Quotes don’t check out

To the editor:

The letter to the editor published recently regarding evolution is so wrought with delusion and devoid of any evidence that I could spend dozens of pages debunking it. However, since space is limited, I want to focus on one thing: quotes.

The letter writer first quotes Julian Huxley, whom he has somehow determined is the “world’s leading evolutionist.” The quote used seemed rather fishy to me, as it reads nothing like other quotes that I know to be from Sir Huxley. So, I started doing some research. Quickly, I found exactly what I was looking for. The only recorded instance of this quote being attributed to Huxley is in a book by Henry M. Morris, published after Huxley’s death. Morris, it turns out, is a Young Earth Creationist and the founder of the Institute for Creation Research and has plenty of motivation to fake the quote. Using such a “quote” in this application is questionable, at best.

Next, the letter writer makes another questionable quote attribution, this time to Arthur Keith. In thorough researching of this quote, I’m left completely unable to find any type of primary source documentation. To suggest that these words actually came from Sir Keith is yet another spurious claim from the letter writer.

The misuse and abuse of quotes continues with a quote attributed to R.A. Millikan. Finally, a quote that can be accurately attributed to the person he claims made the statement. Here’s the problem. Robert Millikan is a physicist by training, not an evolutionary biologist. One can no more claim that Millikan is a reliable source of information about evolution than one can claim that an Islamic Imam is a reliable source of information about Christianity.

Continuing the parade of bogus propaganda quotes is a line attributed to James Madison. The first recorded publication of this quote is in a book from the Christian fundamentalist WallBuilders group, written by David Barton. The publication of Barton’s book caused quite a stir. Firms that devote themselves to the teachings of Madison and Jefferson got involved, so did several universities, even the Library of Congress scoured their entire database to try and find sources for the quotes in Barton’s book. When confronted about the quotes, Barton admitted that he fabricated every last one of them.

The letter writer calls evolution a “big lie,” which is ironic given that his letter appears to be full of them.

Bryan J. Sebeck