Thanks for your questions

I just want to say a sincere thanks to everyone who submitted questions under “Q for Ray” subjects. I know some people are disappointed that we did not directly read questions and attribute them to those who wrote in, but we did read through a lot of them before the show. I think everyone who watched the show would agree that the conversation was plenty jam packed without breaking to read a canned question.

However, both Matt and I read through several dozen questions, took notes, and found themes which helped us to formulate what to say. Some of you probably recognized pieces of your questions surfacing in the dialog. So… it may not have seemed like we were paying attention to you, but we were. Thanks for your support and we appreciate you.

Open thread on episode #702: Ray Comfort

Pre-show remarks: I’m going to go ahead and get this post up now, so folks will be able to comment as soon as the show ends today — or heck, even comment live as it’s progressing. Anticipation for this one has been off the chain. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in my 12 off-and-on years of being involved with AETV, and I imagine we’ll easily have the largest UStream viewership we’ve ever had. With about 4½ hours to go at the time I’m writing this, already the chat room is packed. So if you haven’t already done so, run to the store, stock up on popcorn or your preferred snack-of-choice, and get ready. I’ll see you back here for the post-mortem.

By the way, you can stop sending us “Q for Ray” questions now. We’ve gotten literally hundreds of them (though the number of viable questions is significantly lower once we weed out all the banana-related ones), and I have no idea how much of the show will be devoted to viewers’ questions and how much will be straight-up debate between Matt and Russell and Ray. So it’ll go how it goes, gang. I’m sure we’re in for a good time all the same.


Postmortem: Well, how about that, eh?

As you can well imagine, watching this was, for us co-hosts, an endless exercise in screaming frustration that we couldn’t be on. There were so many moments where I could have shut Ray down in an instant on many of his usual arguments, though Matt and Russell did fine work, as I’m sure I don’t need to say. I could probably do a whole blog on the first 10 minutes of the show alone. Suffice it to say that it was all roaringly entertaining, and extremely informative, for those who want to know how a mind (and I use that term advisedly) like Ray’s functions. So many of the arguments Ray hopes to employ against atheists are nothing more than ammo we could easily turn around on him. It’s pitiful that he does not recognize this.

In order to keep this post from reaching Atlas Shrugged length, I’ll concentrate on two PRATT arguments Ray loves to bring up, and which we saw dusted off and put through their paces again today. “Something from Nothing” and “A Painting Requires a Painter”.

That things in nature, including the universe itself, appear to be designed, is intuitive to us, because we are pattern-seeking creatures. But where Christians like Ray go phenomenally wrong is in confusing and conflating order and design. Design, at least as Christians use the term, implies intelligent agency and purpose. Order is entailed by the nature of existence itself. As George Smith points out, to exist at all is to exist as something. But order alone is not evidence of intelligent design. The great irony of Paley’s Watchmaker argument is that it demonstrates this. To deduce that the watch in the desert must be a designed artifact, the observer is reaching that conclusion by comparing the watch to its surroundings. The watch stands out because it is wholly unlike the desert. The Watchmaker argument proves, if nothing else, that deserts are not designed.

Ray lives in a curious alterna-reality in which he claims everything is the product of divine design, which prompts the question of how he knows (other than the Bible told him so), what frame of reference he is using to distinguish design from non-design. I wonder if Ray has ever looked at those grains of sand he keeps bringing up under a microscope, though. When you do, do you know what you see? Something like this:

No two are alike. No two have precisely the same chemical or mineral composition. Ray would, no doubt, insist that God is so awesome that he literally can design each and every individual grain of sand as lovingly as a work of art. That in his omnipotence, God can effortlessly lavish such loving attention on even the smallest thing. And that’s the problem when you argue with someone about their imaginary magical friend. There are no rules in magical thinking.

