Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Argumentum ad Ridiculum

Prepare to enter... the Fallacy Zone.
Since my last foray into the evangelistic embarrassment called “The Way of the Master” was so well received, I thought I’d treat Kirk and Ray to another rational critique, courtesy of GTA.

The infamous (and now-conceded) Argumentum ad Bananum used by Ray Comfort as an example of the “atheist’s nightmare” came from a first-season episode targeting atheists, called “The Beauty of a Broken Spirit.” Since evolutionary theory and atheism are inexorably linked by these guys, it made perfect sense to ridicule atheists by proxy through horrible strawman attacks on evolution.

Though they’re probably not quite so enthusiastic about it now, Ray and Kirk felt confident enough about their first foray into anti-evolutionism to warrant a full episode on the subject for their second season. I'll summarize the episode here, and provide you all with highlights of all the fallacies used by Comfort and Cameron to attack evolution. Notice that their use of fallacies is so egregious, that not only do they rack up quite a list, but it's also cumulative. That is, they start off with just the one and keep adding to it, so that by the end of the episode, they're using all of them at the same time.

Argumentum ad Projection

Kirk starts things off, in a parody of Rod Serling.
Kirk: You’ve traveled into another dimension. A dimension not only of contradiction and speculation, but one that defies logic and is based on blind faith. A journey into a nebulous land whose limits are that of the imagination.

Oh, he must be talking about Christianity, right? That seems like an odd way for an evangelist to sell his wares, don't you think? Of course, he's really talking about evolution, which sets the stage for the rest of the episode- a projection of Christianity's failings onto Science and specifically evolutionary theory.

Argumentum ad Strawman

Kirk and Ray want to take the opportunity early on to establish exactly what evolutionary theory is all about. Standing in their set, they announce:

Kirk: What you’re about to see was not planned. There was no script, there were no writers, there were no cameras, no production crew, no lighting, no graphic artists, and no editors. The entire program just happened. There was a big bang in our production studio, and here we are.

Ray: Could you believe that? Of course you couldn’t. Nobody in his right mind could. And yet many evolutionists would have us believe that in the name of Science. There was no Creator, no space, no energy, no matter. And then there was this Big Bang, and out came the sea and the land, and birds, flowers, and trees, elephants, giraffes, horses, dogs. And of course, man and woman. And this took countless millions of years.

Once again, we see projection of Christian doctrine, which is ironic because it's specifically the absurdity of the imagery- all of existence springing into being out of nothing- that is foundational to Christian doctrine, and is not Science. And of course to make the projection, Ray and Kirk have to horribly distort and misrepresent evolutionary theory into a strawman- the dead giveaway is when they mention the Big Bang as if it's relevant to evolution. My guess is they've been hanging out too much with Kent Hovind- it takes a lot of effort to confuse cosmology with biology.

Argumentum ad Falsification

Kirk: Okay. Here’s a simple lesson on evolution. The theory of evolution basically teaches that every living creature, like you and me, evolved from a single cell billions of years ago. So that means that every animal supposedly transformed into another kind of animal over time. Now, the big problem that evolutionists have is that they’re finding a huge gap in the fossil record. In other words, when archaeologists dig up the bones of these dead animals, they don’t find these transitional forms that help one animal transform into another animal. And if you don’t have those bones you can’t prove evolution ever happened. That’s what they’re calling the missing link, and there’s not just one, there would have to be thousands and thousands of those transitional forms. The truth is, they’re not missing at all. They never existed in the first place.

This is just a flat-out lie. Every fossil is a transitional form. And there are a lot of really obvious examples- Archaeopteryx, Ambulocetus, and a whole slew of fossil hominids, not to mention a couple that were just recently discovered, like Tiktaalik and Najash. So either Kirk is blatantly lying (and by Comfort Logic, that makes him a Liar, so I wouldn't trust anything he has to say about anything), or he's hopelessly ignorant of the truth. My guess is a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

Argumentum ad Imposition
Ray: Despite the fact that there is no evidence when it comes to the theory of evolution we’re continually told that primates are our relatives. So we decided we’d have a little fun and call a number of airlines and ask if we could have a “relative” fly on the plane with us.
There's a few minutes of footage of Ray at his desk, calling up ticket agents and chatting with them for a few seconds until he mentions that he wants to bring an orangutan on the plane with him. Obviously, this is against the policy of most companies, and Ray knows this. But he's just using their professional embarrassment to press his point about his own particular ideology.

Ray: Do you believe we come from apes?

