Pharyngula

Elephantine errors from Ray Comfort

So Ray Comfort is now complaining on the revered pages of the respected publication, World Net Daily about me. The article is full of dishonest misquotes, but let’s zip right to Ray’s scientific misunderstandings. They are deep and painful. He has this bizarre idée fixe that the necessity of every species having males and females somehow greatly reduces the probability that new species could arise. It’s total nonsense, and I dismissed it briefly when I commented on it before.

“I know Ray is rather stupid, but who knew he could be that stupid. This has been explained to him multiple times: evolution does explain this stuff trivially. Populations evolve, not individuals, and male and female elephants evolved from populations of pre-elephants that contained males and females. Species do not arise from single new mutant males that then have to find a corresponding mutant female – they arise by the diffusion of variation through a whole population, male and female.”

Ray has read that, and failed to grasp the central concept. Take a look at the workings of Ray Comfort’s mind as he attempts to wrestle with a simple idea: the hamster wheel is wobbling, but the poor beast lies dead with legs up in its cage, and nothing is turning over.

Comfort replied, “I don’t have the evident faith the professor has to believe in the theory of evolution, and so I am glad that he took the time to explain his beliefs as to why females had evolved along with males in every species in creation.

“Okay, I’ve got it,” Comfort continued. “Your belief is that species do not arise from single new mutant males that then have to find a corresponding mutant female. So, let’s take it slowly for those of us stupid folk who like empirical evidence. We are looking at a contemporary male and a female elephant. They are part of a population of elephants. Let’s go back to their elephant ancestors 10,000 years ago. They are still male and female elephants (they had to be because that’s how elephants reproduce). Let’s now go back one million years to what you called ‘the populations of pre-elephants that contained males and females.’ Obviously, they are still male and female way back then because that’s how pre-elephants reproduced,” Comfort said.

“Let’s go back even further (100 million years ago) to pre-pre-elephants that also contained males and females. At what point of time in evolutionary history did the female evolve alongside the male? And why did she evolve? Then explain, if you would professor, why horses, giraffes, cattle, zebras, leopards, primates, antelopes, pigs, dogs, sheep, fish, goats, mice, squirrels, whales, chickens, dinosaurs, beavers, cats, human beings and rats also evolved with a female, at some point of time in evolutionary history. Professor, I know you believe, but please, give us who are healthy skeptics some empirical evidence. Remember, stupid people like me want good hard evidence before we, like you, become believers in Darwin’s theory,” Comfort said.

No, Ray, you didn’t get it. You still don’t get it. You’ve completely missed the point.

All elephants reproduce sexually. All elephant ancestors back into the paleocene reproduced sexually. All mammals reproduce sexually. Our vertebrate ancestors reproduced sexually. This is not a trait that evolved recently — it’s an ancient property inherited for generation after generation, and as long as you are talking about elephants or mammals or any of the creatures that seem familiar to you, you aren’t talking about the evolution of sex — that occurred long ago. So let’s set sex aside for a moment and think about what actually did evolve in elephants.

Here’s the phylogenetic tree for recent species of elephants.

i-211f4289dbb67a98d712844fc4620ae6-elephant_evo.jpeg

About 7 million years ago, there was one species of elephant that was distinct from the modern forms, but that was ancestral to the African elephant (Loxodonta), the Asian elephant (Elephas), and the now-extinct mammoth (Mammuthus). Let’s just focus on what happened 7 million years ago for now.

A speciation event occurred. This does not mean, as Ray seems to think, that an African elephant gave birth to an Asian bull calf, that then wandered off forlornly to find a female Asian elephant. There was a large population of these ancestral elephants and they split — a group in one area or environment was breeding largely within its own group, while a group in another area was breeding largely within its group. They could have been isolated by geography, or by the emergence of a genetic isolating mechanism, but either way, you wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart if you had a time machine and were right there. These populations — populations, not individuals — lived and bred and died apart from each other, and gradually enough variations accumulated that we could tell them apart; the Asian elephants had smaller ears than the African, for instance.

This took time, millions of years, and at no point in that time were the populations reduced to a single, lonely male. What we’re talking about is the slow divergence of groups of animals over many generations, and these groups always had many males and many females.

In the case of elephants, we also know what kinds of mechanisms could promote that divergence: distance. Elephants in their heyday had a worldwide distribution, and a bachelor bull in Africa could not write off to Indonesia for a bride — he bred with the local African females, and the Indonesian females bred with the local Indonesian males. Isolation in space would allow differences to grow.

We also know that elephants were a diverse group with hundreds of species, most of which have gone extinct. The elephant ancestors that lived 50 or 100 million years ago would probably not be recognized as elephants by someone like Ray — once upon a time, they looked more like large pigs with especially prominent snouts and tusks.

And back in the mesozoic origins of the clade, the elephant ancestor would have probably looked more like their extant cousins, the hyraxes…small, and looking like a stocky rodent. Hyraxes have males and females, as did the ancestral population that gave rise to hyraxes and elephants.

i-7fc59b2f2cede61d167c5d56a28f6633-hyrax.jpeg

If we go even further back to the common ancestor of horses, giraffes, cattle, zebras, leopards, primates, antelopes, pigs, dogs, sheep, goats, mice, squirrels, whales, beavers, cats, human beings and rats, we’d find a population of male and female mammals.

Further still to the common ancestor of chickens, dinosaurs, and mammals, we’d find a population of male and female reptiles.

Yet further to the common ancestor of modern fish and reptiles, we’d find a population of male and female fish.

All of these diverse modern groups are the product of the divergence of multiple populations from a common ancestral population.

Is it sinking in yet?

Evolutionary biology is always dealing with changes in populations.

Now what about the issue of sexual reproduction that troubles Ray so much?

First, let’s clear one thing off the table: males and females do not represent separate evolutionary phenomena. I know, that seems like it ought to be obvious, but one shouldn’t take anything for granted in a discussion with people like Ray. Men and women are essentially identical in their genetic complement — with very few exceptions, we carry the same suite of genes — and all of the obvious differences are the result of simple switches. A female embryo can be induced to develop into a male by the presence of the appropriate hormones, and a male embryo can be born looking female with the right blockers or receptor errors.

As for the appearance of those male and female sexes, their origin lies far back in the pre-Cambrian. The differences arose gradually. The distant ancestor of all those animals Ray rattled off, and including insects, clams, squid, starfish, and leeches, was a pre-Cambrian worm, and it was most likely a hermaphrodite, producing both sperm and eggs. The sexual differences Ray finds so difficult to comprehend arose by progressive specialization: genetic switches that could turn off either male or female gamete production were already present, and some individuals in the population turned off the making of eggs and made sperm, while others did vice versa. It happened in worms, worms that have contemporary relatives that live fruitful lives of sexual ambiguity.

I teach freshman students who have no problem at all in understanding these basic principles. I’d recommend that perhaps Mr Comfort could try taking a biology class someday, but I doubt that he could pass one…and I feel too much pity for any instructor he might have.


Rohland N, Malaspinas A-S, Pollack JL, Slatkin M, Matheus P, Hofreiter M (2008) Proboscidean Mitogenomics: Chronology and Mode of Elephant Evolution Using Mastodon as Outgroup. PLoS Biology 5(8):e207 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050207.

Shoshani J (1998) Understanding prooscidean evolution: a formidable task. TREE 13(12):480-487.

Shoshani J, Walter RC, Abraha M, Berhe S, Tassy P, Sanders WJ, Marchant GH, Libsekal Y, Ghirmai T, Zinner D (2006) A proboscidean from the late Oligocene of Eritrea, a “missing link” between early Elephantiformes and Elephantimorpha, and biogeographic implications. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 103(46):17296-17301.

Comments

  1. #1 Jonathan
    March 8, 2009

    He won’t get it.

  2. #2 Travis
    March 8, 2009

    At some point, one has to assume (as my wife has pointed out) that Ray Comfort is deliberately misrepresenting his beliefs in order to win over a certain demographic.

  3. #3 Bad Albert
    March 8, 2009

    I think Ray knows and understands all this but deliberately carries on with his own version. Can’t blame him really. After all, this is his meal ticket. Appearing monumentally stupid to educated folks is a small price to pay to collect all those donations from the ignorant masses.

  4. #4 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Beautiful explanation PZ, as always. Of course all Ray hears is “Blah blah blah.” Such is the life of the non-learning idiot.

  5. #5 Ciaphas
    March 8, 2009

    Thanks PZ, I know I’m going to be sending some people here soon. Evolution of sexes seems to confuse a lot of people and I tend to do a lousy job explaining it.

    I know other people have mentioned this thousands of times but I notice whenever a fundie wants to insult science they call it faith, almost like they know religion is bullshit.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    March 8, 2009

    No, Ray isn’t necessarily deliberately avoiding the point. I’ve talked face-to-face with creationists who are genuinely this obtuse.

  7. #7 janeothejungle
    March 8, 2009

    Nope. You’re still using too many big words (ie ‘clade’). I fear you may need to regress further to pictures drawn in crayon before any of those IDiots get it. Perhaps a coloring book version?

  8. #8 Psychodigger
    March 8, 2009

    A very good try PZ, but I sincerely doubt that you will get into the very thick skull of mr. Comfort. People like him wouldn´t recognice scientific fact (yes, including all the caveats scientific facts are enshrouded with) if it jumped up and kicked them in the ghoulies. Commemorable, but a complete waste of time I fear. I admire your determination.

  9. #9 raven
    March 8, 2009

    Sexual reproduction is very old. Even bacteria have sex, transduction, transformation, and conjugation. Some viruses also have recombinatorial systems.

    So do yeast and other single celled eukaryotes. Down at the level of single cells have genitals gets a bit tricky inasmuch as with one cell, they are a bit limited as to what they can provide. They are generally called mating types instead.

  10. #10 Rationalfuture
    March 8, 2009

    don’t worry, he still won’t get it…

    He’s the only person that would copy and paste at least ten perfectly reasonable things in the beginning of one of his atheistcentral posts, and then redefine what a non sequitur is by completely missing the point and talking about something else…

    I also think that we should learn a lot from him: his brain obviously isn’t a single entity: he is able to hold ideas that are so staggeringly contradictory that any normal mind would explode and the concept of cognitive dissonance seems just futile… it’s not cognitive dissonance, it’s something much bigger than that…

    How is it possible? How come every time his questions are answered perfectly well using perfectly valid logical tools and he is still able to over come that.

    I guess it’s the power of faith…

  11. #11 Pikemann Urge
    March 8, 2009

    Well, I myself don’t get it 100%… but then again biology has never been something I’ve been good at.

    Hmm, the new creationist motto will be not “I refuse to believe we came from monkeys” but “I refuse to believe we came from worms.”

  12. #12 Patricia, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Haw! Haw! PZ wins. He showed numburrs and pitchers.

  13. #13 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 8, 2009

    I’ve talked face-to-face with creationists who are genuinely this obtuse.

    Thanks to you sharing your e-mail from these people, we understand. Their ears are covered, their eyes are covered, but their mouth is open saying “Lalalalalalala”.

  14. #14 Shigella
    March 8, 2009

    “So, let’s take it slowly for those of us stupid folk who like empirical evidence.”

    My irony meter just burst into flames and died a miserable death. Ray Comfort and his ilk don’t give a rat’s posterior about empirical evidence, unless they can distort it and mangle it to their own preconceived ends. I don’t think Ray and Friends even know what empirical evidence means. That’s why we call them “stupid.”

    Loved the evolutionary breakdown, Dr. Myers. Well said.

  15. #15 Glen Davidson
    March 8, 2009

    Oh, and Raytard, sexual reproduction is explainable via evolution, since it is a mechanism that helps to shuffle genes around. Not that there aren’t questions, the point is that there are answers.

    Now, give us a reason (you know, evidence, not arm-waving) why design/creationism could possibly give for sex existing. Indeed, tell us why god wouldn’t prefer asexual reproduction for organisms made perfect in the beginning.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  16. #16 John Squire
    March 8, 2009

    If Ray Comfort still doesn’t acknowledge his error after such a clear and detailed explanation, he should be denounced by Christians for making Christianity itself look foolish.

  17. #17 Africangenesis
    March 8, 2009

    Comfort might be disgusted to find out how gradual species divergences can be. The human lineage was still occasionally mating with the chimpanzee lineage for several hundred thousand years after the divergence started. Thus the different timing for divergences from chimpanzees for different parts of the genome.

  18. #18 Chou Chou
    March 8, 2009

    I’m glad you wrote this post for any wnd readers who find themselves at this blog and who still possess a bit of reasoning skills, although I don’t expect that number to be very great.

  19. #19 Kel
    March 8, 2009

    I know WorldNutDaily is bad, but surely they have someone on their editorial board that sees what Comfort is typing and thinks to himself “now that is just laughably bad, Ray Comfort is one of the thickest people on the planet and spewing absolute nonsense.” But no, ignorance begats ignorance.

  20. #20 robhoofd
    March 8, 2009

    Well, I think we should give Ray some credit: this is the first time he has made a claim that doesn’t depend on the origins of soda cans, or paintings, or buildings, or domesticated (manmade) bananas, but on some actual evolutionary biology. He should be given a gold star for finally asking a question that’s somehow relevant to the subject.

  21. #21 The Helvetica Scenario
    March 8, 2009

    Someone should give him a test or another kind of evaluation to see if he’s actually capable of comprehending this stuff.

  22. #22 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    His harping on “single mutant male” seems to indicate that he’s assuming all evolution arises from single-gene, advantageous, recessive mutations. For what it’s worth, single-gene mutations can be lost just through the random gene-shuffling of sexual reproduction. However, usually gene variants contribute to the diversity of a population, instead of all-or-nothing traits; and silent mutations can accumulate over time and only become concrete after some critical mass is reached, as in Lenski’s long-term E. coli experiments.

    Perhaps a better example would have been human blood groups? AO x AA doesn’t produce offspring with blood type O in a single generation, but it can produce more AO individuals who then interbreed a few generations later. Voila, OO out of nowhere. (Not that I remember which blood groups arose from which.)

    So, if there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, then how do we have four-plus blood types? ; )

  23. #23 Darwin's Dagger
    March 8, 2009

    Ray’s tiny little mind has attached itself to this notion that the existence of the sexes is some kind of inexplicable conundrum that he can use to refute evolution. It’s several orders of degree more moronic than his banana argument, but it is also a more complicated thing to explain, which means he’ll never get it.

  24. #24 Lindsay
    March 8, 2009

    Sorry you’re going to have to use very small words and fuzzy puppets in order for the Ray Comfort crowd to understand this.

  25. #25 Krystalline Apostate
    March 8, 2009

    Hey, PZ, maybe you should explain parthenogenesis to Discomforted Ray. Then we can watch the news clip where his brain implodes, his face swirling into a vortex of puckering.

  26. #26 Jim Thomerson
    March 8, 2009

    Here is some discussion as to why two sexes are the usual. although some fungi have many more.
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_19990915/ai_n14243984

  27. #27 Daniel
    March 8, 2009

    I love how Comfort relies so heavily on empirical evidence. To wit:

    Evolution is false, therefore Jesus and angels!

    Ain’t he a great skeptic?

  28. #28 Jim In Chicago
    March 8, 2009

    I agree that Comfort won’t get it. Your wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere.

    My son once told me I was wasting my time arguing with a fundagelical ex-friend. My son took a look at what I had written to the fundagelical. I wanted another set of eyes to check if I had missed anything. The ex-friend was messed up on religion and there weren’t enough facts or logic in this world to get through to this nit wit that I wasn’t interested in being saved.

  29. #29 Bart Mitchell
    March 8, 2009

    I would love to do a social experiment with these two. Have Ray take a biology class with PZ, and have PZ do a bible class with ray, for 6 months.

    But its that dedication to finding answers that defines the scientist. The creationist would never be willing to dedicate that much time to learning the details of evolution. But I would bet a shiny new penny that PZ would suffer through a weekly bible class if he could get Ray to accept Common Descent!

  30. #30 Fernando Magyar
    March 8, 2009

    Evolutionary biology is always dealing with changes in populations.

    I really isn’t that hard to grasp this concept. I just discussed it with my 14 year old son and he didn’t seem to have any trouble with it and neither of us is an evolutionary biologist.

    BTW, that Hyrax looks like it is mocking Ray Comfort for being so incredibly dense.

    And when are these people going to get it that none of this has anything whatsoever to with beliefs?

  31. #31 Chaeoump
    March 8, 2009

    #18: “I don’t expect that number to be very great.”

    Cue?

    “See? Scientists are such elitists! This is why the Holocaust happened! Scientists who don’t have the patience to call a moron anything other than a moron will directly bring about another Holocaust! OMG, I’m being Expelled! Why can’t we discuss both sides equally and let students make an informed decision? I’m sure they’ll realise that we are correct. NAZIS!!”

  32. #32 Ryan
    March 8, 2009

    You’re wasting your time on him. He’s either too stupid to get it or gets it and won’t recant his nonsense. Good post though.

  33. #33 Jimmy Groove
    March 8, 2009

    He betrays a number of biases, a number likely too large for him to count as it exceeds his number of fingers and toes.

    He repeatedly says “all animals” when he should be saying “all organisms.” Then the only animals he talks about are large vertebrates. He seems to be unaware of the fact that there are non-vertebrate animals, including huge numbers of them which do not have separate sexes. And he seems equally unaware that plants and microbes are living.

    This is, of course, because all of his arguments are argument from ignorance. I actually don’t think he’s that dumb himself; I see him as a huckster cleverly making money by preying on those who pray.

  34. #34 Bert Chadick
    March 8, 2009

    I think PZ is being too scientific for the likes of Comfort. Throw a generous handful of oats down on the ground in front of your average horse, observe carefully and then tell me that horses and elephants don’t have a common ancestor. It’s not publishable, but try it some time.

