The Comfort Introduction

So, those of you unfamiliar with Ray Comfort’s latest little bit of garbage, a 50 page “introduction” for a reprint of an “abridged” version of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, allow me to bring you into the light:

Comfort and Cameron, two totally genius dudes, have been working on their “Way of the Master” shtick for years and decided it would be a good idea to reprint Darwin’s famous book and hand it out for free with their lovely little crap added to the beginning. Since I don’t have a copy of the book they actually produced, I’m going to read the introduction and tally all the errors.

*note: most of my links will be to Wikipedia, just to demonstrate that this isn’t privileged knowledge. I may provide other links, but don’t just trust Wikipedia, follow the references.

The first 10 pages are decent, explaining the life and studies of Darwin in a very, very brief format, and mostly correct. After that, things go downhill:

Consider for a moment whether you could ever believe this publication happened by accident. Here’s the argument: There was nothing. Then paper appeared, and ink fell from nowhere onto the flat sheets and shaped itself into perfectly formed letters of the English alphabet.

What a wonderful example of a misrepresentation of evolutionary biology. It’s almost like it was designed to misrepresent what evolution actually is. Evolution is not spontaneous generation, nor does it say anything about miraculous appearances. It is based upon differential survival of variations within the preexisting hereditary material of a replicator. Cells, organisms, DNA, RNA, all of these things need not be there, simply a molecule which is capable of replication. It didn’t just magically appear, the first replicators were probably very, very simple clay crystals, RNA strands, or something else altogether distinct. Evolution is absolutely not the appearance of pre-formed traits, but the gradual development of them. Moving along.

LMFAO I *LOVE* his quotation:

If you think of your genome (all of your chromosomes) as the book that makes you, then the genes are the words that make up the story.… The letters that make up the words are called DNA bases, and there are only four of them: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). It’s hard to believe that an alphabet with only four letters can make something as wonderful and complex as a person!

Wanna guess what this is from? Huh, huh, bet you can’t. I bet you’re thinking it must be from some well-known incredible book on molecular biology or genetics, aren’t you? Here’s the source:

Kids Genetics, GlaxoSmithKline <http://genetics.gsk.com/kids/dna01.htm&gt;

Really? You’re citing an explanation for children? Are you serious? It’s an oversimplification beyond measure. I can’t open the page anymore, I suppose GSK pulled it.

He plays with the “DNA is information” argument.

He runs the argument by Charles Thaxton which goes something like this:

1) DNA is a code (false premise; DNA can metaphorically described as a code where applicable, but it isn’t a code)

2) Codes have programmers (except, you know, evolution-like parsing of random variation of a program can produce more efficient programs which are not directly written)

3) Therefor something programmed the DNA of every organism (two false premises of two premises means one unsupported conclusion)

He then has a lovely false dichotomy:

Do you think that DNA’s amazing structure could have come together by accident? Or does it point to an intelligent Designer?

Well, it could be neither of these; DNA’s structure could be a matter of selection in itself. Additionally, could it be that DNA is just more effective than the other possible hereditary molecules available on this planet? RNA would work, but DNA is known to be more stable, proteins would also work, but these are frequently degraded by hydrolysis. False dichotomies do not make for effective arguments.

He then says Francis Collins is the one who “cracked” the human genome. Excuse me, but Craig Venter had nothing to do with this? What about James Watson?

The overwhelming complexity(tm) argument concerning how complex DNA is; also Anthony Flew…

“DNA is a language,” oddly enough, it doesn’t say anything, it just is.

Humans and chips have 120,000,000 base pairs different. OH NO! Funny, how there are about 175 novel mutations per person. That’s a pretty low mutation rate, with that rate, it would take a minimum of a few billion years to get that kind of difference, right? Wrong. 7 million years is sufficient to account for that kind of variation. Because they are divergent, you can double the number of mutations (250 per generation) and use a 20 year interval and get a rough approximation of 6.8 mya. I don’t want to go into exactly how the divergent time is calculated as it gets a bit above a high school education level; they use a very specific gene with a well established rate of mutation, then use that for the calculations. Those of you interested in a slightly more in-depth version can go here. If you want a really in-depth version, go here.

