If you have not heard of Ray Comfort, I am sorry to be the one to inflict his existence on your consciousness. But as he never tires of spreading creationist corruption in education and society generally, it isn’t wise to ignore him. Last I heard, something like forty percent of Americans believe that the Earth was created less than ten thousand years ago.
You need to be in serious denial to get it that wrong. It’s roughly proportionate to saying the distance between New York and San Francisco is 33 feet… and then arguing stubbornly against all evidence to the contrary. It certainly undermines the scientific understanding that citizens should have to make responsible decisions about managing the commons. That doesn’t bother creationists, though;
“Creationists spend their time telling non-ignorant people, including biologists who have forgotten more biology than a herd of creationists ever knew, that biologists don’t know what they’re talking about. This doesn’t faze them in the slightest. They are impervious to reality.
- “Mike, the Mad Biologist
If you doubt the Mad Biologist on this score, try “debating” a creationist sometime.
Just this week, Comfort and his friend Kirk Cameron undertook to distribute fifty thousand copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin Of Species on college campuses. That might seem like a strange thing to do, but he had a master plan! Each copy contained a 50-page foreward written by Ray Comfort himself.
I’ve read the foreward, and it’s standard creationist drivel. He maligns Charles Darwin as a bitter man who hated god. Not true: at worst Darwin was a conflicted man who withheld publication of his research because of the sh*tstorm that he knew its release would cause. Certainly he was sad about the death of his daughter Annie, and there is some evidence that on the Beagle‘s voyage, he contracted Cagas’ disease, from which he suffered the rest of his life. But he was, even by modern standards, a careful scientist who made exacting observations and excellent use of them.
The really dumb thing about all this assault on Darwin is; even if Darwin were a complete no-goodnick, it would make no difference to the fact of evolution. And yes, evolution is a fact, in the plain sense that it really happens and we know it, and we can show it, and while we can debate particulars, the thing itself isn’t going anywhere. It’s also a “theory”, in the scientific sense of a well-developed and supported explanatory model, rather than the popular sense of a wild guess. But I digress.
The fundamental mistake that Comfort seems to make is his apparent belief that Origin is some kind of holy writ among scientists, and that if it, or Darwin, could be discredited then evolution would lie in tatters. I suppose it makes sense from Comfort’s perspective; after all, Christianity has a Bible and a savior, and he seems to think that every other model has corresponding features. But there ain’t any such in science, nor any sacrosanct theories. If you can disprove evolution, go to it: a Nobel prize awaits you. But your work is cut out for you. Quoting bible verses and deliberately misunderstanding biology won’t get you there.
The reality is that people don’t sit around in biology class studying Origin; they’re more likely to read Futuyma’s Evolutionary Biology. But after reading Comfort’s libelous foreward, and his blog and watching a few videos featuring him and Kirk Cameron, I doubt he could understand the first chapter.
The really amusing part is the “afterward” to Comfort’s foreward. In it, he complains that evil scientists are conspiring to keep him from having his say on their turf. Given the number of Americans who subscribe to creationist nonsense, he shouldn’t worry. And I’ve seen him delete comments from his blog for failure to capitalize “god” – his perfect right to do so, but then you can’t turn around and yell; “Help help, I’m bein’ repressed!”
- Biologist Ken Miller wrote a fantastic pamphlet about the RC edition A Great Book, Spoiled, here in .pdf form for your reprinting and distribution pleasure.
- For another analysis of Comfort’s far-fetched introduction to Origin, visit Don’t Diss Darwin
- Parts of Comfort’s introduction are plagiarized (surprise), but that won’t stop Ray from claiming others are plagiarizing him by analyzing his stuff.
- Apparently some copies of Ray’s edition of Origin are missing crucial chapters. When busted on that, he started including all the chapters. This is a developing aspect of the story and time will tell.
- For more on the alleged Darwin/Hitler connection, see Ray Comfort is a half-wit and a libelous scalawag. But I include it here mainly because I like the word “scalawag”. Scalawag! Scalawag! Scalawag!
- Here’s Ray Comfort’s famous “banana” argument for creationism, on-screen with fellow rocket-scientist Kirk Cameron. He really does seem to be unaware that the bananas you buy in the store are a product of careful artificial selection; they bear about the same relationship to a wild banana as a Shih Tzu does to a wolf. Comfort and Cameron later tried to retract the argument as a joke, but it’s pretty consistent with other things I’ve seen Comfort say. Such as, that evolution is impossible because, how could males and females of a species just happen to evolve to be in the same place at the same time? Really: he says that, in his recent book, You can lead an atheist to evidence, but you can’t make him think, which he thinks is a slam-dunk for creationism.
- And at nearly the same level of ridiculosity, (parody sometimes being difficult to tell from creationism), here’s the Kirk Cameron Action Kit. Supplies are limited, order now.
- John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts discusses whether Darwin was really received badly by the church in his time, or is that a modern thing?
- Phil Plait talks Hemant Mehta’s interview of Ray Comfort in The Comfort Of Untruth
- Though to tell the truth, I think The Onion says it best: Three eminent biologists and Kirk Cameron weigh in on evolution
- Actually Comfort and Cameron are going about it all wrong. Instead of books, it would be more effective if they were giving away free beer and porn. After all, on the seventh day, God chilled out.