I visited Auckland University yesterday, which is not particularly unusual. It is a little like watching an episode of Home & Away after three years of not watching. You don’t recognise most of the faces, though the plot lines and stereotypes seem to stay the same, and then you spot a familiar face like Nick Keesing Alf Stewart and you know you’re in the right place.
Anyway, I met Dave there, and he said, “Oh, check this out. I think it’s a good sign – there are people giving out 150th anniversary editions of Origin of Species.”
I had a look at the book. Nice pretty cover, at the bottom of which it read, “Special introduction by Ray Comfort”.
“Dave,” I said, a bit like a mother who’s found crystal meth in her 6-year-old son’s lunchbox after he’s come home from school. “Who gave you this?”
“Some people were just giving them out.”
Dave had been duped! Bamboozled! Hoodwinked!
For those who don’t know, Ray Comfort is an evangelical preacher in the States (actually born in New Zealand), made particularly famous by his association with ex-Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron and their winning video: “The Banana: The Atheist’s Nightmare”. The video initially would only really make you laugh if you find it funny to imagine that they’re talking about an erect penis rather than a banana (God made it to perfectly fit inside a human mouth, etc.) It became a bit more hilarious when the actual nature of wild bananas was pointed out online.
Unsurprisingly, Comfort’s “special introduction” is a 49-page essay on how awful Darwin was and how great (Ray Comfort’s brand of) Christianity is. The introduction is beautifully laid out in an easy-to-read typeface, indented quotations, footnotes, pictures and photographs, spaced paragraphs and section labels. Tacked on to the end of the introduction is the actual text of Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, mashed together in a much smaller typeface, no spaces between paragraphs and very token section labels. And missing one or two chapters.
Basically, the book and its worldwide giveaway by Comfort’s organisation are a delivery mechanism for an evangelical tract. There’s nothing inherently wrong about evangelical tracts, but when you don’t call them what they are, and when you call them something quite different on the cover, you are being intentionally deceptive. One can argue that since the book actually does contain “Origin of Species”, it’s not lying at all. I say in response: you know perfectly well what you’re doing. If Ray Comfort’s 49-page diatribe wasn’t there, you wouldn’t have anything you’d want to give away at all.
The move hasn’t gone unnoticed around the NZ blogosphere, with the Fundy Post shedding some light on some of Comfort’s organisation’s motivations and timings.
Later today, I’ll post a quick rundown of examples of Ray Comfort either lying to his readers or betraying an extraordinary ignorance of things about which he’s apparently published books.
UPDATE: Click here for that very rundown.