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Dec 09 2012

Ray Comfort Takes on Billy Joel

Ray Comfort now has a weekly column at the Worldnutdaily, which is the perfect place for him. It’s a match made in Wingnuttia. The column will take on a “famous atheist” each week and the first one is about Billy Joel, who is a kinda sorta atheist (he says he still believes in “spiritual planes,” whatever the hell that means). And he’s offering up arguments like this:

If Billy likes to rationalize things, I would like him to tell me what he would think of my intellectual capacity if I thought that he didn’t compose “Piano Man;” if I believed that it didn’t have a composer. It just happened. It was a melodic accident.

I’ll take bad analogies for $1000, Alex.

Such a thought is ludicrous. Every song has a composer, every book has an author, every car has a maker, every painting has a painter, and every building has a builder. So it isn’t irrational to take this simple logic a little further and say that nature must have had a Maker. It would be irrational to believe that it made itself. It’s more than irrational; it’s scientifically impossible. For nature to make itself, it would have had to be pre-existent before it made itself.

But somehow, believing the exact same thing about God is not irrational. For magic reasons.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    Ellie

    He’s just miffed because Billy Joel didn’t write anything titled Banana Man.

  2. 2
    otrame

    Elle gets an Internet!!

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    Wow, Ellie wins the thread with a surprise first move!

  4. 4
    sheila

    Ray Comfort thinks with his banana.

  5. 5
    Kevin Anthoney

    To be honest, my opinion of Comfort’s intellectual capacity wouldn’t be significantly reduced if it turned out he thought Joel didn’t write Piano Man.

  6. 6
    Didaktylos

    D’uh – it’s because we know it was painted by somebody that we call it a painting …

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    I’ve said this before: how does Comfort know that “Piano Man” has a composer? I bet that if he (or at least somone capable of critical thinking) were to think about this, he’d realize that those reasons don’t really apply to “nature.”

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    Also, even if “Piano Man” has a composer, how does Comfort ‘know’ it was Joel? It might have actually been written by Mel Torme and Joel found it on a paper napkin somewhere…

    The problem with the “creation therefore god” arguments is that they don’t adequately guarantee which god. Even if we granted that the universe was created; we found a pulsar typing “I made this – God” in Morse code over and over, we’d be unable to tell for sure whether it was Yahweh, Set, Odin, or Cthulhu based on just that information.

    Short form: Comfort is a poopyhead.

  9. 9
    maxdwolf

    Every rock has a rocker?

  10. 10
    John Hinkle

    Every song has a composer, every book has an author… nature must have had a Maker.

    Truly a dizzying intellect. I would love to see him have a battle of wits with Vizzini.

  11. 11
    timgueguen

    Comfort apparently hasn’t heard of a concept called improvisation, which many musicians practice, and which often results in a song. Ray Charles’s classic “What’d I Say” supposedly arose from an end of concert improvisation, intended to fill space Charles still had left in the show. The audience response proved so enthusiastic that Charles and his group played it over the next several shows, and decided to record it as soon as possible.

  12. 12
    cptdoom

    You know, every oak tree has an acorn, but that doesn’t mean we think the acorn has the power to banish us to Hell for all eternity for failing to kneel down in the right kind of church.

  13. 13
    iknklast

    Based on his first try, it appears atheists have little to fear from Comfort (of course, we knew that already). This is tantamount to a schoolyard bully saying “Nuh uh!”

  14. 14
  15. 15
    jefferylanam

    In traditional music, there are many songs which have no composer. They may have started out from one person’s intelligence, but changed as they were heard, misheard, changed, were adapted, taught, or mistaught through the years. Evolved, in other words. In some cases, they were forgotten if they didn’t meet the needs of the performers or listeners, or deliberately suppressed if the authorities (environment) disapproved. In other words, they went extinct.

    Not the best analogy, granted, but better than his.

  16. 16
    John Pieret

    But somehow, believing the exact same thing about God is not irrational.

    Of course not! Because … er … God is … umm … God! Boy, you atheists are dumb!

