Smackdown of a quote miner

| 43 Comments

Quote mining is ubiquitous amongst the creationists, to the point that TalkOrigins maintains an extensive database of mined quotes. Now there’s a new candidate. Gary Hurd calls our attention to Rabbi Moshe Averick, who quotemines Jack Szostak, a prominent origin of life researcher (added in edit: and 2009 Nobel winner!).

What’s most fun is that Szostak’s wife, Terri-Lynn McCormick, shows up in the comments and calls Averick on his dishonesty. I’ll reproduce her whole comment here. It’s delicious!

How dare you misrepresent my husband. Your quote from the Scientific American article blatantly distorts his meaning. It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth. He and others have, over many years, been showing incrementally how an RNA cell might have been created on early earth. There is nothing in my husband’s work that suggests otherwise. It is quite sickening that you would try to make him, a steadfast rationalist and atheist, into a propopent for I.D. You are in complete disagreement with Prof. Jack Szostak. Unfortunately for you his opinion is backed up by facts and mountains of results from peer reviewed research.

Please refrain from misrepresenting his opinions or work again. We consider it slander.

Nice!

43 Comments

I don’t understand the sentence “It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth.” It’s mangled somehow - therre’s something missing - anybody want to try to re-construct it?

Paul Burnett said:

I don’t understand the sentence “It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth.” It’s mangled somehow - therre’s something missing - anybody want to try to re-construct it?

It means that modern cells didn’t evolve de novo, but from simpler ancestors in the RNA world. The Rabbi pended it meant that evolution is impossible. You do have to read the infinitive of ‘emerge’ rather than the participle, but mistakes like that are very common in heated exchanges on message boards.

Paul Burnett said:

I don’t understand the sentence “It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth.” It’s mangled somehow - therre’s something missing - anybody want to try to re-construct it? (Emphasis added)

That is, it’s difficult to imagine the emergence of a modern (DNA-based) cell from the prebiotic earth. Hence the next sentence which is about the incremental evolution of RNA-based cells–the RNA world is an intermediate state between pre-biotic earth and DNA-based life. (See Chapters 1 and 2 of Nick Lane’s Life Ascending for a slightly different ‘metabolism first’ view.)

(And if I hadn’t delayed to look up Nick Lane’s site I’d have beaten Helena!)

“It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now emerging from the pre-biotic earth.”

You just have to take out the second “to,” and it works.

Of course Stephen Meyer did virtually the same thing, without (that I know of) misquoting Szostak, pointing out how complex today’s eukaryotic cells are. Not even the simpler bacteria and archaea, no, he had to go for present-day eukaryotes. Nothing like pretending to discuss the origin of life using apparently evolved information structures.

Oh well, false dichotomies and misrepresentations are all that they have, actually, it’s just nice to highlight the latter with obvious quotemines when these occur.

Glen Davidson

Isn’t his name “Averick” ?

Joe Felsenstein said:

Isn’t his name “Averick” ?

Oops. Corrected. Thanks.

That “argument” Averick used is so pathetic, so obviously idiotic and contrary to their “solution,” that one is still a bit surprised to see it used, no matter that it is used repeatedly.

Cutting out the flim-flam and jibber-jabber, the “argument” is that even today’s life has some finite chance of self-assembly, but it’s very low–therefore, the better explanation is that a cause for which we can calculate no finite probability whatsoever did it. Um, what? The low-odds process (which may not in fact be low odds, but granting it for the argument’s sake) is worse than the one that has no apparent probability at all?

That’s seriously dumb. The only way anyone can claim that no odds beat low odds is that they illegitimately already assume that the no odds process really exists and works rather well. In other words, it relies solely on theistic biases.

Glen Davidson

https://me.yahoo.com/a/JxVN0eQFqtmg[…]X_Zhn8#57cad said:

That “argument” Averick used is so pathetic, so obviously idiotic and contrary to their “solution,” that one is still a bit surprised to see it used, no matter that it is used repeatedly.