If sand grains were designed, wouldn’t you expect to see more uniformity? Most designers, after all, prefer to work from schematics and templates, from blueprints and preliminary concepts. The photo above suggests a couple of options for those inclined to think like Ray. 1) The grains of sand are the random product of erosion and other natural processes that determined their shape, mass, composition, color, and all the rest of it. Or 2) they were designed by a God who, for reasons best known to himself, intentionally made them look random. But why? In order to trick us, or just to show off his artistic side, or what?

The problem with positing a God over natural processes in a nutshell: With nature, you’re allowed elegant, simple, and in most cases empirically verifiable explanations for what is observed. With gods, you now have to add a whole new host of arguments and explanations to understand why this magic being would have gone about his business one way as opposed to another way. And not one of these arguments comes with evidence that allows you to test it. It’s all down to that old bugaboo, “faith,” in the end. Gods not only don’t explain things, they pile on more inexplicable, unnecessary nonsense.

To be continued…

It’s happening

Barring a last minute surprise, Ray Comfort will be on AETV this coming Sunday via phone.

Been very uncharitable to the fellow here, but to be honest, he’s been uncharitable to atheists. I thought about the fact that, here he is, about to appear on our program after so many people have begged him and us to make it happen — and the most recent post on the blog is one branding him a pathological liar.

But I cannot go back on that, because all his duplicitous and dishonest behavior down the years supports it. This is a man whose entire career in apologetics has involved flame-baiting atheists. It’s the reason he changed the name of his blog to Atheist Central, after all. He repeats all of his P.R.A.T.T. arguments (watch last week’s show for the definition of that acronym) no matter how many times they are annihilated, going the extra step of lying that no atheist has ever addressed them. He lies about science and evolution, claiming evolution does not provide explanations for things that numerous biologists have in fact clearly explained to him over and over again. He’s about cheap publicity stunts, like publishing his own edition of Darwin, rather than learning and bettering himself and the world through knowledge and enlightenment. He is the undisputed poster boy, not only for Christian fundamentalism’s irrationality, but its immorality. Someone who will look you in the eye and lie with every breath is an immoral person, full stop. Perhaps it’s a good thing that he’s making himself the face of belief.

Anyway, much as I think the guy should still be ignored, this is — as of today — going to happen. If you have questions for Ray, send them to [email protected] with the subject line Q for Ray. This may likely take up the whole hour. If anything, it could be the best show we’ve had in years.

Ray Comfort, pathological liar

Once again, Ray Comfort is telling the readers of his absurd blog that the only reason he has not called into the Atheist Experience is because we have not extended an invitation to him.

But of course, we have. I did so here. This was nearly a year ago. Hilariously, Ray dodged my invitation by linking me to his interview request page. This is typical of his dishonesty.

Another thing that is typical of his dishonesty: If you go to the original post on his blog, you won’t see the comment exchange detailed in my own post that I link to above. Because Ray has completely scrubbed his post of almost its entire comment thread.* (Unfortunately, the post is a little too old to find a cached copy of the original version with comment thread intact, but if any of our readers have l337 internet skillz and know how to dredge one up, by all means have a go.)

So you see, this is Ray’s little game. If we go to his blog and extend an invitation, he will simply delete it, thus enabling himself to continue claiming that we just aren’t inviting him, or maybe we’re scaaared of him, or whatever sustains the deluded fiction upon which he has constructed his life.

Ray Comfort is a liar. The proof’s in the proverbial pudding.


* I’ve been informed (in the very first comment below) that the comment thread was disappeared not by any duplicity on Ray’s part, but by the installation of a new comments module, which can have the effect of losing all your past comment threads. (It’s a reason I don’t switch us to Disqus here.) So, thanks to BathTub and my apologies for the error. Still it does not change the point of the original post: Ray’s continuing claims that we have not made any attempt to contact him are flat lies. According to Jen we’ve had an even more recent exchange with his staff.

Something to read with your Monday morning coffee

Everyone loves a good beatdown of those two adorable sad-sack clowns, Ray Cameron and Kirk Comfort. (Or is that the other way around? Oh, who cares!) And here, a fine young atheist writer named Nathan Dickey provides one for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.


