The Comfort of untruth

Contributed by
Nov 27, 2009

By now, the whole system of tubes knows that creationist Ray Comfort is little more than a laughing stock, a buffoon who spews out more noisome, awful, contaminated bilge than a Soho water pump in 1854*.

I deal with creationism a lot, and even so I am still capable of being a bit stunned when one of them gets a chance to "explain" themselves. On his blog The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta interviewed Crocoduck/Bananaman Ray Comfort, and reading it is like taking a long, gurgling drink from the Broad Street water pump. His arguments boil down to two things:

1) Atheeeiiiisssmmmm issss eeeeeevvvvvillllllll! (and therefore everything in science is wrong),



For example;

Hemant: The arguments you make in the introduction to the Darwin book have been stated before — and refuted repeatedly by scientists. So why repeat them? Are you interested in hearing atheists’ responses to your questions?

Ray: I don’t deny that the arguments I have used have been addressed many times. However, it’s only atheists that believe that they have been “refuted.”

"Only atheists?" Really? Because, y'know, a lot of scientists aren't atheists. And I don't think Pope John Paul II was, either.

I'm not sure if that little falsehood he uttered there (some might call it a lie) falls more under category 1 or 2, but I'm still pretty sure it's laughably wrong. And it fits right in with all the other ridiculous things he says in that interview.

My favorite is this one:

Hemant: The banana. Do you stand by the argument in your video? Do you regret saying what you did? [...]

Ray: I deeply regret doing the banana routine on television without a live audience. I have been doing it for live audiences for more than 20 years, and it’s never failed to get a lot of laughs.

Note his evasion: he doesn't regret doing it, he regrets not doing in front of an audience to get laughs. Because using a ridiculous, fallacious, and clearly plain old wrong claim is OK as long as it gets a laugh.

I think Mr. Comfort needs, as most creationist mouthpieces do, to reacquaint himself with that pesky part of the Bible that talks about bearing false witness.

As it happens, he did one thing correctly. I'll certainly agree that handing out all the bowdlerized copies of Darwin's Origin of Species was a good move for publicity, and I know a lot of people would agree with Comfort -- various polls indicate that half the population of the US has doubts about the old age of the Earth. And we won't win over a lot of these folks with facts, since facts won't get in the way of their belief in a young Earth. For that reason, in many cases reciting the facts over and over again won't help (though with some, of course it will). Calling them stupid won't help either.

That's why I like Hemant's blog. He's polite, but firm. As skeptic Daniel Loxton points out, it was the reaction to Comfort's baloney that gave him whatever spotlight he now has. While true, we can't ignore nonsense, especially dangerous nonsense, when we see it. We should try to avoid giving antiscientists more publicity than they deserve, but we must also be ready to fight it when we can. And when we do, we need to be upbeat, and positive.

I know, in this post I've just taken Comfort down, and not lifted up science. The purpose of this post, however, wasn't to give the evidence that the Universe is old-- we have plenty of that. No, I wrote this to point out that the forces of ignorance are always there, 24 hours a day. They never rest, they never tire, and they never go away. Neither should we, nor will we.

That's my point.

Which leaves me torn over which graphic to post, so you know what? I'll do both:


* Yes! A biology reference! It's still science, even I'll admit.

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