  35. #35 Carlie
    March 8, 2009

    For anyone who isn’t well-versed in it and wants to read more, I’d recommend The Red Queen by Matt Ridley. I use it in my evolution of reproduction class because it is so easily understandable by the average person, but touches on a lot of ideas that aren’t usually covered. The evolution of sex itself gets a chapter, as does the evolution of males and females and why we aren’t all hermaphrodites. Good reading.

  36. #36 defective robot
    March 8, 2009

    “…let’s take it slowly for those of us stupid folk who like empirical evidence.”

    Knowing how language likes to evolve, I looked up ‘empirical’ in the dictionary just to make sure the definition hadn’t shifted to something else while I was off being smart. Nope, still the same old ‘empirical.’ So I checked on the definition of ‘like,’ and sure enough, its definition had indeed changed to be synonymous with ‘ignore.’* So there, that explains the quote!

    * Definition courtesy of Ray Comfort’s Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms.

  37. #37 Carlie
    March 8, 2009

    Clarification: the first half of the book is really good. The second half dives deep into the woo land of evo-psych, and I just ignore all of that completely.

  38. #38 fcmk
    March 8, 2009

    @Jim, #28:

    Ray might not get it, but there are other people who might and who will. I bet there are a bunch of folks who understand and “believe” in evolution, but who just had a bad teacher or never cared about this subject when they were at school. They will find this very informative. I think this was a time nicely spent.

  39. #39 Mane
    March 8, 2009

    He probably mistakes sexual dimorphism for separate species.

  40. #40 Campbell
    March 8, 2009

    Hey Bart, you just thought up a good idea for a reality show.

  41. #41 Patricia, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Now wait a minute. Maybe ol’ Ray is on to something.
    If mutant males only had other mutant males to breed with, and they did. Doesn’t that explain where all the homersexurals came from?

    National Enquirer minds have figured it out.

  42. #42 rufustfirefly
    March 8, 2009

    Whether Ray Comfort, or anyone like him, gets it or not, doesn’t matter. Ray has said before that no amount of evidence would ever make him accept evolution because it would make his god a liar.

  43. #43 cactusren
    March 8, 2009

    Excellent post, PZ! While I doubt that Comfort will understand (if he even bothers to read it), I hope this will clear things up for those who might be confused. And who knows? Maybe some of Comfort’s readers will stumble across this and realize how silly his arguments are. I know…it’s a big maybe…but we can hope.

  44. #44 Serenegoose
    March 8, 2009

    genuine question here: why did the two sexes evolve at all? I mean… hermaphrodism seems to be a lot smarter and likely to result in successful reproduction, since you don’t need anybody else to do it. What caused life to develop this split into male and female? I can see an advantage in it allowing much better genetic diversity in its offspring, but if you don’t need to fertilise the eggs you drop yourself, can’t you keep both sets of reproductive organs, and fertilise others eggs as a preference, whilst still saving the ability to fertilise your own should the need arise?

    Is it a simple matter of that requiring too much space on the body to be practical in a complex animal, or is hermaphrodism something else, where an individual can only possess one set of organs at a time and needs to spend a while reconfiguring their own biology, rendering the ‘fertilise your own eggs’ idea impossible? I’m guessing it’s probably both though, biology is rarely as simple as I’d like. >>

    Sorry for the vast wealth of ignorance in the above. I never passed biology in school. More of a physics buff.

  45. #45 Mrs. James B. Weeks
    March 8, 2009

    The distant ancestor of all those animals Ray rattled off, and including insects, clams, squid, starfish, and leeches, was a pre-Cambrian worm, and it was most likely a hermaphrodite, producing both sperm and eggs.

    That you could suggest that I am descended not just from monkies but from Perverted Worms has me clutching my pearls in an almost asphyxiational manner. For SHAME! There are Children on the internet, Dr. Foul-Mouth Smarty-Pants.
    Think of the Children.

  46. #46 NewEnglandBob
    March 8, 2009

    I am sure Ray Comfort understands it. He is just malicious and devious for religion above truth.

    Ray Comfort will continue to lie and obfuscate and will do anything, possibly up to criminal actions, to shill for jesus.

  47. #47 Heather
    March 8, 2009

    I wonder if Ray Comfort knows that the famous video of him saying that the banana was designed for the hand is being shown in Richard Dawkins’ “The Purpose of Purpose” lectures, or at least for the lecture that was just given at the University of Minnesota. The crowd really howled with laughter when they saw that video. In the context of Dawkins’ presentation and played on a big screen, it seemed even more hilarious than it did when it first came out on blogs. And I didn’t think it could get any funnier than that!

  48. #48 captain howdy
    March 8, 2009

    PZ, you don’t understand.

    Ray Comfort isn’t some honest skeptic just trying to understand biology. Ray is a professional evolution denier. If you could have a species evolve right in front of him, he’d still insist that evolution is a big, satanic lie.

    Ray’s a propagandist, a shill, an ideologue who has consistently demonstrated on his blog that he has a reckless disregard for the truth. Ray’s only interest is in gaining new converts to his religion and he’ll say absolutely anything to further that goal.

    Trying to convince an evolution denier like Ray Comfort that evolution is sound science is like trying to convince a holocaust denier the holocaust really happened. They’re not interested in truth. They have an agenda.

  49. #49 Michael
    March 8, 2009

    Wonderful post, PZ. You should write more of this. It was very easy to follow for someone who does not study biology (I was a physics and math major in college).

  50. #50 Marie the Bookwyrm
    March 8, 2009

    But, but, Adam and Eve! There has to be one male and one female to produce the species! (Puzzled fundie impression)

  51. #51 _Arthur
    March 8, 2009

    What good is half a trunk ?

  52. #52 John Morales
    March 8, 2009

    Comfort:

    Your belief is that species do not arise from single new mutant males that then have to find a corresponding mutant female.

    Seems to me he believes that for a mutation to be passed on to the next generation, both parents must share it. The concept of a fusion of gametes seems to escape him.
    Weird, since most people intuitively accept offspring are a mix of the characteristics of their parents.

  53. #53 Ryan Cunningham
    March 8, 2009

    Now you’ve almost literally drawn him a picture. I suspect it’ll still go over poor Ray’s head, though.

    The sad thing about World Net Daily is that Rush and Hannity use it as a source. Then they kvetch about it for hours with their callers and get their listeners all worked up. We’re talking hundreds of thousands to millions of people all worked up and angry over fiction. Maybe one of these authors mentioned Ray’s article. That would explain the rage.

  54. #54 KillerChihuahua
    March 8, 2009

    Your students are fortunate. Nice lesson, if he cannot follow this we have further evidence of his stupidity.

    Cute hyrax, btw.

    I think the reason he’s fixated on the single, lonely male who cannot find a female to mate with might have to do with his (lack of) popularity in High School.

  55. #55 Flashboy
    March 8, 2009

    The quote I truly loved from Bananaman was ‘”I’m just one incompetant idiot trying to do that,” Comfort said.’

    Bang. Gold. He’s never been more correct.

    Honorable Mention: “But if I can convince myself that there is no God, it means I am not morally accountable, and evolution opens the door to a whole lot of sinful delicacies such as pornography, fornication, lying, theft…”

    “Delicacies” is a revealing choice of phrase, don’t you think? It seems Ray genuinely would turn to all those lovely sins if he didn’t have his God to keep him in line. I guess we should be thankful to the Flying Spaghetto Monster that he does feel so constrained. Although I’m really not sure what harm a little consensual “fornication” ever did.

  56. #56 Chaeoump
    March 8, 2009

    Bert Chadick @ #34:
    My average horse is at the garage. Will my unicorn do? Jesus told me to keep it a secret.

    Arthur @ #51:
    Must not? Must stop self from? No use?????
    THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!

    And with those, it is clear I must retire to bed. Good on you for actually being bothered to explain that, PZ, but my suspicion is your words are falling on deaf ears, as is the usual.

  57. #57 Stephen Wells
    March 8, 2009

    I’m astonished that anyone could possibly fail to grasp this and still be able to breathe and lace their shoes.

    Nice elephant family tree, very educational. Yay hyraxes, or the dassie, as it’s known at the Cape.

  58. #58 yoyo
    March 8, 2009

    I’ve tried debating with him on his very stupid blog and I think he deliberately refuses to understand any information that crosses his world view. He really appears to believe that he is sooooo smart and we are all making up this stuff so that we can rude things with our pink bits.

  59. #59 Ompompanoosuc
    March 8, 2009

    Isn’t this one of the most basic things to understand about evolution? I learned this is high school biology 25 years ago. Surely a man who is spending a good portion of his time arguing against evolution would have a better grasp of what it is. Nobody is that stupid. This guy is cashing a check and that is it. His arguments are made to match his audience.

    PZ, that was a great post IMHO. Perfect for honest and curious people to get a clue.

  60. #60 Wowbagger, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Give Ray a break. He’s got to keep the dollars rolling in; do you know how much money it takes to maintain a moustache like that?

  61. #61 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    Another quote from Comfort:

    “Every male dog, cat, horse, elephant, giraffe, fish and bird had to have coincidentally evolved with a female alongside it (over billions of years) with fully evolved compatible reproductive parts and a desire to mate, otherwise the species couldn’t keep going. Evolution has no explanation for the female for every species in creation,” he said.

    Funny, I just read an article on mule breeding that described the difficulties in getting horses and donkeys to mate. Male donkeys can be raised with horses, and see horses as potential mates, or be raised with donkeys and see donkeys as mates, but generally not both. Female horses also tend to react with terror when a male donkey brays loudly as he approaches, while another donkey finds this welcoming. Obviously they have incompatible mating desires. So does that mean there are no such things as mules?

    Unrelated: I just realized how telling it is that Comfort says evolution can’t explain females, when there’s lots of population biology examining the “cost of males” in sexual species. Parthenogenesis shows that female-only populations can exist, but there aren’t any male-only populations out there, except in the rulemaking echelons of patriarchal societies. ~ ; >

  62. #62 Damian
    March 8, 2009

    Yeh, but, PZ, you haven’t explained how all of this fits in to the biblical narrative.

    By the way, Ed Brayton has revealed why the Worldnutdaily is promoting Ray Comfort’s idiocy:

    When I saw the headline ‘Cracker abuse’ prof disses Christian author, I knew it had to be about PZ. So desperate is the Worldnutdaily to keep Ray Comfort on the front page (they published his latest idiotic screed, so they’re trying to pump up sales) that they’re now trolling blogs looking for negative comments about Comfort.

  63. #63 Chaeioump
    March 8, 2009

    yoyo @ #58
    “we are all making up this stuff so that we can rude things with our pink bits.”

    If only! Sigh?

  64. #64 cpsmith
    March 8, 2009

    When I was in my grade 7 science class, a fellow student asked the teacher “Who invented that the world is round?”. Mr. Comfort reminds me of her, only an older version with more crazy and fewer excuses.

  65. #65 Phill
    March 8, 2009

    What a great post. Clear, concise… great work, PZ! I imagine Ray suddenly “getting it”, something clicking in his head… nah, it’ll never happen.

  66. #66 Caleb
    March 8, 2009

    I believe that my cousin could understand this when I explained it at about age 6. The education system is certainly broken when adults cannot understand this simple process. The rest of the world is surpassing us and the US population keeps its head in the sand saying, “I don’t want to learn anything, I want to know more about Brangelina and Lindsey Lohan.”

  67. #67 Ompompanoosuc
    March 8, 2009

    If I were Richard Dawkins, I would debate Ray for free if he would subject himself to an IQ test and make the results public.

  68. #68 Steve Ulven
    March 8, 2009

    Will someone just send him Dawkins’ Ancestor’s Tale already? Seriously, Comfort’s remarks just get more and more stupid.

  69. #69 Eamon Knight
    March 8, 2009

    PZ deserves a medal for even trying to explain this to the Raytard. When I read Comfort’s spew, all I can think of is Babbage’s Complaint: “I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

  70. #70 Lance
    March 8, 2009

    TL;DR

    Sincerely,

    Ray Comfort

  71. #71 Matt
    March 8, 2009

    As a lark I used to get the Answers in Genesis free newsletter. It was mostly ads for DVD’s, books, etc. I can imagine Ray’s “Way of the Master” is much the same. Ray won’t get it. As Upton Sinclair said,

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

  72. #72 Sven DiMilo
    March 8, 2009

    The Precambrian Urbilaterian may well have been hermaphroditic, but on the other hand it may have had ancestors with separate sexes.

  73. #73 Barry
    March 8, 2009
  74. #74 Radwaste
    March 8, 2009

    If you really want Ray Comfort to explode, show him that not all humans are simply male or female.

  75. #75 Plac Ebo
    March 8, 2009

    A toolbox has a designer and an instructor. The designer created a set of tools and he writes instructions on how to use them. How else would someone their first time using a ratchet set know to stick the extension into the socket? Likewise, who do you think instructed the boy elephant to stick his extension into the girl elephant’s socket? Obviously it was God the intelligent instructor!

  76. #76 Larry
    March 8, 2009

    Gary Larson had a cartoon in The Far Side where a man is scolding his dog Ginger, telling her to stay out of the garbage. What Ginger is actually hearing is blah-blah-Ginger-blah-blah-Ginger, etc..

    When it comes to IDiots like Comfort, you could substitute the title “What we say to dogs” with “What we say to creationists” and it would fit this situation perfectly. One can explain, teach, demonstrate, and prove all manner of things to these people and they still won’t get it because they aren’t listening, will never listen, and, most assuredly, simply don’t want to listen.

  77. #77 Terskac
    March 8, 2009

    I suppose it didn’t go over anyone’s head that he seems to emphasize the fact PZ is a professor at a state university to get the wingnuts in a lather about their tax dollars being wasted on heathen educations.

  78. #78 Newfie
    March 8, 2009

    God made Ray bananas.

    Great post PZ, but I agree with others here, Ray has chosen to make a deceptive livelihood.
    The sadness of it all, is that these dishonest people do not care that they are filling people’s mind with their gibberish. They only care about making money. Until countries put their foot down and make the teaching of mythologies as fact illegal, this type of stupidity will never end. State sanctioned bullshit, to fleece thine flocks.

  79. #79 Josh
    March 8, 2009

    But if I can convince myself that there is no God, it means I am not morally accountable, and evolution opens the door to a whole lot of sinful delicacies such as pornography, fornication, lying, theft…

    I love how he put lying in there!

    BOOM! There goes another one.

    Oh and Ray, I understand you perfectly:
    Teh sex = bad and sinful.
    Sending us to slaughter Iraqi children (collateral damage) = just and moral.

    Nice system of morals you folks have there. Family values.

  80. #80 Marshall Nelson
    March 8, 2009

    “The sexual differences Ray finds so difficult to comprehend arose by progressive specialization: genetic switches that could turn off either male or female gamete production were already present, and some individuals in the population turned off the making of eggs and made sperm, while others did vice versa.”

    And just where did these “magic switches” come from? Huh?

  81. #81 Lorax
    March 8, 2009

    I would argue Comfort will miss the point here for the same reason he did previously. I think his failing (here, not his only one of course) is that he cannot wrap his mind around how a given population can become reproductively isolated and then once this happens how random drift can completely severe the ties that once bound the two populations. Again he has an individual organism mindset regarding the problem. Also, I thin he suffers from “a species has an essence” framework, basically that that all members of a species are at the core the exact same thing. For Ray the species concept is a clear and simple concept, for the rest of us it is a complicated and difficult idea.

  82. #82 Elwood Herring
    March 8, 2009

    Ray – a bit of advice:

    GET A CLUE!!

    Honestly, people like Ray must have to work really hard to achieve such dumbness. If it were quantifiable he’d be in the Guinness Book of Records by now.

  83. #83 Neanderthal allele
    March 8, 2009

    It was fairly obvious right back from Ray?s banana lesson that he has a repressed fondness for sexually incapable fruit. I?m sure the banana was a significant Freudian statement to us. Now he is displaying a complete ignorance of sexually reproducing populations. It can mean only one thing: Ray is a closet asexual. No human in there right mind could be as stupid as he apparently suggests. Let?s stop and think about this for a minute. Maybe he is trying to reach out. Maybe with some encouragement he’ll come out as Asexual Ray.

  84. #84 JD
    March 8, 2009

    I gets it nowz. God was hitting thoze switches on and off for the differentz sexez.

  85. #85 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    To Serenegoose @44:

    I can see an advantage in it allowing much better genetic diversity in its offspring, but if you don’t need to fertilise the eggs you drop yourself, can’t you keep both sets of reproductive organs, and fertilise others eggs as a preference, whilst still saving the ability to fertilise your own should the need arise?

    Many species do exactly that, such as worms and slugs. The problem is that eggs are larger and take more energy to manufacture than sperm, which are plentiful and cheap. The more expensive being female gets – laying big eggs, being pregnant with young, or spending months or years raising helpless litters, for example – the greater an advantage it is to have other individuals raising your kids instead of doing it yourself.

    In a population of all hermaphrodites then, any individual which loses the ability to make eggs can devote all that energy into making more sperm and hunting down more partners to receive that sperm. This first male might be able to sire ten or a hundred or a thousand times as many offspring as any of his hermaphrodite competitors, and those offspring might be males also. A few generations of this gives a rapidly increasing proportion of males.

    When there are thousands of sperm-rocket males running around, suddenly being a hermaphrodite isn’t much use anymore when the fancy new males can make more sperm and fertilize more mates than you can. It becomes more efficient to lose the sperm-making capability altogether and devote that energy into making more eggs. Presto, males and females.

