Silver-level articleBanana fallacy

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The banana fallacy is a specific teleological argument for theism based on the form and function of natural objects. According to Ray Comfort, the banana is the atheist's worst nightmare, as he considers its ease of use, nutritional value and "colour-coding" to be irrefutable proof of intelligent design. In its usual presentation it is humorously foolish, so much so that Comfort has taken to using it as a joke himself.

Contents

The basics

Ray opens the full video with an appraisal of the design aspects of a soda can; these include pointing out the outer casing to contain the liquid, the size which is designed to fit the hand, and the ring-pull that gives you easy access. This is a small subtlety, and not essential to understanding the full, yellow thrust of the banana, though. It's merely a comparison to try and butter up the audience and make them more suggestible to seeing "design" aspects when there really aren't any. The argument for the banana being designed (and as the next section will attest to, this is a surprisingly fair conclusion) is based on the following characteristics:

  • The banana is shaped to fit into the human hand.
  • It comes with a protective, non-slip surface to hold.
  • It is curved towards the face for ease of fellatio consumption and does not squirt in ones face during the act.
  • There is a "pull tab" at the top for easy access.
  • It has a simple colour code to show ripeness: Green; too early. Yellow; just right. Black; too late.

These points are covered in more detail below. Ironically, these features do point to an intelligent designer, but it certainly isn't God, as we shall see.

Criticism

The important fallacy of the argument is that it ignores the fact that the banana has been intelligently designed - by humans, through artificial selection. This is incredibly common for most, if not all, fruits, vegetables, and even animals that we use for food or to improve their utility to us. The banana was first domesticated around 8,000-9,000 years ago, probably in Papua New Guinea.[1] To say that bananas are naturally designed to be the perfect food for humans is, at best, wishful thinking.

Wild bananas look like this and you can't eat the seeds. Mmmm!

There is nothing natural about the banana as we know it today. The banana in the form that Comfort uses to illustrate his point is in fact an asexual clone quite different from its wild predecessors. It is only through human cultivation that it has managed to survive this complete lack of natural, sexual propagation. The wild banana, the predecessor of the cultivated fruit favourite does reproduce sexually, pollinating their flowers in the usual way, and having the botanical equivalent of sex. These wild bananas are small, dry cacao-pod-looking things loaded with inedible seeds. The soft, yellow flesh of the edible varieties is the result of collective mutations cultivated thousands of years ago. But this selection has rendered the fruits of these plants completely sterile, and so unable to survive in a wild "natural" state.[2]

While the design aspects of the banana are pretty clear, Ray never mentions that bananas only grow between 30 degrees north latitude and 30 degrees south latitude. In fact, many cultures outside of the tropics never saw a banana until well into the twentieth century. Even today, many people have never seen a banana - Jesus certainly wouldn't have. So, if bananas are really such perfect examples of God's handiwork, if they are such a perfect food for humans, then why do they only grow in the tropics where so many people have no easy access to them?

Also, there are people who just don't like eating bananas. If they were the perfect food, everyone would want to eat them.

Third world crop failure

The lack of sexual reproduction in cultivated bananas and plantains prevents genetic diversity so cultivated bananas are vulnerable to a range of pests and diseases. Poor subsistence farmers in the third world can face starvation when their whole plantain crop suddenly dies on them.[3] This is quite common to most domesticated and over-bred plants and animals, and if this property was part of "intelligent" design, then serious questions would have to be asked of the designer's competence. Indeed, the points raised by Comfort as to the banana's positive design traits are quite minor details next to the plant's ability to successfully grow and act as a food source.

Bad sex

While Comfort presents an argument regarding the size and shape of the banana, it should be pointed out that similar logic applies to the human penis (thus making it a "phallusy"). Its size is just right to fit into the human rectum, hand or mouth, which are all definite no-nos for fundies - yet the supposed "design" argument could still be applied. [4] If you're into that sort of thing, that is. In fact, one could even argue that the banana was also designed to be put in the human rectum or vagina; it is shaped correctly, and has a protective outer sheath to ensure firmness. This puts it in a better position than the cucumber, at least.

