The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Creationists Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron “Promote” Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 10, 2009

In the latest installment of the lame attempts by creationists to stifle and distort the teaching of evolution, Christian evangelists Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron (yes, that guy on Growing Pains) are giving away copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Except they’re doing that thing that too many creationists love to do… they screw up science in an effort to promote their own narrow religious ideology. Specifically, Comfort’s Christian ministry – Living Waters – has begun a new program called “Origin Into Schools” where they are distributing free copies of a special reprinted edition of Darwin’s work, complete with an introduction by Ray Comfort himself.

The Secular Student Alliance is all over this, so allow me to reference their page on the matter:

Living Waters, the evangelical Christian ministry of Ray Comfort (Banana Man) and Kirk Cameron (sitcom star of Growing Pains), is on a mission to distribute 100,000 copies of a reprinted version of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, with an introduction by Comfort attempting to refute Darwin’s theories.  You can see Comfort’s explanation of the project on their website.  Or, you can download and read the Introduction in PDF form.

The highlights of the introduction, according to Kirk Cameron (who explains the project on YouTube), include “a timeline of Darwin’s life, Adolf Hitler’s undeniable connection with the theory, Dariwn’s racism, his disdain for women and Darwin’s thoughts on the existence of God.”  The introduction also “lists the theory’s many hoaxes.”

David Waters’ column “Origin of the Specious” in the Washington Post,  sums up the project quite nicely.

I’ve looked through Ray Comfort’s introduction to Darwin’s work, and I can only say that it – all too predictably – contains numerous tired old creationist arguments which offer nothing new.  I shall list them briefly here…

1. The “Teach the Controversy/Teach All Views” Argument: right off the bat, Comfort goes into this old argument.  He even selectively quotes Darwin himself to lend validity to the laughable notion that creationism should be considered on equal footing with evolutionary science.  Of course, an obvious counter to this argument is to call the creationists’ bluff – tell them you’ll give “equal time” to Muslim creationism, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Raelianism, Native American creation myths, etc.  Somehow, folks like Comfort & Cameron aren’t very enamored with the idea of truly taking the “teach all views” nonsense to its logical conclusion, which shows their real agenda… pushing their particular religious ideology above all else.

2.  Getting the Science of DNA Wrong: a bit later in the introduction, Comfort begins to butcher the science of DNA, genetics, and its connection to evolution.  In particular, he makes the argument that a complex bio-molecule such as DNA cannot self-assemble by chance, which is a common misconception held by creationists.  This kind of argument is often phrased in terms of “expecting a tornado to whip through a junkyard and magically assemble an airplane” or a similar sounding claim.  The problem is that the assembly of complex molecules & biological structures, such as cell organelles, don’t occur randomly (and scientists never claim this anyway) – the creationists neglect the fact that there are well-defined laws of nature (such as natural & chemical selection) that guide the process along.  For much more detail on this particular point, see the TalkOrigins article on Evolution and Chance.

3. Transitional Forms Fallacies: any creationist mudslinging at evolutionary theory wouldn’t be complete without distorting the record on transitional forms, and Ray Comfort does this quite handily when he writes…

As evidence that Darwin’s theory is correct—that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor—we would expect to find something that is half monkey, half man.

The interesting thing is that in his introduction, Comfort actually cites numerous examples of transitional forms, but he refers to that time honored tactic of moving the goalposts whenever a new transitional fossil is unearthed… you see, Comfort and other creationists have their own, non-scientific definition of “transitional form” which seems more like a Frankenstein monster than anything else.  This has got to be one of the oldest & lamest creationist arguments, especially since every year more and more such fossils are discovered continually filling in gaps in the fossil record.  Yet in their quest to ignore evidence contrary to their religious ideology, many creationists will go to ludicrous lengths: even going so far as to state that when such a gap is filled that it simply opens up two more gaps on either side of the new fossil!

4. Distorting the Cambrian Explosion: Comfort tries to get mileage out of an old, defunct creationist argument whereby they distort the timeline and meaning of the Cambrian Explosion. The biggest error is that they imply through their writing that this “explosion” of evolution was extremely sudden and therefore evolution cannot account for it, when in reality it took place over roughly 5 to 40 million years – hardly an “explosion” as they depict!  For more info on this topic, read the TalkOrigins link on the Cambrian Explosion.

5. Mush on Mutations: on this particular point, Comfort just outright states a falsehood…

Contrary to what Darwin suspected, scientists today have discovered that mutations do not work as a mechanism to fuel the evolutionary process. They are random instead of purposeful, and they only modify or remove information, but never add it—an essential component of the theory.

Wrong and wronger.  Not only have mutations been proven, experimentally through lab work with fruit flies for example, to play a key role in evolution, but the notion that mutations can only be harmful is completely fallacious. We have seen plenty of examples in nature of beneficial mutations; a good example is the peppered moth.

6. “Irreducible Complexity” of the Eye: another argument in the creationist bag of tricks is the claim that an organ as complex & intricate as the human eye could not have possibly evolved.  Of course, this is simply a variation on the same theme as outlined in point #2 about DNA – the false assumption is that evolution is a completely unguided & random process.  It isn’t – natural selection plays a critical role, but creationists would rather ignore this fact in an effort to build evolution into a straw man they can easily tear down.  Read more about the failings of the “irreducible complexity” argument at this link.

