HAYS, Kan. - Does Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species need a special introduction? At least one man, creationist Ray Comfort thinks so. On Thursday, November 19, mere days before the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's work, evangelical Christians, led by Comfort, plan to distribute more than 100,000 free copies of Charles Darwin's seminal work on the theory of evolution on college campuses.
These copies include a "special introduction" by Comfort which claims, among other things, that evolution is scientifically false and that Darwin was a misogynist racist whose ideas inspired Hitler. In addition to the 100,000 books that creationists will distribute on campuses, another 70,000 of these "special" editions have been purchased by churches and individuals for further distribution to students. According to the creationist website, livingwaters.com, "In one day, 170,000 future doctors, lawyers and politicians will freely get information about Intelligent Design (and the gospel) placed directly into their hands!"
Ray Comfort is a New Zealand-born Jew who converted to Christianity in his twenties. He later became a Christian minister and evangelist, moved to California and founded the Living Waters publishing organization (imprint Bridge-Logos Foundation).
Comfort has become a celebrity in right-wing creationists circles although he has endured some measure of criticism from mainstream Christian groups and even from other evangelicals. Many Christians believe in both God's creation and evolution.
For example, in opposition to Comfort's teaching, Pastor Steve Bagdanov of Nuevo Community Church explains,
"Evolution vs. Creationism has nothing to do with the argument for the existence of God. Evolution does not preclude belief in God. Disproving Evolution does not prove the existence of God. All the discussion with regards to evolution moved the discussion away from the discussion about God's existence. This is a common mistake made in debates about God's existence. The fallacious assumption is that if I prove Evolution I have disproved God, or vice versa."
The greatest controversy within the Christian communities mostly centers around Comfort's attempts to "prove" that God exists by showing why evolution isn't possible. This is a debatable point among Christians because Comfort has insisted that he can prove God's existence without faith or biblical reference. Proof without faith or biblical reference is not widely accepted in church teaching.
The publication and distribution of this special edition of Darwin's book is an extension of Comfort's unique brand of evangelism.
Which learning institutions may expect Living Waters representatives to show up on their campuses with boxes of the Comfort-introduction edition hasn't been announced, although Living Waters described the schools as "100 of America's top universities."
Comfort's book even shows up in bookstores and popular book websites without a clear explanation that it is a creationist-introduced version. Here's an example of the book as displayed at Amazon. As you can see from that listing, the unknowing book buyer would have no way of knowing that this was a special evangelical creationist version. Buyer beware!
To put Comfort's claims in perspective - and to aid scientists, teachers, students, and other concerned citizens in protesting Comfort's distortions - the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has created a special site chock-full of advice, analysis, background information, videos, and more - DontDissDarwin.com:
Ray Comfort has written a lengthy introduction to his edition of Darwin's Origin of Species. This introduction is partly lifted from other sources, partly Comfort's own musings on Darwin's life and legacy, and partly Comfort's evangelism.
Virtually every page contains scientific and historical errors.
Comfort repeats hackneyed creationist claims: a lack of fossils with transitional forms (false), the complexity of DNA requiring a creator (false), the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics somehow making evolution impossible (false). Comfort offers no fresh ideas, and simply parrots standard creationist talking points, all long-ago debunked by sites such as TalkOrigins.org.
Comfort attacks Darwin personally, assailing what he believes to be Darwin's racism and misogyny. Comfort even goes so far as to say that Darwin's most "famous student" was Adolf Hitler. Comfort does not provide meaningful evidence for such outrageous claims, only a few out-of-context quotes in a limp effort to tarnish Darwin. Comfort's use of attacks that are both ad hominem and insupportable exposes him as someone willing to bear false witness in order to promote his agenda.
...Because Comfort is unable to make meaningful attacks on evolution on the basis of the scientific evidence, he turns to non-scientific arguments.
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was first published 150 years ago, on Nov. 24, 1859.
Scientist Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D. offers this message of hope:
"This year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, both occasions worth celebrating by anyone who cares about our understanding of the natural world. So it's no surprise that creationists are trying to piggyback on the festivities with cynical publicity stunts like Comfort's. But I have faith that college students are sharp enough to realize that Comfort's take on Darwin and evolution is simply bananas."