Creationist Arguments: Misquotes

This file contains some of the more blatant instances in which creationists have misquoted their sources when writing about human evolution. In all cases where text had been made bold, the emphasis has been added by me.

Jerry Bergman, in an article about Nebraska Man (The History of Hesperopithecus haroldcookii Hominoidea, Creation Research Society Quarterly, 30:27-34, 1993) makes the following statement:

Nebraska man also had a great patriotic significance because it was the first evidence, according to Osborn,
after seventy-five years of continuous search in all parts of our great Western territory of a [higher] primate. Evidence of this anthropoid ape-man was also proof that some primitive humans lived in America, and some speculated that it may even prove that mankind in North America predated European and African humans. We have all eagerly looked forward to such a discovery (quoted in Blinderman, 1985, p.48)
However, the quoted paper (Blinderman 1985: The curious case of Nebraska man. Science 85, June:47-9) makes no such statement! Blinderman said:

So Nebraska Man had great patriotic significance. "This is the very first evidence," Osborn wrote, "after seventy-five years of continuous search in all parts of our great western territory, of a [higher] Primate. ... we have all eagerly looked forward to such a discovery ...." (ellipses by Blinderman)

The references to "ape-man" and "proof" were added, either by Bergman or by a source which he copied from. In fact, although Osborn did misidentify the Nebraska Man tooth as a primate, he deliberately did not make any claims to its status as an ape-man.

Update: Bergman has published a response to this (Bergman 2004: A misrepresentation by Jim Foley: a correction. Creation Research Society Quarterly, 41:172-4.), and also placed a longer version of it on the web. I in turn have written a response to him.

Robert Kofahl's Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter and Wallace Johnson's book Evolution? both use the following quote (Johnson only has the second clause):

"Not many (if any) [fossil hominids] have held the stage for long; by now laymen could be forgiven for regarding each new arrival as no less ephemeral than the weather forecast." (John Reader, Whatever happened to Zinjanthropus?, New Scientist, March 26 1981, p.805)
It sounds as if Reader is saying that most, if not all, fossil hominids have been discredited. But the previous sentence was:
"Australopithecus afarensis is the latest fossil hominid to be thrust before the public as the oldest evidence of mankind's existence. Not many (if any) have held the stage for long; ..."
With the full context, it is clear that Reader was not saying that all fossil hominids have been debunked; he is referring only to their claimed status as the oldest evidence of human evolution. In fact, Reader's article explicitly says that H. erectus is still considered to be a human ancestor.

Paul Taylor, in The Illustrated Origins Answer Book (Ed.4, 1992) says:

"Current evidence seems to indicate Australopithecus was an extinct ape and nothing more [205].

205: William L. Jungers, "Lucy's limbs: skeletal allometry and locomotion in Australopithecus afarensis," Nature, Vol. 24 pp 676-678 (analysis of "Lucy's" anatomical structure shows she may not normally have walked upright)."

Jungers does not say or even imply that Lucy did not walk upright. Quite the opposite, in fact. His paper says:
"Diagnostic details of the knee joint and bony pelvis of A. afarensis are compelling indicators of a bipedal adaptation."

Walter Brown, in his book In the Beginning (6th ed), says:

"Eugene Dubois conceded forty years after he discovered Java "man" that it was just a large gibbon."
In support of this statement, Brown gives the following quote:
"Pithecanthropus [Java man] was not a man, but a gigantic genus allied to the Gibbons ..." Eugene Dubois, "On the Fossil Human Skulls Recently Discovered in Java and Pithecanthropus Erectus," Man, Vol. 37, January 1937, p. 4.
However Dubois' complete sentence was as follows:
"Pithecanthropus was not a man, but a gigantic genus allied to the Gibbons, however superior to the gibbons on account of its exceedingly large brain volume and distinguished at the same time by its faculty of assuming an erect attitude and gait."
These do not sound like the words of a man who is dismissing Java Man as a mere ape that had nothing to do with human evolution. Indeed, Dubois, an exceptionally stubborn man, never ceased to believe that Java Man was a primitive human ancestor.

Brown also cites Stephen J. Gould's essay Men of the Thirty-third Division in support of his claim, even though the the whole point of Gould's essay was to refute the myth (common among evolutionists as well as creationists) that Dubois had ever called Java Man a gibbon. (This essay can be found in Gould's book Eight Little Piggies, or in the April 1990 issue of the magazine Natural History).

