Ray Comfort's 194,000+ Copies of Darwin's Origin, Missing Chapters

Friday, October 30, 2009 at 8:30 PM Bookmark and Share
According to National Center for Science Education (NCSE) director Eugenie Scott, copies of the Christian fundamentalist version of Darwin's Origin of Species is missing 4 major chapters.  This, despite previous claims that it would be printed in full. Of the projected 250,000+ copies being printed, 100,000+ are slated for distribution to non-science majors and other students at top U.S. colleges and universities on the 19th of November, 2009.

This out of the first round of an online "debate" between Scott and the author of the the "unusual" edition of Darwin's book, Ray Comfort (you can read his defense of the book here).

From Ray Comfort's website [bold emphasis mine]:
In November of 2009, we will be giving away more than 100,000 copies of Charles Darwin's On Origin of Species [sic] at 100 top U.S. universities (other individuals and churches have purchased approximately 70,000 copies to also give to students). This will be the entire publication (304-pages). Nothing has been removed from Darwin’s original work. As usual with reprints of On Origin of Species (there have been over 140 reprints), there will be an Introduction. My name will be on the cover (for those who think that we are somehow being deceptive). In one day, 170,000 future doctors, lawyers and politicians will freely get information about Intelligent Design (and the gospel) placed directly into their hands!
Ray Comfort

I've posted previously about this subject, here, here, here and here and if this latest news is true, I think it may reveal much about Ray Comfort's intellect and integrity.  Taken at face value, it seems he is a deeply and willfully ignorant person when it comes to science - an interpretation consistent with his previous statements on the subject.  Secondly, he looks the part of a very dishonest individual who seems willing to (intentionally?) mislead his critics and America's youth in order to propagate his own particular variety of fundamentalist Christianity.

Understandably, Comfort has received a lot of heat for trying to evangelize to students under such false pretenses - and he seems to be feeling it.  From elsewhere on his website...
"From now on I will refuse to answer questions about the book or its contents," Comfort said, "because there is such a deep-rooted anger in the atheist world about this publication.

"They desperately want to stop us," he said, "and I don't want to give away any further details regarding the campaign."
Comfort argues the book has not been altered at all.

"The 304-page publication will be Charles Darwin's every word - not one jot nor tittle will be removed," he said. [Source]
Poor guy doesn't even understand why some find his actions so repugnant!  People just don't like dishonesty, and lately Ray seems to just wreak of the stuff.

So what should students do if they happen upon a copy Ray Comfort's "abridged" version of Darwin's On the Origin of Species this fall?  Dr. Scott has some advice...
But there's no reason for students to refuse Comfort's free—albeit suspiciously abridged—copy of the Origin. Read the first eight pages of the introduction, which is a reasonably accurate, if derivative, sketch of Darwin's life. The last 10 pages or so are devoted to some rather heavy-handed evangelism, which doesn't really have anything to do with the history or content of the evolutionary sciences; read it or not as you please.

But don't waste your time with the middle section of the introduction, a hopeless mess of long-ago-refuted creationist arguments, teeming with misinformation about the science of evolution, populated by legions of strawmen, and exhibiting what can be charitably described as muddled thinking.

For example, Comfort's treatment of the human fossil record is painfully superficial, out of date, and erroneous. Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man—one a forgery, the other a misidentification, both rejected by science more than 50 years ago—are trotted out for scorn, as if they somehow negate the remaining huge volume of human fossils. There are more specimens of "Ardi" (the newly described Ardipithecus ramidus) than there are of Tyrannosaurus —and any 8-year-old aspiring paleontologist will be delighted to tell you how much we know about the T. rex!
To that I'll add two parting points.  First, if you are so lucky as to pick up a copy (or twelve) of the book  - please remember that I'd love to have one! Second, the full text of Darwin's Origin is available free (on the web) from a variety of sources - doesn't the fact that Ray Comfort omitted those chapters make you wonder what parts he found so objectionable? ;)

Related Links:

  1. You Don’t Always Need to Be Fair and Balanced | Friendly Atheist
  2. Scott vs. Comfort | Pharyngula 
  3. Ray Comfort replies to Eugenie Scott | Pharyngula
    [Missing chapters going back in for second round of printing.]
  4. Scientist Genie Scott's Last Word to Creationist Ray Comfort: There You Go Again

The self-correcting nature of science: a recent example

Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 6:14 PM Bookmark and Share
Science has a built in mechanism by which it can root out false or baseless assertions put forth by - well by anyone - but especially by members of the scientific community.

At it's core, science demands that ideas be challenged with empirical evidence and logical reasoning.  For practitioners (whether career scientists or otherwise) there is then an assumed responsibility to ensure those core demands are properly put into practice. This results in a kind of social norm among scientists that they are critical of one another, and that they hold themselves and their peers to the highest standards of scientific inquiry.  The result?  If it doesn't pass muster, it won't get past too many people before someone cries foul.