Proof and disproof of design

If bananas were truly "intelligently designed" they would have raisins in them. And they'd keep indefinitely without going bad or losing their vitamin content. And come in banoffee varieties. Or have vaccines in them for easier application and distribution or countless other attributes that have been pipe dreams of genetic engineers around the world for years. Someday, perhaps? And just occasionally they would reproduce sexually to help the plant breeders to overcome their genetic bottleneck.

But the type of logic used when looking at specific design aspects of natural products can be used to prove the non-existence of a designer god too. In this case, Comfort selectively reports only the positive features of the banana, while others may have significant drawbacks that show anything but good design. Both the durian fruit and the pineapple have hard outer surfaces that require a sharp knife or hand axe to cut through, which is the exact opposite of the cases of the banana that is easy to get into. The durian fruit also possesses an incredibly pungent aroma that has seen the transport and storage of the fruit banned in some public places. There are also very few ergonomic properties associated with these fruits, either with them being large and bulky or covered in spines - again, demonstrating the opposite of the simple "pull tab" Comfort is so proud of.

Banana fellations (Ray Comfort's video explanation, with snark commentary)

Ray was nice enough to post a 64 second video explaining the banana fallacy.


For those of you who can't see embedded youtube, here is the link

Technical points on the video

Delicious, Crackers, Peanut butter, Banana

0:00 - 0:05

First, Ray needs to tighten his delivery. Whenever a fundy preacher takes more than 60 seconds to rebut a complex scientific theory, he runs the risk of confusing his flock.

0:05 - 0:21

Ray says that there are five grooves on the index finger and thumb that correspond to the five ridges on the banana. Actually, there are six grooves within the finger-thumb circle. Comfort counts the two middle joints on the index finger, the middle joint on the thumb, the base joint on the finger and the base joint on the thumb (five joints/grooves). He ignores the groove formed when the tips of the finger and thumb are pressed together.
Much of this lecture seems to focus on Ray’s expertise in the manipulation of... bananas.

0:22 - 0:24

It's not really the banana that has a non-slip surface, it is the hand. The human hand is adapted to hold just about any kind of object, which is why most everyday objects could be classified as "non-slip".

0:25 - 0:32

Fruits are seedpods. The seed is often spread via the ingestion, and excretion of the fruit by an animal. According to evolutionary theory, any fruit that developed the ability to clearly indicate the ripeness of fruit (i.e., green – too early; yellow - just right; red - where the $*&! did you get that banana‽; black – too late) had an advantage reproducing over those that did not, and in time would out-reproduce other members of its own species. Still, Ray has, for the entire video so far, been ignoring the fact he is holding a banana that has been cultivated by humans to look appealing to humans. They don't even have seeds any more, they are that highly selectively bred.

0:32 - 0:42

Bananas, unlike citrus fruits, are fairly solid on the inside. It’s unlikely that you would need a pull tab to keep it from squirting you in the face. And while we're on the subject of this magic "tab", monkeys (and some people) eat the banana from the other end.[5] If easy opening is the key feature of the banana, this raises questions why this feature is not present in other foods:
  • Why didn’t God “place a tab at the top” of oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or limes?
  • Why didn't God put pull tabs on hard-to-open foods like coconuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.?
  • And, come to think of it, why would Ray think that a banana would squirt in his face?

0:53

Ray demonstrates the proper technique of eating bananas. In the business we call this the "money shot".

Rapid backpeddling

Ray is so taken aback by people laughing at this video that he now claims that it was a hoax by atheists.[6]

An additional "apology" video was released by Ray Comfort. The video made the following claims;