Cutting out the flim-flam and jibber-jabber, the “argument” is that even today’s life has some finite chance of self-assembly, but it’s very low–therefore, the better explanation is that a cause for which we can calculate no finite probability whatsoever did it. Um, what? The low-odds process (which may not in fact be low odds, but granting it for the argument’s sake) is worse than the one that has no apparent probability at all?

That’s seriously dumb. The only way anyone can claim that no odds beat low odds is that they illegitimately already assume that the no odds process really exists and works rather well. In other words, it relies solely on theistic biases.

Glen Davidson

Isn’t the same rabbi whose adherents include one David Klinghoffer? If so, then why am I not surprised?

I had seen Rabbi Averick’s abuse of Ricardo and Szostak recently on a British discussion board dominated by creationists. It was Faye Flam who put me on the trail to the source. Jerry Coyne also does a nice tap-dance on the Rabbi’s false tongue.

Alonso Ricardo and Jack W. Szostak, 2009 “Life on Earth” Scientific American, September, pages 54-61

Isn’t the same rabbi whose adherents include one David Klinghoffer? If so, then why am I not surprised?

Yes. In fact the Rabbi’s article was presented as a “defense” of Klinhoffer.

?!?

Talk about trying to polish a turd!

One of the favorite quote-mines of creationists, particularly the Dishonesty Institute, is from Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” that is used to bolster their argument regarding teaching the controversy & let the students decide:

“A fair result can be obtained only by fuly stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question. [; and this cannot posibly be here done.]”

The portion in brackets is excluded of course, the intent of the quote is thus misleading and gives the listener the impression that Darwin forever opened the classroom and science discussions to let in creationist objections.

I’ve heard a number of DI creationists’ talks, and every talk has used this misquote, West, Luskin (a favorite of Luskin’s), et. al.

And speaking of quote mining, Henry M. Morris championed this technique in his book of quote mining, “That Their Words May Be Used Against Them.” It is still available in print and on CD.

Faye Flam has a perfect name.

I’m finding it interesting that the ID/creationists are so fearful of anyone who does research on the origins of life. We just witnessed a remarkable spectacle on Joe Felsenstein’s recent thread about Granville Sewell’s misconceptions about the second law of thermodynamics.

On that thread we witnessed several of our persistent trolls go berserk simultaneously over the notion that the second law is required for matter to condense. And each of them immediately jumped onto the notion that the origins of life are “inexplicable.”

My impression of that “change of subject” was that it was the trolls’ avoidance of facing up to their misconceptions about chemistry and physics, the second law, and the meaning of entropy; but it was also an attempt to reinforce the ID/creationist misconceptions about the second law by explicitly asserting that the “impossibility” of abiogenesis was because of the second law.

And now we see this “rabbi” Averick quote-mining Jack Szostack to make it appear that even a Nobel laureate who actually works in this area is saying that abiogenesis is “impossible.”

There are evidently some extremely deep-seated fears within the ID/creationist community about any research on abiogenesis. The fact that there are high-caliber scientists actually working in this area is obviously perceived as a threat to one of the most basic misconceptions in the entire ID/creationist arsenal of pseudo-science. If someone in the scientific community begins unraveling the recipe underlying the origins of life, ID/creationists are thoroughly finished and discredited; horrors!

But I suspect that there is something else that is irritating to the ID/creationists; their fear of the unknown (unknown to ID/creationists). The chemistry and physics have always completely eluded them as they cling to the fundamental misconceptions they inherited from Henry Morris and upon which they build their entire fabricated lingo about irreducible complexity, complex specified information, and intelligent design.

I think it is simply a matter of time before one or more recipes for the origins of life are found. It’s a complex area of research, but the real scientists working in these areas understand the physics and chemistry. ID/creationists don’t, and that scares the hell out of them. Hence the bravado.