Talking to Nathan on Facebook this morning, he brought up that he was inspired to take the opposite approach suggested by this post of mine from a year ago, in which I tried to encourage atheists simply to ignore Ray. My opinion then, which I still hold, is that the vast majority of what Ray says and does is every bit as much about self-promotion and aggrandizement as it is about evangelizing.

It’s nothing but a publicity stunt when Ray and Kirk do things like publish their own version of Origin of Species, or “challenge” people like Richard Dawkins to a debate (simply so they can crow he must have chickened out when he refuses). And Ray’s legendary dishonesty is so shameless in all of his dealings with atheists that for atheists to continue to seek engagements with him can only be seen as an act of futility. This is quite simply a man who cannot be trusted to show any degree of integrity whatsoever. He is a pathological liar, straight up, as we saw most recently in an exchange where Ray informed an atheist commenter to his blog that he would be delighted to phone in to AETV if we extended an invitation to him, as he did not want to invite himself. I immediately went to Ray’s blog and posted an invitation. Ray replied by posting a link to his “interview request” form, which would seem bizarre, considering that I wasn’t requesting an interview with him, only extending the invitation to call us that he had asked for. I say it would seem bizarre, until you realize that Ray is dishonest in every imaginable way. Then you realize this behavior is par for the course for him.

Weeks later, we were told by a reader that Ray was once again repeating the whole “Sure I’d love to call them, but they haven’t invited me!” thing, which makes him nothing less than a blatant, bald-faced lying sack of shit. So in this regard, yes, I still say, atheists should ignore Ray, because he has demonstrated through his every behavior that honesty at even the most basic level is just not part of his playbook.

But then, to do as Nathan has done, and critique the content of Ray and Kirk’s evangelism — well, that remains an entirely legitimate exercise in counter-apologetics. And a fun one too, as Ray and Kirk are without question the most laughable excuses for apologists alive — and when you consider the generally low intellectual level the bulk of religious apologetics is working in, that’s really saying something. So keep tearing apart their silly books and websites and TV programs. As Nathan notes, beating down Ray and Kirk’s drivel can be thought of as the training wheels for newbie atheists just learning to ride the counter-apologetics bike. It’s good sport, and good practice.

Ray Comfort recovers World’s Stupidest Christian™ title from Denyse O’Leary

Just in case you were worried. See how much pure, unadulterated Raytardation you can catalog in this single passage.

Evolution has no explanation for man’s beginning. Some of its believers think that perhaps there was a big bang, but they don’t know where the materials came from for it to take place. They don’t know what was in the beginning, but they are certain that there was no God. They believe the scientific absurdity that life rose out of non-life. It was simply a case of evolution-did-it.

Truly, I’m amazed the guy survives from day to day with such a profound lack of basic intelligence.

Here’s more, if you think your poor skull can take it.

Will he do it?

I know I have said many times atheists ought to ignore the farcical spectacle that is Ray Comfort, but this one was too good to pass up. A viewer has emailed us reporting that over at Ray’s blog, a reader calling himself “imadallasguy” has left this comment:

Ray,

A good way you could honor your Saviour and the sacrifice He made for you would be to call in live tomorrow to the Atheist Experience of Austin show which airs live on Easter Sunday at 4:00PM CST.

He did so much for you. What a sweet and blessed thing it would be for you to honor Him in return by calling in to the show, so that His word could go out to all the unbelieving world.

I’ll be listening for your soothing voice tomorrow.

In reply, Ray loaded up the .50-cal Bullshit SMG and set it on full auto.

imadallasguy…All they have to do is ask. I would be honored to go on their program. I don’t want to invite myself.

Gee, if I had a dollar bill for all the times Matt has told me he’s attempted — right there in the comment sections of Ray’s own blog — to get Ray to agree to some face time, I’d have…well, probably about twelve bucks. Whatever, the point is, he knows full well he’s been “asked”.

So here is the comment I just left, which I reproduce here just in the event it somehow fails to make its way out of Ray’s moderation queue, thus enabling him to keep claiming he’d love to talk to us, we’ve just never asked him. (Perhaps some of you ought to visit that thread and back imadallasguy up on his call-in request, eh? Godless eyes are watching!)