Ray Comfort offered to debate atheist professor Richard Dawkins, but Richard Dawkins declined and called Ray Comfort the "Banana Man" and an "ignorant fool." Ray says he offered Dawkins USD $20,000 for just 30 minutes of his time. Ray wonders why Dawkins does not accept his debate offer, Ray speculates that perhaps Dawkins is afraid to debate him.   The debate offer by Ray is a clever and immature tactic, often used by creationists. Ray Comfort does not have any professional education or degree in science, history, or theology. Professor Dawkins actually does have degrees and participates in the scientific academia, the process of peer reviewing, and performs actual scientific studies. Ray, a science-illiterate creationist, is way out of his field. If Dawkins accepts the offer, it gives the false impression that Ray is on an equal intellectual level with Dawkins (which he obviously is not). However, if Dawkins refuses to accept, Ray then prances around boosting his own image while calling Dawkins coward. Dawkins is not afraid of anything, Ray is simply not educated or worth his time. If Dawkins and Comfort did debate, Dawkins would only be giving Comfort a big spotlight to prove nothing and do nothing except for the sole intention of evangelism. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron did the same thing with the debate with the Rational Response Squad. Ray and Kirk promised to prove God scientifically without the use of faith or the Bible, but they failed. They knew while going in that they had no case at all, and took the opportunity to evangelize on live camera to the viewers. People and critics who came to watch the debate left disappointed[7]
The "apology video states: "Banana Man" is a reference to an illustration presented by Comfort, in which he compared the complex design elements of the Coke can to the complex design elements of the banana in order to demonstrate that thoughtful design by a designer is required for both examples.   Wrong, Ray presented the complex design elements of the Coke can with the complex designs of the god fruit, and was thus criticized for it. He tried to compare one thing that is naturally produced with something else that was mechanically formed—that was the comparison; he was not giving an example of two man-made things (even though the banana was bred by man).
It continues, "However, atheists removed the Coke can from the video version and sent it across the Internet, saying that Comfort believed that the banana was conclusion proof of God's existence, missing the point of the illustration completely.   Wrong again: the point was that Ray called the banana the "Atheist Nightmare." Was Ray calling the Coke can the "Atheist Nightmare"? No, it was the banana. Why? Because, supposedly, the banana was proof of God's design. But as it turns out, it was not God's design, it was man's design using evolutionary mechanisms. Watching the full video, Comfort does appear to be discussing how a banana is similar to a can and uses that as an analogy for how bananas are evidence of design (hence the "pull tab" reference). Even so, the scene with the context[8] is equally fallacious and doesn't really add much to the argument—so much for the grand atheist conspiracy to smear Comfort's good name by broadcasting a supposedly cut-down version of the video around the internet.

Faced with the fact that the entire argument is bollocks, Ray has since backtracked entirely on the banana. [9] He has since claimed that it was satire from the very beginning (Who was he satirising? Silly fundy preachers?) and now performs the "routine" as comedy.[10]

Next, the video tries to boost Ray's book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, but You Can't Make Him Think by claiming on its release date, it moved from #69,572 to #38 in 24 hours, and as the #1 book in the categories of "atheism and religion" on Darwin Day, bumping out Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion.   First of all, Comfort getting his book to #38 on its opening day—is this supposed to be impressive? Also, Ray released his book on February 12, 2009. For those who are not aware of the significance of that date, February 12 is DARWIN DAY. How many books were also released on Darwin Day? So, Ray's book gets to #38 on its opening day (Darwin Day) and bumps out a book that had already been on the market for 3 years (the paperback version, by this time, had already been out for about a month). Again, this is not impressive; Ray trying to pass this off as a huge feat makes it all the more laughable.

If you actually look at Amazon's "Producer Details" for the two books, it reveals this: Comfort's book is #22 in "Religion and Spirituality > Atheism" and #29,918 in "Books". Dawkin's paperback book, on the other hand, is #1 in "Science > History & Philosophy", #1 in "Books > References > Religion", #1 in "Religion and Spirituality > Atheism" AND is #319 in "Books". As you can see, Comfort's is a minuscule of importance in absolutely nothing.

The video says "Comfort apologized for his mistake about the banana, saying 'My apologies for no explaining myself more clearly, I was not aware that the common banana had been so modified through hybridization.' However, the truth remains that God gave man the knowledge and ability to modify it so it could perfectly fit into his hand. He did the same with big dogs so they could fit into his car and with wild cats so that they are perfectly fit for his wife.   So Comfort was "not aware", meaning he did not know. "Ignorant" means you do not know. So Dawkins' accusation of calling Comfort an "ignorant fool"—half of that just got confirmed by Ray Comfort himself.

So God gave tribes of men the knowledge some 10,000 or more years ago (much longer before when Ray believes Adam ever existed) to breed wolves into dogs with the sole intention to one day fit them in a man-made moving cart in the 20th century. Similarly, God did the same with these ancient pre-Adam tribes the knowledge to breed wild cats with the sole intention of making them the perfect size and pet for Mrs. Comfort.

And Ray Comfort wonders why Dawkins called him a fool and why people do not take him seriously.

