9/02/2013

Reason vs. Ray

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

Ray Comfort's “Evolution Vs. God” is an intellectually bankrupt attempt to make evolution seem unscientific and its proponents to be fools. The movie is an exchange between him and people he chooses to interview. He seems to mostly cherry pick responses from people who seem to be poorly informed, and when interviewing experts, he relies on a semantic games to make their answers seem insufficient. Unable to stay on topic, much of the film is a discussion of atheism rather than evolution. When he actually does address evolution, his arguments are absurd. And like many times before, he demonstrates that he really doesn't even understand what Darwinian evolution is.

Comfort uses his essentially undefined term, kind, to cause confusion. He focuses on the idea that we cannot observe one kind of life one form of life evolving into a different kind. By leaving the scope of this term open, he can dismiss any example of observed speciation as not the same as one kind evolving into another. But one does not require faith to understand that if a few changes can occur over a short period of time, many can occur over a much longer period of time. And one requires no faith to understand that with enough changes, there is plenty of room to draw categorical boundaries of whatever scope between the starting point and the various end points of the evolutionary process.

Comfort tries to make the case that evolution is unscientific because there is no observable evidence for it. He strongly implies that believing evolution requires faith. When anyone references what we know about the past, he dismisses the reference as unobservable. Comfort grossly misunderstands the scientific requirement for observation and what can be observed. He's pretends that past events cannot be reasonably inferred from what we can observe in the present.

However, we can observe evidences for evolution in their current states and make observations about processes that can explain theses states. We can use our observations of the radioactive decay of various elements to make reasonable determinations about the ages of fossils. We can see for ourselves that the fossil record shows snapshots of continua of changes from early forms of life to later ones. We can observe DNA evidence that corroborates what the fossil record tells us. We can confirm Mendel's observations about heredity. And we can observe natural selection, mutation, and speciation in the lab. Contrary to Comfort's assertion, our understanding of evolution is based on a mountain of observations. Not only can we make reasonable inferences about the past from what we observe in the present, we can actually see evolution in progress. The theory of evolution is scientific, is the only rational explanation for these observations, and requires no faith.

When one interviewee brings up the finches on the Galapagos Islands, Comfort responds “That’s not Darwinian Evolution. There’s been no change in kinds.” He seems to not know that these finches were referenced by Darwin himself. He doesn’t understand that Darwinian Evolution makes no statement about what number of changes constitutes evolving. When another interviewee describes the evolution of finch beaks, he says “That’s called adaptation, that’s not Darwinian Evolution.” He does not understand that Darwinian Evolution explains this adaptation - that it is the mechanism by which this adaptation occurs. Ray Comfort does not simply disagree with the Theory of Evolution. He does not even understand what it is that he disagrees with.

Comfort understands that he must keep discussions of evolution simplistic. Deep down inside, he knows that his arguments have no place in thoughtful discussions about evolution. Comfort clearly misunderstands evolution intentionally. He does not want to understand that by observing evidence today, we are observing what has happened in the past. Ray Comfort is the poster boy for willful ignorance.

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