Ray: imadallasguy…All they have to do is ask. I would be honored to go on their program. I don’t want to invite myself.

As one of the rotating cohosts of The Atheist Experience, I say consider yourself asked. You are formally invited to phone in tomorrow, or on any Sunday afternoon it is convenient for you, from 4:30-6:00 PM CST. The number is 512-477-2288, and the earlier in the program you call, our phone screener will make sure you’re pushed to the front of the queue. We look forward to hearing from you.

I am also aware that our host, Matt Dillahunty, has made debate overtures to you several times, often right here in the comments of your blog. So I find it curious you say you’ve never been approached by any of us. Still, I understand you’re a busy man, so perhaps you’ve forgotten.

Who’ll start the betting?


Addendum, one hour later: Ray did post my comment.


Second addendum: Well, fuck. Apparently the show’s not on tomorrow, and Joe didn’t find out until yesterday, and (bit where I jumped Joe’s case for not letting us know before Saturday deleted, because that was done in frustration and thus uncool, sorry). So I’ll have to leave another comment informing Ray of this, and making sure he knows the offer’s open. Not that I expect him to call, still. Sorry, gang.

Okay, so now that we’re all agreed we don’t play nice…

Via PZ and WikiLeaks, in case you hadn’t seen this bit of timeless comedy gold, you can now download Kent Hovind’s entire “doctoral dissertation” for “Patriot Bible University,” a farcical Christian outfit housed in a doublewide offering correspondence courses. If the above is an example of what “Patriot Bible University” considers an acceptable lead-in to a dissertation, then let’s just say the whole preposterous charade that is fundamentalist “education” is even more hilarious than you think.

While we’re on Hovind (and it’s worth noting that this remains one of our most trafficked posts ever), I’d like to add a rider to remarks that Kazim and several commenters made in the preceding post. I agree it’s most important to attack ideas and not the people expressing them — but only to a point. Yes, the ad hominem attack is a fallacy, and is most commonly used simply to score cheap shots (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that one), or when the arguer has run out of intellectual steam and can’t muster rebuttals to strong points made by his opponent.

But this is a very different thing from attacking people when they have demonstrated, by their statements or actions, that they are not merely wrong but bad and foolish people. Kent Hovind is a case in point. First off, I don’t see anything unacceptable about calling a person who is convinced to the core of his being that dinosaurs walked the earth alongside humans an “idiot.” This is not name calling, but merely descriptive, in the same way I have pointed out that Richard Dawkins’ referring to Ray Comfort, the World’s Stupidest Christian™, as an “ignorant fool” and my referring to him by his unofficial title of World’s Stupidest Christian™ are not insults but descriptors*. Listen to Ray talk and read his writings, and his stupidity is on raw display. It cannot be denied any more than you could deny getting wet while standing in a thunderstorm. There is simply no way to refer to him other than to call him what he is: a stupid, ignorant fool.

Hovind is a man who is not merely ignorant but arrogant and entitled. He is convinced he is above the law, and remains unrepentant even when a ten-year jail sentence served to show him he was wrong on that point. Moreover, he has had an impact on a number of sycophantic followers, whom he has taught to lie and prevaricate just as he does. Read the comments from Hovind’s defenders in that old post of ours, and you’ll see them spouting the usual run of tortured, self-serving falsehoods to claim Hovind’s conviction on rather blatant tax fraud was Christian persecution at the hands of a Satanic government. So, QED, Kent Hovind has significantly damaged not merely the intellectual but the moral development of hundreds if not thousands of people. He has caused demonstrable harm.

