Evolution vs God

Thanks to this link at Evolution is True (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/odious-ray-comfort-movie-watch-it-below-to-be-distributed-in-public-schools/) I have been able to watch the much talked about Ray Comfort movie; Evolution vs God. I found the whole thing painful to watch and, having been a creationist for most of my life, I could see the thinking behind most of the questions, which made it all the more agonising. Odious is certainly a good word to describe it.

Elsewhere on the web I have seen the movie described as confrontational. There certainly are some confrontational elements to the questioning, but that doesn’t adequately describe the whole movie.

The movie basically takes the form of a question and answer session, with Comfort asking the same questions of several people and stitching it all together so that it forms a basic narrative. That narrative being, first challenge evolution, then imply a creator, then condemn the person and then offer salvation. It’s a basic evangelical tactic. As is usual for this form of product, there is no way for the viewer to know what was omitted and what the exact questions were that are being answered by the participants; the questioning appears to be a post edit voice over. It is clearly edited together with a specific end result in mind. Not unusual for most movies of this style really.

There are a couple of things that stood out for me.

Kinds

The creationist adherence to the word ‘kinds’ is as meaningless as it is annoying. Biologically, it has no definition and that gives Comfort infinite weasel room. At one point he asks for an observable example of one animal changing. A few examples of speciation are given. PZ Myers gives the best one, which is a fish type in a lake in Africa (http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeb/2012/349485/). The predictable response is ‘but they are still fish’.

Well, of course they’re still freaking fish you moron!

The fish species given in the example have changed to a different fish with different attributes and characteristics and don’t inter mate. Comfort knows this is how Evolution works and is simply pandering to something that requires such a long period of time that it is only possible for us to show the smaller step of a species changing into a different sub-species.

You’re a sinner

He asks many of the responders if they have ever lied or stolen. He then extrapolates that into making those people admit to being liars and thieves. I’d love to know if anyone turned that back on him. Getting people to admit that at some point in their life they did do something insignificantly wrong and then making that out to be a defining characteristic is a low blow tactic. Worse than that it is devious and manipulative, not something I consider fitting for someone who represents an evangelistic organisation.

Defensive Looks

At several points several of the respondents looked like they were in very defensive poses. This tells me that the questioner was taking a line that irritated them and they could see what was happening and were doing their best to keep cool. My respect to them because I found myself getting quite cross with the directions and daft logic leaps that were being displayed.

Summary

I am actually quite shocked by this movie. It is a despicable example of manipulation. I was going to say it also displays poor understanding of Evolution, but I think Comfort is more intelligent than that, I think he understand it better than he shows. He understands it well enough to frame his questions from a specific position that he knows will not give a good enough answer to satisfy his requirements and he uses that knowledge to build a straw man for easy bashing.

I have seen Ken Ham praising Comfort and this movie and frankly, having watched it, both have sunk in my estimation. It does not show the supporting Christians in a loving light.

If you must watch the movie, don’t have a drink nearby, you will end up spraying it out. Also do not watch it just before going to bed, you’ll be tossing and turning for hours trying to get the stupid out of your head.

 

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Swearing on the Bible

 

A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I found myself swearing an oath with my hand on a bible.

In my Christian days I this practice bugged me somewhat. I always considered the verse in James which talks about not swearing on the book of the law and letting your word be reliable. In my more arrogant moments I would say that if I were ever in that situation I’d open the Bible to the relevant passage, read it, and then refuse the request.

These days, I’m not quite so hot headed about the issue, but I do wonder why it is done and why people still accept it. There is good argument for both Christians and atheists to object to the practice. The way I squared with it was that I took the view that it was better to have a bible there on display and seen as a symbol of trustworthiness. The issue now, is that it is only Christians who have that option.

I get the reasons; there is solemnity in putting your hand on the bible and making a promise. As a child, the challenge from people doubting ones word was to “swear on your mother’s life”. People who really wanted to be believed would do this in an effort to show their reliability. My mother’s life is more valuable to me than a bible; can’t that be used as a sign of my reliability? Of course the legal process would consider that a flippant offer, so why should the bible be seen as less flippant?

As it happens, the oath swearing was a requirement of my being an executor of my late mother’s will and in order for my brothers and I to get our inheritance, I had to make a visit to a solicitor and swear that I am me.

It is interesting that for items such as passports it is sufficient for me to get a photo signed by someone who knows me or that for me to go and get a benefits payment I just need to produce a document with my name and address on it, along with something with a signature. However, this process required something more, and that something more is for me to visit the office of someone who has never met me before, put my hand on a bible, promise I am me and sign a form. My neighbour could have done it in my place and no one would have been any wiser. Well technically, the signature could eventually be checked and found to be wrong, assuming it was checked downstream of the swearing.

The actually event took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it. The first alert came when I was introduced by the secretary as being there for a swearing oath, she then informed the duty solicitor that there was a bible in the meeting room. Because of the background detailed above I was immediately on alert for what was about to happen.

After a brief chat with myself I decided it wasn’t worth kicking a fuss over and that I would go with it.

The moment itself was me with my hand on the bible repeating a phrase that was being read out to me. The only other times I have repeated stock phrase was at the dedication of my daughter, when I was a god-father and when I got married. All those seemed more solemn than the moment I was having in that average meeting room with my hand on a slightly battered bible.

I took it seriously, but it didn’t feel as wholly solemn as it should have. I dare say that if I was still a believer I may have felt differently.

Afterwards I asked the solicitor if there had ever been anyone object to the process. She said not, but that there was an alternative phrase for the occasion should someone prefer to forgo the bible option. I was both impressed and pleased there is that option but I don’t think I missed out on anything by choosing not to object; after all, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that important. My promise would still mean the same and any falsities would still hold the same punishment.

I couldn’t help wonder though, if this practice should be consigned to history and what value it really has. Those that will intend to lie their way will do so, bible or not, and those that wish to be honest will do so, bible or not. I don’t believe the presence of the bible in situations like this makes a difference. It’s the solemnity of the moment that is important; in which case it probably is time that something was found that will be equally acceptable to Christians, atheists and other faiths alike.

Though, honestly speaking, it is not something I’d consider important enough to campaign for. There are far bigger issues in the world than the need to worry about the technicalities of convincing people to tell the truth.