    Some kinds of snails come in both hermaphrodite and male versions, and have more or less sex depending on the parasite load of the population. Some fish alter sex with age depending on their social structure: male when young, because when they’re big and old, they can make lots of eggs; or female when young, because a big old male can defend a bigger territory and monopolize lots of females. There are all kinds of variations.

  86. #86 Mike
    March 8, 2009

    That’s why I love reading this blog, because I learn all sorts of cool stuff.

    It’s a pity for Ray that he doesn’t see it the same way.

  87. #87 Jacob Cagney
    March 8, 2009

    WAIT!!!!!

    Did Ray “young earth creationist” Comfort really just admit that the Earth is older than 6000 years?

    Did Ray just admit that the Earth is MILLIONS and MILLIONS of years old?

    I think he is going to give the other YEC’s a fatal heart attack.. or maybe cause them to drop a litter of puppies.

    “”So, let’s take it slowly for those of us stupid folk who like empirical evidence. We are looking at a contemporary male and a female elephant. They are part of a population of elephants. Let’s go back to their elephant ancestors 10,000 years ago””

    “””Let’s go back even further (100 million years ago) to pre-pre-elephants that also contained males and females.””

  88. #88 Kevpod
    March 8, 2009

    Comfort is selling books to rubes. He doesn’t care.

  89. #89 Barry
    March 8, 2009

    Fuck you PZ. You’ve taken it too far this time. Not only are you calling my ancestor’s monkeys… but now they’re hermaphrodites?

  90. #90 Muffin
    March 8, 2009

    “Now what about the issue of sexual reproduction that troubles Ray so much?”

    Hey, is that a trick question? ;)

  91. #91 Trepalium
    March 8, 2009

    Ray’s fixation on the lone male looking for a mate probably has more to do with the entire microevolution versus macroevolution thing. It’s this idea that species must spontaneously pop into existence, and that a random gene change that causes this spontaneous speciation means that there is no mates for the animal. Dogs have always been dogs, in his little world, right?

  92. #92 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Charlie Wagner is back as Marshall Nelson. PZ clean-up in aisle 5. Banned troll posting idiocy.

  93. #93 Ch?mp
    March 8, 2009

    Barry @ #73
    As sad as that is (contrary to popular belarf, we atheists don’t rabidly welcome the murder of those in positions of religious authority), I predict it will not stop the endless tide of silly ‘miracle’ stories. Bible helps man find lost $500! Yay! Bible fails to save pastor. Wait?what?

    Plac Ebo @ #75
    I knew it! There are two Almighty Gods. Madmaneles the Creator, and Wriksostaaf the Instructor. You can’t prove there aren’t! You can’t prove there aren’t! etc. ad nauseum

  94. #94 raindogzilla
    March 8, 2009

    Has Ray Comfort ever weighed in on the divine purpose of Jimmy Durante’s banana-shaped nose?

  95. #95 St. B
    March 8, 2009

    I?m still working out how someone can use an obviously incorrect scientific hypothesis as the archetype to disprove another established scientific concept he disbelieves anyway. *scratches head* Yes, I?m babbling, Comfort?s little rant melted my brain.

    With someone that trite and illogical it?s better to spout film quotes, ?Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest.?

  96. #96 Wildflower
    March 8, 2009

    “But if I can convince myself that there is no God, it means I am not morally accountable, and evolution opens the door to a whole lot of sinful delicacies such as pornography, fornication, lying, theft…”

    That quote shows that Ray Comfort is apparently even too stupid to review his own hypotheticals.

    If he would actually be convinced that there is no God then there would be no sin. The word he might be looking for there is “pretend”. It would also mean that for the first time in his life he would actually feel accountable for his deeds. After all right now the only thing he’ll be judged upon is if he believed in the magic guy from space… and all the lies towards his fellow people will be forgiven.

    And I agree with #55 that his choice of words is indeed very revealing.

  97. #97 rich h
    March 8, 2009

    i can honestly say i dont understand the science terms and the complicated stuff PZ has written here but i dont see why its neccessary, all this should be obvious, even i can understand that. i actually find Rays argument more confusing, no matter often i read it it still fails to make sense. the only way comforts argument could make sense to me is if he was assuming that evolution means one single male animal magically transforms into a slightly different one. its like he doesnt realise animals can give birth to male and females.

  98. #98 Ichthyic
    March 8, 2009

    stumbled across a nice vid re: the evolution of sex today:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxysZmNsyDk

  99. #99 Nonsynse
    March 8, 2009

    Excellent explanation PZ! Unfortunately, I don’t think Ray has any interest in understanding it.

  100. #100 Sven DiMilo
    March 8, 2009

    And just where did these “magic switches” come from? Huh?

    Thet’re called “transcription factors,” Charlie. Proteins, not “magic.” All eukaryotes have them; each can activate or repress more than one genes, some of those for other transcription factors in turn. One thing that evolves is which genes are activated or repressed by which existing transcription factors. So, yes: the switches evolved. Maybe read some Sean Carroll?

  101. #101 Barry
    March 8, 2009

    Is it just some hang up with elephants? You should introduce him to the phrase ?lock and key?. Move on to rodents, and then to insects. Show him all the species whose taxonomy relies on penis morphology. Tell him there are actually workers in large systematic collections who spend much of their time filling insect penises with air and drying them out so they can be clearly viewed under a microscope. They have to list their job description as ?penis inflator?. Do it! I want to see what he does with it.

  102. #102 Kel
    March 8, 2009

    Those CDK007 videos are really excellent. They should be compulsory here before anyone can argue against scientific findings.

  103. #103 Ichthyic
    March 8, 2009

    Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention…

    you never do, Charlie, you never do.

    permanently clueless git.

  104. #104 Ichthyic
    March 8, 2009

    Those CDK007 videos are really excellent.

    ayup.

    could do without the baroque music, though. a little something less over-used would be good.

  105. #105 Hairy Doctor Professor
    March 8, 2009

    Great diagrams, btw. I always wanted a periodic table of the elephants.

  106. #106 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Bye-Bye Charlie, known as Marshall Nelson on this thread. You had nothing to offer, as usual, being a stupid git.

  107. #107 Pierce R. Butler
    March 8, 2009

    Gestalt Therapy co-founder Fritz Perls used to differentiate among the three classes of chicken shit, bull shit, and elephant shit – but, alas, RC still seems to be struggling over the fence between the poultry yard and the corral, with no hope of winning access to the zoo.

  108. #108 Ichthyic
    March 8, 2009

    And all along the way the warm glow of homefires
    fill the homes with affability and kindness.

    …and far away,
    across the field.
    The tolling of the iron bell,
    calls the faithful to their knees
    to hear the softly spoken magic spells.

    you’re a dishonest git, too, eh Charlie?

  109. #109 Andrés Diplotti
    March 8, 2009

    Wow! So Asian elephants are closer to woolly mammoths than to African elephants? Cool!

  110. #110 Trepalium
    March 8, 2009

    Wildflower (#97):
    Those types of comments from believers always scare me a bit. First is this idea that the only thing keeping you from a murderous spree, is a belief that a god will punish you for all eternity, is a bit disturbing. I suppose it does provide a lot of context on why they cling to their beliefs so closely, and attack those who challenge them so fiercely. Second is the fact that it’s very dehumanizing. Dehumanization is one of the most important things you do to an opponent or rival before you can rationalize doing horrible things to them. After all, if atheists lack all morals, that justifies denying them rights, or worse, right? “We’re just protecting ourselves from THEM!”

  111. #111 Autumn
    March 8, 2009

    Too many big words.

  112. #112 Paulino
    March 8, 2009

    Autosomes and sexual chromosomes, these are hard concepts to grasp, and we evilotionist probably don’t have any evidence to back their existance.

  113. #113 elelias
    March 8, 2009

    #3 you nailed it.

    I love the part “So, let’s take it slowly for those of us stupid folk who like empirical evidence.”

    Hilarious.

  114. #114 Jessica
    March 8, 2009

    I found that informative and interesting. I am not nearly as educated in biology as I would like, but I’m gradually closing the gap.

    The thing that bothers me most about Comfort’s assertions is that the male is seen as default. If I am not mistaken, if anything, female is the default and females are the ones who can reproduce without males in some species. So, he’s got it backwards. I think, anyway.

    Lots more learning for me to do. :)

  115. #115 Steve
    March 8, 2009

    Big word for you here, Ray. Parthenogenesis. Not all species need a male. In fact MOST species on the planet use binary fission, which is asexual.

  116. #116 Marshall Nelson
    March 8, 2009

    “you’re a dishonest git, too, eh Charlie?”

    I still love your Flickr photostream.

    I hope you like my poems.

    My SIL is a photographer. He does lighthouses.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kzirkel/

  117. #117 Wildflower
    March 8, 2009

    One thing that bugs me about this discussion (and I realize that Dr. Meyers just picked up on Comfort’s game) is this treatment of females as some kind of afterthought.

    “How did females evolve alongside of males?”. Are you kidding me? In case you haven’t checked, Ray, it’s the women that give birth. No women, no species. No males, possibly still a species. Of course, it would then probably be incorrect to use the term “female” unless there used to be “males” at one point.

    Oh, wait! I almost forgot. I know why you phrased it that way! Because God, after Adam had funky, yet fruitless, bestiality sex with the whole animal kingdom and got bored, made the woman from a rib so that they could do some incest to give rise to a line of inbred humans.

    Am I misrepresenting you? Read the frickin’ bible!

    And, you know, until you explain to me what a monotheistic god that created a man in his image is doing with a penis in the first place I suggest you shut your sexist mouth!

    Damn, I forgot again! He needs it to impregnate virgins to give birth to himself.

  118. #118 apthorp
    March 8, 2009

    The trouble with folk ideas is that they aren’t random. There is an internal logic that makes them quite robust. Rather like the persistence of species. Call it a meme, a frame, or a functional myth, there is a structure that solves some problems. Generally ones that matter to the individual (like baby chicks recognizing hawk profiles) and don’t solve others that don’t matter. For those religious in a creationist sort of way I know, the problem isn’t explaining evolutoin, it really is to make the whole discussion go away because it simply doesn’t solve a problem for them. Not that they don’t recognize the threat.

    A hook to Comfort’s (or his auditor’s – for all I know he is just in it for the cash) frame is “problem of the female” which relies on a very deep assumption that boys are different than girls. This illuminates a some very ineffective conversations I have had. The whole population discussion really is abstract blaa blaa blaa in that frame in that it has no explanatory power whatsoever for the fact that boys and girls are clearly different creations. The fact that they aren’t different at all requires a fundamental frame shift prior to any discussion of evolution.

  119. #119 how
    March 8, 2009

    It’s the second-to-last paragraph that Comfort/creationists refuse/s to understand.

    That said, I’ve got an utterly pointless question for creationists, pointless because any answer they give will be devoid of anything resembling intelligence: if god created all of the Earth’s creatures before he created Adam, he must have created all of them as males & females, right? Then why deny Adam a female counterpart from the get-go? Or did god create only males of all the species, and then, after having given Eve to Adam, decide that the male critters were lonely too, and give them female critters to have fun with?

    Pointless, I know…

  120. #120 Ben
    March 8, 2009

    I am convinced that somewhere deep in his consciousness Ray knows he is lying. A five year old can grasp these concepts. His stubborn ignorance is both hilarious and depressing.

  121. #121 Wildflower
    March 8, 2009

    @Jessica

    You beat me 2 posts to that point :P I completely agree.

  122. #122 steve_h
    March 8, 2009

    #14 Ray Comfort and his ilk don’t give a rat’s posterior about empirical evidence

    Bananaman has an ilk? I thought we were the ilk.

  123. #123 Pi
    March 8, 2009

    All he’ll see is a wall of text.

  124. #124 maidden
    March 8, 2009

    Thanks, PZ. Ray won’t get it, but it’s helpful to those of us who aren’t quite proficient in biology and want to learn something, as opposed to just sell books.

  125. #125 rrt
    March 8, 2009

    I agree, I still doubt he’ll get it. If he responds at all, I suspect he’ll still get hung up somewhere at the individual level. “Your charts prove my point! They’re all still elephants! Except for the pig-things, they’re all just pig-things, and you can’t prove they’re related (because I don’t want them to be). Anyway, the first elephant born to a pig-thing wouldn’t have had a mate!”

  126. #126 The Scallop
    March 8, 2009

    Yeah, all that makes sense. But where is the empirical evidence? ;)

  127. #127 Wowbagger
    March 8, 2009

    I imagine that Comfort’s plan, before embarking on a new book, is to sit down and work out exactly which biological and/or physiological concepts are likely to be confusing to laypeople and focus on them – much like he has done here. I’m pretty sure the banana concept would have come to him the same way.

    But he’s definitely an opportunist. I don’t imagine for a second that what he says/writes it what he really thinks. It’s just his job.

  128. #128 Norman Doering
    March 8, 2009

    Bad Albert wrote:

    I think Ray knows and understands all this but deliberately carries on with his own version. Can’t blame him really. After all, this is his meal ticket. Appearing monumentally stupid to educated folks is a small price to pay to collect all those donations from the ignorant masses.

    That is a possibility.

    However, there’s probably a very fuzzy boundary between lying to others and lying to oneself. I came across a very curious case of obtuseness in an online argument here:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2009/03/hell-argue-with-me-but-he-wont-tell-me.html

    I had simply asked why must a ?First Cause? be simple or immutable? And what does simplicity and immutability even mean in this context?

    To which he replied:

    You demonstrate not only that the works of Plantinga and Aquinas are several degrees above your pay grade (I am speaking here of the difference in pay grade between janitor and CEO, in fact), but also demonstrate that your own position ? whatever it is ? is fundamentally unmoored from a basic understanding of reason itself.

    To me it seems Mr. Hynek is the one who doesn’t grasp what reason is and that he has chosen this insult option because he knows he can’t explain his assertion that a ?First Cause? must be simple and immutable. Though I must confess that I’m no big reader of Plantinga or Aquinas and I often don’t have a clue as to why they make the screwy assertions they make.

  129. #129 RJC
    March 8, 2009

    Look at you, with your fancy charts and maps. It’s almost as if you’re educated in the subject you’re trying to debate! :P

    (That Comfort guy never fails to make me laugh.)

  130. #130 ansuzmannaz
    March 8, 2009

    I think if we end up reaching the most ardent of creationists, it won’t be through reason, at least not reason alone. It isn’t just that you can’t reason someone out of something they haven’t been reasoned into (that CAN happen), but rather that some of these people have abandoned reason entirely. “Truth” to them is something that authority dispenses and determines, not something that is derived from first principles. I honestly don’t understand the thought process behind it, this “I cannot be wrong because God is on my side, God is on my side because I cannot be wrong” paradox. Nor do I understand how people caught in such circular logic can be persuaded otherwise.

    It seems with such people that something emotional would have to happen for them to change. More than that, actually: they would have to experience something that would fundamentally alter the way they react to the world. It’s not just about ideas–it’s about deep psychological habits.

  131. #131 Richard from Red Deer
    March 8, 2009

    Ray Comfort is simply a liar for the cause of fattening his own wallet.
    As was evident in his meeting for debate with the Rations Responders his intent is merely to position himself as willing to take on PZ, Richard, et al as a means of showing his ignorant sheep that he is capable of defending evangelical worldview from any and all comers.

    Of course he need not BE correct factually, but the art of bullshitting is more dependent upon the sheep who listen than the man at the mike. Thus, Ray never need actually be even remotely sensible in his arguments with people, just present at the discussion.As long as his flock remain biologically illiterate he will have a trough to feed from.

    I think the solution is not to engage the Ray Comforts of the world but to make available a greater collection of freely available media thoroughly explaining evolution.
    If you argue with Ray he maintains a following because he has his sheep conditioned to accept you as a problem they must confront.

    However, if you both ignore him and flood the media with the proper organized explanations of the sort you did with your post here PZ,then I think it is inevitable that they fade into the background to dwell with flat earthers and alchemists.

  132. #132 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 8, 2009

    I agree that Comfort won’t get it. Your wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere.

    PZ does this for our benefit, not Ray’s. It’s what is known in educator-speak as a “teachable moment.”

  133. #133 Jen
    March 8, 2009

    Oh my! Well, no wonder Ray thinks evolution is a fairy tale! I’m so glad that he has exposed where his fundamental understanding of the theory lies.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this, PZ. It’s an excellent evolution primer. My dad’s thinking about evolution is a lot like Ray’s. Dad is a creationist and has written evolution off as a fairy tale without bothering to understand it. He may have this same misconception about how speciation works. I’ll definitely be sending Dad this link.

  134. #134 Grim
    March 8, 2009

    Ray’s had evolution explained correctly to him so many times by now I’m convinced that he actually gets the gist of it, but pretends not to.

    Also his new day-job seems to be trolling atheists for cash on his website and trying to pick fights with university professors.

  135. #135 Kevpod
    March 8, 2009

    Why would Comfort admit his errors?

    Principle? What would require divine intervention, and is thus impossible.

    Understanding the evidence? He could have done that all along, and didn’t.

    Look, if he admits his books are baloney, they stop selling and he turns off a big money spigot. What’s his motivation here?

  136. #136 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Just to spell it out once more (after comment 92 already did it): Comfort evidently believes that Richard Goldschmidt’s “Hopeful Monster” hypothesis is mainstream. “Hopeful Monsters” would be Hopeless Monsters, for exactly the reason that Comfort describes. All he has overlooked is the fact that this isn’t how we think evolution works; we actually agree with him that Goldschmidt was wrong.

    Throw a generous handful of oats down on the ground in front of your average horse, observe carefully and then tell me that horses and elephants don’t have a common ancestor. It’s not publishable, but try it some time.

