A creationist edition of The Origin

September 23, 2009 • 7:46 am

If you’ve been around the blogosphere of late, you’ll know that Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, those creationists of the-banana-proves-God fame, are issuing their own edition of On the Origin of Species, in a run of 50,000 copies, in time to “subvert” Darwin Day (their target date is Nov. 22, but Darwin’s book actually appeared on Nov. 24, 1859).

The book is apparently just a reprint of The Origin, which is out of copyright, with a 50-page copyrighted introduction by Ray Comfort. You can download the introduction on The Huffington Post page by clicking on the pdf link.  Since we’ve all read Darwin, you don’t need to get the book; you can just read the free intro.

The introduction is notable for two things.  First, its intellectual vacuity.  That’s nothing new for creationist tracts, but this intro is a lot closer to Gish and Morris than to Dembski and Berlinski.  Apparently Comfort and Cameron haven’t really absorbed all the “new” creationist arguments against evolution: they simply repeat the old canards about the lack of transitional forms (incuding — God help us — Piltdown Man), the irreducible complexity of complex organs (but of the eye, not biochemistry!), and the fact that “random chance” simply couldn’t produce organisms.  There’s no mention of the “fine-tuning” of the universe.

And the introduction is rife with out-of-context quotations.  Once again, Darwin’s quote on the difficulty of seeing how the eye evolved gradually is trotted out (with his response omitted, as usual), and Steve Gould’s punctuated equilibrium is used to imply that organisms appeared suddenly, without ancestors.  Unsurprisingly, Francis Collins pops up, emphasizing his take on the DNA code of humans: “I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”  (Note: this quote is NOT out of context. You don’t need to selectively quote Collins to find words that give succor to creationists.)

If you’re looking for new creationist arguments, you won’t find them here.

Second, the introduction is funny.  Not intentionally funny, but funny in its single-minded religiously-based stupidity.  Toward the end of the introduction, for instance, Comfort gives up any pretense of discussing evolution and simply lapses into straight evangelical preaching.  Are you saved? If not, you’ll burn in the fires of hell for sure. And the only way to be saved is to accept Jesus. . . yadda yadda yadda.   One of the funniest parts is on pp. 46-47, where Comfort considers four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.  Which of these will bring you eternal salvation?  You guessed it.  But it’s not a fair fight, because Comfort assumes from the outset that the tenets of Christianity are correct. If you buy that, then of course doing what Muhammad tells you won’t save you from an eternity in molten sulfur.  Here’s a snippet about Islam:

Islam: Interestingly, Islam acknowledges the reality of sin and Hell, and the justice of God, but the hope it offers is that sinners can escape God’s justice if they do religious works. God will see these, and because of them, hopefully He will show mercy—but they won’t know for sure.  Each person’s works will be weighed on the Day of Judgment and it will then be decided who is saved and who is not—based on whether they followed Islam, were sincere in repentance, and performed enough righteous deeds to outweigh their bad ones.

So Islam believes you can earn God’s mercy by your own efforts. That’s like jumping out of the plane and believing that flapping your arms is going to counter the law of gravity and save you from a 10,000-foot drop.

But back to Comfort’s “scientific” attack on evolution.  Here are his arguments:

1. “Mindless chance” can’t produce complex organisms. Of course not; none of us ever said it could.  But natural selection is not “mindless chance”; it’s the antithesis of it. Surely these people have read Dawkins.  If they have, they’re duplicitous.  If they haven’t, they’re willfully ignorant, and that’s duplicitous too.

2. Similarities of DNA don’t prove common ancestry, just the common “plan” of God. I’ve thought of this argument myself, because it’s so obvious; and that’s why I didn’t use DNA similarities as evidence for evolution in my book.  Nevertheless, the creationist argument is wrong here, but for a subtle reason. Yes, you could claim that the similarity of DNA between hippos and whales reflect a fundamental “mammality” that goes along with their common plan of having lungs, homeothermy, milk glands, etc.  But what refutes this argument is the observation that nonfunctional DNA (including non-coding nucleotides and pseudogenes) gives the same set of similarities as does functional DNA!  It’s hard to understand how genes that don’t produce a product, and therefore can’t function in building an organism, will be more similar between whales and hippos than between whales and, say, fish.  Creationism offers no explanation, but evolution does.  Richard Dawkins has a wonderful discussion of the molecular-similarity issue in The Greatest Show on Earth.

