WorldNetDaily: Ray Comfort on Atheism

Buffoon Award
The jolly logo adorning this post is in honor of WorldNetDaily (WND), the journalistic organ that won our Buffoon Award and that constantly confirms the soundness of that decision.

Today’s article in WND is special, because it’s about Ray Comfort, one of history’s all-time flamingest creationists. WND admires Comfort greatly; they regard him as one of the world’s greatest living thinkers. The last time they featured him we wrote WorldNetDaily & Ray Comfort v. Dawkins & Einstein.

It’s always a pleasure to read about Comfort in the pages of WND, and so we are delighted to present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Evangelist thanks atheists for anti-Christmas billboard. The bold font was added by us:

One of the nation’s most popular evangelists is “thanking” the American Atheists group for spending $20,000 on a prominent and highly controversial billboard near the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel leading to Manhattan.

Ray Comfort says the atheists have caused people to reason, think and talk about Christmas.

There’s a picture of the billboard at the WND website, but you don’t need to click over there to check it out. This is WND’s description:

The billboard depicts a silhouette of the Three Wise Men approaching a manger alongside the words: “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!” The atheists say the billboard is meant to encourage fellow disbelievers going through the motions of celebrating Christmas to stop. The billboard is also meant to “attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season” and to “raise the awareness of the organization and the movement,” according to a statement on the group’s website.

The group is American Atheists, Inc. Here’s their page with a pic of the billboard. We don’t really care what they say, but it’s fun to see WND and Ray Comfort all worked up. Let’s continue with the WND article, as they quote Ray Comfort:

“American Atheists, Inc., (God bless them) are very generous people,” said Comfort in response. “In April of 2001, they flew me 3,000 miles from California to Florida, to speak at their annual convention. They kindly put me in a luxury hotel, gave me a large fruit basket, let me preach the entire gospel, and also allowed me to make my books available to their people. So let’s support their efforts, and pray that people who see their signs asking them to ‘reason’ rather than just accept things in blind faith.”

There’s something wrong with that last sentence, but it’s from Comfort so let’s not worry about it. Here’s more:

“America needs to go further than just having a belief about God,” he said. “It needs to repent and trust the Savior, then they will come to know God. That’s how to find everlasting life. ‘Reason’ is a good thing. God Himself says that to this sinful world: ‘Come now, and let us reason together.’”

And then Comfort shows us just how well he can reason:

It is atheism that is based on fairy tales and myth, he says – notions like evolution.

Gotta love the guy. Here comes the article’s end, and you’ll need to study it carefully to see just how clever Ray Comfort really is:

“To believe that nothing created everything is to lack that necessary ‘reason’ of which American Atheists speak,” said Comfort, who suggests a new slogan for believers: “Atheistic evolution: You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!”

That says it all, and we can’t add a thing.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “WorldNetDaily: Ray Comfort on Atheism

  1. Identified evolutionary processes whose predicted effects show up in life didn’t produce life, magic did.

    Celebrate reason, via Ray Comfort’s unthinking caricature of it.

    Glen Davidson

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    Reason was practically invented by religious people and that is why I have always argued here that we should be careful about using it. Religious people are far better at reason.

    Science is OUR weapon, and trumps reason every time.

  3. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Reason was practically invented by religious people and that is why I have always argued here that we should be careful about using it.

    I usually see “reason” used in contrast to “faith” — which is belief in the absence of evidence or logical proof. In that sense, reason is ours.

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    In that sense, reason is ours.

    Reason is about deriving consequences from first principles. Reason is NOT ours. What does DI and AIG do continually? Argue from first principles. What do they not do? Science.

  5. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Reason is about deriving consequences from first principles.

    That’s deductive reasoning. We agree there.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    What I’m getting at, SC, is that science is not done by arguments and that’s what reason is, whether inductive or deductive or what have you. Argument and debate are not what makes science. Argument and debate is why the vast majority of Americans reject evolution. Its not a question of sound vs unsound arguments, though of course creationism in all its flavors has many unsound ones. It’s that science is decided by data.

    We can reason all we like about what humans evolved from and what the most probable sequence was but it’s not science until we have bones. We can reason all we like about why gravity should be based on an inverse-square law, but unless orbits are observed to be conic sections it’s not science.

    See, you use reason as opposed to faith, but I use it as opposed to empiricism. The rationalIST, like Ayn Rand, is as looney as the creationIST. Science is not founded on reason.

  7. Gabriel Hanna says:

    What I’m getting at, SC, is that science is not done by arguments and that’s what reason is, whether inductive or deductive or what have you. …It’s that science is decided by data.