Over at the blog Why Evolution is True there's a nice, recent example where you can see this process in action.

Evolution of flight

Monday, October 26, 2009 at 7:55 PM Bookmark and Share
In case you missed in on TV...

Follow the link above to YoutTube for parts 2-4.

Shame on you, R...

Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 7:35 PM Bookmark and Share
... as such a fine, upstanding free software package that allows one access to all the latest statistical methods and modeling packages, you really should know better than to go about telling people that
> 1/0 [1] Inf

Schooling Comfort and Cameron on Darwin, Hitler

Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 10:42 PM Bookmark and Share
You may recall hearing that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have published a special version of Darwin's Origin of Species which they intend to use to evangelize to college students (not the science majors, apparently). I'm of course hoping that if you see them on your nearest campus, you'll snag me a copy!

I previously mentioned a few brief comments on their wacky introduction, and thought a nice addition would be this critique of some of the other claims made by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron regarding the now infamous "50 pages of libelous lies" introduction they've slipped into Darwin's book.

Note that you can get Darwin's Origin of Species for free these days (at least online).  Here's one example of the complete text of the 6th edition (with audio).

Mid-week Reptilian #5: Superb Lyrebird

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 9:08 PM Bookmark and Share
Yes, another feathered reptilian this week. In order to make up for skipping last week's reptilian, I thought I'd let you enjoy one of natures most impressive mimics: the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae).

Here in the north eastern United States, our best mimic is probably the Northern Mockingbird.  Don't get me wrong, these birds can belt out an impressive array of vocalizations from other species, but neither these, nor the Brown Thrashers, nor the introduced European Starlings quite manage to pull off some of the fancy vocals uttered by the Lyrebirds.

Here's a video I recently came across (by way of Gunnar Engblom of Kolibri Expeditions) showing just one example of Lyrebird mimicry. 

A member of that overly large order Passeriformes, the Superb Lyrebird is one of only two species in the family Menuridae.   Found in the coastal forests of eastern Australia, they're not only awesome mimics but they're also known for having one of the loudest vocalizations of all birds, and for the extravagant courtship display of the males. In addition to vocal flourishes that make even Whitney Houston sound monotone, the male raises his long, ornate tail feathers up over his body into an arrangement of feathers resembling the bird's namesake, the lyre. Pretty hot stuff if you're a female Lyrebird, but for the rest of us the vocals are the real showstopper!

If any of this is sounding familiar, you've probably already seen this specie's appearance in Sir David Attenborough's BBC series, The Life of Birds:

Perhaps you haven't seen the rest of the BBC footage... the really good stuff?  I mean, I'm sure nobody would ever be tempted to exaggerate this birds already amazing talents.  Would they?

Want to learn more about H1N1 flu, seaonal flu, vaccines, and who's most at risk?

 at 5:32 PM Bookmark and Share
Today I caught part of a radio broadcast of a special edition of Second Opinion: H1N1 Special Edition. From what little I heard, it sounds like a fantastic discussion - one I hope you'll find the time to watch in it's entirety.

A racist judge on why he's not racist.

Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 4:05 PM Bookmark and Share
You've likely heard of Louisiana Judge Keith Bardwell, who recently refused to issue a marriage license to a couple because the groom is black, and the bride white. Understandably, lots of people want him fired.

His overt racism aside, Louisiana judges should be further embarrassed to call this guy one of their own on account of his failure to use basic logic...

That's right, when asked how he would respond to someone asking him if he was racist, he replied
Aboslutely not... My definition of a racist is to hate black people, or treat black people different than anybody else.

Surely denying someone a marriage license based on their race doesn't fit either of those definitions, right?

15 Evolutionary Gems from the Journal Nature

Monday, October 12, 2009 at 11:20 PM Bookmark and Share
A friend of mine just alerted me to this "must read" compilation of Nature papers on the evidence for (and utility of) evolutionary theory.  It's been out for a while, but I thought it worth sharing.

So why have the authors and Nature put together these articles (and provided them for free to the public)? They explain in the introduction:
Most biologists take for granted the idea that all life evolved by natural selection over billions of years. They get on with researching and teaching in disciplines that rest squarely on that foundation, secure in the knowledge that natural selection is a fact, in the same way that the Earth orbits the Sun is a fact.

...We offer here 15 examples published by Nature over the past decade or so to illustrate the breadth, depth and power of evolutionary thinking. We are happy to offer this resource freely and encourage its free dissemination.

Below I've provided links to the main papers referenced in the article above (all free to download as PDFs).  I highly recommend reading the summaries in the article before diving into the papers themselves, and of course sharing these 15 gems with others.