Ticket Agent: That’s not something I can discuss in a work capacity, sir.
Argumentum ad Orangutan

Uh, Kirk? I think these two want some privacy.
Ray: There are some scientists who would have us believe that primates are just about as intelligent as human beings. So Kirk and I took and orangutan to lunch, to see if it was true.
First of all, who are these scientists, and what are their names? There's a huge amount of wiggle room Ray left for himself by saying, "just about as intelligent," and he exploits that to the utmost. His thesis is that, if evolution is true, an orangutan is as intelligent as a human, and will have the same table manners as a human.

Ray: In came the lunch. Now, you notice the salads. I said to bring a plain salad for the orangutan and put cheese and tomato on ours. Now that caused Bam-Bam to break the tenth commandment- he began to covet our lunch because ours is obviously better than his. So I decided I’d give him my lunch- I sacrificed my lunch for the seat- and you can see he’s quite happy there, he’s eating the cheese, he’s eating the tomato, it’s good healthy food- look at that. He’s even using a fork. Then he decided to go for Kirk’s lunch. He just grabbed it from the plate and began stuffing his mouth like some beast, untrained. Now it was about this point in time that I thought to myself, “This is not working. Thisis becoming a bit of a nightmare."
Of course Ray guaranteed the performance he wanted (and it was a performance, to be sure- the orangutan was a trained animal hired for the day- they could get it to do whatever they wanted) by giving the orangutan just lettuce. Lettuce sucks, tomatoes and cheese are much more tasty, and the orangutan was certainly smart enough to know that. Besides, primates have been shown to have a keen sense of fairness, one that likely derives from our own sense of morality and is a kind of primitive Moral Razor. So of course it wanted the better salad- it has enough sense to value good food (unlike, for example, Kirk and Ray, the two nitwits who let an ape take their food while they tried to read the Bible to it). I'd say that clearly the orangutan comes out of this situation looking a lot more intelligent that the two creationists, sad to say.

Argumentum ad Hominem

Once again, Kirk assures us that his rejection of evolution has nothing to do with his brain.
It inevitable, really. When you can't counter someone's arguments, you try to undermine their credibility. Fortunately for myself, Kirk and Ray's arguments are so feeble that I don't have to touch their credibility- they end up looking like fools all by themselves. Kirk starts the mud-slinging by attacking Darwin:

Kirk: The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man attaining to a higher eminence in whatever he takes up than woman can attain, whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands.

Did you hear that? He’s saying that man has evolved to a higher eminence over women, in basically anything he decides to do. Whether it requires reason, imagination, or deep thought. Darwinian evolution at its core is not only male chauvinistic, but it’s also very racist. Charles Darwin wants us to believe that black people are less evolved than whites.

Ernst Chain - I would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation.

Sir Arthur Keith – Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.

Malcolm Muggeridge – I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it’s been applied, will be one of the great jokes in history books of the future.

Darwin, of course, was also a product of Victorian England, where everyone was at least a little bit racist and sexist. It's a non sequitur to conclude that because Darwin may have had some sexist ideas, that the whole of evolution is sexist. Ernst Chain is one of many scientists, like Michael Behe, who reject evolution for various reasons. Again, it does not follow that since one person disagrees with an idea, that idea is wrong. Sir Arthur is correct about evolution being unprovable- all scientific theories are. That is the nature of science, not a condemnation of evolution. And Malcolm Muggeridge was not a scientist at all, but a Christian journalist, so I fail to see the relevance of his opinion at all.

Argumentum contra Intellectum

We're always glad to help, Kirk.
Kirk: Here’s a very interesting fact. In the last couple of dozen times that I’ve witnessed to someone, I can honestly say that the subject of evolution has not come up even once. Why? Because I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t have to, and it doesn’t come up on it’s own because it’s often a non-issue. When you learn how to speak to a person’s conscience, and circumnavigate the intellect, the subject of evolution seems to disappear.

Ray: Now this is real good news for people like me. It means I don’t have to become an expert on the “fossil record” and it also means I don’t have to learn wordslike “Rhinorhondothackasaurus.”

Kirk: Now, are we trying to be anti-intellectual, or avoid talking about the subject of evolution? Of course not. That’s why we have The Evidence Bible. And this is packed full of teachings on the subject, and it is full of teachings from Charles Darwin, Stephen J. Gould, and William Huxley. And it will show you that the theory of evolution is unscientific. And it’s based on blind faith, so you don’t need to panic and upset yourself every time you read in the newspaper or see something on the news that talks about man evolving from apes. You can have confidence in God’s Word that we are made in God’s image. And true knowledge, even common sense, supports the Bible, and not the theory of evolution.