    Yes, but even Tiktaalik doesn’t speak for itself. Underlying all the data is a logical narrative — and that’s reason. There’s a whole lot of “if P then Q” stuff that most of us implicitly understand, but we shouldn’t ignore that it’s there. Everything we do is based on it. Tiktaalik is the end of a long logical chain, and it supports a whole lot of assumptions that predicted its existence.

    Without that rational narrative, it’s like a creationist who walks through a museum of natural history and says: “So what? It’s just a bunch of bones.” The data doesn’t speak to him. It doesn’t speak to anyone, not unless he can reason why it was expected to exist.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    Without that rational narrative, it’s like a creationist who walks through a museum of natural history and says: “So what? It’s just a bunch of bones.”

    That the bones are fakes planted by the Devil, or rocks created by God six thousand years ago, are also rational narratives; they follow from different premises. In science, data itself is a premise. That’s the difference, and that’s why I say science is not based on reason. Reason can work well with science, but it is something entirely different.

  9. retiredsciguy

    Seems to be an argument of semantics. We can all agree that science is based on observable fact. We then use our ability to reason to determine the implications of those facts.

    Faith, on the other hand, is believing something because someone says it’s so.

    When I was teaching Earth Science, I stated my preference for calling it “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection”, as opposed to “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution”. When we study the fossil record, it is obvious that life has changed over time — in other words, it has evolved. You could say that this is an observable fact. Darwin said that natural selection was the driving force behind evolution; he did not observe this happening, but rather, he used his ability to reason to determine that this is the most logical explanation for what he observed.

  10. Seems to be an argument of semantics.

    To some extent. SC associates “reason” with people like Adam Smith or Voltaire; I associate it with Plato, Hegel, Thomas Aquinas, people who were not empiricists.

    That’s kind of what I’m getting at. Like “science”, everyone wants to assume the cloak of “reason”, but unlike “reason” science requires you to do more than talk. David Hume and Plato can both be considered practitioners of “reason”, but they have two very different programs which happen to have the same word. “Science” can’t be that flexible.

    It is very easy to show to unambiguously that what DI or Ken Ham does is not “science”; very hard to show that it is unambiguously not “reason”, because the word can be used in so many ways.

  11. retiredsciguy

    GH: “It is very easy to show to unambiguously that what DI or Ken Ham does is not “science”; very hard to show that it is unambiguously not “reason”, because the word can be used in so many ways.”

    That’s reasonable. Seriously, though, I believe I now understand your point. Plato (for example) was all reason and no empirical observation, while Darwin was observation followed by reasoning to understand the implications of his observations.

  12. It’s not bad to point out that “reason’ often isn’t at issue , rather attention to the evidence is.

    However, if creationists of all kinds did reason properly, at least half of the battle would be won. Creationists like to say that “we all have the same evidence” while they simply “have a different interpretation,” when clearly they don’t, they merely have a rationalization (which does utilize reason, of course) that preserves their prejudices.

    One cause of this is that they really don’t “have the same evidence.” They tend to ignore everything that doesn’t fit their misinterpretation of the evidence.

    Another reason for their specious interpretations is certainly that they do not consistently follow logic or reason, either. The clearest case I can think of right off is that they’ll accept the evidence for common descent for a bewilderingly ambiguous set of cases of “microevolution,” when there is no qualitative difference between the evidence for their “microevolution” and their “macroevolution.” Indeed, they often admit that they really don’t know where that line is at all. Yet the familial evidence indicating that Darwin’s finches are all related for a lot of them no longer matters when it is also noted that all birds also share distinct familial similarities.

    They know that evidence indicates descent with modification in one case, yet in the other cases “common design” is all that is “in evidence.” To be sure, most of them have utterly failed to trouble themselves to learn the differences between the evidences that known cases of “common design” present and the evidences for “common descent,” thus this still is not actually unambiguously about logic rather than evidence (or of an education that would be requisite for the knowledge that they claim). Nevertheless, at least with respect to the fact that they actually have no markers to note that “this is microevolution” and “this is macroevolution,” they clearly are not reasoning properly. You need a reason to treat similar evidence dissimilarly, and they don’t have that reason–generally, they just have a huge bias against accepting the same sorts of evidence at face value where they’d have to accept that similar effects almost certainly come from similar causes.

    Their rationalizations do employ logic of a kind nevertheless. They “reason” that an infinite God could certainly have had the whim or whatever to make all of life to “appear derived.” Yes, but that’s so clearly special pleading. And also, they are highly resistant to actually discussing derivation and its evidence, they simply want to say that similarities are “due to common design,” and thus they do not desire to reason through the matter.

