Quote Mining by the Right

Nick Matzke at The Panda’s Thumb may have stumbled on a reason why the Republicans and religious right get along so well together. I’ve often noted how common it is for Republicans to avoid responding to their opponents real beliefs by twisting their words and then acting as if they accomplished something when they attacked the straw men of their own creation. We saw this repeatedly during the 2004 election, such as when Republicans extracted global test from one of John Kerry’s statements to attribute beliefs to him which he never actually expressed. If they can find the words in a statement they feel they can distort them to mean whatever they like, while still claiming to be using their opponent’s “actual words.”

Nick complains about similar tactics from the Discovery Institute, the major advocates of creationism/intelligent design:

Anyone who has been a “creationism watcher” for any length of time is familiar with the venerable creationist tactic of “quote mining.” Since creationists, essentially universally, can’t (or don’t want to) deal with actual scientific data pertaining to evolution, they attempt maintain a facade of respectibility by quoting statements from biological authorities.”

The creationists (a.k.a. cretins) take actual quotes from scientific literature but twist them to mean something totally different than they actually mean. In this case their is no doubt that the person who was “quote mined” had his statements distorted. Nick should know what the author intended as, in the case he describes, he is the actual author. A paper he coauthored in  Nature Reviews Microbiology on flagellum evolution was “quote mined” by the Discovery Institute to promote creationism. A lengthy discussion of the misquotation is in his post at The Panda’s Thumb.

Yes, when we see their tactics, the cretins at the Discovery Institute, and other opponents of science, fit in very well with the Republicans who use similar tactics in political campaigns.

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  1. 1
    RBH says:

    Quotemining is a venerable tradition in religion, too. Read any (amateur) Christian apologetics and you’ll see dueling Bible verses. It’s the practice to extract snippets — verses from the Bible, sentences or sentence fragments from scientific papers — to attempt to twist what the source actually says in context.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m no expert on the Bible, but I’ve always been under the impression (and have seen examples to demonstrate) that the Bible can be used to back up either side of most issues.

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