These Things We Do

A while back you may all remember when I mentioned a contest to win Ray Comfort books.

Or maybe you don’t. While I can track the visits to the site, I can’t tell how often you actually read the stuff therein or remember it. Unless I quiz you in person, which I have a bad habit of doing.

But it was about this contest which, according to the rules thereof, I must blog about.

Now, it was going to be a short write up and discussion of Ray Comfort, but the quack from last night has me so pissed off I can’t wait to post about it. But there’s just this one little thing I have to do first – THIS post.

So here we go. You’re next, Robert Dowling.

If you’re not familiar with Ray Comfort, he’s the guy in those “Atheists Nightmare” youtube videos proclaiming that bananas are proof of intelligent design. If you don’t recognize him, he’s the one sitting next to Kirk Cameron, the intellectual giant of our time, right behind Travolta.

The name of the first book is “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think.” I suppose the same does not go for female atheists. This title amused me because atheists came to their beliefs through evidence, analysis, and critical thinking – activities oft recognized as “thinking.”

Right in his contest script, there are some individuals that skeptics might recognize.

R. C. Sproul, Jr. Sproul was defrocked from the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly in 2006, for “”abuse of authority in an inexcusable manner” against several families, alleged illegal use of the ARP’s tax identification number, planting a church without authority, and practicing paedocommunion. “ (Thanks Wikipedia). Paedocommunion is giving the Eucharist (with wine) to infants. If you want some weird video fun, go to YouTube and put this guy’s name in the box. He’s a fan of Comfort’s work.

You might also recognize Joseph Farrah, supporter of Rush Limbaugh and one of the founders of the conspiracy website WorldNetDaily. Keith Olberman has called Farrah “Worst Person in the World” (An honor he shares with Jackson mayor Frank Melton) for consistently calling President Obama’s birth certificate a forgery. He believes Ray Comfort, and he says this: “You don’t have to shut off your brain to have faith—and Ray Comfort proves it.” While the first half of this sentence might have been one of the few things Farrah is right about, you’d have to shut off your brain to believe Comfort.

The final quote in the delicious liars sandwich comes from none other than Ken Ham. If you don’t know who Ken Ham is, you can go to his website Answers in Genesis, or to the creationist museum in Kentucky – because he founded all that. He also has a fascinating quote that really speaks to his philosophy: “If you disagree with what I’m going to say, please do not give me your opinion, because I’m not interested.”

Ken Ham is a real piece of work, and his website is constantly referred to me by creationists trying to get in on the “intelligent design” movement (which is creationism with a new name). There is an entire article for Ken Ham and his website, Answers in Genesis. I’ll write it soon enough I’m sure.

Like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort has absolutely no understanding of the scientific process or evolutionary biology. He shows no use of logic, reason, or anything other than browbeating and bully-pulpit techniques. His blogs and website (and I would wager, his books) use insanely fallacious statements and arguments.

Since I’m really pissed off about the quack from last night, I’m going to go at Comfort’s blog in extensive detail now. True, it’s been done better and more extensively at The Atheist Blogger , but that guy isn’t in the contest.

The first post. I come across is one of the arguments I’ve seen Justin and other creationists use: how can something come from nothing, like at the beginning of the universe? They usually just seem to accept as fact the idea that astronomers believe this, which of course is not quite right. Most believe that, “In the beginning” there was no infinite nothingness – in fact, everything that now makes up the universe existed! All the matter and energy of the universe was condensed into a single point. This is mind-boggling, sure – but by leaving out a tiny detail the size of the whole universe, Comfort and many others commit an atrocious intellectual fraud, giving their opposition an indefensible position.

This incorrect statement of atheist belief seems to form a central core of Comfort’s techniques. I’ve seen four posts that use this “logic” so far. Also, Comfort seems totally oblivious to the extension of one of his own arguments: that because complex things like cars and paintings must have creators, so must the universe. Of course, by saying that, he must logically commit himself to a creator for the creator, which of course he never does.

Justin himself uses this same line of “logic” in his laughable “Atheism Test” which shows manmade objects and then says “they were made, so therefore the Earth was as well.”

Now, sure, there are astronomers and cosmologists and physicists who will claim that the matter from which the universe was created DID appear out of nowhere through various quantum fluctuations that might occur if we live in a multiverse, or a complex M-brane string universe. But even if you do say that something comes from nothing, it does not therefore follow that something was there to do the creating. Of course, Comfort needs to prove that someone out there believes his “something from nothing” statement, so he digs up some scientists, one of whom Comfort quotes.

“Assuming the universe came from nothing, it is empty to begin with . . . Only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God.”
– Atheist, Victor J. Stenger, Prof. Physics, University of Hawaii. Author of, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist

Of course, Stenger gives an argument that something from nothing means no god. It is not that great of an argument, but it makes more sense than the “something can’t come from nothing, therefore GOD!” logic that Comfort uses. By the way, Stenger is coming to Memphis soon.