    Which I think gets back to skeptics’ and atheists’ claims that they “celebrate reason” (and clearly one could question that this occurs generally with many of them), that they give priority to reason. Where it comes to science, and often when it comes to questions of God and such matters, the skeptic and the atheist not only use reason, they consider reason to be the proper means of coming to an answer about God, the Big Bang, or evolution.

    Many on the other side never have intended to (and plenty of thse would not know how to) “begin with reason” and “the evidence” in order to come to their “conclusions” about God or the Bible, etc. The proper skeptic basically understands that you begin with reason, then move to the evidence and treat it consistently–or, one might say, reasonably. Instead of allowing your a priori beliefs to decide that there is an invisible line between creationists’ (I say “creationists’” because there are meaningful scientific definitions of these, while creationists rarely are guided by these) “micoeovlution” and their “macroevolution,” you let reason take the lead, and you treat similar evidence similarly unless you have a pretty clear reason to do otherwise. Whatever their claims, no creationist could properly be said to allow reason to decide the criteria involved, while science collectively does so in the vast majority of relevant cases.

    Of course the genuine problem arises when one asks, from what starting point do we begin to reason? GH quite properly notes the heavy dependence upon reason that the typical thinking theist actually utilizes when deriving from “first principles,” indeed, the normal modern “rationalist,” “skeptic,” or “atheist” never really does begin with such a extensive reliance upon “reason.” The criticism that these latter have, however, is that, whether it was Plato or the Pope, the beginning for the theist is not in fact reason, it is a kind of “revelation”–in Plato’s case, a revelation which simply becomes obvious when the mind is turned to observe, with geometry being a powerful force causing this turning.

    The theist replies, well, we all have to start somewhere. And we respond, OK, but we begin with inference from the real world. The problems that arise here are actually myriad, and the naive realism of your average “skeptic” is often embarrassing. Nevertheless, “intersubjectivity” answers the problems well enough for most people who study the matter (the truly crazy end up being excluded, by “intersubjective” consensus), and, above all, we can always point to the impressive successes of science–and also to the fact that theists and creationists also accept science up to the point where it becomes religiously anathema (for some theists this is probably never, hence this is no problem for them).

    And, of course, this is where the inconsistency of a creationist’s “logic” shows up again. Not only do they not treat evidences for “microevolution” and “macroevolution” inconsistently, they would not accept their “methods” either in the sciences which they accept nor in the courts. Science is good, unless it goes against “revelation” or “faith.” Furthermore, they won’t logically accept the Muslims’, Hindus’, or animists’ revelations, and would be appalled if these became the basis for law or taught in science classes. We don’t mind pointing to this lack of logic on their parts, of course, and this almost never truly affects them, save to cause them to come back with more excuses.

    Therefore, I think that we actually can make the case that, when we apply reason and judgment properly, we are indeed the ones who utilize reason properly. That’s why we sometimes say things like “let reason rule.” The trouble with saying that goes back to what GH previously noted, that creationists are in fact heavily invested in their own version of logically deriving their answers from a few “certainties,” and are actually often genuinely troubled by our lack of a seamless and complete logical model of the universe, time, and everything in these.

    That seems to be the requirement of logic for them, and so just saying “we don’t know” isn’t good enough, as it creates unknowns in anyone’s model. For those who have studied into epistemology, the unknowns are not in the model of knowledge that we have, for this has been worked out from human thought itself. The point is that “man is the measure” in a real sense (“intersubjectivity”), and unavoidably so, no matter what gods or magical systems there are. The typical creationist is a naive realist, however, and does not understand epistemology, so that gaps and unknowns really are a threat to knowledge, and are not simply unknowns that we may or may not someday understand.

    It is also often a difficult and ambiguous passage from their world into ours, one that many will not make. They have to have their supposedly seamless and gapless logical model of a consistent universe, while we have learned how we can know a great deal even while gaps in our knowledge remain.

    Wow, this got way longer than I ever meant it to. It’s because the theory of knowledge is indeed problematic, with no absolute answers. And if, for instance, I’m really in an asylum imagining that I have written all of this and that I have a consistent view of knowledge, it’s clearly all for naught, save my own peace of mind. Well, I doubt that I am in such a state, hence I will go ahead and post this.

  13. Therefore, I think that we actually can make the case that, when we apply reason and judgment properly, we are indeed the ones who utilize reason properly

    Hm, that got tautological quickly. I guess what I wanted to write was that where we apply our principles (and I have to include that caveat, none of us is reasonable at all times), we are the ones who actually apply reason consistently and appropriately. Which isn’t wholly non-tautological (when we think correctly we think correctly), but it is mostly non-tautological since my point is essentially that we know how to reason correctly, and mostly do so when we make the effort in good-faith.

    That is, we have to know how to reason, then be sure that we apply reason with a minimum of bias. Creationists often fail with both requirements, and almost always with at least one of them.