Despite all the ID/creationists’ recent political shenanigans about “academic freedom” and “strengths and weakness of evolution,” I suspect the defense against ID/creationism it will ultimately come down to explicitly keeping bogus science out of the classroom. ID/creationism is bogus through and through. It is based on persistent misconceptions about even the most basic concepts in chemistry, physics, geology, and biology; and that is why it doesn’t belong as a distraction in the classroom. Put it in a class about pseudo-science and other con games instead.

The title of that article is “The Origin of Life on Earth” and it can be found online at http://www.mcb.ucdavis.edu/faculty-[…]k-SA2009.pdf

ISTM that if the calculation of the probability that a natural cause did it makes any sense we can make an estimate of the probability that a non-natural cause did it: The probability of a non-natural cause is smaller.

A probability is a ratio: The number of “favorable” cases divided by the number of possible cases.

The number of favorable cases is the same, no matter what the cause.

And we can assume that the non-natural cause can do more things than natural cause. Therefore the number of possible cases produced by non-natural causes is greater than the number of possible cases produced by natural causes.

Thus the probability is smaller for non-natural causes.

sez mike elzinga: “I’m finding it interesting that the ID/creationists are so fearful of anyone who does research on the origins of life.”

Interesting, perhaps, but I’d say “inevitable” is a better term. Because once you’ve got imperfect self-replicators (from whatever origin) going, there just plain will be variations in the self-replicators. And some of these variations just plain will make the self-replicator better at making copies of itself, while other variations just plain will do the opposite. So I think that on some level, underneath however-many layers of denial and cognitive dissonance and yada yada yada… IDiots/Creationists know that given the existence of imperfect self-replicators, evolution must work. On some level, they know that once you’ve got imperfect self-replicators, it’s ‘game over’ for ID/Creationism; thus, IDiots/Creationists must attack abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is necessary in order for evolution to occur in the first place, which gives abiogenesis innately high target-value for IDiots/Creationists, and (praise be to a merciful God!) very few (if any) details of abiogenesis have yet been nailed down, which opens up mass quantities of opportunities for the special blend of ignorance, deceit, and blind faith which is ID/Creationism’s stock-in-trade.

TomS, I don’t think so. Remember that P(AandB) is always less than or equal to P(A) for all A and B. While some supernatural entity may have more ways to make replicators than completely physical ways, supernatural entities also have many more ways NOT to make replicators. Thus, the total probability for abiogenesis must be less than the probability of abiogenesis AND a god.

That’s for total probability. Conditional probabilities are a different story, and maybe conditional on a supernatural entity replicators are more likely to exist, but then you would have to calculate the probability of a supernatural entity and apply Bayes’ theorem. I recommend this paper on Solomonoff induction: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf[…]5.5721v1.pdf

TomS, I just realized that I completely misread your comment (it’s late and I’m sorry). In fact I guess you’re saying the exact same thing as I am. Never mind, apologies all around, mods delete my comments if you so choose.

Paul Burnett said:

I don’t understand the sentence “It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth.” It’s mangled somehow - therre’s something missing - anybody want to try to re-construct it?

I think the sentence is fine, although it might be clarified by the addition of words like “instantaneously” or “in one step” before the word “emerging”.

I am sure this doesn’t apply to you, but I have suspected for some time that there may be a very mild misunderstanding of abiogenesis on the part of some science supporters who do not have biomedical backgrounds.

All known modern life either consists of or is dependent on intact cells that can reproduce.

All such cells that are known today not only have a DNA genome, as discussed above, but also have specialized multi-layer membranes (“lipid” membranes but incorporating protein and carbohydrate moieties), ribosomes, protein enzymes that regulate cell division and protein expression, and a variety of other features in common. That’s all cells, including obscure extremophiles, archae, whatever.

Abiogenesis, although not dealing with evolution of cellular life per se, has an implicitly evolutionary thesis. All models of abiogenesis assume precursor proto-cells and and incremental emergence of modern cells.

