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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sourcing Quotes and Lying for Jesus

As I pointed out in I Crossed the Line..., Ray changed an unsourced quote from Plato to an unsourced quote from Newton -- one about atheism and one about "atheism." This was done after he had already approved at least three comments, and he made no note of it. As I predicted, several people tried to source the Newton quote in response.

Scott In Vegas
Two readers, though, didn't think sourcing was important. The first commenter, "scott in vegas" writes:
"Source?" If he provides it, will you concede he's right? [...] And come on... don't ask for a source...that shows weakness. Just assume he's wrong.
Concession of what? The the quote is authentic or that "atheism is a disease of the soul"? I ask for a source because I want to know firstly (a) that it is authentic and secondly (b) to get the context of it. Ray has a horrible track record for quoting people. He has on times not bothered to check the authenticity of the quote, such as the Plato ones (more below).

He has, frequently, quoted people either entirely out of context or quoted them to mislead the reader as to their intention. This is the essence of quote mining. An excellent example is the recent quote he made of Hawking wherein he quotes him as stating that the universe began. He, luckily, provided the source for that quote. By reading the lecture you learn, just as you would if you had read any of Hawking's works, that he is speaking of an entirely different sort of beginning than Ray is.

That was an example of the latter, quoting to mislead the reader as to the author's intention (such as when Einstein uses the term "God"). A more frequent quote mining is with the former, quoting them out of context. He uses the following quote mine from Darwin in almost all of his materials, including his Atheist Test:
To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
This gives the uninformed reader the impression that Darwin is responding to some challenge to his theory, or is stating that there is some other cause for this. This particular quote is, perhaps, the most famous example of quote mining. So much so that even creationist organizations (here and here, for example) urge other creationists to stop using it. Wikipedia's article on quote mining even gives this quote as a common example of quote mining.

To the point, now, of "just assuming he is wrong." Are quotes supposed to persuade us? If you are given a quote by Newton on alchemy, would that change your mind as to its validity? Or Plato on his gods? What will convince us is evidence of it. Quotes are always a nice rhetorical strategy within a greater argument, but the quote cannot be an argument in and of itself. Furthermore, Ray incorrectly quotes Einstein as being a deist (which he wasn't). Is that quote supposed to make you become a deist?

Saying that we shouldn't ask for a source and simply assume he's wrong gets us nowhere. By the very fact that we are requesting a source shows that we are not simply assuming he is wrong; we want to look further into it. If Ray wants to quote someone, we need a source to at least verify it and then investigate it. Given Ray's dishonest track record, are we supposed to simply trust him? How many times does it take for you to get burned before you learn not to trust the fire not to burn you?

The next commenter, brittany, first writes:
just copy and paste the quote into google....it shouldn't be to hard to find...!
To this, Pvblivs responds:
Perhaps you would like to source the Plato quote that Ray had originally. Ray got caught in a lie and edited his post. Good grief, the http address of the post reveals the original wording.
After this, Brittany makes a lengthier reply in which several questions of point I think are worth replying to:
"Perhaps you would like to source the Plato quote that Ray had originally."
Although as I said earlier; just copy and post plato's quote into google; it shouldn't be to hard to find.
It is incumbent on Ray, the poster, to provide the source. Anytime Ray (or anyone else for that matter), posts some quote or excerpt (including Bible verses), I immediately look them up for reasons outlined above. If I am asking for a source, it obviously is hard to find, which is why I don't ask for sources on everything he posts. You should try copying and pasting this into Google for yourself:

Google query of Plato's quote.

I tried pages of results and found no source for it, just it being used over and over unsourced. I did find many places saying they could not find a source and others saying there is no source. Quotes are often misattributed or unscrupulously attributed to famous individuals and intellectuals to add credence to the quote. For example, allow me to give you one that atheists often use and appears almost as frequently as the Plato one:
The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites. -- Thomas Jefferson
Just as I hate when people like Ray Comfort posts fictitious quotes or quotes out of context, I hate it when atheists do it too. It does not take much time to verify the validity of a quotes one use. Using such a quote is either dishonest in effort or integrity.
"Ray got caught in a lie and edited his post. Good grief, the http address of the post reveals the original wording."

Perhaps Ray decided not to use that particular quote because he decided that it did not go well with what he was trying/wanting to say.

"edited his post."

It is indeed his post...He can edit it all he wants, and he does not have to have permission from you or anyone else who wants to challenge him over it.
This doesn't go to quotes, but I want to address it nonetheless. He should have either rejected the comments we posted correcting him, or he should have made an entirely new post. In either case, he should have noted why he chose not to use it. Failing to do so makes him dishonest. He should acknowledge his mistake, instead of just pulling out a bottle of white-out, as he did when he realized he was wrong about quoting Einstein as believing the Bible was the Word of God.

Ray, though, seems to be very dishonest, or part of the "it's okay to lie for Jesus" camp. For example, years ago he conceded the banana argument because the only reason bananas look the way they do is because man improved them to have those design features. Ray knows this as I have heard him corrected on it (which is why he conceded it) and yet he continues to use it claiming that God made those features. Or, the Darwin quote... corrected many times on that. Or, Einstein's or Hawking's views on God... corrected many times on that.

This is why I ask for a source and simply request to acknowledge when he is wrong, rather than trying to cover it up until he can use it again on a lesser informed crowd.


  1. Where did Ray go to school? We got a penalty or even an F when we didn't provide any sources for our material, and we were taught why. About 5th grade at the latest. Was Ray homeschooled on a beach? Or did he just learn that cash is easier to make by deception than study?

  2. "This is why I ask for a source and simply request to acknowledge when he is wrong, rather than trying to cover it up until he can use it again on a lesser informed crowd."

    And this is where you go wrong! Ray can never admit when he is wrong (without heavy caveats in place) because he is a pathological liar. It is kind of sad to watch him endlessly tripping over his own inconsistencies and contradictions; he does a good job of mirroring the wholly babble in that way.


Unlike Ray we don't censor our comments, so as long as it's on topic and not spam, fire away.

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