Ray Comfort is, philosophically, a vacuous waste of space, and one of his online videos – “Evolution vs. God” – only serves to further confirm this. This video isn’t exactly new, but it did crop up again recently and it made it onto our radar here at [37G] this time around. Making it through the 38 minute video was a serious chore; it is so disingenuous in its methodology that it is intellectually offensive. Despite this, we managed to find the necessary fortitude and soldiered on through all 2,306 seconds of mental banality so that you, dear reader, could possibly avoid having to view it yourself (you can find a minute-by-minute list of objections here).
Our latest podcast covers some of the more blatant absurdities contained within the video, but I’m afraid that I haven’t yet achieved the catharsis I require for closure on this particular subject. I was planning on doing a point-by-point rebuttal, but that has been done by many others. A quick Google/YouTube search will yield plenty of entertaining and thorough responses to “Evolution vs. God”, as well as many of Comfort’s “works”. I'd rather take some time to vent about his project as a whole, rather than about any particular elements contained within it, in a less-than-purely-rational way.
Once More Into the Breach
“Evolution vs. God” is a readily-demonstrable farce. Comfort makes every effort to obfuscate key issues or terminology so as to make his position unassailable, if only because there is no position to assail! Consider how readily Comfort is willing to ask for evidence throughout the clip, but only “observable evidence”. He fails to ever define exactly what he means by that, though he does say that he wants to see evidence for evolution he can see with his own eyes, on a timescale accessible to the average human. Why indirectly observable evidence should be disallowed is never explained, and as such Comfort has defined out of the discussion almost every single piece of evidence that supports the theory of Darwinian evolution, which takes place – as a matter of fact – on time scales that are measured in eons and epochs, not years and decades. He wants what he knows he can’t have, then smugly acts as if this brings belief in evolution to the same level as belief in god.
This is but one of the many underhanded (and generally shitty) ways in which Comfort tries to undermine atheists, after which he proposes what is (apparently) the only other position: Biblical literalism! He stacks the deck against the people he talks to in so many ways - unfair questions, changing targets, begging the question, ad hominem attacks, and more – all in an effort to pander to people who already agree with him. It is a circle-jerk of epic proportions, and the fact that he uses the guise of a philosophical debate in the effort angers me to my core. Whether he knows it or not, he is mocking a tradition of rational inquiry that has helped humanity crawl out of the darkness and out into the light, all in an effort to uphold a religious tradition that would happily lead us all back into the gloom. If anything should be shown the slightest modicum of respect, I think rational thought fits the bill. Is nothing holy to people like this?
I pride myself on my ability to apply rationality to a given topic or discussion in order to try to get at the truth that usually lurks somewhere within them. That’s not to say that I don’t still have my own rational hang-ups, but I do make an effort to minimize their impact. It can be an interesting experience to question one’s beliefs, because a commitment to ‘follow the argument where it leads’ can often bring you to a place you’ve never mentally been before. This can lead to an unexpected capitulation on a subject you may have considered settled. I remember when I came to the conclusion that free will was an illusion, despite my previously-held personal opinion that free will seemed a likely, if not certain, truth. My personal opinion on free will was irrelevant, however and I couldn’t shake the power of the many arguments presented against it, so I came around to a new way of thinking.
(Un)willing to Go The Distance
It can be awkward to question such fundamental beliefs, but I think it is the best way that we can learn and grow. This is the aspect of discussion and rational inquiry that Comfort (and the many, many people like him) fail to grasp. They engage with atheists, agnostics, and any improperly-informed theists with a disingenuousness that is staggering. There is no attempt to talk with someone, only at someone, all the while acting as if a reasonable, open-ended discourse is taking place. The journey is meaningless to true believers, because they are (in their sadly misinformed minds) already at their destination. Everything else is just window dressing, because the Truth is known.
Any human being who thinks that they have access to any and all immutable truths about life, the universe, and God is displaying an impressive amount of hubris. The ego required to sustain such pride is so staggering that I wonder just how in the world they can possibly claim to have any humility under the weight of it all. Through it all shines a desperate insecurity, a nagging whisper of a doubt that dogs such true believers. They know, whether consciously or not, that the words contained in their holy books are problematic; mysterious, vague, and difficult to comprehend or square with the current ways of the world.
Ray Comfort knows that he cannot have an open and honest discussion with the people he interviews throughout “Evolution vs. God” because he lacks the requisite tools to do so. He cannot use the facts freely available to him in the world, because they fail, time and time again, to bolster the worldview to which he so desperately clings. Comfort is what he believes, and anything that challenges that simultaneously challenges his identity. He is left with only two options: admit that his identity is fundamentally flawed and then try to change course; or, discard and ignore anything that poses a threat. He has, like so many others, chosen the latter option, and he is poorer off for it.
I should take a moment to note that not all religious people fit this bill. Most, if not all of the religious people I know are not so sure in their beliefs that they cannot hope but to be disingenuous in the way Comfort is. A shred of humility – the ability to acknowledge that no one Knows all the answers, and that one may very well be wrong on any and all key questions – goes a long way to keep such tragic egotism in check. I pity Comfort, in a way. He cannot have an honest conversation with someone who does not already believe what he believes, because he does not have the option to change his mind. This intellectual obstinacy may be self-imposed, I cannot help but to pity him for that. That being said, I feel obliged to counter his false-hoods, lies, and intellectual dishonesty where and when I can, in the ways that are open to me, and I believe that a chorus of rational discourse is the best way to drown out these voices of philosophical discord.