Only creationists believe that modern cells were poofed suddenly into existence.

Gary_Hurd said:

Isn’t the same rabbi whose adherents include one David Klinghoffer? If so, then why am I not surprised?

Yes. In fact the Rabbi’s article was presented as a “defense” of Klinhoffer.

?!?

Talk about trying to polish a turd!

Apaprently the “distinguished” Rebbe is on a first name basis with Jerry (Jerry Coyne), apparently since they’ve met in person before in Chicago (where apparently they both reside). To be consistent of course, our “distinguished” Talmundic scholar, not only cites my “favorite” Brunonian, David (Darwin + Hitler = Shoah), but thinks he can trash P. Z. Myers:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2011/05/2[…]y-p-z-myers/

xubist said: …once you’ve got imperfect self-replicators (from whatever origin) going, there just plain will be variations in the self-replicators.

IMHO, over billions of years of time, in the earth’s billions of cubic miles of potential biosphere (soil / atmosphere / oceans and lakes), at the invisibly small macro-molecular scale of pre-cellular / proto-cellular pre-life, with energy inputs from sunlight and other ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, vulcanism, tides and other pressure gradients (like “black smokers”), in literally trillions of tiny “laboratories,” self-replicators probably happened more than a few times.

harold said:

Paul Burnett said:

I don’t understand the sentence “It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth.” It’s mangled somehow - therre’s something missing - anybody want to try to re-construct it?

I think the sentence is fine, although it might be clarified by the addition of words like “instantaneously” or “in one step” before the word “emerging”.

The whole of the quoted text reads as being somewhat impetuously indignant; it would have benefited from revision and polishing before being posted

https://me.yahoo.com/a/57vt.Vh1yeas[…]AbTpY-#b1375 said:

Gary_Hurd said:

Isn’t the same rabbi whose adherents include one David Klinghoffer? If so, then why am I not surprised?

Yes. In fact the Rabbi’s article was presented as a “defense” of Klinhoffer.

?!?

Talk about trying to polish a turd!

Apaprently the “distinguished” Rebbe is on a first name basis with Jerry (Jerry Coyne), apparently since they’ve met in person before in Chicago (where apparently they both reside). To be consistent of course, our “distinguished” Talmundic scholar, not only cites my “favorite” Brunonian, David (Darwin + Hitler = Shoah), but thinks he can trash P. Z. Myers:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2011/05/2[…]y-p-z-myers/

I really find it amazing how the creationist nutcases conflate Darwin with Frankenberger and Stalin, considering that common descent was rejected by the Nazi authorities in Germany and natural selection was rejected by the Communist authorities in the former Soviet Union.

Of course, even if the charge was accurate, it would have nothing to do with the truth or falsity of Darwin’s theory, any more then the Nazi sympathies of Nobel Laureates Stark and Lenard had anything to do with their scientific accomplishments (e.g. the Stark effect is true regardless of Stark’s political views). Makes about as much sense as claiming that Relativity is wrong because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

harold said:

Abiogenesis, although not dealing with evolution of cellular life per se, has an implicitly evolutionary thesis.

Yes, and

Only creationists believe that modern cells were poofed suddenly into existence.

But

All models of abiogenesis assume precursor proto-cells and and incremental emergence of modern cells.

gives me a twinge in the diodes all down my left side. Unless you redefine “precursor proto-cells” to simply be *molecules*, then you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. A helluva lot of research is being done on how a primitive proto-cell would form initially, either with many of the features you mention (lipid membranes and some sort of information-transfer mechanism) in-place, or incorporating them later. None of *that* presupposes a -cell of any type, proto- or not.

I really find it amazing how the creationist nutcases conflate Darwin with Frankenberger and Stalin, considering that common descent was rejected by the Nazi authorities in Germany and natural selection was rejected by the Communist authorities in the former Soviet Union.

True. Stalin rejected evolution and Mendel for Lysenkoism, inheritance of acquired characteristics.