    The reason why it’s not publishable is that the last few million common ancestors of horses and elephants (and for that matter us — we’re closer to horses than the elephants are) didn’t eat oats or basically any plant material. They ate insects.

    What good is half a trunk ?

    To reach the ground if you’re half the size of an elephant. Duh. :-)

    there aren’t any male-only populations out there

    Actually, there is a species of mite out there that consists only of haploid males with a Wolbachia-like bacterium. I forgot how exactly that works, and at half past 2 at night I won’t look it up, but it’s out there somewhere. (In the primary literature.)

    genetic switches that could turn off either male or female gamete production were already present, and some individuals in the population turned off the making of eggs and made sperm, while others did vice versa.

    And just where did these “magic switches” come from? Huh?

    If you knew anything — fucking anything — about molecular genetics, Charlie the Banned, you wouldn’t need to ask. See comment 100.

    Great diagrams, btw. I always wanted a periodic table of the elephants.

    Yeah. Was there nothing more recent available than Osborn’s ancient speculations?

    if god created all of the Earth’s creatures before he created Adam, he must have created all of them as males & females, right? Then why deny Adam a female counterpart from the get-go?

    The explanation is historical.

  137. #137 Norman Doering
    March 8, 2009

    PZ,

    Tone down the Raybashing a bit and then submit that to World Net Daily — but add something about bananas. Ray’s bananas are in trouble because they’re all seedless clones and they’re not adapting to diseases. It gets at one why for why sex evolved. I got useful links here:

    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2009/03/pretending-to-think-like-ray-comfort.html

    Your article would probably get rejected, but you could submit it elsewhere and use the rejection as a talking point.

  138. #138 Long time lurker
    March 8, 2009

    @ #61
    [quote]Unrelated: I just realized how telling it is that Comfort says evolution can’t explain females, when there’s lots of population biology examining the “cost of males” in sexual species. Parthenogenesis shows that female-only populations can exist, but there aren’t any male-only populations out there, except in the rulemaking echelons of patriarchal societies. ~ ; >[/quote]

    Thank you Pteryxx for voicing what I was thinking. Ray Comfort’s brand of male-centric, willful stupidity makes me want to gag. For him, the male will always be the standard, and the female is somehow deviant.

  139. #139 Joe Cracker
    March 8, 2009

    Great, but I feel that prof. Myers is spending to much valuable time with these idiots.

    The very last paragraph would have been enough.

  140. #140 Jen
    March 8, 2009

    Oops, that should be “fundamental misunderstanding” back at #133.

  141. #141 Kaderin
    March 8, 2009

    I still cannot get over the fact that Comfort assumes male to be the default, and female the other.
    I mean, apart from betraying his fundamental misoginy bred and multiplied by the ‘good book’ (because Adam gave birth to Eve y’all…that’s exactly how nature works. Men give birth to women. Yeah. It’s for the empirical-loving folk!) it also shows such a staggering magnitude of ignorance. I mean, even more so than usual. I think I first heard about mother cells and daughter cells in 5th grade. Not father cells and son cells, because MALES DON’T GIVE FUCKING BIRTH and are unable to sustain population growth. He can’t even look up this most trivial of all facts – that according to biology the first sex is female – and yet he thinks he has the mental capacity to be any sort of authority on the mechanics of of evolution and dismiss it.

  142. #142 Insightful Ape
    March 8, 2009

    Hey Mrs. Weeks(#45), did you have an attack of reality?
    Too bad, but you’ll live.
    You know, a little education is not so horrible for children. Now that I think of it, may not be so bad for YOU, either.
    Yours respectfully,
    Insightful Ape

  143. #143 Moth Eyes
    March 8, 2009

    I don’t know if this was the case when CrocoRay’s book came out, but, although it’s #8 in atheism (ahead of the hardcover The God Delusion at #9), the paperback TGD is in #1.

  144. #144 Badger3k
    March 8, 2009

    The comment on Ray looking at the ancestors of elephants brought up the point that Ray doesn’t see that ‘species’ is a descriptive rather than proscriptive term. He (from the infamous crocoduck and others) thinks that species change suddenly (in terms of one generation). He doesn’t see that it takes many generations to speciate (I always like the ring species as an analogy for this). Even with selective breeding, it normally takes generations for distinct breed to develop, and that is just within a species. His concept of evolution really is that one species “poofs” into existence suddenly. He takes his creationist myth and applies it to a scientific concept. Of course it doesn’t fit, but it does make a useful strawman for him to attack.

  145. #145 Kevpod
    March 8, 2009

    “I feel that prof. Myers is spending to much valuable time with these idiots.”

    It’s a conundrum. The misinformation has to be addressed, but they just keep coming up with more of it and make the reality-based spend all kinds of time deconstructing it.

    Still, PZ’s reads are always fun and challenging for us non-scientists.

  146. #146 C. M. Baxter
    March 8, 2009

    No, Ray isn’t necessarily deliberately avoiding the point. I’ve talked face-to-face with creationists who are genuinely this obtuse.

    PZ, I must disagree. I think you?re giving Comfort way too much the benefit of the doubt by simply calling him obtuse. I don?t think he really cares one way or the other about evolution. What he does care about is what he thinks his targeted readership want to hear. After all, he makes his living (and a good one I hear) by slopping the trough from which the ideologically ignorant and gullible feed. He is a parasite of the delusions of others yet feels no more remorse about it than does Darwin?s parasitic wasp. He probably follows your blog but I doubt he would read through your eloquent rebuttal because he has no use for logic or evidence. Moreover, I think he knows that if the majority of his followers tried to read your post, the static in their brains would overwhelm them before they could finish it. Ray Comfort is a liar and a fraud but I don?t think he?s all that stupid.

  147. #147 John H.
    March 8, 2009

    You’re very patient to explain this. I’m not a biologist, so I learned a few things tonight. Thanks. This is why I read this blog. That, and I also happen to be one of those damned atheists. A newbie, but that’s just the result of about 35 years of coming to grips with my non-belief and rejection of organized religion.

  148. #148 Tualha
    March 8, 2009

    I’m not a biologist, and one thing about that elephant phylogenetic tree mystifies me. What the heck are those images lying across the lines? I checked Google images for other phylogenetic trees, with and without “elephant” included, and didn’t see anything similar lying across the lines in any of several pages worth of images. I came up with several bad hypotheses about what they resemble, but nothing that really held water.

  149. #149 hf
    March 8, 2009

    Ray may also fail to understand how evolution works in general. Has anyone tried explaining the term “ring species” to him? Because the whole creationist distinction of microevolution vs macroevolution, which would have to involve a question like Ray’s if we assume that it has a meaning, falls apart when you learn about this phenomenon. Sadly, it looks like the Simple English Wikipedia has no article for “ring species” yet.

  150. #150 Stephanurus
    March 8, 2009

    Forgetting Ray Comfort for a moment, it would seem that study of the evolution of sex is a fertile (no pun intended) field for someone.
    Stephanurus

  151. #151 Michelle
    March 8, 2009

    What’s great about this is that while he’s writing this to
    argue a douche creationist, the common intelligent folks still manage to learn something about elephants.

    I’m going to bed now, and I feel less stupid!

  152. #152 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    To David Marjanovi?, OM #136:

    Actually, there is a species of mite out there that consists only of haploid males with a Wolbachia-like bacterium. I forgot how exactly that works, and at half past 2 at night I won’t look it up, but it’s out there somewhere.

    Well I will ; ) Is it this?

    The suspicious case of the plant-eating mite Brevipalpus phoenicis has teased biologists for decades. This mite exists mainly in a female form that procreates without bothering to have sex.

    The researchers also report in the June 29 SCIENCE that these virgin-mother mites are actually males in the grip of a severe bacterial infection.

    He managed to coax lab mites to eat leaves treated with tetracycline, which cured some of the mites of their bacterial infection. In the next generation, Weeks found that the bacteria-free mites grew up morphologically male, similar to closely related mite species. He’s watching to see if they ever mate with the bacteria-carrying mites.

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Microbe+lets+mite+dads+perform+virgin+birth-a076697529

    I stand corrected. The principle however is still the same: the parasite monopolizes the species through its egg-laying function, not its sperm-production.

    Thanks for the example! *tucks away in knowledge-hoard*

  153. #153 R.C. Moore
    March 8, 2009

    “I teach freshman students who have no problem at all in understanding these basic principles. ”

    I know 6th graders which have no problem with these principles. Ray Comfort puts more effort into misunderstanding than it would take to achieve understanding.

  154. #154 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    To Tualha #148:

    “I’m not a biologist, and one thing about that elephant phylogenetic tree mystifies me. What the heck are those images lying across the lines?”

    Those are elephant molars. Whatever article that tree was ganked from must have something to do with tooth surface morphology ; )

  155. #155 Serenegoose
    March 8, 2009

    @ pteryxx, #85.

    Thanks! That makes a lot of sense. :)

  156. #156 Aaron
    March 8, 2009

    Now, give us a reason (you know, evidence, not arm-waving) why design/creationism could possibly give for sex existing. Indeed, tell us why god wouldn’t prefer asexual reproduction for organisms made perfect in the beginning.

    God did it just because he could — why do you think a magician pulls FIVE birds out of his sleeve, when he could just pull one (or pull none, and just TELL us he could pull 1,000 if he really wanted to)? :D

    Nice post btw — I’m not quite sure what Ray’s obsession is with elephants, but nice explanation anyways. :)

  157. #157 Invigilator
    March 8, 2009

    “What the heck are those images lying across the lines?”

    Teeth. Molars. I’m not a biologist either, so it makes me feel good to answer.

  158. #158 Ben Breuer
    March 8, 2009

    Doesn’t sex (of some sort) even happen in yeast?

    Is that why some fundies are against drinking? “Don’t encourage them!” and all?

    Cheers!

  159. #159 tresmal
    March 8, 2009

    It happened in worms, worms that have contemporary relatives that live fruitful lives of sexual ambiguity.

    Not for long, decent people are working on it.

  160. #160 Tualha
    March 8, 2009

    Thank you, Pterryx. I was about to post that as a conjecture; it finally occurred to me to check the cited papers. The image is from the first paper (Rohland et al.), which is online. They got their DNA samples from molars, so you’re probably right. (And now it occurs to me to google “elephant molar” images – make that definitely right.) There’s a much larger image available in the article.

  161. #161 Nemo
    March 8, 2009

    I want to give Ray the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think it’s that he can’t understand this, or even necessarily that he doesn’t. And I don’t assume he’s just in it for the money. Probably his thinking goes like this:

    1. The Bible is the literal word of God. (This is an axiom, not a conclusion.)
    2. Evolution contradicts a literal reading of the Bible (and poses threats even to non-literal interpretations).
    3. Therefore, evolution is not true.
    4. Let’s find the fatal flaw in the theory of evolution!

    Even when you show him to be wrong, time and time again, it doesn’t discourage him. It just means he hasn’t found that fatal flaw yet. But he knows it’s there — because it has to be!

    So yes, he’s lying, but primarily to himself.

  162. #162 John Morales
    March 8, 2009

    I note that the consensus here seems to be that Ray Comfort is considered to be disingenous and in it for the money.

    Cynical as I am, I’m strongly swayed by this.

  163. #163 Cuttlefish, OM
    March 8, 2009

    In the World Nut Daily, or so the tale goes,
    There wrote a strange man that most everyone knows
    His name, it was Ray C.; he was dumb as could be
    And he never seemed sane?frankly, out of his tree!

    Sighed Ray C., this crazy man hatching his plot
    ?I?m a great many things, but a genius I?m not;
    I don?t like to think, cos it makes my brain hurt,
    So I?d rather say God made us all out of dirt.?
    The evidence, though, left him caught in a bind,
    Till Horton the elephant passed through his mind!

    ?I wonder? thought Comfort, ?how elephants bred,
    When it takes two to tango?or so it is said?
    A thought that showed Ray was clean out of his head.

    See, Ray thinks selection gives animals things
    Like backbones and fingers, like tusks and like wings
    Before they were both male and female of sex?
    A notion that?s clearly designed to perplex!

    While Ray could not see what was wrong with his view
    A smart second-grader could?how about you?

    He meant what he said, and he said what he meant;
    Ray Comfort?s a pinhead, one hundred percent.

  164. #164 mikecbraun
    March 8, 2009

    I think the term “asshat” is applicable to ol’ Ray.

  165. #165 Sven DiMilo
    March 8, 2009

    Cuttlefish shoots! (again); scores! (again)

  166. #166 Happy Trollop
    March 8, 2009

    And once again Cuttlefish squeezes the gist of the 162 previous comments into one concise poem.

    [stands on chair, slapping two spare tentacles together] Bravo, Cuttlefish!

  167. #167 Rev. BigDUmbChimp
    March 8, 2009

    Well let me tell you, I’m frankly astounded.

    I go away for a few hours to photograph Egrets and I come back to find out that Ray Comfort is a moron and doesn’t understand something.

    I’m shocked.

  168. #168 Rogue74656
    March 8, 2009

    The most unfortunate thing about this blog is the huge number of comments each posting generates…so I generally only read the main posting and maybe skim the comments.

    That said, I will try to play devil’s (Ray’s?) advocate but if I missed a relevant post, please point it out.

    I think that what Mr. Comfort is contending is that, at some point, a change occurred that was too big to allow for sexual reproduction to occur. As an example, at some point after diverging from chimpanzees, two chromosomes fused so that while chimpanzees had 24 pairs, humans have 23.

    I believe that Comfort is contending that this event did not occur within the population as a whole all at once; it was in a single individual. This individual, with a different chromosome number than the rest of the population would be unable to reproduce unless another individual of the opposite gender experienced the same mutation at (relatively) the same time.

    -Rogue

  169. #169 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 8, 2009

    Rev., BDC, since you are in shock I recommend medicinal doses of beer or bourbon. Repeat as need.

  170. #170 RamblinDude
    March 8, 2009

    Ray Comfort as a mop-topped, droopy-eyed Dr. Seuss character . . . I like it!

  171. #171 Pteryxx
    March 8, 2009

    Somewhere in my distant past, I must’ve seen something about elephant teeth and thought in passing, ‘Oh, that’s neat.’ Glad it was of use to somebody.

    ^ is not a biologist either – just a genetics MS who reads too much. ~ ; >

  172. #172 jrshipley
    March 8, 2009

    You do realize that Ray Comfort doesn’t believe anything he’s saying. He’s just trying to rip off gullible Evangelicals with his cheesy “The Way of the Master” videos and crappy books. I say more power to him. The less money for them to sent to dominionist political candidates. Well, jk…. sort of.

  173. #173 James
    March 8, 2009

    Did anyone else notice this ‘quote’:

    “Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers responded. “If any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage ? but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the http://www.morris.umn.edu/index.php.”

  174. #174 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 8, 2009

    You do realize that Ray Comfort doesn’t believe anything he’s saying. He’s just trying to rip off gullible Evangelicals with his cheesy “The Way of the Master” videos and crappy books. I say more power to him. The less money for them to sent to dominionist political candidates. Well, jk…. sort of.

    It’s not just evangelicals he “rips off”.

    He takes comments from his blog and uses them as the meat of content for his books, which is mostly the comments by the nasty nasty atheists that “believe everything came from nothing”.

  175. #175 Danio
    March 8, 2009

    The most unfortunate thing about this blog is the huge number of comments each posting generates…so I generally only read the main posting and maybe skim the comments.

    Hmmmm…perhaps you should forget about the comments and go back and read PZ’s post again. He addresses your question specifically, e.g: “This took time, millions of years, and at no point in that time were the populations reduced to a single, lonely male. What we’re talking about is the slow divergence of groups of animals over many generations, and these groups always had many males and many females.”

    I think that what Mr. Comfort is contending is that, at some point, a change occurred that was too big to allow for sexual reproduction to occur.

    Such changes have certainly occurred, are currently occurring, and will continue to occur, many times over. As these mutations (or other chromosomal aberrations) are indeed incompatible with reproduction, they are not passed on to future generations. Only the mutations that can be transmitted (parent to offspring) can contribute to causing population-wide changes under particular selective pressures. Thus, a change such as the one you, or Ray, propose could not contribute to speciation in any way.

    If by ‘playing devil’s advocate’ you meant ‘obtuse refusal to understand the key point of the discussion’, you nailed it.

  176. #176 JohnnieCanuck
    March 8, 2009

    Neat thing about elephant molars I only learned recently. The constant wear caused by their high volume – low nutrition diet means the molars have to be replaced regularly, much like our baby teeth.

    There are usually a total of 6 generations of teeth which are replaced horizontally rather than vertically as in humans.

    Any elephant that lives long enough to wear out its last molars will no longer be able to eat and will then starve to death, absent enough soft food.

  177. #177 Kristine
    March 8, 2009

    He won’t get it.

    Johnathan, did you intent that to have a double meaning? ;-)

    The Selfish Gene, page 141-142 (1989 edition):

    In certain primitive organisms, for instance some fungi, maleness and femaleness do not occur, although sexual reproduction of a kind does. In the system known as isogamy the individuals are not distinguishable into two sexes. Anybody can mate with anybody else. There are not two different sorts of gametes – sperms and eggs – but all sex cells are the same, called isogametes. New individuals are formed by the fusion of two isogametes, each produced by meiotic division…

    Parker and others showed how this asymmetry [of the genders] might have evolved from an orginally isogamous state of affairs. In the days when all sex cells were interchangeable and of roughly the same size, there would have been some that just happened to be slightly bigger than others. In some respects a big isogamete would have an advantage over an average-sized one, because it would get its embryo off to a good start by giving it a large initial food supply. There might therefore have been an evolutionary trend towards larger gametes. But there was a catch. The evolution of isogametes that were larger than was strictly necessary would have opened the door to selfish exploitation. Individuals who produced smaller than average gametes could cash in, provided the could ensure that their small gametes fused with extra-big ones. This could be achieved by making the small ones more mobile, and able to seek out large ones rapidly. The advantage to an individual of producing small, rapidly moving gametes would be that he could afford to make a larger number of gametes, and therefore could potentially have more children. Natural selection favoured the production of sex cells that were small and that actively sought out the big ones [are you getting this, Ray?] to fuse with. So we can think of two divergent sexual “strategies” evolving.

