or something, and that her book is of higher quality. Has anyone read it?

Hmmm, so, when IDiots say that “some biological structures are too complex to have evolved”, what they really mean is “all biological structures…”?

Well, they haven’t managed to give us an example of an IC object without later modifying the definition of IC, and they haven’t figured out how to calculate the CSI of, well, anything in biology, so I don’t know what structures they’d accept had evolved, or not.

Comment #117296

Posted by Robert O’Brien on August 5, 2006 09:49 PM (e) | kill

Ah, Steve, what would PT do without your tireless me-tooism?

Probably serve pages very slightly faster.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on July 31, 2006 12:08 AM.

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