3.  There are no transitional fossils. This is the dumbest argument of all given the profusion of such forms found in the last three decades, including transitional fossils showing  whale evolution, bird evolution, and tetrapod evolution.  These are either ignored or dismissed as reflecting God’s plan.  A lot is made of Piltdown Man (no mention, of course, that the hoax was revealed by scientists) and of the fake dino-bird Archaeoraptor, which turned out to be a forgery, but not before it was touted as a transitional form by National Geographic. (Again, the fraud was quickly caught by scientists.)

The early primate Ida (Darwinius) appears, along with a breathless statement by David Attenborough implying that she was a human ancestor and the predictable response that evolutionists were fooled again.  But within a day after the fossil was announced, scientists quickly weighed in proclaiming that Darwinius was probably not our ancestor, but an early, lemur-like creature that probably left no descendants.  Comfort discusses none of this, but are you surprised at this intellectual dishonesty?

4.  Transitional forms could not evolve by natural selection (i.e., there could not be a selective advantage of intermediate forms).  Much is made of why both blood and the circulatory system must have been simultaneously created because neither would function without the other.  No discussion, of course, about how blood and its vessels might have coevolved, or how a precursor of blood could function in a coelom without vessels. And even the eye shows up, an organ for which Darwin already showed, in The Origin,  a plausible series of intermediate stages.  Instead, Comfort says this:

The eye is an example of what is referred to as “irreducible complexity.” It would be absolutely impossible for random processes, operating through gradual mechanisms of geneti mutation and natural selection, to be able to create forty separate subsystems when they provide no advantage to the whole until the very last state of development. Ask yourself how the lens, the retina, the optic nerve, and all the other parts in vertebrates that play a role in seeing not only appeared from nothing, but evolved into interrelated and working parts. Evolutionist Robert Jastrow acknowledges that highly trained scientists could not have improved upon “blind chance”. . .

Well, they could have had the decency to update this argument and use Intelligent Design examples of blood clotting or immunology, which sound more plausible to the layperson.  After all, if you read the book itself, you’ll see Darwin himself refutes what Comfort says in the introduction.

5. Vestigial organs say nothing about evolution because they might be of some use. This is a common argument, but it misses the point: vestigial organs show evolution because they are understandable only as holdovers from ancestors.  Whether the vestigial kiwi wing has a use or not (and I seriously doubt that it does!) does not refute the argument that this tiny nub is the remnant of the wing of its flying ancestors.

That’s the gist of what little “science” is adduced here.  And just to make sure that evolution is properly smeared, Comfort also brings up Hitler’s “Darwinian” views on selective breeding, and presents a few statements of Darwin about the inferiority of women and blacks.  (There is no mention of Darwin’s ardent anti-slavery activities.)  Yes,  Darwin was a man of his times, and showed some racism and misogyny, but that doesn’t disprove evolution!  We could turn this argument on its head, of course, and say that the Inquisition disproves Christianity.

Since we’ve been discussing theodicy, it’s appropriate that Comfort’s peroration is about the goodness of God.  But he unintentionally shows that God isn’t so good after all.  On pp. 43-44 you can read this:

To say that there will be no consequences for breaking God’s Law is to say that God is unjust, that He is evil. This is why.

On February 24, 2005, a nine-year-old girl was reported missing from her home in Homosassa, Florida. Three weeks, later, police discovered that she had been kidnapped, brutally raped, and then buried alive. Little Jessica Lunsford was found tied up, in a kneeling position, clutching a stuffed toy.

How Do You React?

How do you feel toward the man who murdered that helpless little girl in such an unspeakably cruel way? Are you angered? I hope so. I hope you are outraged. If you were completely indifferent to her fate [ed: like God apparently was!], it would reveal something horrible about your character. Do you think that God is indifferent to such acts of evil? You can bet your precious soul He is not. He is outraged by them. The fury of Almighty God against evil is evidence of His goodness. If He wasn’t angered, He wouldn’t be good. We cannot separate God’s goodness from His anger. Again, if God is good by nature, He must be unspeakably angry at wickedness.