  17. 17
    Bronze Dog

    The old Paley’s watchmaker argument. I wrote a little story about that, once.

  18. 18
    hunter

    “For nature to make itself, it would have had to be pre-existent before it made itself.”

    Actually, what Joseph W. Campbell called “the desert religions” (a/k/a the monotheisms) seem to be unique in supposing that history has a beginning. Most other mythologies — in fact, quite possibly all others — assume that something came before.

    On the basis of the quotes, for Comfort to be inviting speculation as to his intellectual capacity is nothing short of suicidal.

  19. 19
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    For nature to make itself, it would have had to be pre-existent before it made itself.

    Who says it wasn’t? What exactly does “nature” mean to you? Lions and trees and butterflies and fish and stuff, right?…

    … right?

    I hope Billy Joel hits Ray Comfort with a banjo.

  20. 20
    1happymonkey

    I think the banjo beatings should be saved for when Comfort gets around to “debating” Steve Martin.

  21. 21
    stevegerrard

    And every bird nest has a builder, and every bird song has a composer.

    A more complete statement might read:

    Every song has a composer that is a product of nature, every book has an author that is a product of nature, every car has a maker that is a product of nature, every painting has a painter that is a product of nature, and every building has a builder that is a product of nature.

    Ray just doesn’t see that nature is good at this stuff.

  22. 22
    hypatiasdaughter

    #8 Marcus Ranum
    How did Adam & Eve know that dude who walked with them in the Garden of Eden actually WAS god? How did they know he was their creator? They only had his word for it………..

  23. 23
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    It’s simple – every painting has a painter, therefore every fly has a flyer, every fish has a fisher, every grain of sand has a sander. Heck, every tidal flow has a flower – whether it smells sweet or not – who never miscommunicates!

    Thus, no clit-nibbling for us dykes. QED!!!!

  24. 24
    scoobygang

    Universe =/= song
    Universe =/= book
    Universe =/= car
    Universe =/= painting
    Universe =/= building

    I know I’m being facetious but he was the one that brought up logic, and then failed completely to employ it.

  25. 25
    eyeroll

    Ellie, I wrote him a little ditty to make him feel better: (sing it like “Spider Man”)

    Banana man, banana man
    Yicky, icky banana man
    Spins a web, a web of lies
    He eats only banana pies
    Lookout, here comes banana man.
    In the chill of the night, he meets Ken Ham
    Says “Ken, my love, will you be mine?”
    Lookout here comes banana man.

  26. 26
    Michael Brew

    Wow. Is this seriously the only argument Ray uses? I mean, he has to realize that it doesn’t work at some point.

  27. 27
    Ellie

    @14 Sorry, I had no idea. I think it’s better than Piano Man.

    @25 Catchy. Like the reference to Ken Ham.

  28. 28
    dingojack

    cptdoom (#12) – maybe not hell, but they sure are good at stealing elections (or so we’re told).
    ;) Dingo

  29. 29
    serena

    I’d rather see him take on Brian May.

  30. 30
    godlesspanther

    Is there an 11th commandment in which Yahweh declares that his followers shalt not make a good analogy and that their analogies must be a stupid as possible?

    It appears to be the case.

    To be fair — good analogies are not easy. Bad analogies are a nickel a truckload. Good analogies are few and far between. But I have yet to see a fundie actually come up with a good analogy.

    If we are to hold the argument from design analogy to analysis then:

    First of all, we must be unable to distinguish between that which has formed naturally and that which was created by human beings.

    The method for determining who built a building and when would have to be that same as the methodology for determining who created a mountain and when.

    Any large building required the collective effort of many builders. The universe is very, very, very large — therefor….

    We can be sure that, in the case of any very old building, that all of the builders have died since its creation. The universe is very, very, very old — therefor….

    In the case of relatively recent creations, such as the song Mr. Piano Man, the composer, Billy Joel can be contacted and asked about it. Ask about a river and…

    ———–

    Despite all of these obvious problems with Ray’s analogies, let’s just hand him a pile of very generous givens: There is an anthropomorphic being who created the universe, there is only one, and it still exists.

