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Origin of Species (2009)

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Found at a Goodwill. Looks brand new.
The divine comedy
Creationism
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Running gags
Jokes aside
Blooper reel

In 2009, Ray Comfort offered an abridged version of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, retitled Origin of Species, and included a fifty-page introduction wherein he tried to explain how Darwin was wrong, atheists are idiots and Christianity is the only thing people need in their lives.

The pre-order webpage stated that the introduction "reveals the dangerous fruit of evolution, Hitler’s undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin's racism, and his disdain for women."[1]

Highlights:

  • It counters the claim that creationists are "anti-science" by citing numerous scientists who believed that God created the universe — scientists such as Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kepler.[2]
  • It has many original graphics and (as it says on the back cover) is designed for use in schools, colleges, and prestigious learning institutions.
  • The back cover lists the above information as well as saying the book contains "Information on Intelligent Design vs Evolution".

The pre-order page also states that the publisher, part of Comfort's The Way of the Master company, wants "to get one million copies into the hands of students and professors in colleges and universities throughout the U.S." The reason? "Let's see if they try to ban Darwin's Origin of Species [sic]. That would be interesting."

Ray Comfort's new introduction[edit]

In the PDF offered as a free download on the pre-order page, the opening to the book includes the copyright page. One of the curious lines states, "Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations in this book are from the King James Version of the Bible." Already, students of "prestigious learning institutions" can infer that Ray Comfort's abridged version of Darwin's book will not be anything more than a method to introduce religion into the classroom. With the pre-order's claim that the purpose is to see whether "they try to ban Darwin's Origin of Species [sic]," what Comfort and the publisher fail to point out is almost 1/6 of the book is Ray Comfort's ideas on evolution, creationism, and religion. Coupled with an abridged version of a book widely available unabridged and free online, the real reason why the book will not be used in "prestigious learning institutions" is because it's a pale copy of the original.

The table of contents of Comfort's version versus the original publication of Darwin's book:

Comfort's 2009 PublicationDarwin's 1859 Publication
SPECIAL INTRODUCTIONINTRODUCTION
CHAPTER I
VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION
CHAPTER 1
VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION
CHAPTER II
VARIATION UNDER NATURE
CHAPTER 2
VARIATION UNDER NATURE
CHAPTER III
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE
CHAPTER 3
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE
CHAPTER IV
NATURAL SELECTION
CHAPTER 4
NATURAL SELECTION
CHAPTER V
LAWS OF VARIATION
CHAPTER 5
LAWS OF VARIATION
CHAPTER VI
DIFFICULTIES ON THEORY
CHAPTER 6
DIFFICULTIES ON THEORY
CHAPTER VII
INSTINCT
CHAPTER 7
INSTINCT
CHAPTER VIII
HYBRIDISM
CHAPTER 8
HYBRIDISM
 CHAPTER 9
ON THE IMPERFECTION OF THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD
CHAPTER IX
ON THE GEOLOGICAL SUCCESSION OF ORGANIC BEINGS; RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 10
ON THE GEOLOGICAL SUCCESSION OF ORGANIC BEINGS
 CHAPTER 11
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
 CHAPTER 12
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION--continued
 CHAPTER 13
MUTUAL AFFINITIES OF ORGANIC BEINGS: MORPHOLOGY: EMBRYOLOGY: RUDIMENTARY ORGANS
 CHAPTER 14
RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION

There is no reason given in the introduction for why the geological and affinity chapters were removed, except for the combination of the original chapter 10 and the conclusion. Instead, Comfort's special introduction, after giving a brief history of Darwin's life, is an argument for why Christianity is the only true religion people should believe in, and why atheists are dumb.

Any educator who reads such an introduction of a book that removes whole chapters of one of the most important scientific books of all time would probably discard it immediately without a second thought. Ray Comfort has soiled a scientific achievement of the 19th Century just to continue his tirade against non-Christians.

Second print run[edit]

In the second printing of the book, Comfort fixed up the glaring absences in the original print. It now has all fourteen chapters and the original introduction along with Comfort's "special introduction". To save you money, or the time of getting a copy, you can read the whole thing here courtesy of Ray and see why he originally avoided the chapters on the geographical distribution of animals in his first attempt.

