Comfort’s Tract Meet

| 40 Comments

Ray Comfort starting handing out his bastardization of the Origin today. A day earlier than expected.

If any of our readers witnessed it, please feel free to describe your experiences in a comment.

40 Comments

Didn’t see a thing on the University of Illinois campus.

There are lots of reports from around the country now posted on Pharyngula. Of course, others can be added here. In many cases Crazy Comfort’s opponents scooped up as many copies as possible. At the University of Oklahoma faculty, graduate students and indergraduates from biology departments rushed out and got at least several dozen before they gave out of copies and left. The distributors (two men) also got some verbal arguments in opposition.

Being an Australian I must admit to having mixed emotions over not being able to experience Mr. Comfort’s offer first hand. On the one hand I’m most gratified that the creationist agenda is not at all popular here, but then I do regret that I can’t get a free copy of Darwin’s Origin (cut down and with additional dubious intro) courtesy of Mr. Comfort’s ministry. I don’t suppose anyone over there (in the US) would be kind enough to send me a copy? I’d be happy to pay the postage. ;-)

There were about 10 middle-aged individuals handing out stacks of books in the most busily-trafficked area of USC. They had set up a big table right underneath Tommy Trojan (the school’s most important monument), and stood at each entrance point in the quad/intersection. They must have had at least a thousand copies, and weren’t stingy with handing them out - I got two! A little later they started handing out Christian evangelism pamphlets disguised as USC trivia.

My daughter called and said they were handing them out at Northern Arizona University today, so we went over to the union for lunch and went past several times, collecting 13 copies in all. I plan on giving them to a few friends that could not get there and a few in other towns. Apparently a local church bought a truckload (It looked like they had two suburbans full of boxes of the books) to hand out. I did not even know they would be distributed here, and the earlier date prevented me from showing up with the NCSE bookmarks.

Berkeley had several people from LivingWaters Ministries, and several additional volunteers (locals?) handing out books.

The word went out pretty instantaneously and we had 6+ evolution grad students and a bunch of undergrads from a skeptics group handing out NCSE bookmarks, fliers, etc., and challenging the Comfort-ites. It went on for several hours, I talked with 4 or 5 different creationists, the longest time to one woman’s four homeschooled kids, who tried all sorts of arguments on me – no transitional fossils, why are there shells on top of mountains if there was no Flood, etc.

The weird thing was how, once they realized you were a scientist, they would shift the topic over to sin, final judgment, and repetence/belief in Jesus – I got this 3 or 4 times independently. One had to make an effort to drag the conversation back to science – a good tactic was, “Hey, that’s great that you’re promoting your religious view, it’s a free country. But I’m curious, why do you think it helps your evangelism mission to tie it to a bunch of uninformed, ridiculous creationist pseudoscience? That will only turn off everyone here at Berkeley who has learned science and knows that you guys don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then the arguments start coming about transitional fossils and the like, which inevitably turns into a “but where did *THAT* come from??” chain of questions, which eventually gets all the way back to atom nucleosynthesis in the stars. Fortunately I can cover all these bases, so eventually they gave up or got bored, seeking more susceptible prey I guess.

If I’d been thinking I would have had a copy of the Bible and of Don Prothero’s fossils book with me, but all in all it went well. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Nick (Matzke) said:

Looks like they had the most fun at UCLA: http://bruinskeptics.org/2009/11/18[…]irk-cameron/

Ah, the ol’ college alma mater. Go BASS go!

Nick (Matzke) said:why are there shells on top of mountains if there was no Flood

They’re still using that one? *blink blink*.

I biked around Penn State campus around 1 pm, but apparently the distributors had already headed home.

My daughter called and said they were handing them out at Northern Arizona University today,

My alma mater! Where I took Anatomy by Braille. (long story)

Ben W said:

Nick (Matzke) said:why are there shells on top of mountains if there was no Flood

They’re still using that one? *blink blink*.

Has Comfort & Company ever used a new argument? Aside from crocoducks and bananas (which are really rehashes of old arguments anyway)?

Nick, did they say if they will be back today (Thursday) at UC Berkeley, and if so where on campus might they be? I’m a postdoc there, and I would really LOVE a copy.