  178. #178 DLC
    March 8, 2009

    Well-written post, PZ.
    Hopefully it will make things a bit more clear for people who don’t understand such matters. It won’t do a thing for Ray Comfort, who will continue along being willfully ignorant.

  179. #179 Cletus
    March 8, 2009

    I liked this post. Easy to follow and not too technical for me to follow. If you’re taking requests, do more like this.

  180. #180 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 8, 2009

    Did anyone else notice this ‘quote’:

    James where was that? Because that is blatant lying.

    Here’s the original.

    So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them ? my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure ? but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

  181. #181 Anton Mates
    March 8, 2009

    Rogue74656,

    I think that what Mr. Comfort is contending is that, at some point, a change occurred that was too big to allow for sexual reproduction to occur. As an example, at some point after diverging from chimpanzees, two chromosomes fused so that while chimpanzees had 24 pairs, humans have 23.

    Except that this sort of change doesn’t necessarily prevent sexual reproduction. PZ has blogged about this in the past; chromosomes get split, fused, and rearranged fairly often in humans. So long as all the right genes are still present in the right numbers, the resulting person can be perfectly healthy. And that person will often be able to interbreed with other humans just fine, although their fertility might be slighty reduced.

    Even better–as evidence for evolution–people who inherit the same chromosomal rearrangement often have normal fertility when mating with each other, meaning that there’s now a partial reproductive barrier between people with the rearrangement and people without. That’s a perfect setup for speciation to occur.

    It’s true that there are also some mutations that make the bearer completely unable to reproduce with other members of their species, and of course those mutations are instantly selected away. But Comfort is wrong to believe that any such mutations would be necessary to get from, say, an ancestral hominid to modern chimps and humans.

  182. #182 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    Rev., BDC, since you are in shock I recommend medicinal doses of beer or bourbon. Repeat as need.

    done and done

  183. #183 Autumn
    March 9, 2009

    Rev.,
    It was in the World Net Daily story linked to in PZ’s post. Yeah It’s a great big mother-fucker (why no father-fuckers emerging simultaneously?) of a lie, but it will result in WND’s rabid readers having something to rant about for another week. I would even go so far as to speculate that it was included to further abuse the e-mail address of UMM in order to annoy PZ’s employers.
    If only the idiots realized that UMM gets annoyed at them, not at professors who are so well known that they generate massive interest in the university in question.

  184. #184 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    t was in the World Net Daily story linked to in PZ’s post.

    You know I probably could have figured that out myself had I just done the obviously simple thing of checking back on the link that this whole post is about.

    I know that would be a stupid thing to do.

    Thanks ;)

  185. #185 Michael
    March 9, 2009

    PZ, you could use sock puppets and a flowchart – drawn in crayon, of course – and it would still be lightyears beyond his grasp. Remember, this is the Bananaman. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has trouble dressing himself.

  186. #186 Autumn
    March 9, 2009

    “Sing us a song, you’re the banana-man…”

  187. #187 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    “Sing us a song, you’re the banana-man…”

    <–crushed me.

  188. #188 Amplexus
    March 9, 2009

    The thing that bothers me most about Comfort’s assertions is that the male is seen as default. If I am not mistaken, if anything, female is the default and females are the ones who can reproduce without males in some species. So, he’s got it backwards. I think, anyway

    Comfort really just can’t get out of his patriarchal mindset that it was man and then woman. My liberal Christian tradition I grew up in has evolved beyond this mindset but there are still a few holdouts and I think this attitude is very telling. It’s the same idea that women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant, for their body is nothing but a sabot for birthing, a vector for male progress.

    I mean really… I think it might be more appropriate to see the “male” as a parasitic afterthought exploiting the fact that sperm is cheap and carrying eggs or live young to term is very costly(this is called “paternal advantage”)

  189. #189 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    Wow that was s new kind of failure there.

    Not really a blockquote failure but something else.

    Maybe these newfangled code editing tools aren’t all their cracked up to be.

  190. #190 RickK
    March 9, 2009

    Oh, I’m sure he “gets it”. But he’ll never admit it.

    Forget looking to ancient history for examples. Just ask Ray to explain ring species. What he’s saying is that they’re impossible, yet they exist today.

  191. #191 Sven DiMilo
    March 9, 2009

    Indeed, males generally are the quintessential successful cheaters. Traditionally we offer nothing but chromosomes to the sexual-reproduction deal. In a few exceptions, of course, males are forced by circumstances into offering parental care as well, including many fishes, most birds and occasional mammals.

  192. #192 Dave
    March 9, 2009

    Whaddya expect from a guy with a stage name like Comfort? Is his wife named Solace?

  193. #193 Gordy
    March 9, 2009

    An excellent, concise explanation, PZ! Almost certainly futile in Mr Comfort’s case, but brilliant nonetheless…

  194. #194 Xenithrys
    March 9, 2009

    When I checked the WND page I found I was the 1,000,000th reader and eligible for a prize. Interesting that these hoaxers often place their advertisements on christian websites. I wonder if they’ve learned the readership is more gullible than the average?
    The Nigerian oil ministers’ widows are always looking for good christians to help them spend their money too, and the beautiful Russian women who ask me to marry them also seem to think I’m a christian.
    That’s evolution in action: parasites increase their fitness by accurately targetting their hosts.

  195. #195 Siddharth
    March 9, 2009

    It’s a wonderful post PZ. I’m not a biologist, but I was easily able to appreciate your rebuttal to Ray’s belief that speciation requires both a male and a female offspring with the same mutation to mate exclusively with each other.

    It’s amazing to me how people simply accept the ridiculously improbable story of divine creation, but attempt to question the aspects of evolution without bothering to understand the theory.

  196. #196 Ian H Spedding FCD
    March 9, 2009

    As I read it, Comfort was basically asking about the origins of sexual reproduction, coming from the ‘what good is half a female’ perspective.

    PZ says it was all down to those amoral pre-Cambrian worms who had problems with the fuzes in their genetic switches and slowly split into cool dude worms and hot chick worms.

    Now, I can just see Comfort coming back with a demand to see the extensive sequence of fossil worms – complete with fossilized ‘naughty bits’ – on which that explanation is based. You mark my words, if there aren’t any, he’s going to call ‘just-so story’ on the whole thing and claim it’s just another example of scientists making stuff up and then presenting it as rock-solid truth.

  197. #197 Metro
    March 9, 2009

    Well I came to the conclusion, a while ago, that Comfort’s God was green and crinkly, and that was why he insisted on being so obdurately, sinfully, stupid.

    Maybe I have been giving him too much credit.

  198. #198 IasonOuabache
    March 9, 2009

    Great post. I can’t wait to see which part Ray snips from to make his next WND article about. I’m placing my bets on the section about how males and females are similar genetically. He’ll definitely say something monumentally stupid about that.

    BTW, it was smart of PZ to avoid direct insults in this post. Ray Ray eats that stuff up because it helps fuel his persecution complex.

  199. #199 Roger Scott
    March 9, 2009

    When Ray Comfort left New Zealand, the average IQ of the country went up by 2 points.

  200. #200 gb
    March 9, 2009

    My first encounter with the monsterism concept ( a mutant in need of another oppositely sexed mutant monstering in the same direction) was brought up and thoroughly trashed in one of my first year paleontology courses (1977). The whole class was laughing hysterically that christian scientists were proposing this nonsensical view as a valid scientific concept of speciation/evolution. I guess Comfort can take comfort in being 30 years behind even christian science let alone 100′s of years behind traditional science. But hey, I give credit to any adult who takes the time to learn how to read so late in life … it is only unfortunate that his choice of material does not qualify him to ask intelligent questions of science.

  201. #201 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    davem

    I think you need to replace the tinfoil.

    Your hat is looking worn.

  202. #202 Redhead
    March 9, 2009

    PZ, you do not get what ray does not understand. And that is speciation combined with the biological species concept. he thinks that you go from one species to another in one single step (= mutation). To have a separate species, that mutation should also result in incomparability. Hence, if a single individual has a mutation making it a different species, it needs to find a second individual with the same mutation. What Ray does not understand, and we often include implicitly, is that we need several mutations (min 2, Muller Dobzhansky model), to occur in sequence with sufficient time in between, so that the first mutation has enough time to spread in a sub-population, before the second mutation introduces incomparability with the original species, but not with the subpopulation with the first mutation.

  203. #203 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 9, 2009

    Banned troll alert. Send up the cephalopod signal.

  204. #204 catta
    March 9, 2009

    Aw man, that can’t really be mabus there in comment #200?
    Not really, right?
    Why do I get the feeling that, if that’s really him (surprising enough, I thought he’d been taken away by now), he has forgotten that he ever posted here, happened upon the link through WND, and decided that this would be another one of the blogs that have some unknowable connection to his delusional crusade?
    Please tell me that it’s a Banana-weary pharyngulite having a laugh and not an actual merging of Comfort and Mabus in one topic… *shudder*

  205. #205 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    if it’s not mabus it’s a cohort.

  206. #206 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    mabus

    And Depeche Mode? really?

    You didn’t win anything. You lost.

  207. #207 Neanderthal allele
    March 9, 2009

    Hi “Nerd of Redhead”. Noted your #103 post.

    Yes I spotted Marshall Nelson (aka Charlie Wagner) as well. He?s trawling the blog pretending that he can be uncontaminated by religion and a proponent of ID. He always avoids coming up with a testable research program for ID (for a longer explanation see http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Charlie_Wagner).

    If anyone out there wants to see how ID is illogical and a methodological dead-end, then bait him with a question-answer session sometime.

  208. #208 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    Strange how finished everyone is when you’ve been repeating yourself ad nauseum for a long while.

    One little helpful suggestion Mabus if you want to show that you’ve proven something or disproven someone make it easy to find on the link you send because… damn

    that link is one jumbled piece of shit.

  209. #209 Klokwurk
    March 9, 2009

    davem: Yeah, right on nut cake! Keep up the good work I what I can only assume is a Depeche Mode fansite…

  210. #210 Scooty Puff, Jr.
    March 9, 2009

    Man, I know next to nothing about biology — thanks, American education system! But even my simple brain can comprehend the difference between a population and an individual.

    Comfort, for as stupid as his ideas are, is nobody’s fool. He is a dishonest, pompous fraud, a huckster by the side of the road selling a patent medicine called “Fundamentalist Christianity”. He wants evolution to be wrong, and so do his followers. Indeed, for his snake oil to work, he needs people to believe evolution is wrong. And there are people, millions of ‘em, willing to believe any damn thing he says about biology because they desperately want what he says to be true.

    So, it’s “us versus them”. They cast biology and science as being just another wrong ideology on the shelf next to Islam, Hinduism, and all the other religions. What they genuinely don’t get is that science isn’t just another ideology. And here’s what we have to remember: they really believe the snake oil works. When good things happen, they really really believe it’s because God wanted it to happen. And, tragically, they believe the same is true of bad things. So when science works, it works for the same reason that Christianity “works”: because you believe, not because it’s true.

    It’s sad, but none of us should be surprised when Comfort is unswayed by PZ’s crystal-clear explanation of population genetics.

  211. #211 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    Oh good grief. Mabus if you think you have a point say it here or fuck off.

    And thanks for the comment on my blog.

    I’ll be sure to make fun of you constantly.

  212. #212 akshelby
    March 9, 2009

    WTF was that? Ban davem, please. I was having a good time lurking, learning and laughing until he came along.

  213. #213 catta
    March 9, 2009

    Ah, the bot-like posting again.
    Dennis, that’s not a letter. Not even close. That’s random bullshit with links to unrelated multimedia bullshit.

    Real letters end with “yours respectfully”, for starters.

    And get some help. Seriously.

  214. #214 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    Lithium

    Stat

  215. #215 Dan S.
    March 9, 2009

    The explanation is historical.

    Oh, that was fascinating. I don’t know nearly enough about biblical criticism to tell whether it’s at all plausible, but man, that sure would explain a lot – and it really does make a better story.

  216. #216 clinteas
    March 9, 2009

    People should really stop treating the banana man like he is in any way relevant.

    Whether he’s just a liar and trying to sell books,or whether he is in fact mentally ill,who cares.He is utterly irrelevant.

  217. #217 JM Inc.
    March 9, 2009

    Wouldn’t it be great if like, Ray Comfort got it? I mean, I know it’s not likely, but maybe some like LED (or, in his case, incandescent lamp) of recognition will flicker on somewhere and it’ll start him on a lifelong quest of learning. I think a trophy of some sort would be in order for something like that, PZ.

  218. #218 Kevpod
    March 9, 2009

    It’s true, the guy is a lost cause. Do you ever see him saying, “Whoa, I’ve been mistaken all along?” Obviously not.

    But there are people who will be swayed by reason if it is available, but can’t be if it isn’t. That’s why PZ’s work is necessary.

  219. #219 riffraffithezoo
    March 9, 2009

    As others has said, I’m sure your efforts are wasted on Ray, however, I’m sure there are many, like me. Non-biologists, who appreciate the effort and do come away with a better understanding of how things REALLY work. Thanks.

  220. #220 Whiskeyjack
    March 9, 2009

    You have the patience of a saint (or the secular equivalent… teacher, I suppose) for trying to lead this guy through basic concepts over and over.

    You should design a flowchart with increasingly simple explanations (ie. “Still don’t understand? Follow this arrow to the monosyllabic box.”) and just start referring people to it.

  221. #221 DanM
    March 9, 2009

    Comfort was recently on 60 Minutes in New Zealand. I’m very disapointed he’s a New Zealander!!

  222. #222 Allyson
    March 9, 2009

    PZ, since you’re simplifying things a bit to explain evolution at a more basic level, it occurred to me that maybe there are kids’ books that might be neat to buy for the little ones in my life. Any suggestions for children’s books that touch on these concepts?

    I remember a sort of myth about a tribe of monkeys separated by a natural disaster, and over the years the monkeys on each side of the ravine began to look and behave differently, but the moral of the story was that even though they seemed very different, they began exactly the same. I could be disremembering whether they were monkeys or elephants or bears.

    Something like that, it would be lovely for meaty wee brains.

  223. #223 Justin
    March 9, 2009

    Wow this was a fantastic post. I never actually understood the divergence of sexuality and couldn’t find a good answer for it anywhere. This has saved me many a difficult argument with the forces of stupidity!

  224. #224 shaun fletcher
    March 9, 2009

    What is so stupid is that Charles bloody Darwin figured out a lot of this stuff 150 years ago without more than a tiny fraction of the information now available. The Male/Female situation didnt confuse him much, and the idea it would confuse someone now who has put a lot of effort into this subject (as Mr Comfort claims to have) is downright pathetic.

    Its all patiently explained in ‘On the Origin of Species’, a book which, astonishingly, it is very obvious Mr Comfort has not read.

  225. #225 PeterKarim
    March 9, 2009

    Reminds me of Behe. Sticking to his irreducible complexity of flagellum/immune system/blood clotting, no matter the empirical evidence piling on his witness stand.

    Why should banana man and his sexual reproduction be any different.

  226. #226 Norman Doering
    March 9, 2009

    Justin wrote:

    This has saved me many a difficult argument with the forces of stupidity!

    Now that was delusional. You have seriously underestimated the forces of stupidity.

  227. #227 Norman Doering
    March 9, 2009

    Redhead wrote:

    PZ, you do not get what ray does not understand. And that is speciation combined with the biological species concept. he thinks that you go from one species to another in one single step (= mutation).

    I agree.

    I call it “comic-book evolution.” I noticed it during Ray’s debate on Nightline:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/08/dealing-with-abysmal-ignorance.html

    I suggested talking about mules, hinnies, horses and donkies.

  228. #228 AH
    March 9, 2009

    Okay, giving Comfort the benefit of the doubt (and I’ll be the first to say that doing so is being very, very gracious), I think what he may be having problems with is conceptualizing how evolution starts at the individual level, in other words his thinking may be like:

    Given two isolated groups of a particular species,
    Step 1: Beneficial mutation appears in an individual of group A.
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Entire population of group A’s descendants now has beneficial mutation, is genetically distinct from descendants of group B.

    If you think about it, that may be their (creationists’) entire education on evolution. Not only would they go into their high school biology course already with the mental block of “this is dumb and doesn’t work, it’s not what the bible says” but actually having a quality teacher who explains it beyond “Individual is born with a beneficial mutation, and thus breeds more!” is a crapshoot.

  229. #229 Daniel B
    March 9, 2009

    I don’t think you are properly understanding the logical problem he is having. It looks like he thinks that genetic mutation is supposed to necessarily create a new species immediately. Obviously if this occurred then by definition the mutant would be unable to reproduce. He is looking at it from the point of view of the animal and not from the gene point of view.

    It may help to point out that mutations do not automatically lead to a new species and do allow the mutant to reproduce. The sickle-cell or the Lactose tolerance mutations in humans might be good examples to bring up to show how mutations can spring up and spread within a population.

    In short mutation ? speciation !

    I haven’t followed this argument in detail but it looks like it has degenerated into name calling. If you want to actually influence the thinking of those with different points of view you should take the effort to understand their objections.