Happy reading! :)

Main References for 15 Evolutionary Gems

  1. Land-living ancestors of whales
    1. Thewissen, J. G. M., Cooper, L. N., Clementz, M. T., Bajpai, S. & Tiwari, B. N. Nature 450, (2007). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature06343
  2. From water to land
    1. Daeschler, E. B., Shubin, N. H. & Jenkins, F A. Nature 440,  (2006). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature04639
    2. Shubin, N. H., Daeschler, E. B., & Jenkins, F A. Nature 440, (2006). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature04637
  3. The origin of feathers
    1. Chen, P.-J., Dong, Z.-M. & Zhen, S.-N. Nature 391, (1998). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature34356
    2. Zhang, F., Zhou, Z., Xu, X., Wang, X. & Sullivan, C. Nature 455, (2008).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature07447
  4. The evolutionary history of teeth
    1. Kavanagh, K. D., Evans, A. R. & Jernvall, J. Nature 449, 427–432 (2007).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature06153
  5. The origin of the vertebrate skeleton
    1. Matsuoka, T. et al. Nature 436, 347–355 (2005).   http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03837
  6. Natural selection in speciation
    1. McKinnon, J. S. et al. Nature 429, 294–298 (2004). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02556
  7. Natural selection in lizards
    1. Losos, J. B., Schoener, T. W. & Spiller, D. A. Nature 432, 505–508 (2004).   http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03039
  8. A case of co-evolution
    1. Decaestecker, E. et al. Nature 450, 870–873 (2007).   http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature06291
  9. Differential dispersal in wild birds
    1. Garant, D., Kruuk, L. E. B., Wilkin, T. A., McCleery, R. H. & Sheldon, B. C. Nature 433, 60–65 (2005).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03051
    2. Postma, E. & van Noordwijk, A. J. Nature 433, 65-68 (2005).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03083
  10. Selective survival in wild guppies
    1. Olendorf, R. et al. Nature 441, 633–636 (2006). http://dx.doi.org/nature04646
  11. Evolutionary history matters
    1. Mehta, R. S. & Wainwright, P. C. Nature 449, 79–82 (2007).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature06062
  12. Darwin’s Galapagos finches
    1. Abzhanov, A. et al. Nature 442, 563–567 (2006).   http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature04843
  13. Microevolution meets macroevolution
    1. Gompel, N., Prud’homme, B., Wittkopp, P. J., Kassner, V. A. & Carroll, S. B. Nature 433, 481–487 (2005).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03235
  14. Toxin resistance in snakes and clams
    1. Geffeney, S. L., Fujimoto, E., Brodie, E. D., Brodie, E. D. Jr, & Ruben, P. C. Nature 434, 759–763 ( 2005).  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03444
    2. Bricelj, V. M. et al. Nature 434, 763–767 (2005). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03415
  15. Variation versus stability
    1. Bergman, A. & Siegal, M. L. Nature 424, 549–552 (2003). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature01765

Mid-week Reptilian #4: "Northern" Brown Snake

Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 11:52 PM Bookmark and Share
When I first moved to western New York from Colorado, I was pretty psyched to get familiar with the new bird and reptile species in the area - especially those representing an unfamiliar genus or family. Among these, the Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) and it's cousin the Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) were pretty different from anything I'd seen back home in Colorado. Together, they pretty much fill out the genus Storeria in the U.S. Locally, they make up the bulk of the "little-brown-snake-that-isn't-a-garter" sightings here in the Finger Lakes region of western New York.

A Northern Brown Snake (S. d. dekayi) right, and an Eastern Garter (T. sirtalis).
These are 2 of 4 snakes (3 Brown Snakes, 1 Eastern Garter) that were found
together under the bark of a log on 10 June, 2007 south west of Ithaca, NY.

So why is it so interesting to see new critters in a new corner of the world?  In part, it comes from an appreciation of the diversity of life that is out there and being involved with like-minded individuals that share that same appreciation.

As can be seen in the 3 Brown Snakes in the photo above, there's plenty of individual variation within most any species (often, even within small local populations). In short, the more divergent the evolutionary histories of two organisms, the more recognizably different they tend to be.

A natural next step after recognizing the many similarities and differences between related species or subspecies leads one to wonder about the how and why behind it all. For example, why does the Redbelly Snake have a red belly? Might it have anything to do with why the locally occurring Northern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii) also has a colorful underside? Why do these two (more distantly related) species share this characteristic, while the Brown Snake does not?

Ah, such fun questions - so little time... too bad my thesis chapter won't write itself while I'm blogging! ;)

Mid-weed Reptilians you have to see to believe...

Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 4:35 PM Bookmark and Share
A friend of mine just alerted my attention to this thread over at fieldherping.com, and I highly recommend you check it out!

[See the link above for why this photo is so darn awesome.]

Left to Right: W. Terrestrial Garter (T. elegans), E. Yellowbelly Racer (C. constrictor flaviventris) and a young Plains Garter (T. radix)

How cool is that!? ;)