Creationists' Misuse of Quotations

On March 11, 2004 “Leon Retief” wrote:
Hi Ed!
There seems to be an upsurge of creationist letters in the press here lately. I found your writings on Bounoure very useful, however, one of the creationists quotes a certain John Blanchard who apparently quotes Jeremy Rifkin as writing about : “nearly a century of fudging and finagling by scientists to conform with Darwinʼs notions, all to no avail.”
It is not clear from the letter that this quote is indeed from a book or article by Blanchard, but anyway I have not been able to find anything on the web about Blanchard or the quote by Rifkin. Can you perhaps help?
Eldredge is also quoted : “We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports…(the idea of gradual adaptations)… all the while knowing that it does not.” I know that thsi isn support of punk eek, but is the quote correct?
Best wishes
Leon Retief, South Africa
Creationist Misquote

Dear Leon,

I found info on Rifkin and on the Eldredge quotation. I added how I found the info and a list of the best sites to search for such misused quotations in future. See below.

Hereʼs an idea, maybe you could compose a response to the newspaper along the lines of Arguing against evolution or against Darwinism (they are not the same thing) by means of broadly dismissive statements is no more than mere name calling. Would the person who cited Rifkin against Darwinism like me to respond by citing equally broad statements from evolutionists dismissing creationism? How would such an exchange between us amount to anything more than mere flag waving? But if that is the level of argumentation that creationists wish to peruse, so be it.

As for citing evolutionists against themselves, one can also cite creationists against themselves, since they cannot even agree whether the earth circles the sun or vice versa, whether the cosmos is thousands or billions of years old, whether creatures popped into existence whole, or all creatures are related via small “designed” mutations (the latter being a view of some “progressive creationists” or “Intelligent Designists”). Surely such enormous disagreements among creationists must mean that their hypotheses remain relatively more suspect than the views of evolutionary scientists.

By the way, Creationists intent on citing Rifkin against Darwinism might also be chagrined to consider that Rifkin also warned about the growing political influence of “Bible believers.” He wrote in 1979 that “Of one thing there is little doubt, the evangelical community is amassing a base of potential power that dwarfs every other competing interest in American society today. A close look at the evangelical communications network. should convince even the skeptic that it is now the single most important cultural force in American life.” [The Emerging Order] Rifkin added that the political aspirations of evangelicalism in America might even lead to a fascist government being set up.

More On Rifkin and Darwinism

I found a brief mention of Rifkin at the Secular Web:

[…] Jeremy Rifkin, in his book Algeny, mentioned Grasséʼs criticism of Darwinism. Notes Stephen Jay Gould: “Rifkin then suggests that the entire field of evolution may be pseudoscience because the great French zoologist Pierre-Paul Grassé is so critical of Darwinism (the theory of natural selection might be wrong, but Grassé devoted his entire life to studying the facts of evolution).” (Gould, An Urchin in the Storm, p. 234.) …
If creationists think that disagreement among scientists about Darwinism undermines evolution, then by their own logic, wouldnʼt disagreement among creationists about creationism invalidate creationism? Some creationists say the Earth was made in six days, others consider the “days” to be longer periods. Some believe the creation but reject the flood. Some think the Earth is flat or that it does not rotate. Some use abiogenesis as the creation date (about 4 billion years ago), some use the big bang as the creation date (about 15 billion years ago), some believe that God guides evolution, and some believe that God merely set up the initial conditions of the universe in such a way that life came into being. Many disagreements exist among creationists.

- Alex Matulich

I also used and typed into the google search box:

“Jeremy Rifkin” Darwin*

By adding the quotation marks around “Jeremy Rifkin” it makes google search for an exact match for that whole name, and the asterisk means to search for derivations of Darwin, including Darwinʼs, or Darwinism. There were lots of web entries.

You can also do a google search among just the “news groups,” using the same search terms above, just click on the GROUPS button in google, and then click on “Sort by Date,” and you will pull up the latest mentions and usages among email groups on the web.

Hereʼs an entry on the first page of a normal google web search:

[Relevant text below]

Entropy, Algeny and The End of Work

Three of Jeremy Rifkinʼs Books Reviewed by Howard Doughty

Jeremy Rifkin with Ted Howard

Entropy: A New World View

New York. Viking, 1980

Jeremy Rifkin with Nicanor Perlas


New York: Viking, 1983

Jeremy Rifkin

The End of Work. The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era

New York: G. P. Putnamʼs Sons

[…] If Jeremy Rifkin can be deadly right, he can also be dead wrong. In Algeny, he took poor aim at biotechnology. “As dangerous as the arms race,” the most awesome innovation “since the discovery of fire,” Rifkinʼs supporters (including future U.S. Vice-President Al Gore) breathlessly received his “brilliant” and “daring” call for a Boy Scout approach to genetic engineering. His message? Be prepared!