  230. #230 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2009

    Ray comfort no doubt has a perverted mind, but perhaps a few of his followers are merely ignorant, and willing to learn if the occasion arises. And perhaps among them, a few will read this explanation (very good, very clear, but as commenters said, might have still been made a little easier). So if only for these rare birds (provided they exist), I thnk it was actually usuful to explain all this in detail.

  231. #231 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2009

    Also: Ray Comfort doesn’t just think that sexes are different species. He thinks that male lead and that female lag behind. He thinks that the male are the only true representatives of the species. Why is that, do you think? Too much Bible reading perhaps?

  232. #232 Libeqrat
    March 9, 2009

    ?The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.?
    ——-Bertrand Russell

    That pretty much sums up Comfortably Raytarded in my mind. His astonishingly arrogant claims (not to mention his co-optation of skeptical language) reveal a smug simpleton who mistakes cognitive dissonance for complex thinking and fallacy for common sense. He might as well declare himself skeptical that oxygen atoms exist, and demand better evidence than a peek through a microscope that the faithful chemist insists allows us to see the very, very small.

    This man really seems to believe that his silly ramblings pose an intellectual checkmate to people far more studied than he. He will never learn; he is too eager to misunderstand.

    And frankly, I don’t care that he will never learn. I care more about keeping people like him out of positions of power, and to that end, I wholly applaud Dr. Meyers for providing his blunt, explanatory retorts for the world to read. After all, here in the U.S. we have a frighteningly loud and large faction I call Know Knothing Knation who, despite getting trounced in last year’s elections, are still hell-bent on imposing their breathtaking ignorance on everyone else.

  233. #233 Stewart Paterson
    March 9, 2009

    People I beg you, I BEG YOU, do not go to Ray Comfort’s appaling blog to comment.

    That is the main reason he repeats his bullshit and lies, to provoke reaction and traffic to his blog.

    He wants to feel he is a big player. When PZ gives him any attention he feels he is in PZ’s league.

    DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!

  234. #234 Ditch
    March 9, 2009

    “Prof Myers wants us to believe that the elephant kind split off into two groups, and one group became males, and the other females. Of course, he says, they still had sex, and that’s what caused the mutations. That’s right folks – they’ve upped the stakes: They’re trying to sneak in homosexuality and incest under the banner of evolution. According to Prof Myers, if it wasn’t for homosexuality there would be no male and female!

    They can try to sneak in their left wing atheist agenda, but any rational, loving, humble and spiritual person with a soul can see it doesn’t make sense. How are these groups supposed to have been split off so they could interbreed? Is there some kind of magical barrier that divides the land?

    Perhaps the land just moves, huh?

    What other “miracles” did Darwin perform to allow these gay elephants to emmigrate? Did he make the land suddenly crack open? Did he command explosions of boiling fire, or cause the land to get blocked up with mysterious substances? What substances would they be? More something from nothing?

    And you say atheism isn’t a religion?

    Or are you telling me creatures lacking in free will just wander off for no reason?

    Call me an idiot, but if you ask me PZ Myer’s is making it up as he goes along.”

  235. #235 SuzieGirl
    March 9, 2009

    Well, I’m no scientist and it made perfect sense to me, PZ. My highschool biology has stood me in pretty good stead understanding these things, but then, I actually paid attention in highschool.
    No, I don’t think Ray will ever get it. He just doesn’t want to. After all, he has made a lot of money selling crap to ignorant people.
    I don’t think what you’re doing is a waste of time either. Ray isn’t the only one reading this. Sometimes all you need is a seed of doubt in a select few to make a huge difference, and who knows where those few will come from? It’s an evolution of thought, it happens slowly, one idea at a time. Some of us are just closer to the edge of the herd than others.

  236. #236 Cylux
    March 9, 2009

    After all, here in the U.S. we have a frighteningly loud and large faction I call Know Knothing Knation who, despite getting trounced in last year’s elections, are still hell-bent on imposing their breathtaking ignorance on everyone else.

    If only it was just their ignorance they wished to impose, and not also their hatred for their fellow man.

  237. #237 John Morales
    March 9, 2009

    Ditch:

    And you say atheism isn’t a religion?

    Sure, just like baldness is a hair color. *

    Duh.


    * Oldie but a goodie.

  238. #238 John Morales
    March 9, 2009

    Ditch: Call me an idiot, but if you ask me PZ Myer’s is making it up as he goes along.”As you wish.

    Idiot.

  239. #239 Blind Squirrel FCD
    March 9, 2009

    #234 Poe. Gotta be. No one could be that stupid. Nice attempt though.

  240. #240 owlbear1
    March 9, 2009

    —-
    “[Tell me] why horses, giraffes, cattle, zebras, leopards, primates, antelopes, pigs, dogs, sheep, fish, goats, mice, squirrels, whales, chickens, dinosaurs, beavers, cats, human beings and rats also evolved with a female, at some point of time in evolutionary history.”
    ———

    To make it so Noah would have to build a bigger boat? Is that the answer you’re looking for?

  241. #241 david
    March 9, 2009

    Ray’s answer: tl:dr: therefore god did it!

  242. #242 Klank Kiki
    March 9, 2009

    Ray doesn’t want to get it. Trying to explain anything to Ray that doesn’t fit his dogma is fruitless with regard to Ray, but it does crops up nice posts in Pharyngula we can all read.
    I don’t know if Myers does it on purpose, but I think this “Ray” character and other crackpots like him have turned out to be a kind of a story-teller’s trick that makes posts more interesting.
    Myers quotes the misunderstandings of crackers and explain how they’re wrong.

  243. #243 John Morales
    March 9, 2009

    Blind Squirrel FCD,

    #234 Poe. Gotta be. No one could be that stupid.

    Maybe it is.

    However, and I quote I know not who:
    “Human stupidity knows no limits.”

  244. #244 Jordo
    March 9, 2009

    sent Ray the Fool an email and posted on his page with the following…
    When we look at a painting, it isn’t proof at all that there was a painter, it is proof that there is a painting. What proves to us humans that there is a painter is our brains which remember what we’ve learned about the PROCESS of painting a picture. Somebody picks up a brush and some paint and Viola! Now, in the case of a painting the process that created it was certainly a Painter wielding a paintbrush. If a group of scientists spent a hundred years studying paintings they would inevitably come to that conclusion. When another group of scientists spends over a hundred and fifty years studying how Life and specifically humans came to be they don’t make the illogical jump to a Painter (creator), they study THE PROCESS by which people came to be. That undeniable process, which can be observed throughout the geological record, is evolution through natural selection.

    I’m no great wielder of words but this seems obvious? Anyone who can word it better help me out haha.

  245. #245 Sam C
    March 9, 2009

    The evilutionist Meeeyers (more Es please):

    …the hamster wheel is wobbling, but the poor beast lies dead with legs up in its cage, and nothing is turning over.

    Outrageous! Another filthy scientist slur, alleging that the good Professor Comfort, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Softening Fabrics and Fellow of the Institute of Fruitcakes kills hamsters!

    May the Holy Banana of Wisdom bless you poor people.

  246. #246 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2009

    #244, just a nit to pick: it’s “voilà”. You asked for it, so…

  247. #247 Lotharloo
    March 9, 2009

    I for one do not care whether Ray gets it or not. This was an excellent post and I greatly enjoyed reading it. I will bookmark it for the likely event that in future I also encounter an obtuse creationist like Ray.

  248. #248 zilch
    March 9, 2009

    Okay, PZ, answer me this: if elephants evolved from hyraxes, known in the Old Testament as conies, why don’t they chew the cud?

    Leviticus 11:5: And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

  249. #249 Didac
    March 9, 2009

    Comfort insists that atheists must believe that “nothing created everything”. Well, I really believe that “something transform into something other” but not I do not really believe in a Creation event (Big Bang was not a creation event, but, at most, an inflation event of already existing “stuff*”). However, modern Christian assume that somebody (God) created everything from nothing. Of course, some Theists assume that a God created everything from Itself. In the first assumption the Universe is no-God (the Universe is the Other-than-God), and in the second assumption the Universe is an extension of God Itself. The first position must assume absurdly that everything can be created from nothing. But the second assumption assume that God can be divided and partially transformed into “stuff”. Mmm.

    *Stuff = Dark Energy + Dark Matter + Radiation + Baryonic matter

  250. #250 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2009

    Now I bet you a banana that Ray Comfort will use the following argument :
    “PZ Myesr tries to refute me with a drawing dating from 1926. 1926! Can you believe that?”

    (Because, when you’re a young Earth creationist, 1926 must seem like minutes after the creation)

    #248: coney? Do you mean it’s what Coney Island was named for? Were the Ferris wheels and stuff originally powered by hyraxes (?) running in wheels?

  251. #251 Kitty
    March 9, 2009

    The first time I came to this blog I really thought you were all ignoring the real world and concentrating on a little local problem concerning the weird world of the fundamentalists. It got me into trouble if I remember it right.
    I’d not come across anything like it since 1958 when an American evangelist had tried to convince our congregation of hard boiled, northern English miners that “God is really big. Bigger than the sun. Even bigger than the moon”. (Shouted in CAPITALS).
    I was ten, rather gobby and geeky and stood up and politely told him that the moon was smaller than the earth and compared to the sun it was a speck of dust.
    The congregation laughed – the evangelist turned red and the rest of his sermon was full of bible quotations about wayward, disobedient children.
    My dad, a card carrying communist and atheist, who wasn’t there (mother was a Methodist – it was an interesting childhood) was very proud of his ‘wayward’ daughter.
    I find it hard to believe Ray Comfort exists as he is so outside my experience of life he seems like a cartoon character.
    Are you sure you haven’t just made him up to give us something to laugh about?

  252. #252 Yodood
    March 9, 2009

    “Professor, I know you believe, but please, give us who are healthy skeptics some empirical evidence. Remember, stupid people like me want good hard evidence before we, like you, become believers in Darwin’s theory,” Comfort said.”

    Gee,Ray, you don’t have any such requirements for absolute certainty about a creator and his creation. What a bigot!!

  253. #253 Ray Mills
    March 9, 2009

    Please can I ask you as a Ray, to not refer to banaman as Ray. The Name Ray being a derivative of Raymond means wise protection or councel, can banaman really be described as wise?

  254. #254 Wayne Robinson
    March 9, 2009

    The fascinating Australian fish, the barrimundi, starts out as a male and finishes as a female, so in some species, gender isn’t fixed in the individual. Ray Comfort probably just has a filthy mind; he is obsessed with sex. Biologically, the difference between males and females, is that females have to put in a much larger investment than males. Females are concerned with quality of their mates, males (generally) with quantity. Mrs Comfort probably picked the best partner she could find, but apparently her standards aren’t very high.

  255. #255 Libeqrat
    March 9, 2009

    Kitty @ 251:

    I find it hard to believe Ray Comfort exists as he is so outside my experience of life he seems like a cartoon character. [ ] Are you sure you haven’t just made him up to give us something to laugh about?

    Hee hee. Perhaps we should remain skeptical that he exists, and demand empirical evidence.

    And remain skeptical even if he appears in person. On the “theory,” of course, that IQs cannot actually run less than zero, and that, thus, he is but a figment of our imaginations. Maybe if we think hard enough, he’ll disappear.

    Uh oh. Is this what it’s like to think like him?

  256. #256 Libeqrat
    March 9, 2009

    Cylux @ 236:

    If only it was just their ignorance they wished to impose, and not also their hatred for their fellow man.

    Indeed. I used the three silent Ks for a reason. ;)

  257. #257 pepe
    March 9, 2009

    Actually at the very beginning there were THREE sexes but then something went wrong and we were left with just two; what a wonderful world it would have been if there were three!

  258. #258 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    Are you sure you haven’t just made him up to give us something to laugh about?

    …and before you start thinking all that fundy godbothering bullshit is a US invention…

    realize that Ray came from New Zealand.

    And Ken Ham is from Australia.

    the US didn’t give these dolts the ideas they came there with; they already had them in their heads on arrival.

    I rather think (now living where Ray came from), that he is far better suited to where I left than where I am, but that doesn’t negate the fact that indeed, New Zealand is where he was bred and raised.

  259. #259 Kitty
    March 9, 2009

    realize that Ray came from New Zealand.

    And Ken Ham is from Australia.

    But it seems they had to go to the US to make money out of their insanity.

  260. #260 windy
    March 9, 2009

    I find it hard to believe Ray Comfort exists

    And even if he exists, how could he have found a corresponding female???

  261. #261 mrcreosote
    March 9, 2009

    @#244

    I prefer a comeback against the ‘watchmaker’ argument.

    Creationist: “When we see a watch we infer a watchmaker”
    Evolutionary: “Except when we see watches reproducing by themselves, and notice that each generation of watches is slightly different than the last one, and can find fossils of other watch-like objects that show a succession of changes leading up to the watches we see now”

  262. #262 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    But it seems they had to go to the US to make money out of their insanity.

    Touche’

    which is one of the reasons I left.
    :)

  263. #263 Snark7
    March 9, 2009

    So, when did creationists separate as their own species?
    Did a lone bull moron wander of the herd of intelligent people and find a single utterly stupid female to breed a new herd of horribly idiotic animals?
    Or how does your “evilution faith” explain the existence of creationist, hu, professa ?

  264. #264 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    Did a lone bull moron wander of the herd of intelligent people and find a single utterly stupid female to breed a new herd of horribly idiotic animals?

    ever see Idiocracy?

    sounds about right to me.

  265. #265 Aquaria
    March 9, 2009

    I haven’t followed this argument in detail but it looks like it has degenerated into name calling. If you want to actually influence the thinking of those with different points of view you should take the effort to understand their objections.

    Creotards demonstrate a disgusting lack of civility when they lie about their motives, lie about facts, lie about people they know jack shit about. You don’t owe courtesy to liars.

    Also, lack of civility doesn’t change whether or not the argument is right or wrong. It’s wrong or it isn’t.

    Your concern is noted.

    Now piss off.

  266. #266 NessieSapporo
    March 9, 2009

    >So desperate is the Worldnutdaily to keep Ray Comfort on the front page … that they’re now trolling blogs looking for negative comments

    May I suggest trawling? The waters are too rich for trolling.

  267. #267 zilch
    March 9, 2009

    coney? Do you mean it’s what Coney Island was named for? Were the Ferris wheels and stuff originally powered by hyraxes (?) running in wheels?
    @250- I don’t know, but I suspect Coney Island was named after rabbits, which are also called conies, but are in a different baramin than hyraxes. The word “coney” is from the Latin “cuniculus” (as is the modern German word for rabbit, Kaninchen, and it was used (mistakenly) to translate Hebrew “shaphan” in the King James Bible. Everything else in the Bible is true, however.

  268. #268 Eidolon
    March 9, 2009

    I have to say that RC is willfully ignoring any and all explanations. He has found his niche as a provider of red meat for the godbots. The pay is good and his approval rating with his target audience is outa sight.

    Still, it was a good description of evolution within elephants – I had no idea they were once so diverse.

  269. #269 John Morales
    March 9, 2009

    NessieSapporo @266, not only is trolling a felicitous allusion, it’s quite apposite and germane.

  270. #270 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    Everything else in the Bible is true, however.

    cool. I always wanted striped kids, and was just waiting for confirmation that screwing while looking at something painted with stripes (genesis 30:37-39) would be sufficient to make that occur.

    Zebra kids, here I cum!

  271. #271 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    btw, for those too impatient (or sane) to wade through a tedious tome written by a bunch of long dead goatherders to find that verse you were thinking of mocking, might I recommend…

    http://www.biblegateway.com/

    pick your version, search on a keyword, and there ya have it.

  272. #272 Benjamin
    March 9, 2009

    Ray should ask himself, why he has nipples?

  273. #273 Geoff
    March 9, 2009

    It’s like shouting at the rain or trying to teach a dog to do quantum mechanics.

  274. #274 Eidolon
    March 9, 2009

    To continue the flagellation of this deceased equine, RC would no more ask about nipples, clitori, or much of anything else since questions are not what he is about. He is a celebrity – sort of the Rush of the ID crowd. His fan base is like the audience at some heritage act for a rock group. They know what they want to hear and any good entertainer gives the audience exactly what they want.

    SuzieGirl@ 235 gets it. Change can only occur at the margins.

  275. #275 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2009

    So you shouldn’t eat hyrax because it’s some sort of ruminant or chewer? What precisely is that supposed to mean?

  276. #276 kyle
    March 9, 2009

    His argument was in regard to the evolution of sexual reproduction(even if he’s too dense to realize this). You gave him more shit about elephants. How can you so obviously miss his intended point while claiming he has so obviously missed yours?

  277. #277 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 9, 2009

    His argument was in regard to the evolution of sexual reproduction(even if he’s too dense to realize this). You gave him more shit about elephants. How can you so obviously miss his intended point while claiming he has so obviously missed yours?

    Did you read the whole post?

  278. #278 DaveL
    March 9, 2009

    Kyle,

    2nd-last paragraph. The rest of it was presumably to highlight the fact Ray Comfort doesn’t understand that explaining the evolution of sexual reproduction for one mammal explains them all, since it occurred in a common ancestor.

  279. #279 John Atkeson
    March 9, 2009

    I think the great service that PZM provides here is not that he will ever win over Ray Comfort or his ilk..

    - PZM’s great service is he puts facts on the record for all those lay people whom Ray might successfully confuse.

    Rebutting professional creationists is tedious, repetitive, and thankless, but someone’s got to do it.

    The ID crowd has gotten way too much traction filling the public record with BS, unchecked because we dismissed them as buffoons.