Accusations of plagiarism[edit]

On the 4th of November 2009, just weeks before the book handout, the blog Answers in Genesis Busted pointed out similarities in parts of Comfort's introduction to a handout written by University of Tennessee biology lecturer Dr Stan Guffey.[3] The facts speak for themselves.

  • Blatant plagiarism
  • Minor grammatical changes that would still qualify as plagiarism.
  • Similar phrasing which is suspicious.
  • Interesting omissions.
  • Interesting additions.
Pages 1-3 of Comfort's special introduction[4]Lecture handout, by Dr. Stan Guffey[5]
Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England. He was the fifth of six children born into a wealthy, professional family. His father and grandfather were both doctors, and his mother was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, of pottery fame. When he was eight years old, his mother died. His father sent him to an Anglican boarding school until he was age sixteen, but young Charles showed less interest in studying than in hunting, natural history, and scientific experimentation.

In 1825, he enrolled at Edinburgh University. Darwin’s father expected him to go into medicine, and although he entered Edinburgh University to pursue a medical degree, he found he couldn’t stand the sight of blood and left after two years. He then transferred to Cambridge (Christ’s College) to study for the ministry. As a clergyman, he would have the free time to follow his real intellectual love: natural history. Darwin was a passionate student of nature, and while in school he amassed a considerable beetle collection as well as other specimens. After

befriending botany professor Rev. John Stevens Henslow, his interest in zoology and geography grew.
Charles Robert Darwin was born February 12,1809 in Shrewsbury, England. His family was of the newly emerged, newly wealthy, provincial professional class. Early in his youth he demonstrated predilections for hunting, natural history, and scientific experimentation. In 1825, after public school education, he enrolled at Edinburgh University. His intention was to follow his father in the practice of medicine, but he soon found such studies rather distasteful. Two years later Darwin enrolled at Christ's College, Cambridge to study theology—a subject which he didn't enjoy either, with the intention of a career in the Church of England. As at Edinburgh, he often neglected his studies. In spite of this, he managed to pass his examinations in 1831 and left Cambridge.

At age twenty-two, Darwin was presented with an opportunity that would change his life. Henslow recommended him for a position on a British Navy survey vessel, the HMS Beagle, which was about to sail on a two-year coastal survey expedition to South America. Her captain was anxious to have a naturalist and gentleman companion on board, and Charles readily agreed. The voyage ended up lasting nearly five years, during which time Darwin was able to explore extensively in South America and numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean, including the Galapagos Islands.While pondering his future and whiling away the time hunting and exploring local natural history and geology, he was presented with an opportunity that would change the course of his life. John Henslow, Professor of Botany at Cambridge, had recommended him for a position on a British Navy survey vessel. The HMS Beagle was outfitting to sail on a two year coastal survey expedition to South America, and her captain was anxious to have a naturalist and gentleman companion on board. The voyage ended up lasting five years, during which time Darwin was able to explore extensively in South America and numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean, including the Galapagos.

On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of specimens he acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene.

In 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. That same year he published his journal of the voyage of the Beagle, which brought him immediate celebrity among London’s intellectuals.

In 1842 he and Emma moved to Down House in Kent. It was there that she bore ten children and she and Charles spent

the rest of their lives.
On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of natural history specimens acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene. In 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood, and saw his journal of the voyage of the Beagle published. In 1842 he and Emma moved to Downe house, Kent where Emma would bear 10 children and she and he would live for the rest of their lives.

During his great adventure as the Beagle’s naturalist, Darwin had studied certain aspects of the morphology and biogeography of the many species of plants and animals that he had observed. He eventually concluded that species exhibited varying degrees of similarity because they were to varying degrees related. It appears that by 1838 his concept of descent with modification by the mechanism of natural selection was largely formed. Although Darwin is the most familiar name associated with evolution, he was only persuaded to publish his work when he learned that another young naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, was developing ideas about the evolution of species similar to his own. In 1858, at the urging of friends, he prepared a brief paper which was read before the Royal Society along with the paper Wallace had written. The following year he published On the Origin of Species, which he considered an abstract of a larger future work.Shortly after his return [to] England Darwin had begun the first of his “species transmutation” notebooks. On his great adventure as the Beagleʼs naturalist Darwin had noted and begun to ponder certain aspects of the morphology and biogeography of the many species of plants and animals that he had observed. In particular, he had begun to explore the possibility, and eventually concluded, that species exhibited varying degrees of similarity because they are to varying degrees related. It appears that by 1838 his concept of descent with modification by the mechanism of natural selection was largely formed. And then he mostly, but not entirely, abandoned the enterprise for the time being. However, in 1858 Darwin learned that a naturalist working in south Asia, Alfred Russell Wallace, was developing ideas about the evolution of species similar to his own. At the urging of friends he prepared a brief paper which was read before the Royal Society along with the paper Wallace had written. He then published in 1859 On the Origin of Species, which he considered an abstract of a larger future work.