They were passing them out near the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia yesterday (Nov. 18). When I got my copy I commented that I had heard that their edition omitted some fo the Origin. The guy passing them out insisted that it was an earlier edition; he said that this was complete. He didn’t want to talk with me any further, so I continued on my way.

I attend Penn State University, in University Park. In my opinion, the day was surprisingly uneventful. It was certainly not the grand debate scene I had imagined. There were several of Ray Comfort’s colleagues at PSU. I was kind of annoyed at the fact that they came a day early. It seemed a little underhanded on their part. Anway, the creationists stayed across the street from our campus, on what is known as College Avenue. Apparently, they had been chased off of Lock Haven because they did not have a permit, and they assumed that a permit would be necessary at PSU (it isn’t, but I’d rather keep them off-campus anyway).

Several professors and a group of students had planned to hand out “Don’t Diss Darwin” flyers on Thursday, and we were almost unprepared for their early arrival. Actually, for most of the day, I had no idea that they were there. Fortunately, were able to get the bookmarks, and started passing out as many as possible. It didn’t seem like there were many huge debates, I think these guys were tired of arguing with all of the other colleges. Still, they used the usual, easily-refuted nonsense that is contained in Comfort’s introduction.

I did get into a discussion with one of the creationists. He asked me if I was a Christian. I told him “Yes, but I am in no way a Young Earth Creationist!” He responded very kindly, saying that “God reveals different things to different Christians” and that acceptance or denial of evolution really has no bearing on salvation. He admitted that he did not know everything, but he just believes what seems true to him, and he could not expect me to believe things that seem false to me. I did not expect such a reply, since I’ve been called a heretic and false convert by less-civil creationists. But, like I said, they didn’t seem to be in the mood to argue, they just wanted to hand out their books and talk about Jesus.

I seriously doubt they made any dent in the beliefs of Penn State students. The entire biology program is saturated with evolution, and most of the students are smart enough to realize that Comfort’s introduction is full of falsehoods. Well, at least I got a free copy of Darwin’s book, even if it’s stained with creationism.

I did not expect such a reply, since I’ve been called a heretic and false convert by less-civil creationists

Lucky you Telamon !

I’ve had similar experiences over on Premier Radio’s discussion forum though. I’m frequently told I’m an Atheist, or that I’m going to Hell along with all the other “evilutionists”, and that I have to repent (of evolution or science ?). Par for the course amoung most YECs I’m afraid.

Telamon quoted some guy:

“God reveals different things to different Christians” and that acceptance or denial of evolution really has no bearing on salvation.”

Finally, someone who actually reads their Bible. We need to get this guy to talk to some of the trolls around here.

Thanks for the info Telamon.

I had planned on taking the day off today to join the counter demonstration on the UC Davis campus, and to receive my much anticipated copy of The Origin. Ray’s dishonesty put the kibosh on those plans however. My wife went over to the distribution site where the Campus Crusade was handing out the book. They were so vocal and so intense with their proselytizing that she was too creeped out to approach them to get my copy. Apparently many others felt the same as she saw no one even go near them. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get a copy of Ray’s Origin of the Species, though.

Has anyone checked to see if the version they are handing out is faithful (except for the “Special Introduction”)? That is, are we sure that Comfort did not change anything in the book itself?

Mike Z said:

Has anyone checked to see if the version they are handing out is faithful (except for the “Special Introduction”)? That is, are we sure that Comfort did not change anything in the book itself?

Does it matter? In some ways their strategy is clever: if you have in hand a 350- or 450-page book written in Victorian English (long sentences with lots of subclauses), and a modern-sounding Introduction, which will you spend your time on? What fraction of the people who receive the copy will study it closely and be influenced by the fact that some material is missing?

Biologists like to overpraise Darwin’s writing style; for its day it was good, but like everyone else of his era his prose had a bad case of Victorianism. Unless you are a biologist who has reason to be very interested, it can be quite soporific (I know firsthand: it had that effect on me when I was assigned to read it as a student).

The publicity for Comfort and the bullshit introduction are the whole story here. I think the plagiarism of material in the Introduction will be a much better debating point than the question of whether a chapter or two of Darwin was left out.

The University of Central Missouri wasn’t infected, at least as far as I can tell.

This was published in today’s Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper from the University of Florida: http://www.alligator.org/opinion/le[…]4c002e0.html

A pretty good analysis of the book.

