Showing posts with label Ray Comfort. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ray Comfort. Show all posts

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Enshrinement of Half-Truths Makes For Bad History

Comfort, Cameron, Stein and critics all indulging in revisionist history

As Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort continue their campaign to distribute copies of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species with a specially-written introduction, many of those who are concerned about their campaign are still struggling to formulate a fitting response.

Randy Olson seems to have predicted that particular response.

Well, maybe predict isn't the right word. As Olson notes, the response to the kind of ideas proposed in Comfort's introduction -- blaming Darwin's theory for the Holocaust and for the Eugenics program carried out by Nazi Germany -- has been seen before.

It was seen throughout 2008, as critics vented their spleen at Ben Stein's Expelled.

"Both Stein and Cameron invoke the dishonest and inaccurate suggestion that Darwin inspired Hitler," Olson writes. "Both are celebrities playing the lead role for the anti-evolution forces. And both will elicit the same response from the world of science: thousands of furious, hateful comments on the science blogs crying foul -- and in both cases, all that ranting and rage won’t compete with the anti-evolution messaging."

There's a reason why all that ranting and rage won't compete with the "anti-evolution messaging".

It's because in this case, the anti-evolution messaging is true. Or, rather, half-true.

Individuals like Olson seem to be operating under a wishful delusion. They insist that Darwin's theories didn't inspire Adolph Hitler to lead Nazi Germany in the planning and execution of its atrocities. Oddly enough, their insistences are also half-true.

But history rarely copes well with half-truths. Wherever someone chooses to tell only half of any story, the other half forever remains to put the lie to the conclusions these individuals draw.

Olson -- and a great many other commentators omitting fully half the story -- choose to overlook the fact that Darwin's theories weren't only central to Hitler's atrocities, but central to the very idea of eugenics as a whole.

The problem for these arguments -- as forwarded by Cameron, Comfort and Stein, among others -- is that these programs have always been based on a very selective reading of Darwin's work. These selective readings often omit entire sentences from within the passages they use to justify their plans. In other cases, they're based on wishful and self-serving interpretations of what is actually there.

What is quickly emerging is one of the more insidious elements of many modern debates: history is being subverted for the purpose of rhetoric, with competing revisionist histories -- each predicated on half-truths -- vying for dominance.

It's becoming clear that the appropriate response to the efforts of individuals like Cameron, Comfort and Stein may not come from the scientific community. Rather, the appropriate response will ahve to come from those who are willing to embrace all the facts surrounding this controversy, and present history as it actually happened, not as either side wishes it did.

The ongoing debate between the pro-evolution and anti-evolution camps is simply not worth suberting history for.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Turnabout Has Got To Be Fair Play

Darwin, from the Creationists ought to be countered with Jesus, from the Darwinists

Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort did the intellectual discourse surrounding religion a few -- but not many -- favours when they took Brian Sapient and Kelly O'Connor from the Rational Response Squad and spanked them on national TV.

The debate, in which both sides exchanged some silly arguments over the question of whether or not God exists -- an insipid topic for a formal debate -- revealed Sapient and O'Connor for the vapid, pretentious and self-righteous thinkers that they are, and spoke droves about those who have chosen to fall into lock-step behind them in their so-called "Rational Response Squad".

Now Cameron and Comfort are replicating the feat -- this time by embarking upon an endeavour that reveals themselves for the vapid, pretentious and self-righteous thinkers they truly are.

There has been a great deal of discussion about Cameron and Comfort's plan to distribute 175,000 copies of The Origin of Species on college and university campuses.

This, however, isn't any ordinary edition of Darwin's benchmark work. Rather, this edition features a special foreword written by Comfort outlining what they describe as Darwin's "undeniable" links with Adolph Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust.

In a way, they are right. But only half right.

Comfort's writing is expected to suggest -- if not outright state -- that Darwin's theories were directly responsible for the Holocaust and the eugenics program carried out under Hitler's Third Reich.

Certainly, many people get offended when it's suggested that there are links between Darwinism and Nazism. This is an insipid outrage. As unpleasant as it is to recognize it, there very much are links between Darwin's theories, the body of facts that supports it, and Nazism.

Where Comfort goes awry is in distorting the scope and context of those links.

In carrying out his eugenics program in particular -- an endeavour formulated feverishly in Hitler's mind -- Hitler relied heavily on Darwin's writings. Hitler was known to have been fond of this particular passage from The Descent of Man:
"With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."
In Expelled, Ben Stein (who is Jewish) uses this same passage in his attempted indictment of Darwin.

