Misquoting random dead French scientists

You might have heard the creationist declaim

“Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.”
Prof. Louis Bounoure (Former President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg and Director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, later Director of Research at the French National Centre of Scientific Research), as quoted in The Advocate, Thursday 8 March 1984, p. 17. (p. 5 of The Revised Quote Book)

This quotation is false. The fact is, this is two different quotations from two different people at two different times and in two different contexts. Prof. Bounoure was not director of research at the Centre, nor even a member. Even more important, the words were written fifty to sixty years ago, referring to debates long past and science that has been surpassed for forty or fifty years.

“Evolution is a fairy tale for adults” is not from Bounoure but from Jean Rostand, a much more famous French biologist (he was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the French Academy). The precise quotation is as follows: “Transformism is a fairy tale for adults.” (Age Nouveau, [a French periodical] February 1959, p. 12). But Rostand has also written that “Transformism may be considered as accepted, and no scientist, no philosopher, no longer discusses [questions – ED.] the fact of evolution.” (L’Evolution des Especes [The Evolution of the Species], Hachette, p. 190). Jean Rostand was … an atheist.

These quotations, however mangled, were taken from people who knew that evolution takes place, but felt that the explanations of mechanism were not complete or that arguing about the mechanisms was not the most fruitful form of research.

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