    John

  280. #280 The Biologista
    March 9, 2009

    It shouldn’t require such detailed explanation, but I’m sure it still won’t sink in. Perhaps a graphical representation or a simple story would be suitable. I wrote a draft of a sort of children’s story about evolution on my blog last year. Perhaps that might help Ray grasp the concept that the reproductive divide that we use as a definition of species is not a single event.

    http://thebiologista.blogspot.com/2008/07/great-wormtown-spade-disaster-part-1.html

    In a way it’s almost like the usual creationist straw man tactic, except that I suspect Comfort never intended to use that tactic. He just doesn’t understand how evolution works.

  281. #281 John Phillips, FCD
    March 9, 2009

    Don’t be too hard on poor dumb Kyle, it was obviously TL;DR.

  282. #282 Cappy
    March 9, 2009

    He just can’t wrap his mind around an event where the male elephant appeared and then fell asleep and then god removed a rib (tusk?) and made the female elephant. He needs a new narrative.

  283. #283 Ray Ladbury
    March 9, 2009

    “Never teach a pig to sing. It doesn’t work, and it annoys the pig.”–Mark Twain

    Comfort and his fellow IDiots simply have a different concept of “species” than those of us in the reality-based community. They can’t wrap their minds around the whole process of speciation and are afraid to try lest their tiny, little minds explode.

  284. #284 Smidgy
    March 9, 2009

    As I understand how evolution works, even if you assume Ray’s insane idea that males and females needed to have evolved separately was true, and even stack it even more in Ray’s favor, and create a hypothetical situation that, since the advent of sexual reproduction, every single animal that has ever existed used human-style sexual reproduction, and was utterly incapable of doing something like changing sex, evolution would still provide an answer to his underlying point, and it is this:

    In that situation, any animal that suddenly found it had no males or no females, for any reason, would be faced with an evolutionary disadvantage of sufficiently major proportions that they would become extinct in a single generation.

    This means that all the organisms that Ray listed would be the ones that successfully avoided this throughout their evolutionary history. The ones that didn’t would now be extinct, so wouldn’t be around for him to list.

    So, even if you assume everything that PZ has said that refutes Ray’s argument is absolutely 100% wrong, in every detail, and Ray Comfort is right in saying that males and females needed to have evolved separately for every species, his underlying point would still be wrong. He is an utter imbecile of the highest order.

  285. #285 Ouchimoo
    March 9, 2009

    Ray comfort: “BUT GAWD SAYS THAT MANLY MEN LIKE MEE WAS CREATED FIRST . . .I CAN’T COMPREHEND OTHERWISSE!!!!! I HAVE PENIS!!!!! IT HAS TO BE SPECIAL!!!”

    I’d hate to imagine what would happen if Comfort was born a woman.

    psh.

  286. #286 kryptonic
    March 9, 2009

    Ray Comfort is selling a product. Peddling disinformation about the competing product is an effective sales tool. He’s not going to to advertise to his customer base that the competition has a better product. He will never tell his buyers that his is a spurious concoction and the other one is easy to use, it really works 24/7, plus you get a lifetime supply! If he was selling any other product it would be consumer fraud.

    A generally inadequate and broken (US) education system and early childhood religious indoctrination (churches, Sunday schools, church camp, evangelists on TV, faith-based everything, etc.) guarantee Comfort always has an easy sell. He has no need to make cold calls. No generating his own sales leads.

    Comfort sells anti-science* with a “SCIENCE” label pasted on. People are promised an easy, trouble free product and he’s not going to stick on a label warning of the contraindications and harmful effects. Can Comfort’s potential customers be convinced that science is better? Sadly, no. We can’t convince them to take a peek under that label, let alone peel the label completely off. Face it, people seek comfort and the “Comfort brand” is apparently very popular and successful.

    *anti-Science: It works, bitches.

    P.S. Good post P.Z.

  287. #287 Drosera
    March 9, 2009

    Ray Comfort cried all the way to the bank.

    I?m sure he is just a con artist who, like all con men, preys on gullible people. And who can be more gullible than a creationist? Ray is just the top predator in his chosen niche.

  288. #288 Reynold
    March 9, 2009

    Ray is a professional bullshit artist…as is shown here, and here, where he misquotes Stephen Hawking, as is shown on his blog’s header.

    He repeats the same questions over and over even when it’s explained to him, which I took issue with.

  289. #289 Moggie
    March 9, 2009

    #285:

    I’d hate to imagine what would happen if Comfort was born a woman.

    Entirely different ideas about the banana.

  290. #290 Krystalline Apostate
    March 9, 2009

    What other “miracles” did Darwin perform to allow these gay elephants to emmigrate? Did he make the land suddenly crack open? Did he command explosions of boiling fire, or cause the land to get blocked up with mysterious substances? What substances would they be? More something from nothing?

    I call Poe.

  291. #291 ildi
    March 9, 2009

    I just had to jump ahead from #46 to say, Mrs. Weeks, that Perverted Worms would be a most excellent band name.

  292. #292 Gralgrathor
    March 9, 2009

    @ Bad Albert | March 8, 2009 7:15 PM

    « I think Ray knows and understands all this but deliberately carries on with his own version. Can’t blame him really. »

    Can’t? Why not?

  293. #293 pdferguson
    March 9, 2009

    What I find endlessly fascinating about fundamentalists like Comfort (and he’s a perfect example), is what they might be able to achieve if they directed their prodigious energy to meaningful pursuits. Comfort claims to have authored dozens of books, but from what I know of his writing, not one is worth the paper it’s printed on. What if instead he had spent that time researching and writing a few books that would actually contribute to human knowledge, that would add to our understanding of the world we live in.

    It is a strange phenomenon of crackpots in general, and Comfort in particular, how much energy they expend, how much nonsense they produce in service of their illusory command of their chosen subject matter. It is a strange but not uncommon mental condition that drives these people to fancy themselves respected experts, but of course in truth they are hopelessly incoherent and disconnected from reality. This is truly one of the great mysteries of the human mind.

  294. #294 AJ Milne
    March 9, 2009

    Rebutting professional creationists is tedious, repetitive, and thankless, but someone’s got to do it.

    Sadly true.

    We might have to set up a shift system, someday, tho’. Guard against burnout.

  295. #295 Josh
    March 9, 2009

    zilch wrote:

    Everything else in the Bible is true, however.

    Right. And “everything” would include The Flud?

    So, you actually want me to buy that your god, who, despite knowing all of the answers beforehand, somehow still fucked up his creation, and was then apparently so surprised at having done so (Genesis 6:6, KJV) that his only recourse was to slaughter all but ?eight of the world’s human population? And despite the fact that he created the universe with so little effort that the Bible feels no need to elaborate on methodology, his means of handing down this holy mass spanking (because of course the ants are somehow also naughty and worthy of punishment) is the rather cumbersome tactic of flooding the earth?

    And you want me to buy this despite the fact that this worldwide flood, as described in Genesis, is impossible according to our current understanding of physics. You know, physics? That weak-ass science that we obviously can’t get right? That pathetic discipline that’s too complicated for us to do anything of note of with; certainly nothing cool like successfully putting a spacecraft on another fucking planet or, I don’t know, successfully splitting a motherfucking atom. That science?

    In order to accept the Genesis flood, I have to accept that

    1., Your god miracled another complete operating system for the universe (or at least Earth in particular) into existence to allow The Flud to happen, and then

    2., miracled away all of the geological evidence that this flood would have left on the planet, followed by

    3., changing the universe’s/Earth’s operating system to one that can be explained by physics as we know it, following by

    4., creating a rock record that screams loudly with one collective voice, comprised of every grain of sand, every rounded quarz pebble, and every hydrated clay mineral, that there was No-Global-Flood.

    This is the story that you want me to buy into. But, you want me to accept this story on faith, without any supporting evidence at all, because of course all of the evidence got miracled away. Because, what was it, the being which created the universe and did all of this is nothing without faith?

    Have I got it pretty much right?

    Dude, I know you’re just a drive-by (or you’re a fucking poe), and not worth the effort it took to write this, but seriously, if you and your kind are what seeing clearly is all about, then I’ll happily wander through the rest of my life blind. Thanks, though.

  296. #296 Walton
    March 9, 2009

    Comfort and his fellow IDiots simply have a different concept of “species” than those of us in the reality-based community.

    Am I part of the “reality-based community”?

  297. #297 Vic
    March 9, 2009

    The little known secret is that Ray Comfort is actually a brilliant performance artist. He’s actually quite intelligent. He’s just been putting on this ignorant preacher routine as a huge comedy gag, a bit like Andy Kaufman’s wrestling bit. One day he’ll reveal the joke to everyone. Just wait. I know he makes me laugh.

  298. #298 Allytude
    March 9, 2009

    How does arrant nonsense as spoken by Ray Comfort and his ilk help the anti-evolution cause? I would think that they would appear to be the Stephen Colberts of their kind- they make such a parody of those views. Why do these anti-evo people take that idiot seriously. he must hurt their cause more than anything else. The Sarah Palins of the anti-evo-movement.Or, more frighteningly are all the anti-evo folk just arrant idiots?

  299. #299 Mena
    March 9, 2009

    Am I understanding his point correctly? Does he think that males don’t pass on any genetic information to their daughters and that females don’t pass any to their sons? Wow. That’s a new low for not understanding how reproduction works. Someone needs to retake (more likely take) a high school biology class…

  300. #300 Anri
    March 9, 2009

    Greetings!

    I’m no Cuttlefish, but I offer this meager item
    (with apologies to PZ, Billy Joel and the rest of the English-speaking world):

    It’s nine o’clock on WingNutDaily
    The regular crowd logs on in
    And Ray Comfort is sitting next to me
    With a banana and a foul grin.

    He says, “You cannot prove evolution -
    Though I’m not really sure how it goes -
    But it?s wrong, and here?s why, a hopeful monster guy
    Has no females to solace his woes!”

    La la la, de de da
    La la, de de da da da

    Chorus:
    Tell us a lie, you’re banana man
    Tell us a lie tonight
    Well, we all know you’re just a creationist,
    Far too wrong to ever be right

    Now Behe tells us it?s impossible
    For DNA to evolve on its own
    But his maths are so scary, his equations hairy,
    We all just shake our heads and groan

    He says, “This shows there is a designer-guy.
    So teach the controversy today!
    And I know it sounds odd when we claim it?s not God,
    The Wedge Document gave that away.”

    Oh, la la la, de de da
    La la, de de da da da

    Now Ray starts to say that the elephants
    Did not have females when they were small
    ?And maybe it?s billions, or thousands or millions
    Of years since then ? I don?t recall.?

    And the Okies float dumb resolutions
    The halt speech at university:
    ?If we can keep Dawkins from atheist talkin?s,
    That?s Academic Freedom to me!?

    Chorus

    The god-botters show up on Pharyngula,
    And the tentacled Ilk start to smile
    ‘Cause they know it’s PZ they’ve been comin’ to see
    To spout inane comments a while

    And the comments, they sound like a carnival
    Cyberpistols loaded to impress
    And they whine and complain and spout the same refrain
    And say, “We hate you all, and God bless!”

    Oh, la la la, de de da
    La la, de de da da da

    Chorus

  301. #301 Itzac
    March 9, 2009

    Merriam-Webster defines obstinate as
    1: perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion.

    The man has made a personal investment in his misinterpretation. He will cling to it until it becomes more harmful to him than admitting his mistake. Which is a bit of a catch, because it becomes more harmful to admit his mistake the longer her clings to it. This should be fun.

  302. #302 Gra
    March 9, 2009

    You’ve made far more effort than this idiot deserves.

  303. #303 AmericanGodless
    March 9, 2009

    Snark7 #263 “Did a lone bull moron wander of the herd..”
    Perfect! (This had me literally laughing until I was dizzy).

  304. #304 Ditch
    March 9, 2009

    I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. The banana argument could spell the end for implicature, and it’s entirely possible Kirk Cameron doesn’t get the intelligent falling joke.
    On my quaint island, at least, irony is still different from a deliberate attempt to fulfill Poe’s Law. :-)

  305. #305 Terry Small
    March 9, 2009

    PZ, it’s a heroic effort, but really, why waste time trying to educate this buffoon? It’s like he sits and reads the whole thing, nodding, and then when you’re finished he goes, “Hurr, but boys is diff’rent from gurls. How does they evovle??!”

    It’s like he can’t comprehend that slight genetic differences do not constitute a sudden speciation event. He can’t get it around his head that an elephant with “CAG” somewhere in its genome can still create viable offspring with an elephant whose genome in the same location reads “CAA”.

    Get a goddamn education, Roy. Really.

  306. #306 Sastra
    March 9, 2009

    Walton #296 wrote:

    Am I part of the “reality-based community”?

    I’d say yes, of course.

    The definition isn’t tight, but generally speaking those who are not in the “reality-based community” believe in faith as a valuable method, tend towards conspiracy-theories, and hold that supernatural forces of some kind are significant players in world events. I know that a lot of people disagree with your politics, but, though you may be accused of ‘magical thinking,’ I think people are using that as a metaphor.

  307. #307 Watchman
    March 9, 2009

    cool. I always wanted striped kids, and was just waiting for confirmation that screwing while looking at something painted with stripes (genesis 30:37-39) would be sufficient to make that occur.

    Ah-hah! So that explains why, when I look at my son, I can see myself!

  308. #308 Ray Ladbury
    March 9, 2009

    Walton asks: “Am I part of the “reality-based community”?”

    I’d say the jury’s still out on that one. It depends on whether you think reality trumps ideology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality-based_community

  309. #309 Cretinist
    March 9, 2009

    The distant ancestor of all those animals Ray rattled off, and including insects, clams, squid, starfish, and leeches, was a pre-Cambrian worm, and it was most likely a hermaphrodite, producing both sperm and eggs.

    How do you know? Were you there?

  310. #310 John Phillips, FCD
    March 9, 2009

    Walton, barring your politics (sorry couldn’t resist :) )not too long ago you were borderline at best. However, recently you seem to have woken up, so yes you are, and welcome.

  311. #311 zilch
    March 9, 2009

    So you shouldn’t eat hyrax because it’s some sort of ruminant or chewer? What precisely is that supposed to mean?
    @275: that’s exactly what it’s supposed to mean: you shouldn’t eat hyrax because God says no.
    Dude, I know you’re just a drive-by (or you’re a fucking poe), and not worth the effort it took to write this[...]
    Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed today, and stepped on his irony meter. I thought claiming that the hyrax is a ruminant would be a dead giveaway…

  312. #312 amphiox
    March 9, 2009

    Regarding the comments on chromosome abnormality, I would also point out that these are pretty common mutations, and the number of chromosomes are limited. So in a populaton of sufficient size, even if there happened to be one spontaneous mutant arising who could not mate with anything but an identical mutant of the opposite sex, the mutations will occur frequently enough that sooner or later, the situation will eventually arise where one male and one female with that particular mutation will both be born and reach sexual maturity within each other’s reproductive lifetimes, will meet, will mate, and will have offspring.

    And this scenario will occur even in some hypothetical alternate universe where Ray Comfort is 100% right on the specifics of this particular issue, and speciation through this apparently unlikely (but in fact not very unlikely at all) scenario would occur.

    Unless some supernatural power acted deliberately to prevent it.

  313. #313 SteveM
    March 9, 2009

    I wonder if part of the problem (not for Ray who is deliberate obtuse) for a lot of people is due to the way the “tree (or bush) of evolution” is drawn. That is, in some way it does imply that at each branch, one species is giving birth to a new species. The gradual drift of populations into becoming a new species is not well conveyed by lines and nodes. It needs to be much fuzzier to convey that at no time is an offspring a different species than its parent but over time two seperated ppopulations of the same species eventually become seperate species.

  314. #314 MZ
    March 9, 2009

    I think Ray knows and understands all this but deliberately carries on with his own version. Can’t blame him really. After all, this is his meal ticket.

    I think it was HL Mencken who said that it is impossible to make a man believe something if his pay check depends on his believing the opposite.

    Apparently, it is also impossible to make a man understand something if his pay check depends on his ignorance.

  315. #315 David
    March 9, 2009

    You obviously have an intelligent and rational argument. But try to tone down the name calling. Labeling Comfort “stupid” and an “idiot” will only serve to create a divide between “his” people and “yours.” I enjoyed reading both sides and agree that you are the only one of the two to make sense, but name calling only makes you look immature.

    Keep fighting the good fight

  316. #316 Elyse
    March 9, 2009

    My goodness, PZ, what an active imagination you must have to have come up with all of that.

    WorldNet has quite impressively written one article on 1) you calling Comfy an idiot, 2) promoting Comf’s book, 3) discussing National Geographic’s programming, 4) cracker abuse scandal, 5) the Amazon rating “conspiracy” for which you have nothing to do with…..and so much more!

    My favorite part of the WorldNet article: “…but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the http://www.morris.umn.edu/index.php.”

    You could pursue legal action….but it’s just so dang funny!!!

    Also, it’s kind of mean to use big words in your explanation that Comf won’t understand, like “phylogenetic,” “speciation,” and “mammoth.”

  317. #317 Josh
    March 9, 2009

    Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed today, and stepped on his irony meter. I thought claiming that the hyrax is a ruminant would be a dead giveaway…

    It kinda was, but I just couldn’t be sure.

    The irony meter got blown up yesterday and I haven’t gotten it replaced yet…

  318. #318 Glen Davidson
    March 9, 2009

    Labeling Comfort “stupid” and an “idiot only serve to create a divide between “his” people and “yours.”

    Perhaps you didn’t notice, but Comfort is exploiting the divide that already exists, and (virtually) always has. Indeed, they are the ones who work to keep it that way.

    And how does one address completely stupid “arguments” without actually calling them stupid and idiotic, as one calls the purveyor of such anti-knowledge? It is neither honest, nor does it adequately address the problems, to pretend that Comfort is acting in any way other than stupidly, and most likely, mendaciously too boot.

