Whines from Conservapaedia

Donalbain points out that the front page of Conservapaedia is now complaining about that “prominent liberal evolutionist blogger and biologist,” PZ Myers. Actually, there’s a bit of back story behind this: a creationist troll dropped by Pharyngula and Jason Rosenhouse’s EvolutionBlog to demand that we evolutionists find even a “single factual error” in Conservapaedia’s article, “The Theory of Evolution.”

Honestly, he shouldn’t have wasted his breath. Conservapaedia endorses the “Darwin caused Hitler” myth, says the bacterial flagellum couldn’t have evolved, etc., etc. It reads like a pile of creationist remarks extracted from the TalkOrigins Index and fed through a Markov process. (To pick one example out of the farrago, the quote attributed to Colin Patterson, saying that there are no transitional fossils, is a classic creationist deception.) Not only is every reference to an actual scientist a quote mine, but also, the out-of-context quotations they use aren’t even assembled in a coherent order. They don’t care about making a good presentation; they just want to throw mud against the walls of academia and make science look bad.

So, a few people with too much free time have been slagging this out down in the ScienceBlogs comment threads. There it would no doubt have fizzled, except that the folks at Conservapaedia decided to whine. On their front page, mind you:

Prominent liberal evolutionist blogger and biologist PZ Myers is currently silent regarding a critique of his article on Conservapedia.

Gee, maybe it’s because it’s the freakin’ weekend and he just got back from a conference? Notice how he wasn’t exactly posting on anything else at the time, either. Guess what? He was asleep!

I bet after he woke up, he had breakfast, too. A big breakfast. Of puppies, ’cause he’s an atheist.

In addition, it appears PZ Myers’ blog is now censoring material in regards to another critique of one of PZ Myers essays regarding Conservapedia and a message is now appearing stating the messages are being withheld pending the owners approval.

In addition, it appears that you’ve never made a substantial comment at ScienceBlogs before, or else you’d know that the spam filter automatically holds all comments with more than one link apiece. Try posting a comment full of godless evilutionism with more than one A HREF tag, and you’ll get the same response.

The material being withheld concerns a comment regarding the work of the respected cataloger of scientific anomalies William Corliss who cataloged scores of anomalies in relation to the old earth paradigm and no rationale was given why this reasonable post was being withheld and not immediately posted like the other posts were.

You’ve got a funny definition of cataloging “anomalies.” Corliss distorts facts in order to prop up his own mythology. To pick only one example, he ignores everything we’ve discovered about galaxy formation and development to assert that spiral galaxies should not exist.

Incidentally, Conservapaedia also has an entry on “quote mining.” Are you ready for this?

Quote mining is a meaningless term that expresses objection when a quote is used against person quoted. This term is not recognized by the dictionary, and is used primarily by evolution believers to oppose the use of quotations by evolutionists that tend to discredit their theory.

No, it’s a well-defined term, referring to the use of out-of-context, partial or otherwise manipulated quotes to create a sham impression of authority supporting a position the original author of the quote did not hold. You can hear the Conservapaedian reverence for authority in that remark, “not recognized by the dictionary” — indeed, the T and D are almost capitalized by the context. Wanna know why you won’t find “quote mining” listed under Q in Webster’s or the American Heritage Collegiate? Because most scholars don’t have to deal with the sort of lying, deceitful bullshit which creationists spout on a daily basis, that’s why!

The term quote mining actually has something of a pedigree. In the fourth edition of his Anatomy of Melancholy (1632), Robert Burton said, “I cite and quote mine Authors, which howsoever some illiterate scriblers accompt pedanticall as a cloake of ignorance, and opposite to their affected fine stile, I must and will use.” [EDIT: yes, this is probably in truth “mine” as in “enemy mine,” but it’s still a fun comparison to make.] Burton was referring to his habit of inserting literary (and often classical) quotations into his prose, many of which he recalled indirectly: a line from Seneca read in a piece by the Catholic apologist Justus Baronius, for example, or Plato via the humanist Lipsius. Tracking the errors which this multi-stage copying introduced and puzzling out the trans-Nabokovian mess of allusion is what some scholars do for fun; finding the root sources of creationist memes requires a similar temperament, but the practice of creationist quote mining is not quite the same. The first known use of the modern sense is from 30 March 1997, in the talk.origins newsgroup, and it has been used in the same meaning ever since.

Ten years of steady use, with no end in sight: we should call the OED!

Oh, wait, there’s more:

The entire legal and political fields use quotes by others against them. There is nothing objectionable about this practice, and the term quote-mining could apply to nearly every legal proceeding and political campaign.

In a rational discourse, we would conclude that to the extent politics and law use dishonest tactics of sophistry, the arguments made in those fields are invalid. Using a quotation from a person not to illuminate that person’s position but instead to steal that person’s authority is dishonest and wrong. OK?

Also, I have to say, it’s nice to know that in Conservapaedia-land, whatever lawyers and politicians do is fine and dandy. I suppose that means creationists should stop complaining about Judge Jones, doesn’t it?

11 thoughts on “Whines from Conservapaedia”

  1. I think you are misinterpreting that last passage. What they have done is define quote mining in ambiguous terms – as an “express[ion of] objection when a quote is used against person quoted”. The ambiguity comes in with the phrase “used against” – you rightly explain with more precision that the issue with quote mining is to steal the authority of an individual and use it to support a proposition that individual would disagree with. Yes, this would be “using [a quote] against” that individual, but there are other ways of doing so as well.
    In the politician/lawyer example, I, as a prosecutor, might use a quotation from the defendant against him in the sense that I am trying to prove he is lying. As a candidate for office, I might use my opponent’s words against him to show he is a hypocrite.
    So I don’t think the Conservapedians are trying to excuse potential quote mining on the part of lawyers and politicians, I think they either (a) do not really understand what quote mining is, or (b) are taking advantage of a wiggly and imprecise definition (that they themselves have created, of course).

  2. It seems almost as though wining and bitching about PZ is the way to get attention now of days (Matt Nisbet provides another recent example of this). Poor PZ with all his blog traffic and skyrocketing prominence, he’s going to be much abused in the future. :-P

  3. Reynold Hall:

    Thanks for the links. I’m sorry your comment got caught in the spam trap; I switched from Akismet to Spam Karma 2 (something on my server got munged during a RAID-array migration, and WordPress wasn’t contacting the Akismet server anymore). Although it’s working pretty darn well, it also produces some false positives.

  4. Wow. That quote mining bit is hilarious. The term “quote mining” is meaningless, but oh, here’s the definition (although the wrong one); so I guess it isn’t meaningless after all? It’s a shame that creationists think accusations about their lack of rational thinking are simple ad hominems. They put too much stock in themselves and too little stock in other people, if you ask me.

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