1. An unknown number of Soviet biologists were sent to the Gulag and died. Vavilov, one of the most prominent biologists died in prison, probably of malnutrition and starvation.

2. Lysenkoism didn’t work. Soviet agriculture never really recovered from it, they never quite managed to feed their people, and that had a lot to do with the collapse of the Soviet empire.

3. It was also tried in Red China. It didn’t work there either. The famines in the late 1950’s killed around 20 million people.

Lysenkoism is similar to creationism. Both are political ideologies pretending to be science and contrary to reality. Klinghofer and Rabbi Averick have a lot in common with Stalin.

A Rabbi said while complaining about crudeness, abrasiveness, and obnoxiousness:

In fact, judging by the time and energy Coyne seems to devote to his blog, Why Evolution is True, one wonders if his students could possibly be getting anything other than sloppy-seconds.

Really?

Klinghoffer and probably Rabbi Averick are part of the “Darwin killed the Jews” misinformation campaign. Along with Ben Stein, Weicker of the DI, and Gerald Shroeder.

Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolutionw ww.israelsciencejournals.com/eco.htmCached - Similar

The Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution is dedicated to publishing high quality original research and review papers that advance our knowledge and …

Most Jews have never bought that lie. Evolutionary biology is taught and research done in most Israeli universities. They even have their own journal, the Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

raven said:

Klinghoffer and probably Rabbi Averick are part of the “Darwin killed the Jews” misinformation campaign. Along with Ben Stein, Weicker of the DI, and Gerald Shroeder.

Minor correction, it is Discotute Richard Weikart. Thanks for the link to The Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

One may argue a good deal over Nazis and religion, but what appears to be really important is that basically the Nazis were anti-Enlightenment. Not entirely, of course, or how would they have built a well-made war machine, but in the sense of opposing Enlightenment ideals, and resorting to national “spirit” as what is important. The communists were probably somewhat less anti-Enlightenment in ideology, but certainly were practically anti-Enlightenment.

The opposition to “Darwinism” under both Hitler and Stalin should be understood in that light. And although there are vast differences between communists and Nazis on one side, and IDiots on the other, the anti-Enlightenment impulse undergirds the opposition to Darwin that has been seen in all three. They all wanted science to serve their own ideologies, with the Wedge stating that “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

Of course the IDiots aren’t Nazis, I’m not saying anything like that. I am saying that once you have decided that your ideology trumps evidence and empiricism, you really have chosen a dark and frightful path.

Glen Davidson

As soon as you are willing to discard observational data because it conflicts with religion, you are giving up any hope of ever really understanding the universe. As soon as you pick religion as the touchstone of reality, then we have to start discussing how one can demonstrate the correctness of one religion over another when different *religions* disagree. –Wilson Heydt

You can say the same thing about ideology, which has a lot of similarities to religion.

Wilson Heydt is a sometime commenter on Pandasthumb.

co said: gives me a twinge in the diodes all down my left side. Unless you redefine “precursor proto-cells” to simply be *molecules*, then you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. A helluva lot of research is being done on how a primitive proto-cell would form initially, either with many of the features you mention (lipid membranes and some sort of information-transfer mechanism) in-place, or incorporating them later. None of *that* presupposes a -cell of any type, proto- or not.

Once again, see Chapter 1 of Nick Lane’s Life Ascending for a proposal on that issue. The first ‘cells’ may have been made of stone in so-called white smokers. I find that Lane has a more detailed paper on it now. It’s a very inviting hypothesis for several reasons. It avoids the concentration/dilution problem of “soup” hypotheses, it identifies both thermodynamic and chemical gradients that can drive the relevant reactions, it provides a substrate of cellular dimensions for the reactions, and it provides at least one entry point into a core reaction cycle of life, the Krebs cycle.

raven said:

As soon as you are willing to discard observational data because it conflicts with religion, you are giving up any hope of ever really understanding the universe. As soon as you pick religion as the touchstone of reality, then we have to start discussing how one can demonstrate the correctness of one religion over another when different *religions* disagree. –Wilson Heydt

You can say the same thing about ideology, which has a lot of similarities to religion.