And here we end, with the odd concession that Kirk and Ray aren't experts at all, and in fact prefer not to bring up evolution at all when evangelizing. Imagine that! I wonder why they were so compelled to produce an entire episode of their show dedicated to debunking evolution? Oh, of course- to hawk their wares to the faithful. This is nothing new, of course- I'm reminded of Celsus' criticism of early Christians: "the following are the rules laid down by them. Let no one come to us who has been instructed, or who is wise or prudent (for such qualifications are deemed evil by us); but if there be any ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons, let them come with confidence. By which words, acknowledging that such individuals are worthy of their God, they manifestly show that they desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children... "

Post a Comment


At 5/07/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger Young Physicalist declaimed...

The Creationists are ironic. Christianity, by definition, is based on faith and lacks reason.

“So either Kirk is blatantly lying (and by Comfort Logic, that makes him a Liar, so I wouldn't trust anything he has to say about anything), or he's hopelessly ignorant of the truth. My guess is a little from Column A and a little from Column B.”

I think more like he’s self delusional and has true believer syndrome.

At 5/07/2006 8:27 PM, Blogger The Atheist Messiah declaimed...

Kirk serves as an excellent example of how money doesn't by brains and how someone with mediocre acting skills and a weak mind can become a martyr for Christianity (or whatever predominant religion they are surrounded by).

The problem that will always haunt the ignorant is there inability to fathom the depths of their own stupidity from ignorance.

At 5/15/2006 11:06 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/15/2006 11:08 AM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...

Yes, it is true that money doesn't "by" brains for Kirk Cameron nor does it "buy" a Mr. Spell for the Atheist Messiah.

At 5/15/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


So I take it that the only criticism you can muster is a commenter's typo?

At 5/15/2006 4:58 PM, Blogger streetapologist declaimed...


As we discussed via email:

1)Cameron and Comfort are not apologists.

2)They would label me,Manata and probably most of the Christians that you interact with as "hyper-calvinists" which of course I deny.

3)Did you really think that I could let someone who is ranting about the ignorant depths of stupidity but doesn't check his own submission for typos?

You do however bring up one interesting point. Why is it, if evolution is scientifically valid as you would posit, why does the overwhelming majority of human beings reject evolution as a plausible explanation of origins? Why has it remained relegated to the ivory towers and halls of academia? Certainly you can't argue that it hasn't had time to soak in, can you?

At 5/15/2006 7:37 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


1) Not primarily, no. But the purpose of the anti-atheist and anti-evolution episodes of their show is not for evangelistic purposes, it's to placate the faithful- which is the essence of apologetics.

2) This is true. Ray Comfort in fact did so when he appeared on the HA show. But then again, it's just his opinion about an incoherent concept versus yours.

3) I think there's a significant difference between the stupidity of Christian arguments and the accidental failure to hit the "u" key.

4) Regarding your question about why evolution isn't more popularly accepted, I think the primary answer is that evolution is counter-intuitive. There are significant percentages of people that still think geocentrism is true, simply because heliocentrism is counter-intuitive. Evolutionary theory, like any other scientific theory, doesn't really seem to make sense at first glance, but requires time and effort to examine the evidence and conclusions and to grasp the conceptual framework that the theory posits. That goes for evolutionary theory, gravitational theory, general relativity, germ theory, you name it.

Religion is the other big reason, especially in America, and mostly because of the recent push for strict Biblical literalism. Because let's face it, the only reason Christians care about evolution at all is because it contradicts the Garden of Eden myth, without which Paul would have had no Biblical basis to argue for Original Sin. So if literalist Christians give up on evolution, they have to give up on Christianity. This is why you don't see (many) Christians arguing against other "controversial" scientific theories like heliocentrism or germ theory, both of which contradict the Bible as well, but are not so fundamentally opposed to basic Christian doctrine.

At 10/11/2006 7:02 PM, Blogger Mr. Neil declaimed...

"why does the overwhelming majority of human beings reject evolution as a plausible explanation of origins?"

Because it's not a theory of origins. Duh!

Street Apologist, for someone as cocky and arrogant as you, I'm astonished that even you cannot be bothered to actually take the care to learn what the theory of evolution actually is. Instead, you bemoan spelling errors.

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At 12/23/2007 10:44 AM, Blogger Chris mankey declaimed...

"In other words, when archaeologists dig up the bones of these dead animals"

I guess if Kirk Cameron believes the people who study the remains of fossilized animals are “archaeologists” then maybe that's problem number one. I think those people are called Paleontologists, kirk. I guess if this is his level of knowledge about science, maybe I can just ignore the rest of his ignorant rant!

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