    There are plenty of writings that address these issues with the respect that the IDiots and cretins do not deserve, but which provide a very useful service to them nonetheless. I never liked the attacks upon those writings, and their authors, because I understand the good-cop/bad-cop routine in this context.

    The fact is that people need to know that they will receive no respect for telling lies, and they need respectful (however undeserved) replies that they can learn from whenever they have some doubts about their “verities.”

    I’m always amazed at the “concern trolls,” for they seem to think that we are simply emotionally responding when we call idiots what they are. Well, I don’t, I call them what they are due to honesty and because they need to know that BS deserves no respect.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  319. #319 Alec
    March 9, 2009

    “Let’s go back even further (100 million years ago) to pre-pre-elephants that also contained males and females. At what point of time in evolutionary history did the female evolve alongside the male? And why did she evolve? Then explain, if you would professor, why horses, giraffes, cattle, zebras, leopards, primates, antelopes, pigs, dogs, sheep, fish, goats, mice, squirrels, whales, chickens, dinosaurs, beavers, cats, human beings and rats also evolved with a female, at some point of time in evolutionary history …”

    Does the word “plesiomorphy” help you at all here, Ray? No…? Didn’t think so.

  320. #320 EB
    March 9, 2009

    Wow, this is what Ray was confused about? I got the impression from PZ’s earlier post that Ray was disputing evolution because he didn’t understand where sexual reproduction comes from (which I thought, for Ray, was pretty good). But now I see that Ray is questioning where the male/female pair comes from *each time* a new species “appears”. Wow. What an idiot.

  321. #321 Jim Thomerson
    March 9, 2009

    I suppose male and female, as we think of them, originated when some protistan invented heterogamy and abandoned isogamy. But flowering plants go too far with their double fertilization.

  322. #322 godhatesprotesters
    March 9, 2009

    “‘Professor, I know you believe, but please, give us who are healthy skeptics some empirical evidence. Remember, stupid people like me want good hard evidence before we, like you, become believers in Darwin’s theory,’ Comfort said.”

    If Comfort really valued empirical evidence, he wouldn’t be a Christian.

  323. #323 David
    March 9, 2009

    In response to Glen D…

    Jesus tap dancing christ, this is the real problem. You are unable to see that your bs is the same as theirs. You both are two sides of the same coin. Once both sides learn to respect the opposing view the better. But maybe you’re right, perhaps calling them idiots every second of everyday will make them want to listen to you…

  324. #324 Glen Davidson
    March 9, 2009

    But maybe you’re right, perhaps calling them idiots every second of everyday will make them want to listen to you…

    Did I say that, moron?

    Since you’re too stupid to understand plain English, I’ll just write you off as another self-righteous dickhead who misunderstands social psychology.

    For those who can think, I would repeat the fact that our side has tried “being nice” in the past, and only were accused of grievous acts for it.

    Not that the idiot David is able to learn any better than the cretins and IDiots do. He’s just a self-absorbed simpleton.

    Dumbass David can’t even recognize the difference between telling the truth about their idiocy, and telling complete lies, like they do, calling them two sides of the same coin. Someone that clueless should not be expected to have even a middling reading comprehension capacity.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  325. #325 CJO
    March 9, 2009

    Once both sides learn to respect the opposing view the better.

    No. No, and a thousand times no. They are professional liars and charlatans, in thrall to authoritarian politics and a repressive, misogynist religious tradition that can’t be rendered irrelevant and culurally neutered soon enough. There is nothing worthy of respect, or even toleration, in any aspect of creationism.

    There are not two opposing views. There is reality and there is magical thinking bolstered by religious leaders and the hacks at the DI. I don’t respect liars and con-men, and I never will. Why do you think I should?

  326. #326 Kel
    March 9, 2009

    Once both sides learn to respect the opposing view the better.

    If creationists learnt to respect science, there would be no creationists. Instead the likes of Ray Comfort lie through their teeth in order to spread their anti-science agenda. When Comfort stops deliberately espousing falsehoods about evolutionary theory, either through deliberate deception or personal ignorance, then maybe people will stop being disrespectful to him. But while he’s lying through his teeth in order to subvert science (and profit from credulous ignorant but well-meaning people) he’s going to be ridiculed as anyone carrying those grossly distorted views of evolution should be.

  327. #327 brokenSoldier
    March 9, 2009

    Posted by: David | March 9, 2009 7:12 PM

    Jesus tap dancing christ, this is the real problem. You are unable to see that your bs is the same as theirs.

    Wrong – the real problem is that “their side” is the one arguing against demonstrated evidence and scientific fact. Not the same. Inflection does not matter when it comes to this debate – only substance. Though I disagree with Hitchens on a lot of things, I agree with him in the belief that polite disagreement is simply not possible with those who will not listen to evidence and/ or reason.

  328. #328 CJO
    March 9, 2009

    brokenSoldier! How the hell are ya? We don’t see enough of you lately.

  329. #329 brokenSoldier
    March 9, 2009

    hey CJO (and everyone else)!

    I’ve been okay, though I’ve been a little busy with the VA and the Army (my next eval is in April), so my blog and my comments here have been almost nonexistent. I’ll be around more!

  330. #330 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    You both are two sides of the same coin

    have you ever heard of the fallacy of false equivalence?

    some examples:

    http://theeclecticquill.com/2008/10/14/the-fallacy-of-false-equivalence/

    http://interestingtimes.blogspot.com/2004/09/ap-and-fallacy-of-false-equivalence.html

    Are you now clear that this is exactly what you are doing?

    here, before you commit another common fallacy in your next post, use this to filter yourself:

    http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx

  331. #331 Paul Johnson
    March 9, 2009

    There ought to be a website that catagorizes all supposed evolutionary paths that are currently accepted leading to non-extinct large animals with drawings, names, and examples of fossils. This would make our debate a lot easier.

    I’d suggest it be wider but until we make serious advances in oceanography and exploration i feel like properly categorizing things like archaea might take more research

  332. #332 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    Though I disagree with Hitchens on a lot of things, I agree with him in the belief that polite disagreement is simply not possible with those who will not listen to evidence and/ or reason.

    heyo!

    welcome back.

    since you were the one who first turned me on to this quote, let me yet again use it to support your above statement:

    “Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

  333. #333 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    There ought to be a website that catagorizes all supposed evolutionary paths that are currently accepted leading to non-extinct large animals with drawings, names, and examples of fossils. This would make our debate a lot easier.

    start HERE:

    http://www.tolweb.org/tree/

    it ain’t perfect (fuck, it’s so huge it’s small wonder), but it’s an excellent place to start.

  334. #334 David
    March 9, 2009

    In response to Kel and CJO, I understand your points and think they are completely valid. I already posted that I do not believe in creationism and that the arguments found in the above article are clear and, from where I am standing, correct. I believe this Comfort character to be wrong, and am unsettled that he has books out there. But the point is that obviously his books are selling, there are people out there who have a propensity towards religion and creationism and the idea is not to alienate them by calling them childish names, or saying that they are wrong for what they believe. As soon as you do this you have become exactly the same as Comfort. Don’t fuel each others fires.

    Also, since I do believe that creationist can read…I would suggest not generalizing all of them and labeling them stupid. That in itself is stupid. Who knows, a creationist one day could read a well thought out article on evolution and start questioning the world. Isnt that what we want? People to ask questions. But you can be damn sure that no one will have any interest debating topics with opponents who name call.

    Anyway, good talk…oh, and whoever this glen davidson fellow is…I just want you to know I feel sorry for you. You are a smart human being, but intelligence seems to be wasted on you…

  335. #335 Josh
    March 9, 2009

    @brokenSoldier.

    All the way, Airborne. Sounds like you’ve been pretty well. Glad to hear it.

  336. #336 Kel
    March 9, 2009

    As soon as you do this you have become exactly the same as Comfort.

    Exactly the same? Come on now.

  337. #337 Alec
    March 9, 2009

    Paul @331

    There ought to be a website that catagorizes all supposed evolutionary paths that are currently accepted leading to non-extinct large animals with drawings, names, and examples of fossils

    Take a look at the Tree of Life Web Project at http://tolweb.org/tree/phylogeny.html.

  338. #338 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    But the point is that obviously his books are selling, there are people out there who have a propensity towards religion and creationism and the idea is not to alienate them by calling them childish names

    on the value of using ridicule…

    see:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/01/ridicule_is_a_useful_tool.php

    also see:

    Kansas
    Dover
    Florida
    Ohio

    and coming soon:

    Texas
    Louisiana
    California?

    you might not like it, but sometimes the best way to win an argument really is to marginalize the other side.

    If you have ever seen someone employ the “Gish Gallop” (look it up), you would understand why there is little point in evidentiary debate with those who employ it (e.g., every creationist).

    suggestion:

    spend more time perusing the articles on this blog, and on the other sci-blogs, and on Panda’s Thumb.

    after a few weeks, you’ll start to get the idea.

    and if you don’t, well, you can join the appeaser group and play that tactical game if you wish.

    If that’s your choice, you might want to read this book by EO Wilson:

    http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=EO+Wilson+book&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=17002258347763950232#ps-sellers

    If you read it and agree with his methodology, then feel free to jump on that bandwagon. Just never assume that it’s the “only” way out of this mess, or even the most productive one.

  339. #339 Sastra
    March 9, 2009

    David #334 wrote:

    But the point is that obviously his books are selling, there are people out there who have a propensity towards religion and creationism and the idea is not to alienate them by calling them childish names, or saying that they are wrong for what they believe. As soon as you do this you have become exactly the same as Comfort. Don’t fuel each others fires.

    I think that when you’re dealing with anything as complex as a clash between science and religion, it’s going to be hard to find the one and only best way to approach the problem. There are a lot of people on the evolution side pursuing the polite, thoughtful, and respectful line of attack. That’s fine.

    But it’s occurring to some people that one of the reasons creationism may be so persistent might be partly because of the gentle approach. People in the U.S. culture have gotten very used to thinking that anything that intersects with their religious beliefs takes on a special glow of virtue, and requires a certain amount of deference. Being very cautious to avoid offending religious sensibilities might very well promote the idea that creationist views are worthy contenders in the marketplace of ideas, and views based on faith are admirable. That, too, can fuel the fire.

    I think there needs to be a little less respect here and there, less pussy-footing around, less pandering. It may “turn people off” — or it might shake people out of their comfortable assumptions, and wake them up.

    There’s not just one line of attack.

  340. #340 Kathryn in California
    March 9, 2009

    Imagine Ray next addresses the people who believe the Tower of Babel never existed, as written up in DailyWorldNet:

    There is a running contention between the author and AntiBabelTowerians about the “Shifting Languages” of male and female. Comfort said, “I don?t have the evident faith the professor has to believe in the theory of Glottochronology, and so I am glad that he took the time to explain his beliefs as to why females had Shifted Language along with males in every language group on earth.” Meyers said on his blog, “…This has been explained to him multiple times: comparative linguistics does explain this stuff trivially. Populations shift languages, not individuals, and male and female French speakers shifted language from populations of pre-French speakers that contained males and females. Languages do not arise from single new-dialect-speaking males that then have to find a corresponding new-dialect-speaking female ? they arise by the diffusion of changing words through a whole population, male and female.”

    Comfort responded, “Okay, I?ve got it. Your belief is that languages do not arise from single new-dialect-speaking males that then have to find a corresponding new-dialect-speaking female. So, let?s take it slowly for those who like empirical evidence. We are looking at a contemporary male and a female Arcadian-French speaker. They are part of a population of Arcadian-French speakers. Let’s go back to their French-speaking ancestors 300 years ago. They are still male and female French speakers (they had to be because that?s how French speakers reproduce). Let?s now go back one thousand years to what you called ‘the populations of Old-French speakers that contained males and females.’ Obviously, they are still male and female way back then because that?s how Old-French speakers reproduced.”

    He continued, “Let’s go back even further (2500 years ago) to Vulgar Latin speakers that also contained males and females. At what point of time in linguistic history did the female shift languages alongside the male? And why did she shift languages? Then explain, if you would professor, why Latvian, Dutch, Danish, Lithuanian, Bosnian, Iberian, Swedish, Limburish, Russian, Icelandic, Afrasian, Norwegian, Romanian, Italian, Yiddish, Wuxi, Old-Chinese, Neapolitan, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Istriots also shift language with a female, at some point of time in language history. Professor, I know you believe, but give us skeptics evidence to believe in Dialectology.”

    He added, “One of the latest beliefs that is being pushed on Language Log, is the wild speculation that Old-Chinese may have shifted language into the modern-day Shanghainese. There are no bounds to beliefs. Historical linguistics has done to linguistics what hypocrites have done to religion. They leap through the so-called written record like a cartoon Nepali, making statements that have more to do with an overripe imagination rather than with true linguistics.”

  341. #341 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    AntiBabelTowerians

    LOL

  342. #342 Sastra
    March 9, 2009

    Kathryn in California #340:

    Very clever ;)

  343. #343 brokenSoldier
    March 9, 2009

    Sastra:

    I think there needs to be a little less respect here and there, less pussy-footing around, less pandering. It may “turn people off” — or it might shake people out of their comfortable assumptions, and wake them up. There’s not just one line of attack.

    Exactly.

    David, if you have a problem with someone ridiculing an idea, that problem lies not in the mode of criticism, but rather the substance of the argument criticized. Simply put, if you can’t refute such ridicule accurately and emiprically, it deserves such treatment.

    P.S. – Thanks for the nod from Jefferson, Ichthyic – I love that quote!

  344. #344 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    And even if he exists, how could he have found a corresponding female???

    While I wipe the beer off my monitor and keyboard, I’ll just cite Wayne Robinson’s point about devolution of standards in females as a possible explanatory hypothesis.

    Am I part of the “reality-based community”?

    That’s totally up to you, Walton. Show us.

  345. #345 GE
    March 9, 2009

    I think the best way to explain this is using language. Steven J at Ray;s blog tried it, and I think that could be a clear way to do it. Yet Steven was referring to old forms of language evolving into other forms. But we have closer to home examples:

    Do you understand the expressions most kids use today? (or vice versa)? Of course you kind of do. But lots of expressions are strange and unfamiliar, and have nothing to do with the way we say the same things. Some words are used in differenc contexts, and so. So, the question would be:

    How was the first teen using these words fortunate enough to find another teen who would understand the same word at the same time?

    Well, but that is “microevolution” of language.

    OK then, how was the first Speaker of American English so fortunate to find another speaker of the same American English?

    (By the way: Why do they keep talking British English at the UK if American English descended from the British?)

    Still very micro?

    OK then, let us go by Steven’s example: How could the first francophone be so fortunate to find another individual who was also francophone and talk and then pass on the language to their descendant?

    You cannot explain these? you see? The evolution of language is a lie! Teen language was created instantly by God! It is created so every generation! (Just like the “macroevolved” languages have been. God is a busy guy having to create new idioms, and new words, and then pass them from one nation to another, and so on.)

    G.E.

  346. #346 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    I’ll be around more!

    Good to hear it! /happydance

  347. #347 brokenSoldier
    March 9, 2009

    Another thing that strikes me as curious about Comfort’s ignorance is his subtle refusal to believe that females and males are on equal footing in our species, instead insisting that we must have evolved separately and simultaneously. (I mean, hey, the whole made from Adam’s rib story is WAY more plausible, right?)

  348. #348 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    Another thing that strikes me as curious about Comfort’s ignorance is his subtle refusal to believe that females and males are on equal footing in our species, instead insisting that we must have evolved separately and simultaneously. (I mean, hey, the whole made from Adam’s rib story is WAY more plausible, right?)

    Subtle?

  349. #349 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    (I mean, hey, the whole made from Adam’s rib story is WAY more plausible, right?)

    mmm… ribs.

    ah, it’s past lunchtime over here on this tiny Island.

  350. #350 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    Sun’s over the yardarm back here in Seattle, Ichthyic.

    Just sayin’…

  351. #351 brokenSoldier
    March 9, 2009

    Subtle?

    True – I probably should have used the word veiled, however thinly.

  352. #352 prismatic, so prismatic
    March 9, 2009

    Sun’s over the yardarm back here in Seattle, Ichthyic.

    Sun?

  353. #353 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    It’s a bright (too bright, actually) sunny day here in Kiwiland.

    unfortunately, being from half a world away means I now get to experience the awe and mystery of every virulent strain of bug known to Kiwis at this point.

    I currently am simultaneously experiencing the local versions of:

    -chronic cough
    -strep throat
    -and a cold.

    …with flu season just on the horizon!

    oh well, at least I now have some time to blog.

  354. #354 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    … oh almost forgot to add (since they really aren’t related to bugs):

    -recovering from torn muscle in foot
    -recovering from many, many sunburns (UV index is off the scale down here).

  355. #355 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    Sun?

    Touché.

  356. #356 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    hey, Ichthyic, you still at your old email address, or am I behind the times?

  357. #357 Ichthyic
    March 9, 2009

    email is the same.

    physical location is quite different, though.
    :)

  358. #358 Kaleberg
    March 9, 2009

    There goes the great compromise. These are from Science Made Stupid:

    http://www.kaleberg.com/images2008/stupidscience1.jpg

    http://www.kaleberg.com/images2008/stupidscience2.jpg

    It’s a hilarious book if you can find an old copy.

  359. #359 thalarctos
    March 9, 2009

    physical location is quite different, though. :)

    psychological, too, I’m guessing :)

  360. #360 A. Noyd
    March 11, 2009

    David (#334)

    whoever this glen davidson fellow is…I just want you to know I feel sorry for you. You are a smart human being, but intelligence seems to be wasted on you…

    So, calling people idiots outright is a counterproductive no-no, but using scorn and backhanded compliments to achieve the same thing is right on. Glad you came around to show us how to be mature, o tolerant one.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.