Crossing Out The Truth

Profiles in Deception - Crossing Out The Truth

 

We live in an information age – also a disinformation age. The average person is exposed to an overwhelming amount of data by the digital technology of our times. Over stimulation can cause many of us to seek a comfortable corner, and in such a place it is easy to accept what fits and reinforces our cozy world view. There, disinformation can become an instrument of seduction when it bolsters our viewpoint. One simple but effective instrument of disinformation is selective omission or “crossing out”.

I am a Christian with scientific training who believes in Evolution. I have always been fascinated by the possibility that scientific study may demonstrate the fingerprints of an intelligent designer. I may call that Intelligent Design, but let us not be confused by the same label which has been used as a political strategy to introduce the teaching of literal Genesis-based creationism in public schools and to perhaps eliminate the teaching of evolution.

One of these strategists is Ben Stein. Many may remember him as the geeky economics teacher in Ferris Bueler's Day Off. The same monotone delivery that he used in the movie is a trademark of his commercial spots. Stein stars in a “documentary” (my quotes) movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Some would suggest that a more honest genre would be “propaganda”.

Mr. Stein is arguably a brilliant renaissance man. There is no argument that Mr. Stein has a deeply felt repugnance about the applications of science and is a skeptic of the theory of evolution. He is is quite outspoken on that matter.

The instrument of selective omission is illustrated by the following quotation, by Mr. Stein, of Charles Darwin's The Ascent of Man.

 

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

 

Below is the the original paragraph, unexpurgated, as Darwin wrote it. The purged text is in italics:

 

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

 

The expurgated first quotation attempts to create the impression that Darwin favored the killing of those judged to be weak. Those who have essentially redacted some of the original seem to be doing so as to suggest that Darwin and his theories are of a Fabian Socialist or “proto-nazi” nature.

The unexpurgated original demonstrates a more moderate and balanced point of view, given the time period. Some would suggest that this deliberate mis-quoting is libel by inference.

Furthermore, the producers of Expelled have not included the following sentences which directly followed the previous quote:

 

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

 

The text in italics for this last quotation suggest a commonality with doctrines of social justice, such as those held by the Catholic Church.

 

It is known that some of Ben Stein's family members were victims of the holocaust. Mr. Stein blames science and scientists themselves for this tragedy. Some investigation might reveal that others of the Jewish faith find other causes. I am sorry for Mr. Stein's loss. But, to blame Darwin for the rise of Nazism is like blaming Dmitri Mendeleev (an early publisher of the Periodic Table from which radioactive elements were first proposed, and then found) for the development of nuclear weapons.

I know that Nazis also manipulated the writings of theorists to develop the philosophy that fueled their murderous agenda.

I hope that the example that I offer here will help others to be alert to the practice of deception through the “crossing out” of selected parts. Will it make your “corner” more comfortable or cozy? You have my best wishes towards that end.