First, I guess I should address the fact that I haven’t posted in a while. It isn’t that I’ve quit on the blog. This is just one of those cases where life got in the way of plans that were made. In short, I’ve been busy, but I plan to continue this blog for quite awhile. That said, I apologize for my lack of posts over the past month or so.
What I want to touch on now is something about which numerous people have already spoken (my “late to the ball” metaphor might serve as a better name for this blog in general), but it’s something on which I want to write regardless. The issue is the upcoming publicity stunt by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron in which they will hand out copies of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species at the “top 100 U.S. universities.” You can go here to check out what they’re doing in their own words. The kicker is that Comfort has written an introduction that will be included in the book. It is 50 pages long, and it is ridiculous. A pdf of that introduction is available on the linked site. Check it out.
For starters, here is a video put out to publicize the event:
Let’s consider the first few things said in the video. Cameron claims, “One by one, we’re being stripped of our God-given liberties.” Which liberties are these? Don’t worry, Kirk is going to clue us in. He says, “Our kids can no longer pray in public.” Really? When did this happen? Of course, it never happened. It is wholly untrue that kids can’t pray in public, including public schools. Kids can pray all they want (though teachers cannot coerce children into praying to that teacher’s god).
He continues, “They can no longer freely open a Bible in school.” Bzzt! Wrong again.
“The Ten Commandments are no longer allowed to be displayed in public places.” Where does he come up with this stuff? Are churches not “public places”? There is absolutely no such prohibition. Now, it is true that you can’t display these in places like government buildings, but that’s to avoid the government’s endorsing one god over another. Moreover, that in no way prevents anyone from displaying the Ten Commandments on their own property where everyone can see them all the day long.
“The Gideons are not even allowed to give away Bibles in schools.” This is is correct, but, again, this is to avoid having the government, even tacitly, endorse one religion over another. Honestly, the people who don’t get that this is in their best interest just are not thinking this through. I can’t even begin to imagine how loud the uproar would be by conservative Christian parents if some Muslim organization were giving away copies of the Qur’an while a teacher was leading his students in prayer to Allah during school hours. I imagine it would be just a bit less than the outcry by Baptist parents if a teacher were telling her students that they needed to confess their sins to a priest in order to be forgiven, or the reaction of Catholic parents whose children were told that they could bypass their priest altogether and go straight to the source in their confessions. The reason this stuff isn’t in schools is to protect freedom of worship, not prohibit it, and suggesting otherwise shows one to be either incredibly naive or a deceiver.
It goes downhill from there, but this should suffice for my purposes. What we have above are three separate lies and one assertion whose words are true but whose implied concern is false, and this is in the first thirty seconds. That’s quite a bit of untruth from someone supposedly concerned about the moral failings of our society, and it is all done in the name of God.
It gets worse. Ray Comfort was offered the opportunity to respond to increasing criticism about this endeavor by US News and World Reports. He posited the question “Why are many atheists so angry?…If I am (as Professor Dawkins says) ‘an ignorant fool’, why are so many feeling threatened by what I’ve written? Surely, the Introduction will be ignorance and foolishness, and simply confirm the students’ presuppositions that intelligent design isn’t worthy of even a first look.”
There are many reasons to be concerned about such a thing, and I’ll name a couple before getting to Comfort’s own response to the question. It is simply the case that a great number of college students are unfamiliar with the material in question and are thus susceptible to being deceived by those claiming to be authority figures. Those unversed in history or biology will not have the tools or knowledge to see through Comfort’s absurdities and lies and, as such, may very well be swayed by his inaccuracies. By writing the introduction of the “150th Anniversary Edition,” Comfort puts himself in the role of an expert, an authority on the subject. He is well aware of this, else why even bother with this charade? Comfort has the ability to influence children with his introduction, and that is exactly why he undertook this project. That is why people are concerned. And, I mean, duh.
Comfort’s responds to his own question is that those opposed to his book should be concerned. They should be concerned because there’s a direct line from Darwin to Hitler, and “Nazi Germany was the natural outcome of what Darwin called ‘one general law’.” I kid you not. Darwin, who, along with his entire family, fought for the abolition of slavery his entire life, who said that mercy, our empathy for our fellow humans, was our best quality, created Hitler and Nazism. Forget the centuries of Christian writers who were rabidly anti-Semitic. Forget the role of the Catholic Church itself. It was all Darwin. A more absurd lie could not be told. (Lest there be any confusion, I am in no way suggesting that Christianity was responsible for Nazism. The rise of Nazi Germany is an incredibly complicated story of which there is no single or simple cause.)
Comfort continues, “The Introduction also defines an atheist as someone who believes that nothing created everything—which is a scientific impossibility.” So much is wrong with this that it is tough to know where to begin. First, there are quite a few Christians who believe that evolutionary theory gets it right. One of the most influential defenders of evolutionary biology right now is Ken Miller, a devout Christian. His book, Finding Darwin’s God, is a comprehensive explanation of evolutionary theory that also contains a systematic dismantling of the common criticisms of evolution, including intelligent design. Next, an atheist is not “someone who believes that nothing created everything.” An atheist is simply someone who lacks a belief in any gods. That’s it. One’s views of cosmogeny simply have nothing to do with that whatsoever, and the fact that Comfort wants to redefine the word to something radically different only highlights his intellectual dishonesty. Further, and this is the real kicker, it just might not be a scientific impossibility that the universe popped into existence out of nothing. What we’ve discovered is that lots of things about the world are counter-intuitive to us, and this might just be another one. But, most important of all, none of this has anything to do with evolution at all! Our understanding of the universe has radically changed since Darwin, and it will likely change again. Likewise, the details of evolutionary biology have changed since the advent of relativity, quantum mechanics, big bang theory, and a host of other things in physics and cosmology. The point here is that these things are just not dependent upon one another in any significant way.
Comfort makes a number of other enormous mistakes, but I see no need to detail each of them. There is a larger issue here that needs to be addressed, and that is that Comfort has been made aware of these “mistakes” over and over again. This is hardly the first time these things have been said, even by Comfort, and he has been repeatedly corrected. Even so, he keeps trotting out the same tired examples. But the point to this is that these can no longer be seen as mistakes. As corrections have occurred, that means he is aware of the falsehoods, yet he keeps spreading them. That makes him a blatant liar.
In the end, I am unclear on what Comfort and Cameron’s goal is. They are liars, and they know it. Even so, they hold themselves up as moral leaders and say their hope is to save our children and ourselves. What moral authority can one hope to hold when that authority is achieved by deception? None. This is a message that should be heeded most of all by other Christians. Why any group would allow moral reprobates such as these to act as if they are the group’s representatives is beyond me. However, I don’t know that I would agree with ripping out the introduction, as others have suggested. Instead, I would take the opportunity to discuss these issues with any students who receive the book. I would advocate holding lectures on the campuses at which the books are being distributed where the points in Comfort’s introduction are taken apart one by one. That way not only do kids get the book, of which they should have some copy, they also get vaccinated against Comfort’s lies, and, more importantly, they become aware of this kind of tactic, making them less likely to fall for it in the future. That would actually be something very good that could come out of this whole debacle.