What angers me almost as much as Comfort and Cameron’s duplicity about science is their slavish worship of a god whose plan called for Jessica Lunsford to be raped and murdered in the first place.

Enough. You don’t have to read this introduction; the theology is as dreadful as the science.


UpdateSalon takes on Cameron/Comfort here.

48 thoughts on “A creationist edition of The Origin

    1. “Unspeakable anger” is the most functional tactic offered to Jessica by a loving God? WTF?

      That’s just great Ray. Your God sounds like a frustrated, maladroit deadbeat.

  1. Yes, you could claim that the similarity of DNA between hippos and whales reflect a fundamental “mammality” that goes along with their common plan of having lungs, homeothermy, milk glands, etc.

    Only if you subscribe to some notion of “forms” or what-not. Aside from the non-functional similarities, known designers never limit themselves like evolution does (yes, you could probably find a weird counter-example, which would only show how absurd the concept is as a rule).

    Real designers, like the Wright brothers, will go ahead and copy bird wings without respect for taxonomic boundaries. Evolution has to make wings anew, as when bats evolved their wings out of forelimbs. The fact that birds and pterosaurs already had evolved wings from their ancestors’ forelimbs gave evolving bats no clues whatsoever. Designers don’t operate that way.

    Indeed, Casey Luskin himself has pointed out that designers would not be limited like evolution is:

    (3) Intelligent agents ‘re-use’ functional components that work over and over in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and airplanes):

    “An intelligent cause may reuse or redeploy the same module in different systems, without there necessarily being any material or physical connection between those systems. Even more simply, intelligent causes can generate identical patterns independently.”


    Well, of course, homologies don’t make sense as design. Luskin tries to claim that “deep homologies” fulfill this entailed ID prediction, apparently taking an absurd literalist position on the matter, although there’s nothing at all strange about separated lines using the same promising genes for the same purposes. Or, essentially, his claim of “fulfillment” is like claiming that because forelimbs are used to make vertebrate wings in separated lines is an ID prediction, when it’s clearly a case of evolution using locomotory limbs because, practically, only these could evolve into wings.

    He certainly can’t explain why the “irreducibly complex” eukaryotic flagellum ends up being used in vertebrate eyes. Evolution, by contrast, is stuck using whatever is available, which is why all known vertebrate wings are adaptations of their ancestors’ forelimbs.

    So, essentially, we can say that Luskin’s prediction (which is matched by early Behe claims, which Behe appears to forget about later) left ID open for falsification. So until they can come up with some other entailed prediction that succeeds, ID must be considered to be scientifically dead.

    Glen Davidson

    1. Ken Miller also gives a good description of the Vitamin C pseudogene example in primates in “Only a Theory.” I liked his comparison to students cheating on a test and making the same spelling mistakes.

  2. By the way, what happened to the blogpost and my comment regarding “enabling” and Rosenau’s blog contra Coyne?

    I thought I made a crucial point about how “accommmodationists” play into the hands of the IDiots by claiming that religion is completely separate from science. By doing so, they give (false, of course) credence to the ID lie that we won’t consider ID, when there’s a web out there filled with considerations and disposal of ID nonsense–little of it relying on religion and science being entirely separate.

    In that sense, though not in other ways, the NOMA-type “accommodationists” could be charged with “enabling” ID. I often see claims that somehow scientists won’t consider what is considered to belong to “other ways of knowing,” when in fact we reject ID and other religious notions simply because they aren’t “ways of knowing” at all (to be fair to religion, it wasn’t always so, such as when it wasn’t separated from proto-science).

    Glen Davidson

  3. Dr. Coyne, the “same genes, same designer” argument can be refuted even without referring to nonfunctional DNA. As you know, it is not just the similarities that are evidence for common ancestry, just like it isn’t just the similarities that matters in forensic medicine, then you could frame anyone you like; it is the pattern that emerges between the similarities and differences that matters. These similarities and differences is in such a way that they can only be rationally explained by common biological ancestry.

    DonExodus2 has made a popular level explanation of this here:

  4. Even the fictional Forrest Gump knows better and his description fits Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (banana man) perfectly:

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    It is astounding at how much stupidity Comfort spews forth.