Rifkinʼs analysis of biotechnology may, of course, have been well-intentioned. He said that he wanted human beings to modify our apparent technological goal of total mastery of nature. He asked us to choose ecology over engineering. He wished us to fight a war over values. “The resacralization of nature,” be intoned, “stands before us as the great mission of the coming age.” And what strategy should be used to achieve this mission? One word: “Sacrifice”.

But what is to be sacrificed? A cure for genetically-transmitted disease? A stronger strain of wheat? A race of supermen? According to Stephen Jay Gould, the popular Harvard paleontologist, the sacrifice has already been made: it is any claim Rifkin may have had to intellectual integrity. Gouldʼs harsh judgment, rendered in the January 1985 issue of Discovery magazine, merits full quotation: “I regard Algeny as a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship. Among books promoted as serious intellectual statements by important thinkers, I donʼt think I have ever read a shoddier work. Damned shame, too, because the deep issue is troubling and I do not disagree with Rifkinʼs basic pleas for respecting the integrity of evolutionary lineages. But devious means compromise good ends, and we shall have to save Rifkinʼs humane conclusion from his own lamentable tactics.” What got Gould so upset was the fact that, in order to advance his own wish to ban genetic research (he is a vocal critic of genetic engineering who has won a number of court cases), Rifkin has fashioned an argument against biological science that puts him in the same camp as “creation scientists”. Darwin and Darwinian evolution, Rifkin holds, are mere by-products of 19th century industrial capitalism. Ignoring the fact that evolution is not a theory but a raw datum, he carries on a relentless attack on science as a form of knowledge by misrepresenting Darwinism, misunderstanding scientific procedures, mischaracterizing his opposition, misquoting his opponents, and mistaking the most elementary realities. As Gould recites: “Algeny is fall of ludicrous, simple errors - I particularly enjoyed Rifkinʼs account of Darwin in the Galapagos. After describing the ‘great masses’ of vultures, condors, vampire bats, and jaguars, that Darwin saw on these islands, Rifkin writes: “It was a savage, primeval scene, menacing in every detail. Everywhere there was bloodletting, and the ferocious, unremittent battle for survival. The air was dank and foul, and the thick stench of volcanic ash veiled the islands with a kind of ghoulish drape.” “Well,” says Gould, “I guess Rifkin has never been there.”

It is now fifteen years later. Rifkin has been active. He has maintained his interest in the fate of humanity and the environment (e.g., Beyond Beef [1993]), but he has now ventured into another field of controversial discourse and has addressed The End of Work. Is this most recent and increasingly influential effort an example of wisdom or fraud? Does he continue to be clever, or is he merely opportunistic? Just as in the books previously cited, Rifkin deals with a matter of immense importance. Energy and biotechnology are crucial issues; so is the economy.

The response of much of the business community has been equivocal. Fortune, with characteristic subtlety, affirmed: “Rifkin is a bit of a nut.” […]

More on Rifkin and Gould

What is Darwinʼs Theory?

Many scientists have different understandings and uses of bioengineering. Darwinʼs Theory on natural selection has stirred up some controversies on whether or not to remain studying and researching for information on the theory. Jeremy Rifkin, a philosopher and environmental activist, portrays in his article the world will be coming to an end if we remain to use bioengineering the way that we have been. He feels it is a waste of time and money to keep researching on Darwinʼs Theory. Where as Stephen Jay Gould, biology and geology professor at Harvard University, feels that bioengineering is a complex yet useful item in science. He believes if one can understand the history behind the theory, then it would be a useful item for future use. Both authors main view is to create a better environment for humans to live in, but have different thoughts on how to reach the better side.

Gould believes “Rifkin does not understand science, therefore he misuses science for political and social purposes- or scientific racism.” (Gould, 1985, pg 676) Rifkins outlook on bioengineering is not being totally against it, but as a method that is not useful. He feels that science may be misused and pointless, therefore why have scientists work day and night over projects which are pointless. He doesnʼt want society to spend so much money on a cause that is what he thinks is worthless. In one case, he says that evolution is a false science. The whole theory of Darwin is fake because it was created due to scientists experimenting over and over again until they came up with some conclusions. He believes scientists should not waste time on tying to find an answer, when it isnʼt exact. He believes that no one knows the truthful answers unless one has lived through the era. Gould along with many other scientist disagree to that piece of information Rifkin gives. Gould believes that Rifkin doesnʼt understand science to the full extent. He has no knowledge or experience behind the field, therefore leading him to the wrong answers about science. Most scientists agree because research and experimentation is the way to learn about the past and future.