He even goes on to say that humans and chimpanzees have a different number of chromosomes, why yes, yes we do. I’m glad you bring that up, because, once again, the evidence favors evolution. Human chromosome 2 looks an awful lot like chimpanzee chromosomes 12 and 13; including having telomeres right in the middle of the chromosome! Congratulations on your ability to ignore this wonderful bit of evidence, it is incredible.

What is the scientific basis for assuming that similar DNA means a common ancestor?

Well, I’m glad you ask that. Since the order of genes is irrelevant to the function of the gene, unrelated organisms could easily have very distinct arrangements of genes relative to silent sequences. Additionally, retroviruses insert into the genome randomly (randomly enough for this discussion) and as such make wonderful little markers of evolutionary relationships when they insert into gametes and do not result in embryonic death. One gene, cytochrome c, is perhaps one of the best molecular clocks out there and HERV-K is the most well studied ERV. We know a lot about them, and the data indicate common ancestry.

He then argues that jets and biplanes look similar, so they must have evolved; it’s kind of correct to say aircraft evolved, although the replication was done in a factory by humans rather than by gametes. The aircraft designs were manipulated and the results are the aircraft we see today. We didn’t go  straight from the Wright Flyer to the F-22, it was a gradual process of tweaking the designs, incorporating new technologies, and seeing the results. The only difference here is that humans consciously manipulated these designs rather than these organisms replicating without human interference. This is a useful metaphor, but please, don’t consider the metaphor the reality.

More on DNA being an engineering marvel; ignore all those genetic disorders (that’s an incomplete list); DNA is perfect!

Now that he’s totally fucked up on explaining genetics and evolutionary genetics, he’s going to try to tackle Transitional Fossils! YAY!!!!

Again, he’s misrepresenting what a “transitional form” would actually be. He also thinks sharing a common ancestor with chimpanzees means we evolved FROM chimpanzees. This is a falsehood.

He goes on to say we haven’t found transitional forms…yea, ok, no transitional fossils, right.

He asserts paleontology is the only way to confirm evolution, again, incorrect because of genetics, which he already claims to have refuted, yet he didn’t even disprove his straw man.

He puts forth the fraudulent fossils as evidence that evolution is incorrect, but they are exposed as fraudulent because science WORKS, not because it’s some vast conspiracy. Scientists are working against each other constantly challenging the opinions of others.

He quotes Storrs Olson’s statement about Archaeoraptor and thus dinosaurs aren’t related to birds, ignoring all of the well studied fossils of dinosaur/bird transitional fossils.

Really, does he want to get into cetacean evolution? Then he argues that eyes, ears, and so forth are all similar, except, they aren’t. When we see unique development of these things, we notice they vary considerably. The inner ear of Pakicetus is very distinct from the ears of non-cetacean lineages. The eyes of mammals are very different from the eyes of birds. The eyes of insects are very different from the “eyes” of Planarians. We do not observe mammalian-like eyes on squid, nor do we observe squid-like eyes on insects. The animals (in terms of eyes) that God likes best? Cephalopods! They don’t have a the problem of losing light because the nerves connecting the photoreceptors to the optic nerve get in the way. Intelligent design my ass.

He goes on to cover Darwinius, which is an incredible discovery, but not a transitional form leading to humans. Again, a misunderstanding of science vs. media hype is confusing this man…

He then goes on to say that scientists are LIARS! Unlike him, Mr. Liar for Jesus, thinks these people are intentionally trying to deceive the public, because the bible is TRUE!

He quotes the Wall Street Journal, which we all know is the foremost paleological journal.

Nothing new, all the same arguments, rewritten in introduction form. Read it for yourself. I’m done here.


2 Responses to “The Comfort Introduction”

  1. September 24, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Excellent post! Comfort is all about shaky ideas from shaky sources. It’s a pity some folks buy his crap.

  2. September 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    What, nothing about “when did the first woman evolve from the first man? (and how would it be possible for them to reproduce without both)?”. Was that not there, or did you block it out because it is fifteen different kinds of traumatizing WRONG? I know it seems to be one of Comfort’s favorite stupid arguments against evolution, aside from irreducible complexity of the eye .

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