  14. retiredsciguy

    I wz going 2 write, but used up all my bndwdth reading Glen Davidson’s post.

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    I am too awed by Glen Davidson to comment. Can you turn that into a proper essay on your blog so that people can link to it? If it’s too much work I’ll be glad to help.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    The clearest case I can think of right off is that they’ll accept the evidence for common descent for a bewilderingly ambiguous set of cases of “microevolution,” when there is no qualitative difference between the evidence for their “microevolution” and their “macroevolution.”

    Still thinking about the rest of what you’ve said, but I can comment on this. Here’s an analogy:

    The line between “child” and “adult” is, for most purposes in the US, the 18th birthday. It’s an arbitrary line, every one agrees, and different cultures have drawn it at different times. Some put it at puberty, some put it at 21, for example.

    Creationists are in the position of arguing that no adult ever was a child, but was born an adult, while at the same time not disputing that children and adults both get older, and at the same time being unable to agree with each other on where to draw the line between child and adult.

  17. Can you turn that into a proper essay on your blog so that people can link to it?

    Maybe later (mid to late Dec.), but I really should be doing other things now (and ideally not commenting here either).

    Creationists are in the position of arguing that no adult ever was a child, but was born an adult, while at the same time not disputing that children and adults both get older, and at the same time being unable to agree with each other on where to draw the line between child and adult.

    Not a bad analogy, and typical of creationistic thinking in being an analogy rather than an issue of the relevant facts.

    Actually, I like cladistics all the better than traditional taxonomic constructions, because there it’s all about branchings and not about the arbitrary taxa that tempt creationists to suppose that in principle one could find a certain level which cannot be breached evolutionarily–even though they can’t agree which taxonomic level it is. Even better, it’s actually the branching point that can be determined (or at least approximated) via a unique characteristic that matters cladistically, not some “level of development” or sets of similarities that Linnaeus himself used (both analogy and homology), as creationists like to portray their “common design.”

    Cladistics, then, really puts the lie to any notions of there being some potentially identifiable quality or quantity of change that evolution can’t touch. It’s all just evolutionary branches that can be reliably used to determine relationships (even if the older taxa are kept for human purposes), and any “common design” exists only via common ancestry. It’s the least ambiguous method of classifying life, and it essentially precludes “common design” in any normal human sense at all (because, of course, it’s the method that works with the least ambiguity).

    The creationist problem is that while there are substantial differences between the 15-year old brain and that of the 25-year old, only evolutionary branchings really tell us anything meaningful about relationships across taxonomic categories, with partial exceptions arising where horizontal transfers of genes are common (and it seems that by being choosy with the genes, bacteria and archaea can be classified similarly in many cases).

    I’m just giving the counterpoint to the analogical “argumentation” that you brought up that we’d expect from creationists in defense of their splitting asunder “acceptable” vs. “unacceptable” amounts of evolution, as I would not wish any lurker to suppose that such an argument truly flies.

  18. Thomas McDonald

    What Gabriel Hanna admirably shows is exactly why intelligent people in the humanities have begun to question the value of the sciences over the past few decades — since science is not based on reason (as demonstrated by Hanna) it does not require scientists to be thinkers. This is a serious challenge for science in its relation to the public. Hanna rightfully says he associates reason with thinkers such as Plato, who was not an empiricist. It is a good thing for ideological scientists, if they are interested in the culture at large, to begin to recognized that science does not by default own reason, does not by default promote creative thinking, does not by default promote the flourishing of human life.

  19. Thomas McDonald

    By the way, the position I advocate is a humanist atheist critique of natural science and technology, on the basis that human existence, despite no belief in supernatural origin, has evolved through language and reason such that these characteristics of the human have made natural science itself possible and are not reducible to it.

  20. Thomas McDonald says:

    By the way, the position I advocate is a humanist atheist critique of natural science and technology …

    That’s nice. But I hope your intent isn’t to use this blog as a medium to promote your personal philosophy. We’ve had some people before who were on a mission to spread their private vision, and it gets very old very fast. Just stay on point — our topics, not yours — and you’ll be very welcome here.

  21. Thomas McDonald

    I do respect your concern about evangelism, which usually winds up putting political concerns ahead of intellectual honesty. But I would point out that this isn’t my personal philosophy. It’s a view akin to all genuinely post-Kantian critical thinking about science, of which the Anglo & American intellectual world has never been very well informed. And this philosophical ignorance goes very far to explain why so much energy goes into the silly debate between naturalists and supernaturalists in the United States.

  22. Thomas McDonald says:

    It’s a view akin to all genuinely post-Kantian critical thinking about science …

    Fine. That’s quite enough. Okay?