Wilson Heydt is a sometime commenter on Pandasthumb.

Yes…actually. I do comment occasionally and that is a remark of mine, though since I am Wilson H. Heydt Jr., it wouldn’t have to be the case (in fact, my father died some years before I wrote the quoted text.)

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer

One chemist’s take on the “molecules to cells” and “molecules to man” incredulity argument:

Before anything, note how the scam artists and their trained parrots never say “molecules to monkeys,” though they’ll think nothing of confusing “molecules to man” with “monkeys to man.”

Anyway, everything from the simplest prokaryote cell to multicellular eukaryotes like humans and oak trees are not objects as molecules are, but systems of chemical reactions, into which matter comes and goes. Before life assembled, the Earth was teeming with chemical reactions, many catalytic. No, I’m not a Gaia advocate, but I think we do ourselves a big disservice (in the eyes of fence-sitters, who ought to be the main focus of all our arguments) if we don’t begin by addressing the most fundamental misconception, and jump right into evidence how molecules assemble. That only gives the scam artists more opportunity to spin incredulity. Not to mention the old bait-and-switch between evolution and abiogenesis.

May I correct one statement here, and endorse another? Officially the USSR under Stalin was not opposed to evolution or opposed to Darwinism (whatever that means). Karl Marx had admired Darwin, and at Marx’s graveside, his co-thinker Friedrich Engels had made the centerpiece of his eulogy the assertion that Marx had done for society what Darwin had done for biology.

So given that ringing endorsement of Darwin by Marx and Engels, Stalin could hardly have been seen to oppose evolution or oppose Darwin. Evolution was taught in Soviet schools. There were, for example, widely-publicized paleontological discoveries. But in practice, the suspicion of Mendelian genetics turned into support for Lysenko’s supposedly-Lamarckian theories, and the suppression of what was starting to be a brilliant school of evolutionary geneticists (under people like Chetverikov, Vavilov, and Dobzhansky). Chetverikov was silenced, Vavilov died in the gulag, and Dobzhansky was fortunate enough to be able to leave the country. Others such as the great mathematician Kolmogorov veered away from the topic after initially being fascinated by it.

So although the USSR was officially pro-evolution, its Mendelian mechanisms could not be sensibly discussed until after Stalin’s death, and after Lysenko had got the ear of Khrushchev by promising great agricultural advances, it would be another decade before Mendelian genetics could be openly taught.

By the way, that the Nazis were anti-Enlightenment is an important point. It reflects a major political and intellectual struggle in Europe throughout the 19th century between anti-Enlightenment nationalism and pro-Enlightenment internationalism. The Soviet state, particularly after the rise of Stalin, was in theory on one side of this divide, but in practice on the other, where its predecessor the Russian Empire had been.

Joe Felsenstein said:

May I correct one statement here, and endorse another? Officially the USSR under Stalin was not opposed to evolution or opposed to Darwinism (whatever that means). Karl Marx had admired Darwin, and at Marx’s graveside, his co-thinker Friedrich Engels had made the centerpiece of his eulogy the assertion that Marx had done for society what Darwin had done for biology.

So given that ringing endorsement of Darwin by Marx and Engels, Stalin could hardly have been seen to oppose evolution or oppose Darwin. Evolution was taught in Soviet schools. There were, for example, widely-publicized paleontological discoveries. But in practice, the suspicion of Mendelian genetics turned into support for Lysenko’s supposedly-Lamarckian theories, and the suppression of what was starting to be a brilliant school of evolutionary geneticists (under people like Chetverikov, Vavilov, and Dobzhansky). Chetverikov was silenced, Vavilov died in the gulag, and Dobzhansky was fortunate enough to be able to leave the country. Others such as the great mathematician Kolmogorov veered away from the topic after initially being fascinated by it.