There was also a statement that Rifkin wrote in Algeny, a book about alchemy of genes, that Gould found hilarious. Rifkin wrote about what he had seen at the Galapagos islands: “vultures, condors, vampire bats, jaguars, and snakes.” Rifking also wrote, “ it was a savage, primeval bloodletting and ferocious, unremitted battle for survival. The air was dank and foul and the thick stench of volcanoes ash veiled the islands with a kind of goulash drape.” (Gould, 1985, 682) He gave a very harsh, scary description of the islands. Gould laughs and believes Rifkin has never set foot on the islands. Gould says the total opposite of the environment and physical description of the Galapagos. He says it is a beautiful and there are no harmful animals at the location.

Rifkin doesnʼt totally disagree on science, but is making many false accusations. Hr loves science, but critics believe some of view points against evolution and Darwinʼs theory do not have enough understanding behind them. Gould believes that Rifkin doesnʼt comprehend or have enough facts and information on the subject to make a honest opinion. He feels that Rifkin just looks straight and wonʼt look to the side, where he could find deeper information. Many scientists and critics do not appreciate Rifkinʼs rambling on about science and saying things he doesnʼt know. Rifkin feels he has a say in anything, and these are his opinions on the matter at hand.


Quote #71

“…we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not.” (Eldredge, Niles “Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria,” Simon and Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p44)

Itʼs actually on page 144, and here is the full quote and context, starting on the previous page:

“And one might ask why such a distortion of the grosser patterns of the history of life has come about. For it truly seems to me that F. J. Taggart was right all along. The approach to the larger themes in the history of life taken by the modern synthesis continues the theme already painfully apparent to Taggart in 1925: a theory of gradual, progressive, adaptive change so thoroughly rules our minds and imaginations that we have somehow, collectively, turned away from some of the most basic patterns permeating the history of life. (p144) We have a theory that — as punctuated equilibria tells us — is out of phase with the actual patterns of events that typically occur as speciesʼ histories unfold. And that discrepancy seems enlarged by a considerable order of magnitude when we compare what we think the larger-scale events ought to look like with what we actually find. And it has been paleontologists — my own breed — who have been most responsible for letting ideas dominate reality: geneticists and population biologists, to whom we owe the modern version of natural selection, can only rely on what paleontologists and systematic biologists tell them about the comings and goings of entire species, and what the large-scale evolutionary patterns really look like.

“Yet on the other hand, the certainty so characteristic of evolutionary ranks since the late 1940s, the utter assurance not only that natural selection works in nature, but that we know precisely how it works, has led paleontologists to keep their own counsel. Ever since Darwin, as philosopher Michael Ruse (1982) has recently said, paleontology has occasionally played the role of the difficult child. But our usual mien has been bland, and we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not. And part of the fault for such a bizarre situation must come from a naive understanding of just what adaptation is all about. Weʼll look at some of the larger patterns in the history of life in the next chapter — along with the hypotheses currently offered as explanations. Throughout it all, adaptation shines through as an important theme; there is every reason to hang on to that baby as we toss out the bathwater. But before turning in depth to these themes, we need to take just one more, somewhat closer, look at the actual phenomenon of adaptation itself: what it is and how it occurs."

So: Eldredge is agreeing that evolution occurs, and that adaptation via natural selection is real and important. He is saying that (as at 1985) paleontology needed to be more explicitly about the fact that evolution is not slow and steady, but rapid and static in turns. The snippet that is quoted is deliberately chosen to suggest that Eldredge is admitting some deep error in evolutionary biology; but what he is saying is that some biologists have overlooked some data they should factor in, and that we should not expect that evolution will be gradual.

- John Wilkins

Handy List Of Websites For Looking Up Creationistsʼ Misuse Of Quotations

The Revised Quote Book: Looking At How Creationists Quote Evolutionists

and another article (different from the first) at

Out of Context Quotes -Revised Quote Book

More Creationist Miscitations

“Giant Humans” and “90 Foot Tall Frozen Plum Trees With Ripe Fruit Lying 500 Miles North of the Arctic Circle”

Creationists Admit Difficulties With Their Hypotheses

Debunking Creation Science With Creation Science



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