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Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.

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Evolution vs. God: Not a Choice Most of Us Have to Make

Posted: 07/03/2013 11:18 am

Ray Comfort is at it again. He's again willing to spend tons of money to promote his narrow vision of religion while attacking modern science.

In case you don't remember, in 2009 Ray and his Living Waters ministry produced 100,000 copies of a 150th anniversary edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and distributed them free on college campuses. The catch was that this edition began with a 54 page introduction written by Ray (although serious charges of plagiarism of the first portion have been raised) that completely misrepresented Darwin, his ideas and the nature of evolution, among other things.

His newest venture is a film to be released on 9 July 2013 entitled Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith. The plan is to make the film available for downloaded on that day. He also claims that he will distribute one million free DVDs with the film on college campuses.

Not surprisingly, there are very serious intellectual problems with this endeavor. Let me point out just two of the most striking.

First, Ray seems to have a very warped sense of how science operates, acting as if there are doctrinal texts that control both scientific information and interpretation. I'll let Ray explain this point himself. "Many times over the years I've been accused by atheists of not understanding evolution. I've read every page of the world's most boring book, 'The Origin of Species.'"

What Ray misunderstands is that it makes no sense to attempt to treat any science text, even one as important as Darwin's seminal work, in the same manner as Biblical literalists treat the Bible. No scientific text, in the mind of any scientist, can have the last word on any scientific topic. Even more to the point, scientific knowledge is cumulative and our understanding of every topic, including evolution, increases with each new published work. Hundreds of thousands of studies on various aspects of evolution have been published since the fall of 1859 when On the Origin of Species first appeared. The fact that Ray has read every page of Darwin's book is fine, but it certainly does not make him an expert on modern evolution. As any high school student could tell him, Darwin didn't know anything about genes when he wrote since they hadn't yet been discovered. He certainly knew nothing about DNA and the amazing genetic similarities across all organisms. Similarly, he was unaware of the vast array of transitional fossils that have been found since his death.

Noting that major biological discoveries appeared since Darwin died in 1882 does not detract a bit from his genius. If anything, it makes his work even more impressive since so much of what he hypothesized has now been supported by evidence about which he could not even dream. But claiming that having read Darwin makes one an expert on modern evolution is patently ridiculous.

Ray's second problem is even more important. From the title of his new film to virtually everything he ever says about evolution, he asserts that a choice has to be made between God and evolution. But the simple fact is that no such choice has to be made.

The Clergy Letter Project, which I founded and direct, demonstrates this simple point elegantly. Indeed, more than 13,600 clergy from all across the United States have come together to assert that not only are they in favor evolution being taught in our schools but that such a position in no way challenges their religious beliefs. These clergy members represent congregations large and small, conservative and liberal, evangelical and mainstream. They are as diverse as you can imagine with respect to race, age, gender, ethnicity and any other characteristic you might examine. What they all have in common, however, is the simple belief that a choice does not have to be made between God and evolution.

These religious leaders are not alone in making this claim. The doctrinal statements of numerous Christian denominations from the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, as well as many others, not to mention similar statements from a host of other religious traditions, make this point exceedingly well.

While it is in the best interest of those like Ray Comfort who raise lots of money by keeping this phony controversy alive, the bottom line is that it is a phony controversy. Well, that's almost the bottom line. The real bottom line can be seen by making a quick survey of Ray's web page which indicates that everything he does is for sale, from bracelets to baseball caps and from bumper stickers to DVDs.

Which brings me to my final point. Ray can best be described by a word I just learned today from Anu Garg who writes A Word a Day: mumpsimus. Garg defines mumpsimus as a noun meaning "a view stubbornly held in spite of clear evidence that it's wrong; and a person who holds such a view."

So there you have it. Ray Comfort is completely wrong about the relationship between religion and science and he is a mumpsimus about the topic.

Ok, I thought I was done but I can't resist. In case you haven't seen it, here's a link to Ray's (in)famous explanation of how the banana proves God's existence. Again, Ray speaks for himself and his performance needs no commentary from me other than to point out that this is hardly the reasoning of someone proficient in evolutionary theory. Enjoy!

 

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