The problem is that this particular reading is incomplete. The following paragraph is extremely enlightening as to what Darwin's thoughts on the matter really were:
"The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage."
History shows us that Hitler didn't share this particular opinion.

Hitler's partial reading of Darwin's work -- taking only what was useful to him for his purposes, and discarding outright anything that is very telling. In fact, it shows us that the links between Darwinism and Nazism are actually born of the misuse of Darwin's theories.

Hitler's partial reading of Darwin's work is also reminiscent of the "Christian" who accepts only portions of the Bible that justify hatred of non-Christians and homosexuals, and discards entirely the benevolence and compassion of Christ's message.

It's on this note, however, that perhaps those who support Darwin and his theories ought to consider responding (somewhat) in kind. Perhaps distributing an annotated edition of the Holy Bible outlining how, just as an incomplete and misguided reading of Darwin's theories can be used to support historical atrocities such as the Holocaust, incomplete and misguided readings of the Bible have been used to justify the oppression of women, religious minorities, and homosexuals.

Anyone bold enough to formulate such a response would be doing the intellectual discourse surrounding religion and evolution a big, big favour.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Finally, Richard Dawkins Can Be Good For Something

Dawkins should trounce Ray Comfort and get paid for it

Most of thsoe truly rational-minded people who've paid any passing amount of attention to Richard Dawkins have long realized that he isn't good for much of anything.

Once upon a time Dawkins was an educator. However, since retiring from Oxford Dawkins has dedicated himself to single-mindedly promoting atheism. Which would make him about as useful as Canadian Cynic on Valentine's Day.

However, some use for Dawkins may have just come up.

Eager to test the arguments from his most recent book, You Can Lead An Atheist to Evidence But You Can't Make Him Think, Ray Comfort has offered Dawkins $10,000 to participate in a debate.

Comfort's intentions are very simple -- he wants to convert Dawkins.

"Richard Dawkins is arguably the most famous living atheist, now that Anthony Flew doubted his doubts and backslid as an atheist," Comfort said. "Flew said that he simply followed the evidence. I would like to see Richard Dawkins follow his example."

"One of Dawkins' major gripes is against religion," Comfort explained. "I am in total agreement on that one. I abhor religion. It is the opiate of the masses. It has left a bloody trail of destruction and human misery throughout history. Hitler even used it for his own ends. His other big beef is that he believes that the God of the Old Testament is a tyrant. If I had the image of God Dawkins has created in his mind, I, too, would be an atheist. The problem is that the god Mr Dawkins doesn't believe in, doesn't exist."

"I will donate $10,000 to him, or give it to any children's charity he names," Comfort announced. "All I ask is that he goes into a studio and gives me 20 minutes on why there is no God and why evolution is scientific. Then I will give 20 minutes on how we can know God exists and why evolution is nothing more than an unsubstantiated and unscientific fairy tale for grownups. Then we both will have 10 minutes to respond."

Comfort doesn't expect Dawkins to accept, however. He believes that Dawkins may be too afraid to debate him.

"Sadly, I have found that even evolution's most staunch believers are afraid to debate, because they know that their case for atheism and evolution is less than extremely weak," Comfort insisted. "I would be delighted (and honored) if Mr. Dawkins has the courage to debate me, but I'm not holding my breath."

Of course, Comfort couldn't be more wrong about this. If anything, scientists are avoiding debating Comfort on the topic because they don't believe there legitimately is a debate.

But while Dawkins really couldn't debate his way out of a paper bag in regards to religion -- he's well known for making numerous dead-end arguments and his book The God Delusion is really just a rehashed collection of other people's arguments -- Dawkins can win a debate with Comfort over evolution hands down. That is the best reason to take Comfort on.

Comfort has seemingly grown cocky since his 2007 encounter with the Rational Response Squad when he and Kirk Cameron managed to wipe the floor with them using some extremely unconvincing arguments.

Comfort's famously debunked banana argument, in which he suggests the shape of a banana is evidence of it being intelligently designed, is an example of the kind of argument Comfort is prone to. And while the Rational Response Squad may be so intellectually helpless as to be unable to counter such an argument, Dawkins is much smarter than them.

Comfort's classicly weak arguments against evolution have left him extremely vulnerable and just begging to be mowed down.

That is the best reason of all for Dawkins to crush Comfort on the topic of evolution, and actually have Comfort pay him to do it.