7. Ad Hominem Against Darwin & Science: the final part of Ray Comfort’s introduction to Origin is a mishmash of ad hominem attacks against Darwin and modern “evolutionists” where he blames them for horrors such as eugenics, suppression of women, the rise of Nazism & inspiration of Hitler, slavery, and the Holocaust.  And to go even further down the rabbit-hole, Comfort then goes on to proselytize to the reader about the importance of rejecting evolutionary theory (along with science in general which is equated with atheism) in favor of saving their soul by, of course, accepting Jesus Christ as their lord & savior.  Just for good measure, he even rips on three other major religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam – as being inadequate to the task of preventing a sure trip to Hell because only his particular version of Christianity is the true way to Heaven.  At this point, it’s hard not to chuckle at Comfort, because it is obvious he isn’t even attempting to do science – he is interested in nothing more then pushing his narrow religious beliefs.

Yet he wants to have the validity of science, so that this nonsense can be taught in schools to your kids.  It’d be absolutely hilarious if clowns like Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron weren’t so serious about it.

So there you have it – watch out for this religious & pseudoscientific propaganda popping up in a school near you.  And if you do happen to get a copy of it, just tear out the first 54 pages or so (the introduction) and then you’ll have a really good book :)

 

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8 Responses to “Creationists Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron “Promote” Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’”

  1. craig said

    “the creationists neglect the fact that there are well-defined laws of nature (such as natural & chemical selection) that guide the process along”

    I don’t think creationists neglect the fact that there are well-defined laws of nature – I think the disagreement here is the origin of these laws. What is your explanation? “Laws of Nature” are not matter or energy, but information. Where does this information come from? And why does it have such authority over time and space?

    “the false assumption is that evolution is a completely unguided & random process. It isn’t – natural selection plays a critical role”

    I don’t think this accurate. Better stated, the creationist argument is that in order for evolution to be believable, it cannot be “completely unguided and random,” hence the belief that a higher intelligence must play a role (whether evolution is proven or not).

    I realize I am focusing on the philosophical side of the debate here, but it is only because of the implications of these quotes from your post. I am honestly curious – what is an atheist’s take on why scientific laws exist? Science hinges on the verifiable existence of a supreme order – where did it come from?

    • mattusmaximus said

      Craig said:

      I realize I am focusing on the philosophical side of the debate here

      There you go, right there – thanks for that admission. That’s the answer to every question you’ve posed to me. I’m not debating philosophy, I’m discussing the science. If you want to discuss philosophy, you’ve come to the wrong place.

      Craig said:

      I am honestly curious – what is an atheist’s take on why scientific laws exist? Science hinges on the verifiable existence of a supreme order – where did it come from?

      I don’t know why they exist. And in the absence of any reliable information, I’m comfortable with that response as opposed to making an argument from ignorance. However, some people aren’t comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing, so if you want to make something up to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, knock yourself out – just don’t expect me to buy into it.

  2. Cay said

    I recently held a little intro skeptics forum at my church (Don’t be surprised, I’m a UU.) While discussing the forum with another person, he brought up the complaint that skeptics don’t bother to answers questions like “why did the universe happen?” and “what is the purpose?” This isn’t a total woo-woo guy – he’s pretty smart and an engineer, so I was surprised to hear this coming from him. Of course the answer is “that’s not was skepticism is about.” The thing that hit me was that I don’t care if I die not knowing those things but this guy agonizes over that crap. So non-skeptics don’t get it partly because they can’t get it. They just think “here all all these know-it-all skeptics who debate on forever, but they IGNORE the most important questions.

  3. b. roberts said

    aren,t matter and information both energy? wouldn’t they,ALL THREE, be essentially the same thing?

    • mattusmaximus said

      Matter is a form of energy, as expressed by E=mc^2 – but information is a much trickier thing. There are a variety of definitions of “information”, but the one specific to physics is, in and of itself, very complicated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_information

      • b. roberts said

        i’m not trying to define a word here. i’m not looking for an ‘expert’ to route my thoughts. this debate is a mobius. what is beyond me is how anyone could dismiss curiousity and arbitrarily assign a beginning (or an end). it is not unrealistic (to me at least) to see a modern day Christ in a lab coat or pondering quantum physics or teaching simple existance. but NEVER without curiosity.

  4. craig said

    By calling yourself an atheist, you have all ready jumped into the philosophical discussion with a bold statement – “there is no God.” What I hear from your response, however, is more like “I don’t care if there is a God.” Maybe, you’re not really an atheist?

    It is one thing to say you cannot believe in something you see no evidence for – this is a perfectly acceptable, logical statement. However, to go a step further and say it doesn’t exist because you haven’t seen the evidence, is overstepping logical thought. Thus, standing firmly on the statement “there is no God” is a position of belief, or faith. So – If you really are an atheist, you are a man of faith! If, on the other hand you really don’t care, you are not an atheist, but an agnostic.

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