    Then — what is to say that it is the one that Ray believes in?

    That would require a huge leap and skipping 54,926 logical steps.

  31. 31
    matthewhodson

    We didn’t start the fire?

  32. 32
    lofgren

    I’m not sure I agree that every song has a composer. Can a bird be said to “compose” its song?

    You could dismiss this as a semantic quibble. Arguably, a birdsong is not really song, or the process by which it creates is music may not be analogous to the way that humans compose but could still be called creation.

    However, I would argue that birdsong represents a perfect example of what Comfort calls a “melodic accident.” Which is to say that birds create their noise for their own purposes. The fact that these emanations (at least, some of them) are made up of similar acoustic ranges and compositions to those favored by humans is entirely coincidental.

    (Unless you believe that god is the author of birdsongs. But then why can’t god be the author of Piano Man? At that point the argument becomes tautological.)

    The real problem with Comfort’s analogies isn’t that they utterly fail. They do, but I’ll go ahead and let him have them. The problem is that they get him no closer to his goal of proving “God” as a coherent concept exists. He’s using god as a placeholder for “whatever created the universe.” There is absolutely nothing useful that we can do with that concept, since we cannot infer anything about this god except that it has the ability to create universes.

  33. 33
    Alex

    so sing with me,

    Every wank has a wanker,
    and there’s a pecker for every peck.
    every hank gets a hanker,
    ing once in a while.

    To crap one needs a crapper,
    and there’s a rapper for every rap.
    every suck has a sucker,
    and surely capers to every cap.

    Every box comes from a boxer
    And Hitler, what a hit,
    so praise both Lord and Lorder.
    to the titter of a tit.

  34. 34
    grahamjones

    http://darwintunes.org/welcome

  35. 35
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @godlesspanther:

    Ray Comfort is the King of Bad Analogies.

  36. 36
    democommie

    “a·nal·o·gy /əˈnaləjē/ Noun

    1. A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose
    of explanation or clarification.

    2. A correspondence or partial similarity.

    (source:https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=ie7&q=definition+of+analogy&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7_____en)

    Following Raybo’s logic, there can’t possibly be someone as fucking stupid as he is without there being a deity who’s a moron–maybe that explains the platypus?

  37. 37
    jamessweet

    I am guessing from this that Ray Comfort is not a songwriter. I know the creative process is different for everyone, but at least the way that I write songs, that is the absolute last process where I would try to employ the Watchmaker’s Analogy, because song writing has so many similarities with natural selection. Song-writing is not like engineering; for me at least the process tends to be filled with experimentation, innovation through randomness or even through error, spandrels, hybridization… Sure, ultimately there is a songwriter or songwriters, but IMO songwriting more than a lot of human creative endeavors tends to be more like a giving birth than a deliberate designing. So the already poor metaphor is even worse in this context..

  38. 38
    Doug Little

    So it isn’t irrational to take this simple logic a little further and say that nature must have had a Maker

    Yes, yes it is.

  39. 39
    thisisaturingtest

    The basic problem I have with “watchmaker” arguments like Comfort’s is that they never address the reason we know things like buildings, paintings, cars, or even just watches lying around in the desert are designed (apart from the obvious fact that, in most cases, we know who the designer was); and that is that they are obviously arttifacts by contrast with their surroundings, i.e., nature itself. But with a sample size of exactly one with the universe, with nothing to contrast it to, what makes the inference of design “obvious”? Nothing; it’s a circular inference of necessity, not of logic.

  40. 40
    Alex

    @thisisaturingtest

    Yes that’s an interesting question – can there be an absolute measure for designedness that is independent of the “background” of observed surroundings?

    But imagine that you posit some arbitrary criterion for when you call something “definitely looks designed”.

    No matter how you define your “looking designed” criterion there – arguing with Paley for the existence of God is only an option once you know that there are no conceivable simpler alternative mechanisms for making things that look designed according to your arbitrary criterion than God.