He is also, in his self absorption, utterly cold and heartless to those who really do care about him. Listen to the audio clip between Hovind and his wife Jo. Listen to her try to express her feelings to him, her concern over the rightness and wrongness of the situation they find themselves in, and then listen to him shut her down with icy finality. He’s right, he’s always right. Because he’s God’s wingman. He doesn’t need to change, he’s perfect. It’s she who needs to “advance.” You have to wonder if we witness, in that exchange, the entire dynamic of fundamentalist Christian marriage in microcosm. Is this really a world in which unfeeling, authoritarian men are simply deaf to any of their wives’ emotional and moral concerns? Sure seems that way.

So, yes, I will always concentrate on attacking arguments first. But I will not refrain from condemning people worthy of condemnation. So go laugh at Kent Hovind’s “dissertation,” and then laugh at Kent. Because he’s an ignorant, arrogant, entitled, cold-blooded, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, felonious piece of shit. Quote me.


*Speaking scientifically, I know I cannot prove that Ray is necessarily the world’s stupidest Christian. There may well be many who are much much stupider. But if so, then they — unlike Ray, who proudly flies his stupid flag in public at every opportunity he gets, many of which he instigates himself for the attention — have the sense to stay out of the spotlight about it. Which, in turn, would make them smarter than Ray by just that much. So perhaps it can be proved that Ray’s the stupidest after all.

A beautiful day, sans creationist fools

Okay, so I read on Pharyngula this morning that Ray Comfort, the World’s Stupidest Christian™, rescheduled his giveaway of his bowdlerized Origin of Species on university campuses for today instead of tomorrow, evidently because he heard that people were preparing to counter it by printing up information from the NCSE’s enjoyable Don’t Diss Darwin site. So naturally, he had to do an end-run around that, since his pathetic, ignorant twaddle sinks like the Titanic when faced with the iceberg of scientific fact.

So I’m trying to make up my mind whether or not to go down to the UT-Austin campus and confront the dopes handing out books. But I’m not sure I really feel like it. For one reason, unless you’re a student, or you live down there or have business there, the campus isn’t very visitor-friendly. Traffic is a headache, and parking is a righteous pain in the ass at the best of times. And anyway, it would be amusing for a few minutes, I suppose, but then, like all dealings with creationist fools, it would simply get aggravating and tedious.

Finally, I step outside, and I see this.

And I think to myself, Wow, an absolutely perfect autumn day. Which is rare enough in Austin, I can tell you. Seriously, we’re talking deep blue, cloudless, endless skies, and the temperature like Goldilocks’ porridge. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

And then I think, now who would I rather spend a gorgeous day like this with? A gaggle of hopeless anti-science morons, or someone with more charisma and intelligence than all of them put together? Say, this guy:

It was not a difficult decision. Grab the leash, dial up a little Miles Davis on the iPod, and it’s off to the park we go, big boy!

Really, some days are just too beautiful to ruin.


So, I have no idea yet how the UT giveaway went, and what fireworks may or may not have erupted. I’ve put an email in to some folks with Atheist Longhorns I know, so maybe they’ll have a report for me later.

Kirk n’ Ray’s latest folly

By now I’m sure everyone knows about Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s plan to give away their own edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, complete with their own 50-page introduction packed with contemptible creotard lies, at 50 college campuses this November. UT-Austin is one of those campuses, and you can bet I’ll be there to get my copy! I heartily encourage Atheist Longhorns and literally everyone from the university’s Biology department to snap up copies as well, until they run out. And of course, make sure the uneducated drones giving away the book’s are appropriately humiliated and schooled. They evidently haven’t considered the likely consequences of showing up in an environment where people are, by and large, well educated, and trying to spread their ignorant twaddle. Let’s ensure they leave with a full understanding of those consequences.

Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog (Jim edits rogerebert.com, and both he and Ebert are outspoken science supporters) offers a very funny takedown of Kirk and Ray’s idiocy, and I think it’s a good thing that this whole exercise receives as much derision in advance of the actual event as possible. What an awesome thing it would be if those dispatched to give away these books encountered, at all 50 universities (and I’ve read reports there may be more than 100 universities by now), a horde of fearless and outspoken experts in science who calmly shoot down their foolishness and lies, like shooting clay pigeons out of the sky. This ought to be an event they live to regret.