It’s official. If “we are all scientists,” as T.H. Huxley once argued, then Ray Comfort is the world’s worst scientist. I can conclude nothing else after watching the New Zealand-born street evangelist’s latest movie, “Evolution vs. God.”
In it, Comfort approaches several evolutionary scientists and university educators (along with a bunch of undergrads and people on the street — we’ll get to them in a bit), namely P.Z. Myers, Gail Kennedy, Peter Nonacs and Craig Stanford, and demands they provide evidence for evolution. And they do, even in the highly edited version that was released for public consumption (we can only guess what support for evolution they offered in the portions that were cut out, since RayCo has refused to release the raw footage). Myers, for example, suggests Comfort check out Lenski’s experiments with bacteria or look up the significant changes that have been observed in isolated populations of sticklebacks.
Not good enough, RayCo claims. “They’re still fish,” he says. “There’s no change in kinds.”
“What do the bacteria become?” he wants to know.
And this is why Comfort is a terrible scientist. While a real scientist analyzes the results of an experiment or a finding in the field to see what conclusions may be drawn from it, Comfort waves away historical evidence as irrelevant and contemporary evidence as meaningless. He, in fact, demands evidence that the theory in question never predicted would be found.
I’d hate for a laboratory seeking new medical breakthroughs to ever have someone like RayCo in charge. I can see it now: “Well yeah, the patient has been cured of cancer, but he’s still going to die at some point, for some reason or another. There’s no real change here. Back to the drawing board.”
Real scientists relish the task of hunting the subtle nuances in raw data. Indeed, they search out Higgs bosons and electromagnetic fields — the mysterious, invisible things of the universe that most of us never would have imagined were there at all. Their work is not easy or sexy, and folks like Comfort would dismiss it as worthless, and yet their results have doubled your expected lifespan, sent men and women into space and made it possible for you to read these words, instantaneously, on the other side of the world.
OK, back to the film. First of all, its stated premise is a lie. Its goal is not really to show us wayward, misguided evolutionists the error of our ways, as the filmmakers claim. How do I know this? Well, ask yourself: If you wanted to make a documentary that convinced its viewers that a scientific claim accepted by most people is, in fact, incorrect, how would you go about it?
You would probably do a ton of research, gathering all of the relevant, canonical materials on the subject, while also locating a handful of accomplished experts in the field who support (or are, at least, sympathetic to) your view and who will agree to appear in your documentary. Then you would make a film that explains, in detail, where the prevailing theory fails to explain the available evidence and why an alternative scientific theory better fits the observable universe.
Of the many, many possible ways to make an effective documentary, perhaps the last one you would choose would be to go up to random people, put a camera in their faces and ask them a series of leading questions about an incredibly complex topic (interspersed with non sequiturs like “Are you a good person?”), until you get at least a few of them to arrive at your preconceived conclusion.
You wouldn’t use this technique, because it’s not very convincing. And it’s dishonest and unfair and fallacious and other even more colorful words. Unfortunately, this sums up the basis of “Evolution vs. God.”
So, no, after suffering through Comfort’s pet project, I was not convinced that there is no truth to the theory of evolution, in the same way that watching a video of ignorant folks on the beach who have no idea what country American colonials broke away from in 1776 does not cause me to question the existence of the United States or the value of the academic discipline of history.
Even if Comfort’s chosen method of argumentation wasn’t completely useless, the film would have no credibility because of who made it. Disregarding for the moment the fact that Comfort has absolutely no formal academic training or degrees, and that his most well-known scientific achievement was his attempt to advance the theory of banana-ism, RayCo’s view of evolution is no secret. And, in my humble opinion, good documentaries don’t generally come from those who are so extremely and unapologetically biased about the topic in question. I wouldn’t expect, for example, to get particularly reliable information about the Affordable Care Act from a video made by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz (if you happened to be among the people who appeared in the clip I posted earlier, you probably don’t know who any of those guys are, so let’s just say they’re three of our founding fathers).
The whole thing just doesn’t make much sense. I seriously doubt Comfort arrived at his belief in God by watching a series of “people on the street” interviews conducted by an atheist, so why would he think the same format would be a great way to analyze the theory of evolution?
I only wish that “Evolution vs. God” were nothing more than a bad movie. That wouldn’t be all that big deal of a deal. It would just mean 30 more minutes of crap had been uploaded onto YouTube, which is a crime roughly equivalent to littering in a landfill. But, unfortunately, I cannot dismiss “EvG” as simply an innocuous Internet curiosity, however much I might like to. Because I’m afraid the film, which has already been viewed more than half-a-million times on YouTube alone, stands to do real harm to the gospel message.
You see, Comfort — after pointing out that scientists have never provided video footage of a fish evolving into an entirely different creature the way a pokémon does, which somehow means evolution is not scientific (even though such a video, if it existed, would actually falsify Darwin’s theory) — turns his attention to spiritual matters.
Yes, he spends the entire second cringe-worthy half of his thoroughly cringe-worthy video walking his interviewees through the steps of his standard Way of the Master evangelism routine, wherein he attempts to rhetorically back people into a corner such that they are either forced to become Christians or admit that they want to spend the rest of eternity in hell.
And this is why I, as a Christian, hate this movie. Because guess what? The gospel message (that we are all sinners, offered new life by the grace of God) does not proceed from the logical consequences of any scientific discussion. The supposed weaknesses of the theory of evolution, even if the ones Comfort espouses were actually legitimate, does not serve as the basis for explaining mankind’s need for redemption in Christ. And I don’t know about RayCo, but as far as I’m concerned, we are in need of the grace and forgiveness of God regardless of whether we evolved from an apelike ancestor or not.
Comfort’s message, therefore, is not truly a “God of the gaps” argument. He preaches a “Jesus of the gaps.” And this is far more sinister, because the same fate that awaits the God of the gaps — that he becomes smaller and smaller every time a “gap” in our knowledge gets filled in — will also befall the Jesus of the gaps.
Thus, the tagline of Comfort’s film, “Shaking the foundations of faith,” is surprisingly accurate. Except, ironically, it’s the foundations of his own faith (and mine as well) that he risks shaking.
I do believe a day is coming soon in which anti-evolutionary ideas will be mercifully swept into the dustbin of history, along with flat-earthism and geocentric cosmology. But every Christian is at fault if we let Banana Ray, K-Ham and the like drag the precious good news of Jesus down with them.
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