Thomas Henry Huxley

I have a number of lawyers among my friends and family, so I usually try not to indulge in jokes that broadly impugn the legal profession. (What’s that? Well, if you insist. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a slimy, scum-sucking, bottom-dwelling scavenger—while the other is a fish.) And in fact, I have a lot of respect for the legal profession, instilled, in part, by interacting with the lawyers—Eric Rothschild, Steve Harvey, Vic Walczak, Richard Katskee, and all their colleagues—who so effectively represented the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover. But I am willing to complain about lawyers who abuse their skills in the service of attacking evolution—like Phillip Johnson, Norman Macbeth, or, in the Scopes era, Philip Mauro (1859–1952). Here, from Mauro’s Evolution at the Bar (1922), is a blatant distortion.

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A polar bear!So I’m sure you’ve been following all of this Ark Park business going on down in Kentucky. Yes, it is ridiculous, and yes, I have to admit that I was trying desperately to ignore it. As a climate change person here at NCSE, I felt sure I could leave this Ark nonsense to the evolution team.

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Snippet from the title page of The Evolution of Man Scientifically Disproved

What a joy is William A. Williams’s The Evolution of Man Scientifically Disproved (1925)! Previously, I’ve discussed its use of a quotation from “Dr. Traas, a famous paleontologist” who supposedly said that the idea that humans descended from any simian species was “certainly the most foolish ever put forth by a man writing on the history of man”; Traas proved to be Oscar Fraas, with a F instead of a T, and he was writing in 1866. I’ve also discussed its use of a quotation from “W. H. Thompson,” who supposedly said that “The Darwinian theory is now rejected by the majority of biologists, as absurdly inadequate”; Thompson proved to be William Hanna Thomson, with no p, and he was talking about natural selection, not evolution in general, and he was doing so in 1911, fourteen years before Williams’s book was published. But recently I noticed a passage in The Evolution of Man Scientifically Disproved that nicely intertwines two threads of contemporary creationist silliness.

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In my previous installment in this series on NCSE’s first evolution summer camp, I described working with creationist campers. If you are just tuning in, yes, NCSE ran a summer camp on evolution!  And yes, we had creationist campers! After an open conflict, which group leaders responded to calmly and by deescalating the situation, our creationist campers actually began to show signs of accepting evolution.

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Leslie Orgel, via the Salk Institute

A favorite passage of the Islamic creationist enterprise that publishes under the name Harun Yahya is taken from “The Origin of Life on Earth,” by the chemist and origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel (right; 1927–2007), which appeared in Scientific American in 1994. There Orgel wrote:

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David Baum, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, corresponded with NCSE staff about a challenge he and his colleagues faced. He shared this account of his experience trying to publish research which, in part, attempted to put certain creationist claims to the test.

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Ernst Mayr

I would hate for you to think that I was in a rut, bloggingwise, by constantly discussing the misleading use of quotations by Scopes-era, and even pre-Scopes-era, creationists. Here, then, for your delectation, is a bang-up-to-date example:

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