Friday, November 13, 2009

The expurgated version

Happy Friday the 13th everyone. You’re all scared, right? I’m staying off the bike today just to be safe.* Because bad things happen exactly as superstition dictates. Why else would these superstitions exist if they weren’t true?

*Or more precisely because I haven’t had a rest day since a week ago Monday, and I’m overdue at this point and likely unable to pedal up a hill even if I wanted to. Besides, I have to pick up about 800 pounds of chocolate this morning—that and walking to 7-eleven for my diet coke fix should be exercise enough.

I’ve mentioned before the truth mingled with lies approach that, according to Christian theology, Satan uses to tempt God-fearing people to go astray. Well not much gets by these evangelical types, because after millennia of getting snared by this approach, they’ve apparently noticed just how effective mixing a chunk of BS into otherwise accurate information can be, and are fighting fire with fire.

1980’s teenage heartthrob and star of the blockbuster Fireproof, Kirk Cameron, along with his pal Ray Comfort* are distributing on college campuses, at no charge, copies of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

*Has there ever been a preacher with a better name than Ray Comfort? Seriously. Either it was divine intervention on his birth certificate or he applied the stripper stage name selection process to church.

Here’s the catch, though. It’s the expurgated version. And just like removing the gannet (and the robin and the nuthatch) from Olsen’s Standard Book of British Birds because they wet their nests, Comfort has likewise removed the sections of Origin of Species that he doesn’t like. And he’s removed the author’s preface and replaced it with one he wrote instead.

I understand how someone could feel compelled to share their religion with others—I spent two years doing the same, after all. What I don’t get is how any rational, marginally educated, reasonably intelligent person can read the Bible and genuinely believe that the earth was created in six 24-hour days, at the end of which God snapped his fingers, and Adam, Eve, and everything thereon instantly came to life.

A heart surgeon who also happens to be an apostle in his church doesn’t believe it all happened in a week, so why do these fundamentalists think they can make that case to anyone, let alone at institutions of higher learning? Moreover, how can they think anyone will take them seriously if the book they’re passing out has been altered to suit their purposes?

What if I started passing out Bibles that had a new preface, written by me, claiming that God is merely a metaphor for the big bang; that the word “day” in the context of the Genesis creation story signifies a period of time of roughly 650 million earth years; and that the ten commandments were a set of instructions that would help you get along with others, have a happy, fulfilling life, but that not following them would not lead to eternal damnation because your consciousness will cease at the end of this life?

Would Cameron and Comfort be amused? Or more importantly, would they be convinced? Some of what I claimed in the preceding is true and some of it can’t be proven one way or another, but I suspect that not one word of what I said would be taken seriously because I had the audacity to alter the Bible. So what gives them the authority to alter someone else’s work and then try to use the altered version to disprove the same?

My favorite fundamentalist argument against natural selection is that it’s a theory and therefore not proven. Well guess what, so too is gravity a theory. If you stop believing in gravity simply for it’s theoretical nature will you float off into space? Let’s try it. Ready? 1-2-3-go! Still there? Thought so. OK, that wasn’t really a fair experiment because there’s a difference between pretending or wanting to believe something and actually believing. But you get my point.

Just as not believing something doesn’t make it not true, neither does believing in something make it true. Wonder how those 9/11 attackers are enjoying their 72 virgins? Or was it 72 white raisins? I don’t remember.


  1. My thing is that I do not want religion taught in Public school. That is what parochial schools are for. Could you imagine if we opened up schools for every crazy religion? Next thing you know my son would belong to the Church of the Big Ring!

  2. And? What would be so wrong with your son belonging to the Church of the Big Ring? I think that would be the best possible outcome if religion were taught in public schools.

  3. The Biblia Latinoamericana has the new preface you were talking about.

  4. Wow, that's messed up.

    From what I found, Ray admitted that 4 chapters and Darwin's introduction were removed from the first printing, but the 2nd printing (which according to Ray is the one that will go out to college campuses) is complete. I wonder how many books were produced in the first printing? In any case, he changed the book at least once which shows such stupidity how could anyone trust this guy?

    "On The Origin Of Species" is in the public domain and can be found online so no need to get Ray's free version.

  5. your shoulder season posts are killing me.

    That being said, FSM rules the world.

  6. I almost never leave comments anywhere but I like the philisophical tangents. ski, bike, think (a little)

  7. OK, so first off, I had a hell of a time typing this comment, floating as I now am above the keyboard.

    Second, I would totally buy a copy of your SBJ-Bible.

    Third, I don’t believe the Earth was created in 6 days. It was created last night while I slept- or rather while I was brought into existence with 4 decades worth of prefabricated memories.

    Fourth, the Evolution-Gravity analogy is awesome. Over the past century+, the evidence for evolution via natural selection has only become consistently, continually and overwhelmingly stronger (Modern Synthesis, Endosymbiotic theory, DNA/RNA/protein evidence, fossil record). The evidence for general relativity (the theory that explains gravity, or Why Stuff Falls Down), on the other hand, has serious problems, breaking down pretty much completely at the quantum level.

    The real hypocrisy of fundamentalism vs. science conflict is the selective skepticism involved. People will believe in literal six-day creation or 72 virgins or speaking in tongues or what-not, but when it comes to something they don’t want to believe in- like evolution or climate change- they suddenly turn into Michael Shermer, demanding to be “shown the evidence”.