Christian evangelist Ray Comfort claims that his film, “Evolution vs. God,” released on August 7, shows that “there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution – that it rests on nothing but blind faith.”
The film does not lack for catchy ‘gotcha’ soundbites: “If you believe in evolution, prepare to have your faith shaken.”
There are so many problems with this. We will begin with the most obvious: If there is one thing a Christian evangelist should not attack, it is blind faith. His whole religion collapses without it.
This is the religion famous for its credo, “Do not ask questions, just believe,” and do not forget every conservative Christians’s favorite response to difficult questions, “I know it is true” (my favorite “proof” for the resurrection is that it happened because it had to have happened). Oh to have a dollar for every time a conservative Christian used stuff like this on me.
The second thing, and really, it’s pretty obvious too, is the idea that science is something people “believe” in or not.
Comfort says of proponents of evolution, “They are worried, and they’ve got a right to be.”
No, they are laughing, Ray, and they have every right to be.
The thing is, people don’t “believe” in evolution any more than they “believe” the sun rises will rise each morning in the east and then set in the west; that heat makes water boil and that cold freezes water; they don’t believe in germs because germs are proven to exist. It is an observable fact. It is germs that get you, not imaginary demons playing with your flesh.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) explains the matter in terms even Ray could understand, if he wanted to, in their FAQ:
Isn’t belief in evolution also a matter of faith?
Acceptance of evolution is not the same as a religious belief. Scientists’ confidence about the occurrence of evolution is based on an overwhelming amount of supporting evidence gathered from many aspects of the natural world. To be accepted, scientific knowledge has to withstand the scrutiny of testing, retesting, and experimentation. Evolution is accepted within the scientific community because the concept has withstood extensive testing by many thousands of scientists for more than a century. As a 2006 “Statement on the Teaching of Evolution” from the Interacademy Panel on International Issues, a global network of national science academies, said, “Evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines” (emphasis in original). (Download a PDF with more information.)
Many religious beliefs do not rely on evidence gathered from the natural world. On the contrary, an important component of religious belief is faith, which implies acceptance of a truth regardless of the presence of empirical evidence for or against that truth. Scientists cannot accept scientific conclusions on faith alone because all such conclusions must be subject to testing against observations. Thus, scientists do not “believe” in evolution in the same way that someone believes in God.
Chairman Mao used to like to say, “seek truth from facts.” We have a Western way of saying the same thing: “the facts on the ground” (coincidentally, where evolution is concerned, many of our facts are IN the ground). In other words, it is not what we believe to be the truth, nor what we want to be the truth, but what the truth is based on the facts on the ground, that matters.
Modern conservatism seems to have turned this on its head. A conservative would put it this way, “seek facts from truth.” They decide what the truth is, and from this, extrapolate facts. This work with women’s reproductive health, it works with marriage equality, it works with the economy (never forget trickle-down economics), and with nearly every other hot-button issue you care to name.
To the rest of us, it is an odd way of first understanding and then interacting with the world, to first decide what is true and only then seek facts to fit your preconceptions. It is bad enough when this leads to tortured readings of their own religious scripture, but much worse when conservatives have it in their power to decide on the health and wellbeing of people who do not share their beliefs.
The example of the apparently widespread belief that a woman’s body can somehow reject a rapist’s sperm comes to mind. Or on a larger scale, global warming (e.g. Rep. Steve “Cantaloupe Calves” King said the other day that global warming is more of a religion than science). It is predicted that by 2100 many of our coastal cities will be under water. But there can be no global warming, therefore there is no global warming, the evidence be damned.
Now keep in mind that Ray Comfort doesn’t get science. This is the guy who said of bananas – yes, bananas – that they are “the atheist’s worst nightmare.”
Why, you ask? Because the design of a banana shows that the complex design elements of a banana show it must have had a designer. A banana could not have just happened on account of an accident of evolution. I mean,they fit in your hand so perfectly!
Well, it didn’t, in fact. The modern banana is the result of selective breeding (hybridization). Not by God. By humans.
Ray was laughed at, and rightfully so.
So Ray whips out a Coke can and compares it to the banana. He “proves” that both have complex designs. The complex Coke can had a creator, ergo the complex banana must have had a creator.
But the Coke can does not appear in nature. Bananas do. Coke cans were designed by humans and bananas were selectively bred by humans to create the type of banana we enjoy today.
Ray thinks he is on to something here, but that is only because Ray is not very smart. He says in his film, essentially, that because we have not seen a fish develop two legs and walk out of the water than evolution is a lie. He says, “Many times over the years I’ve been accused by atheists of not understanding evolution.” And Ray is living proof that these atheists are right.
As PZ Myers, an evolutionary biologist interviewed by Comfort in his film wrote on his blog,
What actually happened is that I briefly discussed the evidence for evolution — genetics and molecular biology of fish, transitional fossils, known phylogenies relating extant groups, and experimental work done on bacterial evolution in the lab, and Ray Comfort simply denied it all — the bacteria were still bacteria, the fish were still fish. I suspect the other scientists did likewise: we provided the evidence, Ray Comfort simply closed his eyes and denied it all.
Ray ignores the fact – and it is a fact – that evolution is discernible all around us. The Bible says it didn’t happen, therefore it cannot have happened. It’s as simple as that.
Yet superstition-ridden conservatives need to believe so badly they shell out money for a film that has, as a central message, “beware of blind faith.”
Ray says people missed the point with his banana metaphor but I think it is Ray and all his followers who have missed the point. It is a pity none of them see the irony in their favorite film’s central message, that faith is delusion, or – speaking of truth – the truth that Ray Comfort is making a lot of money off their gullibility and almost painful-to-watch need to believe.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.