So although the USSR was officially pro-evolution, its Mendelian mechanisms could not be sensibly discussed until after Stalin’s death, and after Lysenko had got the ear of Khrushchev by promising great agricultural advances, it would be another decade before Mendelian genetics could be openly taught.

By the way, that the Nazis were anti-Enlightenment is an important point. It reflects a major political and intellectual struggle in Europe throughout the 19th century between anti-Enlightenment nationalism and pro-Enlightenment internationalism. The Soviet state, particularly after the rise of Stalin, was in theory on one side of this divide, but in practice on the other, where its predecessor the Russian Empire had been.

For what it’s worth, I have a slightly different take on this. It is true that Marx was interested in and sympathetic to Darwin at first, seeing there a materialist explanation for the history of biological life to complement his materialist account of the history of social life. Marx even gives Darwin a couple of footnotes in Capital. But Marx later rejected Darwin’s approach. He once remarked to Engles (in an 1862 letter: source Dictionary of Marxist Thought)that Darwin had merely projected the ideology and practice of his own capitalist society onto nature. In other words, Marx accepted ideas of common descent and agreed with a materialist explanation for this, but saw natural selection as an ideological construct. Much the same is true of Engels. When he compares Marx and Darwin, as you mention, he doesn’t understand Darwin in the contemporary sense. Like Marx, Engels interpreted “evolution” in Hegelian terms, as an unfolding of in internal logic, not as an arbitrary (relative to environment) selection process. His own writings on evolution such as The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State are clearly Hegelian and not Darwinian, or his work on the ape-human transition which sees evolution as a Hegelian self-production through the action of human labor (admittedly an inheritable ability in his eyes). As Darwin’s work became increasingly appropriated in the popular realm through the Social Darwinists, Marxists distanced their thinking even further, seeing (Social) Darwinism as apologetics for capitalism.

What is the basis of your claim that “the USSR was officially pro-evolution”? and is that the same as supporting “Darwin”? I don’t know much about official Soviet policy on this but I believe that to the extent that evolution was taught it was largely within a Hegelian, not Darwinian framework. This would of course be perfectly compatible with the brute facts of common descent and paleontology you say was taught in USSR.

In this light the Lysenko debacle is more closely related to a mistrust of Darwinian models than you suggest: Mendelian genetics (and natural selection) was mistrusted largely because it seemed to reinforce a “capitalist” notion of competition and appeared too closely aligned with Social Darwinist misappropriations of Darwin as capitalist apologetics. Lysenkoism was a closer fit the the Hegelian model of evolution espoused by Engels.

The Soviets did produce one significant figure in the field of abiogenesis, a guy named Oparin, who promoted the coacervate idea. Oparin claims that he was inspired by Marx and especially Engels, but I’ve never been able to figure out to what extent he was just paying lip service to the founders of the ruling ideology. Engels wasn’t an idiot, however, so it’s not impossible Oparin found something useful in his Dialectics of Nature.

here is a recent example of a creationist quote mining researcher Austin Hughes: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/1[…]i052941.html

any commentary on this?

snaxalotl said:

here is a recent example of a creationist quote mining researcher Austin Hughes: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/1[…]i052941.html

any commentary on this?

It looks like the quote-miner is projecting ID/creationist misconceptions onto the research of others.

Natural selection operates by “pruning away” the tails of phenotypic distributions in a population, thereby shifting the mean of the distribution; it doesn’t “push on the mean.” There are potentially many, many ways to prune the tails of a distribution depending on the environment and the nature of the organism.

Apparently an ID/creationist is misconstruing that to be a “non-Darwinian” mechanism.

General rule: If an ID/creationist is “interpreting” work by a real scientist, the “interpretation” is always wrong.

Mike Elzinga said:

General rule: If an ID/creationist is “interpreting” work by a real scientist, the “interpretation” is always wrong.