I received my copy at the University of North Texas. It’s my new bathroom book. Hours of entertainment!

Carl - I saw a copy that one of my students received yesterday at UNT, but never managed to secure a copy for myself. I guess I’ll have to find other ways to entertain myself.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Mike Z said:

Has anyone checked to see if the version they are handing out is faithful (except for the “Special Introduction”)? That is, are we sure that Comfort did not change anything in the book itself?

Does it matter? In some ways their strategy is clever: if you have in hand a 350- or 450-page book written in Victorian English (long sentences with lots of subclauses), and a modern-sounding Introduction, which will you spend your time on? What fraction of the people who receive the copy will study it closely and be influenced by the fact that some material is missing?

Biologists like to overpraise Darwin’s writing style; for its day it was good, but like everyone else of his era his prose had a bad case of Victorianism. Unless you are a biologist who has reason to be very interested, it can be quite soporific (I know firsthand: it had that effect on me when I was assigned to read it as a student).

The publicity for Comfort and the bullshit introduction are the whole story here. I think the plagiarism of material in the Introduction will be a much better debating point than the question of whether a chapter or two of Darwin was left out.

Those are interesting questions. It seems to me that people who bother to read any part of a book typically skip the forward or preface or whatever. They skip right to the main text, and if they find it boring, they put down the book and never open it again. Unless, of course, they have a special interest in the book and its preface, as those of us in the know do in this case.

As for whether he faithfully reproduced Darwin’s full text, I think it matters a lot. If he changed it or omitted sections, then he is guilty of a kind of misrepresentation that is different from whatever problems his tacked-on preface may have. After all, the book is “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin.

A couple of kids from the local Baptist church were passing out copies Wednesday at New Mexico Tech.

The Books had a little flyer directing readers to the discussion website, which has 20 “discussion areas” for readers to discuss topics ranging from “The MIssing Link” to “Little Jessica and How Do You React?”.

Somebody went to a lot of trouble to set up this trainwreck of a website. It’s not going over very well at NM Tech, anyway.

Cheers, Dave

Dave Thomas said:

A couple of kids from the local Baptist church were passing out copies Wednesday at New Mexico Tech.

The Books had a little flyer directing readers to the discussion website, which has 20 “discussion areas” for readers to discuss topics ranging from “The MIssing Link” to “Little Jessica and How Do You React?”.

Somebody went to a lot of trouble to set up this trainwreck of a website. It’s not going over very well at NM Tech, anyway.

Cheers, Dave

thanks dave, i was wondering if we had been blessed.

Its been pointed out elsewhere that CNN caught them in the act on the Brown campus. http://bit.ly/CXWLY Seems they must have gotten a heads up from Comfort, decided to film the fundies where they could go get a sound byte from Ken Miller, who is in the video. The reporter had to give a stupid clueless definition of creationism (belief that God created the world) as though no one had heard the term before, and we needed to be confused more.

Has anyone run up a list of what was omitted from Comfort’s “abridged” version? I still suspect the evolution of an eye part was at least heavily redacted.

Watching the CNN video was annoying for a lot of nit-picky reasons, but off the topic of evolution I was struck by the last lines, how it’s legal to add an introduction to an existing work and then publish it. “Darwin’s book has been out for, what, 150 years? So it’s in the public domain…” Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case anymore with current copyright laws in the US. Now that it’s life of the author + 70 years, it’s entirely possible that a young writer could produce something very early in her career, die eighty years later, and then the copyright would still be in force 70 years after that. May be a bit of a stretch, but it highlights issues we could have in the future where important works aren’t freely accessible more than a century after being published. Copyright has gone from assuring widespread public access and dissemination in a timely fashion to preventing something from being so accessible for more than a lifetime. I don’t think that bodes well for the promotion of science among the populace.

While we’re in the Comfort zone, there was an article in the UK newspaper The Independent about a major find of dinosaur-period crocodile fossils, including a duck-billed crocodile. Is the afore-mentioned preface-orial abridger going to claim this as a successful prediction?

They apparently were at Cal State Fullerton this week. I didn’t see them but a copies showed up in some students hands.