During the remainder of his life Charles Darwin continued his research, publishing three additional books on explicitly evolutionary topics, and other books on topics including climbing plants, insect-orchid mutualisms, and earthworms. At the age of seventy-three, Charles Darwin died at Down House on April 19, 1882, with his wife, Emma, by his side.During the remainder of his life Darwin continued his research, publishing three additional books on explicitly evolutionary topics, and other books on topics including climbing plants, insect-orchid mutualisms, and earthworms. The gentle and unassuming Charles Darwin, loving and devoted spouse and parent, dedicated scholar, intellectual giant, died at Downe House on April 19, 1882 with his wife Emma by his side.

On the 21st of December 2009, Comfort released a third edition[6] of the book with the offending paragraphs removed and properly cited material in its place. [7]

Going after Big Science[edit]

After a rant about belief in a book randomly creating itself, then self-replicating, Comfort annihilates a lightweight description of DNA - from a book for children produced by a drug company! "The letters that make up the words are called DNA bases, and there are only four of them: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). It’s hard to believe that an alphabet with only four letters can make something as wonderful and complex as a person! [footnote:] Kids Genetics, GlaxoSmithKline http://genetics.gsk.com/kids/dna01.htm"[8]

Does it matter if Darwin or his work are discredited?[edit]

Not really. Scientific theories do not rely on the reputation of any individual. It could be established that Darwin was wrong in some places, also a fierce racist with a penchant for eating babies—but this would not discredit our current understanding of evolution. Isaac Newton was a religious man who believed there were secret messages to be discovered in Scriptural passages, along with pursuing alchemy and astrology, but this does not discredit the Theory of Gravity. Creationist claims of Darwin's racism - which was commonplace in the 19th century - are an irrational but convenient method for linking evolution to Social Darwinism.

Evolution does not hinge entirely on Darwin's work any more than astronomy ended with Copernicus. On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, but evolutionary theory has obviously not stood still during the intervening years. For one, DNA was not known to have existed in Darwin's time, although its discovery added an exceptional amount of evidence for some of Darwin's theories. In fact, the concept of something like DNA—a molecule that could pass on information and mutate between generations—was predicted by the post-Darwin biology of the early 20th century. Its discovery was one of the key triumphs of evolutionary theory, and study of DNA was able to retroactively confirm many observations made prior to its existence.

The progressive gradual change in living species which is now called "evolution" has been observed since the late 1790s, when it was referred to as the "principle of faunal succession". Darwin provided a theory to explain this observation, much as Newton provided a theory of gravity to explain the observed phenomenon of gravity. Even if Darwin's theory were shown to be completely erroneous (as unlikely as that is), there would still be need for a different theory of evolution, because the observed evidence of historical evolution would remain and require an explanation.

Wearing harsh criticism as a badge of honor[edit]

The webpage for the book features this blurb:

It's like a book with multiple personality disorder — two parts that absolutely hate each other; an intro that is the inane product of one of the most stupid minds of our century, and a science text that is the product of one of the greatest minds of the author's century. - PZ Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris

No one knows why this is included, the only explanation being that, just maybe, Comfort really is a deep-cover parodist.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Living Waters pre-order page, accessed 23 Jun 2009: http://www.livingwaters.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=383
  2. See argumentum ad verecundiam.
  3. AiG Busted - Ray Comfort: Plagiarist
  4. Ray Comfort's online edition of the book.
  5. Dr Guffey's handout.
  6. With three editions in only one calendar year, this could possible be some sort of record.
  7. The third edition of Comfort's special introduction.
  8. Page 9 [1] accessed July 10 2009. Note that his web reference in a footnote for a book that is not yet published no longer works.