Sometimes this misinterpretation is deliberate, as the creationist is desperate to conjure a confabulation with which to slander Darwinism.

Other times, the misinterpretation is accidental, occurring directly as a result from the creationist simply not being able to understand the science he/she is trying to disparage.

Sylvilagus said:

[replying to my assertion that the Soviet Union was not anti-evolutionary or anti-Darwin.]

What is the basis of your claim that “the USSR was officially pro-evolution”? and is that the same as supporting “Darwin”? I don’t know much about official Soviet policy on this but I believe that to the extent that evolution was taught it was largely within a Hegelian, not Darwinian framework. This would of course be perfectly compatible with the brute facts of common descent and paleontology you say was taught in USSR.

In this light the Lysenko debacle is more closely related to a mistrust of Darwinian models than you suggest: Mendelian genetics (and natural selection) was mistrusted largely because it seemed to reinforce a “capitalist” notion of competition and appeared too closely aligned with Social Darwinist misappropriations of Darwin as capitalist apologetics. Lysenkoism was a closer fit the the Hegelian model of evolution espoused by Engels.

Could you have meant “Haeckelian” rather than “Hegelian”? I know little about what Hegel thought about evolution (he died in 1831).

Soviet biology in the 1920s-1960s was officially supposed to be in favor of evolution and Darwin. Here, for example is a quote from David Joravsky’s magnificent and scathing 1970 book “The Lysenko Affair”:

That became the conventional wisdom of the Marxist movement, and millions of Soviet school children are still learning to repeat a simple form of it: Darwinism is the science of biological evolution, Marxism of social.

If you had sat in Soviet biology classes of that period, you would be taught that common ancestry was true, and the instruction about the evidence from comparative anatomy and paleontology would be similar to what you would get elsewhere in Europe. With a lot of emphasis on how all this was Progress, and that this was just like the Progress that had lead to our wonderful society.

As far as the relation between genetics and evolution, it is important to realize that this was muddled everywhere until the Modern Synthesis. You would find a similar muddle in, for example, France in the 1920s and 1930s. But the difference is that as the Modern Synthesis took hold, France saw the forward-looking work of L’Heritier and Teissier and the brilliant and important theoretical work of Gustave Malécot in the 1940s. By contrast, once the pioneering evolutionary genetics school in the Soviet Union had been destroyed, there could be nothing but the dark night of Lysenkoism. In the end it effectively rejected even Darwin, but that was not officially admitted.

This is an interesting topic but mostly OT in the present thread.

If anyone is interested, I gave a talk earlier this year about creationist misuse of Darwin’s words (with lots of examples). The slides can be viewed here: http://www.slideshare.net/darwinsbu[…]ning-exposed

Also, lots of posts about quote-mining on my blog: http://thedispersalofdarwin.wordpre[…]quote-mining

gives me a twinge in the diodes all down my left side. Unless you redefine “precursor proto-cells” to simply be *molecules*, then you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. A helluva lot of research is being done on how a primitive proto-cell would form initially,

There is nothing in my comment that remotely implies anything to the contrary. The context of my comment makes this fairly clear.

Your implied claim here is that since i informally used the term “protocell”, i must in some way disparage or deny abiogenesis research that.focuses on molecules. I apologize for somehow giving you that impression. It is not the case.

either with many of the features you mention (lipid membranes and some sort of information-transfer mechanism) in-place, or incorporating them later. None of *that* presupposes a -cell of any type, proto- or not.

Nor did I intend to say that it did.

You seem to be a reasonable person and you seem to have interpreted my comment this way. Therefore, although I am slightly tempted to say “no reasonable person could interpret my comment in this way”, empirically, this seems to have happened.

I used the term proto-cell tovemphasize that abiogenesis does NOT model a sudden emergence of modern cells, as creationism does. I guess i’ll have to be more formal with terminlolgy in the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 20, 2011 7:30 PM.

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