    1. I had to spend several minutes trying to remember the title of the show that Cameron was on, “Growing Pains,” right? Stick to acting, Kirk, you have flunked science.

      I’m amazed that creationists still get away with trotting out examples like Piltdown Man. Seems like at least some of them would read the “Arguments we think creationists should NOT use” section of the AiG website.

  5. Regarding the coevolution of blood & the circulatory system, many gastropod species have sort of an intermediate circulatory system (often called an “open system”): blood leaves the heart in vessels, drains into large body cavities, sinuses, is picked up at the other end by vessels again to be returned to the heart via the gill or the lung.

  6. Don,
    Do you think you could round up enough cohorts at the 50 or 100 Universities that the ‘bananaman’ and his ‘crockoduck’ sidekick will have these ‘special’ editions of OTOOS handed out at, and have them surreptitiously insert your critique into the book as well. What a coup that would be!

  7. When I first saw Ray Comfort’s banana gig I thought it was a spoof of Intelligent Design. (PZ linked on his blog, I believe.) And even after knowing that it was deadpan serious I couldn’t shake the idea that it was all a joke. It just had to be!

    Same goes for this production. (By the way, can they copyright the book? That’s what it says. They can copyright the intro – no one else would want to claim it anyway – but surely not the book. Are there no laws prohibiting claiming copyright here?) I like the part where they actually say that Richard Dawkins says there must be a creator – and therefore “can’t claim the title ‘atheist’.” (37) Clearly, these guys can’t read, since Dawkins says quite clearly that complex things “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” (my emphasis) They even quote this! So the banana caper wasn’t just a one off. They do this kind of thing for a living!

    The odd thing about Comfort and Cameron’s way of dealing with suffering is that they think that saying ‘You betcha! God’s angry all right!’ is enough. And “The fury of Almighty God against evil is evidence of His goodness.” They don’t say what the evidence for the fury of God is, but I daresay it has something to do with hell. The only response to suffering that they have is anger and vengeance. That takes care of Jessica’s suffering! This really is vile!

    Of course, it’s so easy to make fun of them. What is worrying is that there must be a significantly large constituency of people who take them seriously. This silly little project must have cost them – what? $20,000, $30,000, $40,000?

    1. “They do this kind of thing for a living!”

      Of course that’s what it’s all about in the end. Assuming these are going to be handed out free, you can bet there’ll be a coupon inside to fill out and mail along with your contribution to further the effort. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s written in such a way as to harvest contributions from people thinking they’re promoting the cause of science before having read into it.

  8. Methinks the Judaism is missing from their list of major religions. For some reason these people have trouble saying out loud what they are really thinking: that we, Jews, will also burn in hell.

    1. Methinks the Judaism is missing from their list of major religions. For some reason these people have trouble saying out loud what they are really thinking: that we, Jews, will also burn in hell.

      Actually on a global scale Judaism only has between 12 – 25 million adherents. That puts it mid table in terms of number of adherents of various religions. It would not come in at number 5 after Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

    2. In intellectual, cultural and political influence, Judaism goes way beyond what one would expect from the number of Jewish people.

      I suppose it’s largely because of the value placed on learning in their culture(s). For example, look at the number of Nobel Prize winners who were/are of Jewish background (50+, when I looked some years ago) vs the number of evangelical Christians (are there any?).

      Anyway, I think that’s why Christians usually try to cozy up to them with terms like “JudeoChristian” and related rhetoric instead of admitting that they really think Jews are going to hell with the rest of the nonChristians, or recalling Christian roles in pogroms or (dare one say it?)the Holocaust.

      1. Wasn’t Ray Comfort born into a Jewish family and then converted to Christianity? I think I’ve read something to that effect before.
        Ray Comfort, evangelical Christian or agent provocateur?

  9. I already pointed this out at PZ’s blog (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/foil_the_depraved_designs_of_a.php), but I think it bears repeating:

    1. The Darwin biography ‘written’ by Ray Comfort was almost entirely plagiarized from an article by Stan Guffey.

    2. The word ‘evolution’ in the Hitler quotes reproduced in Comfort’s introduction is a mistranslation of the German word Entwicklung, which means development. And although there is no evidence that Hitler ever read Darwin, Comfort calls Hitler ‘His famous student.’