    The game you can play now is to raise the demands in your criterion until there are still objects left in the universe which satisfy it, but all “naturalistic” theories for such objects are eliminated.

    This is exactly what the ID crowd tried to do with their irreducible complexity criterion for designedness. Unfortunately for them, the set of things in nature that would pass their criterion in the first place is still empty.

    Once you’ve found a mechanism that can make things according to your definition of designedness, such as evolution by natural selection, arguing with Paley against this mechanism is manifestly nonsensical – it is like arguing against the existence of chimney sweeps based on the fact that your chimney is clean. Yet this is what Comfort has been doing for years now, absolutely pathetic.

  41. 41
    davem

    he says he still believes in “spiritual planes,” whatever the hell that means

    I flew on a Boeing 747 called ‘Spirit of the Seven Seas’ once. Virgin have a 747 called ‘Spirit of Sir Freddie”. That must be what he means.

  42. 42
    Doug Little

    davem @41

    Don’t forget the most famous Spirit of St. Louis.

  43. 43
    thisisaturingtest

    @#40, Tyrant al-Kalam:
    To me, the important thing to remember in arguing with creationists is that you’re arguing with people who aren’t content to think as theists, but are pretending to not think like theists; they’re pretending to abandon faith for the purpose of argument, but they’re not. If you peel it back far enough, every creationist who tries to use use logic, as in the “watchmaker” analogy, or who appeals to science with, say, “intelligent design,” is making a pretense of using some objective standard outside their subjective beliefs to prove those beliefs- which, by definition, is nonsense anyway- but, upon closer examination, turns out to depend on the subjective faith at its premise. There are no criteria outside a necessity for it that justify an inference of design in what is only an outcome of a non-normative process (even “survival of the fittest” is read by these people as an inference of design, by evolution, so they can set evolution up as a competitor for their deity, which their deity can strike down; when it’s really only properly a description of an outcome, not a goal, of a process that has no need for goals). The aim, to me, in arguing with these guys, is to strip away those pretensions, to back them into a corner where they can only end up with the tautology that defines faith; “I believe what I believe because that’s what I believe.”
    Sorry if all this is a little jumbled; I don’t really have the education that I need to express as clearly as I’d like what it is I’m trying to say.

  44. 44
    leedawson

    I want to make sure I’ve got this right. If every building needs a builder, every composition a composer, and every painting a painter, doesn’t that mean nature needs a naturer? And what the hell is a naturer?

  45. 45
    Ichthyic

    This is exactly what the ID crowd tried to do with their irreducible complexity criterion for designedness. Unfortunately for them, the set of things in nature that would pass their criterion in the first place is still empty.

    …and that’s not for want of asking. Dozens of scientists have asked for an objective measure of specified complexity.

    Phillip Johnson PROMISED he would have it for us.

    that was over 12 years ago, IIRC.

    even the crickets gave up chirping.

  46. 46
    Ichthyic

    it is like arguing against the existence of chimney sweeps based on the fact that your chimney is clean.

    Now all I can think about is Dick van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”.

  47. 47
    Noadi

    Following Raybo’s logic, there can’t possibly be someone as fucking stupid as he is without there being a deity who’s a moron–maybe that explains the platypus?

    I had a teacher who joked that the platypus was proof of polytheism because it looks like it was designed by committee.

    Interestingly he was the teacher who introduced me to the idea of young earth creationism as something people actually believed (I live in the northeast, science classes always taught science). So no one gets the wrong impression of him, I should mention that this was a class on mythology. I rather enjoyed his classes.

  48. 48
    dingojack

    I not sure if it’s relevant but:
    “If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.” *
    keeps coming to mind.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * ‘God Is An Iion’. – Spider Robinson. (1977)

  49. 49
    democommie

    “Sorry if all this is a little jumbled; I don’t really have the education that I need to express as clearly as I’d like what it is I’m trying to say.”

    Yes, you do have the education. Repeat after me, “Creationists are full of shit.”. That is all that’s required.

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