Later (I’m skipping a few of the more boring or self-referential posts) Comfort posits a brand new plan! Instead of giving atheists their viewpoint, he shows that he has no clue about how biology works. This is one of those arguments that creationists don’t even use anymore – “the first dog.”

I’ll repost the hilarious bit here.

“Imagine being there when the first dog evolved. There was a big bang, and millions of years later an animal with a tail and four legs, a liver, heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, ears and eyes evolved into the first dog. Fortunately for him, his eyes had evolved to maturity after millions of years of blindness, so that he could see the first female dog that had evolved standing by him. It was actually very fortunate, because if the female dog hadn’t evolved also and been at the right place at the right time, with the right parts and the willingness to mate, he would have been a dead dog. He needed a female to keep the species alive. “

This bit shows a lot of what Comfort does. First off, he says “millions of years later” when he must mean “billions.” Now he says that a dog evolves. (Same as the banana, don’t mind that it’s artificial selection), then he invokes the ridiculous “irreducible complexity” argument with the eyes of the dog. Now instead of understanding how species slowly arise and differentiate, he says that another dog must evolve simultaneously. Evolution doesn’t work that way, and I’d bet Comfort knows it. PZ Meyers thinks otherwise.

A population of dogs, separated from other canines (maybe by human masters) will slowly differentiate into another species – never does a new species just “pop out” one day. The proto-dog can breed with his species, the species he arose from, and the real dog. Coyotes, dogs, and wolves are great examples of how these sort of things are not stone-clad. The canine statement seems to be a way that Comfort and others like him make it seem as though they are willing to give a little to evolution: the “microevolution is true” wishy-washery. I’ve seen it on many an apologetics website.

There is no such distinction. Either you evolve or you don’t, and it’s only “micro” because we’ve only been watching it a few thousand years. This is nanoscale to the cosmic calendar. (Have I recommended that you watch Cosmos this post? Well now I have. Watch Cosmos.)

This next one will make your head hurt. Seriously. I don’t know if Comfort realizes that he contradicts himself several times (and fails to answer a question he posits to himself) and I am beginning to think that he has a serious mental block. Forget where he asks “But then doesn’t the creator need a creator?” Because as much as your grasping brain wants him to answer that question, he does not. Damn. Instead we get this nugget of non sequitur: “We have the dilemma of having everything, so we therefore have to come to the conclusion that something made it.” Really? If I have a rock I got from a stream, does it therefore follow that someone made that rock? Hint: no, it doesn’t. You must take the idea that someone made that rock on faith.

This is what infuriates me the MOST about the intelligent design crowd – constantly saying that we folk who believe that evolution is how we got here are somehow doing so JUST on faith. This is wrong, Ray. This is wrong, Ken. This is wrong, Justin. We have a methodology of examination of the facts, of critical thinking, called the scientific method. Things that will not provide reproducible factual data, things that contain logical fallacies or bad starting principles – these are the things that we do not put into our worldview. If you could produce the evidence, we might want to talk more. But you cannot – all that the Creationist view does is attack the work of real scientists.

RIGHT NOW, biologists are refining and arguing real evolutionary issues; trying to get a better grasp on all the factors of inheritance, figuring out what killed the North American megafauna, uncovering existent lines of ancient multicellular life, and figuring out more and more about our proto-human ancestors. New discoveries mean that old ones are wrong. Most of what Darwin theorized almost two centuries ago has been refined, junked, or bypassed by new evolutionary theories. But the creationists haven’t moved in two centuries. How can we expect them to if they haven’t moved in two thousand years?

Ray Comfort repeatedly proves himself wrong. The more I delve into the dark underbelly of the internet that is his website, the more I believe that he is just trying to cause his followers to give up and go atheist.

Anyhow. That’s the end of that. Bigger, juicier fish to fry.

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7 responses to “These Things We Do

  1. mims h. carter from a certain southern atheist/humanist society said “Being interested in the question myself, I can tell you that any physicist will tell you that you don’t need a creator to explain the beginning of the universe, and that something can come from nothing.”

  2. By the way, you will have to email me this link for it to qualify as an additional entry per the rules. Good luck!

  3. jacksonskepticalsociety

    Right, busy with this quack. But you’ll get your email.

    The fact that something can come from nothing does not necessarily mean that something DID come from nothing at the beginning of the universe.

  4. True. But I’d go ahead and make there be no doubt by saying only nothing can come from nothing.

  5. Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

  6. jacksonskepticalsociety

    That’s the difference between faith and science, right there.

  7. Pingback: Doctor Dino Uses Technology to Get Down on Science « Living Better Skeptically

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