Comfort Lobs Logical Fallacies at Dawkins


Ray Comfort is writing a series of columns for the Worldnutdaily where he takes on the world’s most famous atheists. The result is a lot like having one’s ankles gnawed on by a toy poodle. His latest column takes on Richard Dawkins, but the best Comfort can do is lob a few blatant logical fallacies in his direction.

He told The New York Times, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked).”

So, according to the professor, if you don’t “believe” in evolution, you are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. He would like everyone to believe in the theory. As far as he is concerned, to believe it is to be on the side of true science.

But according to The New Yorker magazine (in 2012), “The percentage of Americans that believe in biological evolution has only increased by four percentage points over the last 20 years.”

A June 2012 Gallup poll found 46 percent of Americans believe God created man, 32 percent believe humans evolved with God’s guidance and 15 percent believe in evolution alone.

So the amount of believers in evolution alone is 15 percent and has only increased by 4 percent in the last 20 years.

Okay. And what, pray tell, does that have to do with the statement it purports to be a response to? The vast majority of Americans are, in fact, ignorant of evolution. What percentage of the country do you think could pass — not ace, just pass — the final exam in a high school AP biology course? I’d be shocked if even 20% could do so. Comfort would fail miserably.

Comments

  1. says

    Heck, even a toy poodle can break the skin with its sharp little teeth. Ray Comfort’s attacks are more like toothless duck bites. (And I don’t mean a crocoduck!).

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    The vast majority of Americans are, in fact, ignorant of evolution.

    That covers ‘ignorant.’ As for stupid, I hear that half of all Americans have below average intelligence.

  3. slc1 says

    Considering that some 20% of Americans believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth, I am greatly underwhelmed by Comfort’s (who is both stupid and ignorant; I don’t know about insane and wicked) argumentum ad populum.

  4. Doubting Thomas says

    Stupid isn’t about intelligence per se, it’s about letting emotional response trump intelligence. I’m scared of death therefor anything anyone tells me about life after death must be true.

  5. jamessweet says

    At worst, one could argue (I wouldn’t, but one could) that Dawkins comment was ill-advised because of ambiguity over the word “ignorant”. In this example, Dawkins clearly meant it in the dictionary sense, i.e. lacking information. In that case, it is not too much of a stretch to believe that a large number of Americans are “ignorant” in that sense.

    In any case, isn’t it a moot point since Dawkins has been “purged”? :p

  6. dingojack says

    Marcus – “No, seriously. My cøusin was bitten by a duck, ønce”.

    Oh…. it got better!

    :) Dingo.
    ———–
    Like being mauled by a chew toy.

  7. roggg says

    I’m not sure Comfort’s statements even rise to the level of fallacy since he doesn’t seem to be making any argument here whatsoever. Yes, people lacking knowledge about evolution are ignorant on the topic. Yes, there’s a lot of them. What of it?

  8. dingojack says

    dmcclean -‘sacked’? I thought they would have been ‘quacked’.
    [Sorry, I;ll shut up now]
    Dingo

  9. slc1 says

    Re Jamessweet @ #7

    One has to consider the context in which Dawkins made this statement. He made it as a comment on a presentation by a pompous asshole named David Berlinski (who, by the way; used to falsely claim to be a mathematician; his PhD is in philosophy). What he said is as follows. One who rejects the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked (but I don’t want to consider that). Berlinski is neither ignorant, stupid, or insane.

  10. freemage says

    Also, while the theory of evolution clearly works just fine without divine guidance, “theistic evolution” rarely actually contradicts that theory. Most TE believers, if you pinned them down (it’s mushy in the first place, of course), would say that God was the determining force behind ‘random’ mutation, and thus utterly invisible to the process, even though he’s supposedly directing it the entire time. (If you ask them how… be prepared for ‘quantum’ abuse.) Which means that people who accept that evolution at least describes, accurately, the process that occurs in nature is actually closer to 47% by Comfort’s own numbers.

    Also, it’s unclear–the “4% increase”–is that from 14.4% to 15%, or from 11% to 15%? If the latter, then the increase would be freaking HUGE, and bodes ill for Comfort in the future.

  11. noastronomer says

    We apologise again for the fault in the duck jokes. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked.

  12. says

    “Ray Comfort is writing a series of columns for the Worldnutdaily where he takes on the world’s most famous atheists.”

    OMG, won’t someone protect all the innocent straw men he’s going to mangle and kill?

  13. thebookofdave says

    Argument from popularity is 46 percent wilfully ignorant, and 32 percent blissfully irrational.

  14. Sastra says

    jamessweet #7 wrote:

    At worst, one could argue (I wouldn’t, but one could) that Dawkins comment was ill-advised because of ambiguity over the word “ignorant”.

    Well, I’ll argue that the word choice was unfortunate — not because Dawkins was technically wrong or wrong to use it in the situation he did, but because the quote is so easily “taken out of context” — meaning, distorted and misused. There may be a cultural, educational, or national divide here (or all 3). To most Americans, calling someone “ignorant” means they know hardly anything at all on any topic at all. It’s a general slur, an attack on basic character. If you’re ignorant then you’re not just uninformed — you’re an intractible ignoramus.

    Had Dawkins been prudent enough — or lucky enough — to say “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant of the facts, stupid or insane (or wicked)” the statement would have flowed less smoothly, but been less open to abuse.

  15. Reginald Selkirk says

    RE #21: Research shows that if you add a decimal place, 27.6% more people will find your made up numbers to be convincing.

  16. The Lorax says

    The vast majority of ducks are ignorant of quantum theory, therefore it’s not true, because, given their sizable population (we may have to throw in a few chickens here), they produce a black hole of truthiness, emitting non-echoing M-strand string-quacks, which re-write the quantum space-time tachyon foam vis a vie Goddidit.

    … they call ‘em ‘fingers’ but I never see ‘em fing…

    … whoa, there they go…

  17. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I have a fairly broad working knowledge of the basics of different scientific disciplines. Rudimentaries of chemistry, a bit better than that in physics, quite a lot of psychology, some sociology, etc. I’ve even got an intro to linguistics and another to medicine rattling around in my brain.

    And, make no mistake: I enjoy the F* out of molecular biology, developmental biology, bio-psychology, and evolutionary biology.

    I am announcing here & now that I would be surprised if I could pass an AP high school science final exam.

    Now, maybe I’m overestimating those science classes, but I’m hoping that in addition to whatever concepts I would have to know, I would also have to know, well, actual facts. What makes a bacterium Graham negative? I forget. Something to do with the cell membrane, though. ATP is, I think, adeno-triphosphate, but I may have that totally wrong. Even if I did, I couldn’t describe the energy cycle of which it is a part (can’t even remember the name of it right now, though in another hour it might pop in there).

    I’m shocked that anyone takes seriously the idea that 20% of all people running around the states could pass a test that would include actual questions on such topics as what skeletal characteristics distinguish the skeleton of an amphibian from the skeleton of a reptile.

    But then again, maybe I’m overestimating the coverage of actual biology in AP biology classes given the power of the theocratic right to affect education in the States.

    Still, even if my daughters forget 95% of this stuff 20 years later like I have done, I hope to heck that they end up examining enough real animal skeletons that they can tell the difference between a mammal and a bird just from the rib cage and immediately articulated bones…and then describe that difference on an exam.

    Fortunately, my daughters are Canadian and may have a slightly better shot at achieving this, provided we don’t move to Prince George or Calgary.

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