Doug LaPointe, in Top Evidences Against the Theory of Evolution, #6 says of Homo erectus:

"In fact, its brain is said to extend "... into the middle range of Homo sapiens." (F. Clark Howell, "Early Man", p.42)"
What Howell really said was:
"The first man of our own genus, Homo erectus is modern of limb but more primitive of hand and brain, with a cranial capacity extending only into the lower range of Homo sapiens."

David Menton, in The Scientific Evidence For the Origin of Man, writes about the fossil WT 15000 (the Turkana Boy) and says:

"He had a low forehead and pronounced brow ridges not unlike some races of modern man. Richard Leaky [sic] said that this boy would go unnoticed in a crowd today."
Don Patton uses a similar quote, saying that according to Richard Leakey:
"....he would probably go unnoticed in a crowd today."
What Leakey really said, in the November 1985 issue of National Geographic, was:
"Suitably clothed and with a cap to obscure his low forehead and beetle brow, he would probably go unnoticed in a crowd today."

Patton also says:

'THE OLDEST MAN', "[African Footprints] ....they belonged to the genus Homo (or true man), rather than to manapes (like Australopithecus, who was once a thought to be the forerunner of man but is now regarded as a possible evolutionary dead end). ....they were 3.35 million to 3.75 million years old. ....they would, in Mary Leakeys words, be people 'not unlike ourselves,'...." Time, Nov. 10, 1975, p.93
The article in Time refers to a number of fossils found at Laetoli and at first thought to belong to the genus Homo. The Laetoli footprints are not mentioned, since they were not found until the following year.

The complete sentence from Time says:

"If all these creatures are in fact close kin, they would, in Mary Leakey's words, be people "not much unlike ourselves," though not much more than 5 ft. tall and with much shorter life spans and somewhat smaller brains".
Clearly, "not much unlike ourselves" is a relative term, and no one was claiming these fossils were of modern humans. They were not, and are now considered to belong to Australopithecus.

Another Patton quote:

"[Adrienne] Zihlman compares the pygmy chimpanzee to "Lucy," one of the oldest hominid fossils known and finds the similarities striking. They are almost identical in body size, in stature; and in brain size.... " (Science News, Vol.123, Feb.5. 1983, p.89)
Once again, Patton has omitted contextual information that would weaken his case. The full sentence reads:
"They are almost identical in body size, in stature, and in brain size, she notes, and the major differences (the hip and the foot) represent the younger Lucy's adaptation to bipedal walking."

P.S.:This page of quotes by Donald Patton asks to be notified of any misquotes, and adds: "However, we have never been shown to engage in deceptive quoting practices." In fact, that is exactly what they had done: the three misquotes above by Patton used to be on that page exactly as I quoted them above, but have now been modified to include the full context.

P.P.S.: The above statement has been removed, to be replaced by a much longer statement which asserts that the original quotes were appropriate as used in Patton's lectures.

Harun Yahya (thought to be a pseudonym for a Turkish Islamic creationist organization) writes, in Chapter 10 of the book The Evolution Deceit:

Finally, in 1994, a team from Liverpool University in England launched an extensive research to reach a definite conclusion. Finally, they concluded that "the Australopithecines are quadripedal".(4)
Reference 4 is to a paper by Spoor, Wood and Zonneveld, Implications of early hominid labyrinthine morphology for evolution of human bipedal locomotion, Nature, 369:645-8 (1994). Yahya's statement is an outright lie. Spoor et al. do not make the statement attributed to them, and actually concluded that:
These observations support studies of the postcranial fossil record which have concluded that H. erectus was an obligatory biped, whereas A. africanus showed a locomotor repertoire comprising facultative bipedalism as well as arboreal climbing.

Jan 22, 2002: An email from the webmaster of the Harun Yahya site states that this misquote "was truly a mistake, but not a deliberate misquote", and that such errors are mainly due to translation errors, as Yahya writes in Turkish then translates to English. The misquote has been removed from the site. I am extremely skeptical that translation errors were responsible for this mistake. I think it far more likely that the quote was accurately translated from a creationist source in English, some of which make similar claims.

This page is part of the Fossil Hominids FAQ at the Archive.

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