Argumentum ad Bananum
Now, I realize that in the realm of Christian apologetics, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are low-hanging fruit, but what the hell, it’s Friday, and they’re always good for a laugh. On their show, “The Way of the Master,” Comfort and Cameron target atheists in the episode, “The Beauty of a Broken Spirit: Atheism.” Although it’s not new, this particular episode has become quite popular recently on the internet, due in large part to its being available through Google Video.
Comfort starts things off with a fairly bold pronouncement: "Atheism and intellectualism are opposites." Fair enough, I suppose. One of the historical attractions of atheism is the perception (rightly, in my opinion) that it is a more intellectual position than that of Christianity, in which faith (essentially, taking someone’s word as truth) is foundational. We’re left to assume that by virtue of the contrary, Christianity and intellectualism are equivalent, although the idiotic grin semi-permanently affixed to Cameron’s face throughout the episode would seem to belie this assumption.
So what is the good Christian apologist to do with his overflowing intellectualism? Why, attack evolution, of course. I’m sure Comfort and Cameron know that acceptance of evolutionary theory isn’t limited to atheists, and in fact the largest Christian institution in the world has officially accepted it as science, but that doesn’t seem to deter their efforts in the slightest.
Interestingly, neither does an accurate understanding of evolutionary theory. Comfort demonstrates his ignorance, real or assumed, by giving a strawman of evolution through a soda can analogy.
It's my theory of where the soda can comes from. Billions of years ago, there was a big bang in space- nobody knows what caused the big bang, it just happened. And from this bang issued a huge rock, on top of the rock was found a sweet brown bubbly substance. And over millions of years, aluminum crept up the side and formed itself in a can, then a lid, and then a tab. And then millions of years later red pain, blue paint, white paint, fell down from the sky and formed itself into the words, "Twelve Fluid Ounces. Do Not Litter.” You say, what you’re doing is insulting my intellect, and so I am. As we know, if the can is made, there must be a maker. If it’s designed, there must be a designer. To believe the soda can happened by chance is to move into an intellectual free zone, is to have an echo when you think, is to have brain liposuction.
Insulting my intellect, indeed. But this isn’t anything revolutionary- it’s just Paley’s watchmaker argument dressed up for teenagers (who else would be impressed by a soda can analogy, I ask you?). Surely if Comfort was up to speed with evolutionary theory he’d come up with something better, wouldn’t he?
Oh, but he does.
Comfort then, grinning at Cameron, faces the camera again for his intellectual tour de force.
Behold the atheist’s nightmare. Now, if you study a well-made banana you’ll find on the far side there are three ridges. On the close side, there are two. If you get your hand ready to grip a banana you’ll find on the far side there are three grooves and on the close side two grooves. The banana and the hand are perfectly made, one for the other. You’ll find the maker of the banana, Almighty God, has made it with a non-slip surface. It has outward indicators of inward contents- green: too early, yellow: just ripe, black: too late. Now if you go to the top of the banana, you’ll find as with the soda can makers, who placed a tab at the top, so God has placed a tab at the top. When you pull the tab, the contents don’t squirt out in your face. You’ll find a wrapper which is biodegradable, and has perforations. Notice how gracefully it sits over the human hand. Notice it has a point at the top for ease of entry, it’s exactly the right shape for the human mouth, it’s chewy, easy to digest, it’s even curved toward the face to make the whole process so much easier. Seriously, Kirk, the whole of creation testifies to the genius of God’s creation.
Yes, folks, the man is serious. Now, I’ll do you all the courtesy of ignoring all the implicit sexual humor in that quote, because, quite frankly, it’s been done to death all over atheist forums. Instead, I think it might just be sufficient to thrash his argument.
Behold the Christian’s nightmare. That’s right, it’s a banana. But no, you say, that’s not a banana, it doesn’t look anything like what I get at the store! Gentle reader, what you see is a wild banana. Just like wild strawberries, wild apples, and wild blueberries, it’s not much to look at, and what little is there doesn’t look terribly appetizing. But thanks to the wonder of evolution, something as unappealing as a wild banana can actually become the familiar yellow fruit you find at the grocery store. (But probably not a dog- that would be Kent Hovind’s personal nightmare) Over the course of human history, we have found certain plants (and animals) that had a moderate amount of value nutritionally or otherwise to our survival, and have selected for the best performing individuals in every generation. Jared Diamond gives a great example in his book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" of primitive humans foraging for berries in the woods, only eating the biggest and best-tasting ones on the bush, and then returning back to home where the seeds of those (unconsciously) selected berries germinate in the garbage heap/latrine.
So, no, Ray, the banana isn’t a testament to the genius of God’s creation. It’s a testament to the resourcefulness of man and the potency of evolutionary change. But even if evolution wasn’t in the picture, there’s one key element of the banana that Comfort forgot to mention… where’s the seeds? That’s right, bananas as we know and love them are as sterile as a mule. That’s because they’re triploid (have three copies of each chromosome as opposed to two), which doesn’t make a lot of sense if they were specially created. Not only does this mean that bananas have to be specially cultivated by humans to survive, but it also means that they’re particularly susceptible to disease, since there’s no genetic variability without sexual reproduction. Way to go, God.
As a bonus, I’m going to follow Comfort and crew further in the episode, for a segement that he includes in every episode, called “One2One”. See, juxtaposing numbers and letters like that makes it “cool.” It’s like catnip for teens.
In this segment, Comfort or Cameron find someone on the street outside their studio and confronts them with what I call “The Comfort Method.” Most of you, if you’ve seen their show or website, are familiar with this. I’ve yet to have any actual Christian walk up to me and use this, but according to Comfort, it’s “da bomb.” (He doesn’t actually say that, but he probably would if he thought it would get more kids to try it)
Here’s how it works:
Comfort: Would you consider yourself to be a good person?
Comfort: I’m going to ask you a few questions to see if it’s true.
Comfort: Have you ever told a lie?
Comfort: Okay, what does that make you?
Atheist: A liar.
Comfort: Have you ever stolen something?
Atheist: Uhh… as a kid.
Comfort: What does that make you?
Atheist: I guess… a thief.
He then does the same trick with cursing and lusting, and then segues right into the whole judgement/salvation one-two punch of Christian apologetics. I have to say, it’s pretty well rehearsed and it usually works well for him (at least, in the interviews they put on their show). But what would I do if I was put in that morally damning position?
Comfort: Have you ever told a lie?
Zach: Have you?
Comfort: Well… yes.
Zach: And what does that make you?
Comfort: A liar.
Zach: Would you trust the words of a self-described liar?
Comfort: Well… no.
Zach: See you.
Like I said, I’ve never actually had someone use The Comfort Method on me before, but just in case, I’ve got that one primed and ready. So, I guess after all is said and done, we can see that although Comfort and Cameron started off with a fierce declaration of atheism as the opposite of intellectualism, it seems as if that might be a more accurate description of Christianity. Maybe that’s why instead of presenting actual intellectual arguments, Comfort and Cameron prefer to attack morality. Isn’t that right, Kirk?
We want to emphasize the principle of swinging from the intellect straight to the conscience. It’s so important to know that- by doing this you’re not side-stepping the questions of the atheist, but you have to learn that it’s not wise to stay in the intellect and wrestle with someone intellectually, because it’s going to take you down a rabbit trail and waste all your time.