    In short, Comfort is a thief and a liar.

  10. DNA similarity is significant to evolution not because it’s merely all similar in some gross sense: it has a very particular PATTERN of similarities AND dissimilarities: a pattern that matches up with all sorts of other ways of determining common ancestries and even sanity checking these things against known facts about geographic distribution and so on (i.e. species that came to be isolated on islands reflect this in the patterns of their DNA and how they differ from other creatures).

  11. In reading those fifty pages, the thing that struck me the most was the ill-advised reference to chimps having 24 chromosomes and humans having 23. The explanation for that (the fusing of two chromosomes to make one longer one, complete with centromeres and telomeres right they would be expected from such a fusing) is, I think, one of the best pieces of evidence for evolution there is. Ken Miller makes excellent use of it. For them to lie about it like that…well. I used to pay Comfort the compliment of calling his stupid, but now I can only think that he is irremediably wicked, a chronic and unrepentent liar. I wish I could still even find that ironic, but after a couple of decades of child rape by priests and various thefts, swindles, and fabrications by ministers, it’s no longer within me to be surprised by the vulgar duplicity of Christian leaders.

  12. I don’t think Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are as stupid as they sound. They might be, but having read their web sites, it seems that they’re instead deeply dishonest but perhaps quite clever, which is much more dangerous.

    The overall pattern of their introduction to the book followed their “Way of the Master” style of evangelism quite closely. They’ve been informed of the truth countless times. They’re not interested in it, only in conversions. In fact, no amount of lying seems to be too much, if it serves the goals of shaking the targets’ beliefs, discrediting the scientific enterprise, and convincing them through often-clever rhetoric that they need salvation which only Jesus can bring.

  13. I can’t apologize for Ray and Kirk, but I wish I could.

    Their work is a poor representation of Jesus if it could be even called that.

    As a Christian who beleives in Jesus as God, and believes that evolution is probably correct I am always perplexed by the misinforming, evil and clever ways people will use to get a conversion.

    1. “As a Christian who beleives in Jesus as God, and believes that evolution is probably correct…”

      Evolution is scientific fact (and true) as Dawkins and Coyne have shown, so no need for the “probably”.

      What, if anything, is troubling you about the process of evolution that would lead you to think it’s not true?

    2. If a naturalistic explanation like evolution is not correct, how do envision the creation of the first, say, elephant?

      Did a herd of full grown elephants just materialize at some point in the past?

      It has always struck me as odd when people tend to think that creationist accounts are plausible alternatives.

  14. So, if I understand Comfort and Cameron’s argument correctly, God is good, so he punishes people by making them undergo unspeakable agony for all eternity? And this punishment is exactly the same for the man who raped that little girl, and for the girl herself, if she didn’t subscribe to the right form of evangelical Christianity?

    Likewise, Holocaust victims who were Jewish, atheist etc. are now burning in the fires of hell with no hope of reprieve; while SS officers who were good Lutherans and never doubted Jesus and looking down on them from heaven?

    All of this is apparently evidence of God’s goodness?

  15. Thank you, Professor Coyne, for taking their introduction to task. When the news first came out, I wrote this with the same aims:


    It was in response to a suggestion that a refutation be attached to the copies the creationists distribute. I’m in two minds about whether that’s worth doing, but readers here can obviously decide for themselves.

  16. I read the into in the hope of a decent argument that I would have to do some additional reading and research to counter, something to make the brain tick a little.
    Instead I found a collection of all the arguments which have been answered time and time again or simply aren’t relevant.

    Disappointing even by ‘banana man’s standards.

  17. I try to imagine what would happen mentally to Ray “Banana-man” Comfort when he starts realizing how wrong he is after having invested so much effort into his wrongdoing. Poor Ray, what a mind-blowing waste of lifetime.

  18. “… is their slavish worship of a god whose plan called for Jessica Lunsford to be raped and murdered in the first place.

    This alone should cause these people to revolt against their god!

  19. Thanks for the nice review Dr. Coyne. Even though creationism is stupid, it’s important to have professional scientists refute them.

  20. Nobody seems to mind or have noticed that there are only 9 chapters in his edition, and 15 in Darwin’s final edition.

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