The video then moves to Ben Stein and a clip from his propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in which it quote mines Richard Dawkins. Stein asked Dawkins what he [Dawkins] thought would be the possibility that intelligent design would be the answer to genetics and evolution. Ray said that a "possibility" would be that an extraterrestrial civilization that came about by some Darwinian means developed the technology to design life and plant them on Earth. Thus, creationists (including Comfort in this video) claims that Dawkins "believes" that intelligent aliens might have created us.   The question to Prof. Dawkins was presented to explain a "possible" scenario that intelligent design may be the answer, and in fact Dawkins did answer with the terms "might be", "possible" and "could have"—this is something Ray often calls the "language of speculation" and from it he claims that scientists who used these terms do not know at all what they are attempting to explain. In actuality, Dawkins is not saying that he "believes" this scenario, rather he is claiming that this is the closest answer a intelligent design proponent can get rather than claiming the intelligent designer is a supernatural magic-man deity. Dawkins even presented this "possible" scenario in his book The God Delusion where he fully explained this possibility is more likely than creationists claims that an intelligent agency just "poofed" everything into existence, fully-formed out of nothing.
Ray suggests the debate between him and Dawkins be called "Banana man vs. Alien man" and let the audience decide who is the ignorant fool.   This review of this "apology" video already established that: Ray was "ignorant" of the evolutionary history of the banana, and is a "fool" for claiming dogs were created just to fit in his car.

Additionally, Dawkins would not be the "alien man" he would more likely be "Aliens-are-a-much-better-possible-explanation-than-your-god man."

Trivia

Even after the good part is eaten PZ Myers showed respect due to sacred objects by putting some banana peel into the trash with consecrated Eucharist, pages from a Koran and from The God Delusion. [11]. What is more the image of Jesus appeared on the banana peel proving the hand of God that the author is a monkey’s nephew. [12]

A Strange Coincidence

As any sandwich connoisseur can tell you, banana goes great with that other atheist's nightmare, peanut butter. [13] Top creation scientists have yet to determine what this odd fact might mean, although most agree that it has something to do with mocking and smiting unbelievers. And goat. Definitely goat.

When opening the banana one must use the convenient pull tab to open it, and be careful that it doesn't spurt in your face and leave a sticky mess. Warning courtesy of that great creationist guru Ray Comfort.

See also

Phallacious banana!

External links

Videos

Footnotes

  1. Tracing antiquity of banana cultivation in Papua New Guinea
  2. http://thinking-critically.com/2010/07/17/kirk-cameron-ray-comfort-and-bananas/
  3. National Geographic - Lack of Sex Life Threatens Banana Crops
  4. And the human hand and arm are ideally placed to reach ones own genitalia.
  5. World of Monkey.com: It's the last question, but plenty of other quick googles show this. But basically, the monkeys are right, humans do it upside down.
  6. [1] (archive, retrieved 16 October 2011)
  7. TV and film critic, Troy Patterson quoted on the debate (emphasis added), "In Cameron's introductory remarks at the debate—which can be seen at something like its full and numbing length at abcnews.go.com—he coolly claimed that "the existence of God can be proven 100 percent, absolutely without the use of faith." First, I grew excited at this promise, then began to wonder why no theologian, philosopher, or sitcom star in recorded history had done it before—Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Tina Yothers, whoever—and realized I was in for a letdown. Comfort's cadences were not even those of a preacher but of an infomercial host, and the God Squad had but three arguments on behalf of the big guy: All things have makers; the human conscience is evidence of a higher moral power; if you read the Gospel, then Christ will be revealed to you. For reasons too stupid to type, this was not an airtight case, and the atheists made quick work of it in tones of juvenile sarcasm."
  8. The Way Of The Master : Atheism (Part 1 of 3)
  9. Ray Comfort concedes The banana argument
  10. Why Do People Laugh At Creationists (Part 31)
  11. The Great Desecration
  12. But wait, what's that I see there on the Banana Peel?
  13. example This leaves out the goat as God didn't get round to creating one. It's also a tasty healthy snack, if you add yoghurt the protein is probably the equivalent to meat and if you like your snack sweet it's great with a dollop of honey as well, after all God did promise a land flowing with milk and honey before the great Old Testament Genocide began [2] and milk included yoghurt. [3] It's good for vegetarians or those who want to reduce meat in their diet.
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