Nick (Matzke) Wrote:

The weird thing was how, once they realized you were a scientist, they would shift the topic over to sin, final judgment, and repetence/belief in Jesus…

It would only be weird if they honestly thought the evidence supported some alternate account, especially a ~6000 year ago one that is rejected by many (most?) professional creationists. But something tells me that deep down they know they can’t support any of those mutually contradictory fairy tales.

If I ever get that response the first thing I would tell them is to go talk to Ben Stein about Jesus. Then I’d ask them if they agree with Michael Behe on common descent and if not if they ever challenged him directly.

Apparently Kirk Cameron was handing out copies of Comfort’s “edition” at UCLA. This was reported by CNN, with a brief, but very good, set of comments from Ken Miller as noted here at NCSE’s website:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2009/11/20/costello.cameron.evolution.cnn

John Kwok said:

Apparently Kirk Cameron was handing out copies of Comfort’s “edition” at UCLA. This was reported by CNN, with a brief, but very good, set of comments from Ken Miller as noted here at NCSE’s website:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2009/11/20/costello.cameron.evolution.cnn

So Cameron refused an opportunity to be interviewed. What is he afraid of? Might it be because they interviewed a devout Christian (Miller) and not some atheist like Dawkins who might take the bait?

I have yet to hear Cameron or Comfort admit the existence of Miller, let alone address his challenges. Does anyone have any updates?

Frank J,

Well at least Cameron and Comfort are as logically “consistent” as our “favorite” Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers like Dembski and Luskin. They want their sycophants to understand that evolution is the plot of evil Atheist (Liberal) Darwinists (Wait a minute, I am a Deist and a Republican with pronounced Libertarian tendencies. Where do I fit in?). That’s why Premise Media opted not to interview the likes of Ken Miller or Francis Collins for “EXPELLED”. If they did, they couldn’t have stayed on message to explain how the evil Atheistic Darwinists are “persecuting” poorly-understood, devout Christian “Design scientists”:

Frank J said:

John Kwok said:

Apparently Kirk Cameron was handing out copies of Comfort’s “edition” at UCLA. This was reported by CNN, with a brief, but very good, set of comments from Ken Miller as noted here at NCSE’s website:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2009/11/20/costello.cameron.evolution.cnn

So Cameron refused an opportunity to be interviewed. What is he afraid of? Might it be because they interviewed a devout Christian (Miller) and not some atheist like Dawkins who might take the bait?

I have yet to hear Cameron or Comfort admit the existence of Miller, let alone address his challenges. Does anyone have any updates?

John Kwok Wrote:

Wait a minute, I am a Deist and a Republican with pronounced Libertarian tendencies. Where do I fit in?

Roughly with me and the Curmudgeon, although I suspect that makes you feel even more of an outcast than before. ;-)

I don’t think so, but I believe a lot of creos and Pharyngulites would consider me more of an outcast now:

Frank J said:

John Kwok Wrote:

Wait a minute, I am a Deist and a Republican with pronounced Libertarian tendencies. Where do I fit in?

Roughly with me and the Curmudgeon, although I suspect that makes you feel even more of an outcast than before. ;-)

I am so asking Santa to bring me a copy for Christmas; I can only hope they start appearing on Ebay soon.

Frank J,

Just got a complaint from someone whom I believe is stil on the board of directors of the Brown University Club in New York for posting on a NYC Brown alumni e-mail list a message alerting fellow alumni to Ken’s appearance on CNN on Friday and to encourage them to consider joining NCSE. He thinks I am a freak and a fanatic for warning others that Intelligent Design and other forms of creationism does pose a dire threat to America’s intellectual and economic future (which Ken himself has noted in his book “Only A Theory”.).… and he called me a freak after I pointed out that dubious activities of fellow Brown alumni Bobby Jindal and David Klinghoffer.

Guees you can’t win.

On a more happier note, I hope yours is a great Thanksgiving.

Regards,

John

Actually, on reflection I whole-heartedly approve of Comfort’s OOS stunt.

Consider:

Living Waters squander resources printing their bowdlerised version of Origin and giving it away on campus.

Students who know better promptly flip their copies on Ebay. Where people like me buy them to sit alongside Velikovsky, Gosse, etc on their “shelf of infamy.”

So, effectively, Comfort et al are subsidising the smart students. Go Ray!

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on November 18, 2009 5:36 PM.

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