Friday, 26 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us - Ray Comfort

Unbelievably, not only did Ray Comfort actually post this publicly on Facebook, but his adoring fans seem to believe he's proved the locally popular god inspires the Bible with it.

But this blog isn't so much about Comfort's scientific ignorance and the credulous gullibility of his equally ignorant followers, but about what his Facebook post tells us about the dishonest tactics used by creationists who deliberately play on and exploit the scientific illiteracy of their dupes.

Let's quickly dispense with the scientific ignorance:

Earth doesn't hang in space. Earth is held in a captive orbit around the sun, which means it is falling towards the sun because of the sun's gravity at the same rate as it is moving away from the sun due to its centrifugal force. All of this has been understood since Isaac Newton explained it in 1687 in his Principia Mathematica. Planets form in captive orbits from accretion disks as larger bodies accumulate matter around orbitally stable centres. This method of formation ensure the orbits are stable otherwise a planet wouldn't form there in the first place - which is why so many stars are now being found with planetary systems.

Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time. By attacking the fundamentals of virtually every branch of science, it widens the chasm between the scientific and spiritual worldviews, just at a time where a pathway toward harmony is desperately needed. By sending a message to young people that science is dangerous, and that pursuing science may well mean rejecting religious faith, Young Earth Creationism may be depriving science of some of its most promising future talents.

Francis Collins. The Language of God
The statement that scientists have recently discovered that there is no gravity is space is a blatant lie. No such discovery has been made and such a discovery would sensationally refute Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, so it would not have gone unnoticed. Gravity is the product of the mass of bodies and falls off as the distance from the body increases according to the inverse square law but it never reaches zero - and that's only in respect of a single mass. In fact, according the Einstein's Theory, gravity is a distortion of spacetime. Any body in space, no matter how small, will have gravity associated with it. If gravity really didn't exist in space there would be no suns, no planets in orbit, no galaxies and probably no Universe. And is Earth's and the sun's gravity isn't 'in space' where exactly is it?

It's hard to imagine Ray Comfort being that ignorant so the most charitable explanation is that he simply lied. This is supported by the fact that he doesn't provide a reference so we can read his source for ourselves. He's simply made up a 'fact' which he would like to be true, confident that his willing dupes will be too ignorant to realise it.

So that's the science dispensed with. In fact, had Comfort dealt honestly with the science, he could have asked,"If the Bible is God-inspired, how come the supposed creator of everything is so ignorant about cosmology?", which is possibly how he knew he needed to be dishonest about the science.

But it is not science that suffers most here. Young Earth Creationism does even more damage to faith, by demanding that belief in God requires assent to fundamentally flawed claims about the natural world. Young people brought up in homes and churches that insist on Creationism sooner or later encounter the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of an ancient universe and the relatedness of all living things through the process of evolution and natural selection. What a terrible and unnecessary choice they then face! To adhere to the faith of their childhood, they are required to reject a broad and rigorous body of scientific data, effectively committing intellectual suicide. Presented with no other alternative than Creationism, is it any wonder that many of these young people turn away from faith, concluding that they simply cannot believe in a God who would ask them to reject what science has so compellingly taught us about the natural world?

Francis Collins. The Language of God
Now we have another piece of dishonesty which, to be fair to Ray Comfort, is such an integral part of creationism in particular and of religion in general, that he probably isn't aware of the dishonesty of his argument here. It is, of course, the false dichotomy.

The false dichotomy relies on the parochial ignorance of its dupes as well as on their general scientific ignorance. It depends on the entirely invalid assumption that, if something can't be explained, it must have been the locally popular god which did it, or in this case, inspired it. Even if Comfort's 'science' had been true, this doesn't establish his premise implied in his opening phrase, "If the Bible isn't God-inspired, explain..." Failure to explain something does not prove the counter-claim. Ray Comfort has to establish that for himself. For example, any fraud could equally claim, if Texas isn't in Europe, explain why... blah, blah, blah! or "If Allah didn't inspire Mohamad to write the Qur'an, how come..."

This is the tactic of the snake-oil seller and confidence trickster who knows his marks and knows how to feed into their prejudices and used their ignorant credulity against them. His dupes are desperate for confirmation of their bias and Ray Comfort knows they won't look too carefully at the honesty, accuracy and integrity of his arguments just so long as they support the desired conclusion and make them feel smugly self-satisfied with their ignorance.

And lastly, of course, we have a subtle lie so common amongst creationists as to be almost universal - the lie of an implicit claim of expertise where there is none. By making a bald, unqualified statement of scientific 'fact', Comfort is implicitly claiming an expertise in science - in this case physics and cosmology - and yet the stupidity of his statement utterly refutes that claim. The fact that Comfort either didn't check his 'facts', or did but lied anyway, shows he has a wanton disregard for truth and had no scruples about misleading his dupes. The fact that they are eager to be duped does not excuse him in the least.

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  1. If the Bible is God-inspired, then I ask Ray Comfort to also explain how the God-inspired writer in Mt 4:8 tells us: Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory.

    Mr. Comfort can find some silly explanations in this Wikipedia article: . For example: 1) The word "world" only refers to the "known world" of that time and people. Or 2) The word "world" is just a general expression referring to the local region, which could be seen from a mountain. Or 3) The word "kingdoms" does not refer to geographical entities. Or 4) The word "kingdoms" is a metaphor for earthly power rather than real nations (governed by kings). Or 5) The "showing" did not itself take place on the mountain, rather the actual "showing" consisted of a rapid fly over of the entire world. Or 6) Once atop the mountain the devil did not literally show Jesus the kingdoms but rather pulled out a map upon which all the kingdoms were displayed.

    But Mr. Comfort must of course avoid and totally ignore this most plausible explanation: that the God-inspired Gospel writer must have been convinced by God that he lived on a flat Earth, thereby allowing for all countries to be seen at once from a tall enough mountain.

  2. WTF??? Gravity doesn't exist in space? How did I miss this one? How can a literate person in the 21st century not at least know that the planets and the Moon are held in their orbits by gravity? Even if he was lying, how could he expect his followers not to know that?

    1. I suspect he knows his target marks well, after all, they've given him enough money for him to be a millionaire.


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