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Jun 24 2013

I’m going to be a ☆☆Movie Star☆☆ again!

Remember when I met Ray Comfort and he interviewed me? Here’s my summary.

He started by asking me for evidence of evolution. I tried to explain the evidence for speciation in sticklebacks, but he asked if they were still fish, and when I said they were, he said that didn’t count because they didn’t become a different “kind”, like a dog becoming a cat. So I told him that doesn’t happen in a single lifetime, and that carnivores diverged over 60 million years ago. I suggested he look at fossils, but he rejected that, because he wanted “observable” evidence, and anything that happened millions of years ago isn’t observable. So I said it was, too — fossils and molecular evidence are observable.

So the usual creationist run-around, where he defines what evidence he’d find acceptable by rejecting historical evidence as nonexistent, and contemporary evidence as too trivial.

Then he tried the usual stunt: “Are you a good person?” “Yes.” “Have you ever told a lie?” “Yes, but that a person has flaws doesn’t make them a bad person. The overall estimation of an individual’s character is not determined by one mistake.” And then he dropped the whole line of discussion.

Comfort is going to turn that into a movie!

Right. He held my feet to the fire until it was clear that there was no evidence for evolution. Riiiiight.

Someday maybe I’ll get to be in a movie in which I’m not selectively edited and misrepresented. It will not be this movie.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    Jafafa Hots

    By the way, what’s the scientific definition of “kind,” anyway?

    (You really should insist on having your own person video anything when one of these people wants to “interview” you.)

  2. 2
    Glen Davidson

    Finding the evidence of derivation–especially in the genes–is, of course, not evidence for evolution (macroevolution, if you will). Because the evidence expected from evolution can’t be allowed to be evidence for evolution, because they’d obviously be wrong.

    A whole way of life dedicated to denying obvious inference, to being dishonest about science. It’s a long way from the time when people were confident that their religion was a means to truth.

    Glen Davidson

  3. 3
    Robert B.

    From context, a “kind” is obviously a set of things that laymen refer to by the same word. There should be a name for the fallacy that words automatically denote fundamental categories in reality.

  4. 4
    Martin Wagner

    PZ, did Ray offer you a release to sign granting him permission to use your likeness and/or recorded voice in his film?

  5. 5
    tacitus

    I’ll give Comfort one thing — he understands his limitations.

    When you only include two blurbs from those who have seen the film, and they’re both two of the most rabid young-Earth creationists out there (what, you couldn’t get Eric Hovind?), you know that the only people who are going to see your work are other young-Earth creationists who need a little bit of morale-boosting giggle at those crazy evilutionist scientists.

  6. 6
    tacitus

    (You really should insist on having your own person video anything when one of these people wants to “interview” you.)

    PZ has no cause for concern. This is a Ray Comfort production, destined only for his own little corner of the creationist Intertubes and on DVD for those who are gullible enough to want to have their own copy to keep and treasure.

  7. 7
    sugarfrosted

    Of course with the alternate title “False Dichotomy: the Movie”.

  8. 8
    jeroenmetselaar

    “Have you ever told a lie?” is not a point ray should chase too much, methinks. Tu Quoque and all that.

  9. 9
    Nemo

    @Robert B. #3:

    There should be a name for the fallacy that words automatically denote fundamental categories in reality.

    Platonism?

  10. 10
    Alex

    Is this just unprofessional camera work or
    are they filming into the experts’ noses from
    below to make them look silly?

    Also, very subtle editing :D

    “- Can you give me one example
    - I can give you thousands!
    - Give me just one” Aaaaand CUT!

    Plus, what a dishonest tactic to make the Dawkins
    quote sound less authoritative by removing the
    distinguished british accent.

    With this footage and that voiceover, I might
    have mistaken it for a satirical film.

  11. 11
    Alex

    Nemo,

    Platonism?

    Very good point.

  12. 12
    Kagato

    I’d really like to see various high-profile creationists nailed down on the whole “kind” situation. It’s easy to stick to the supposedly-obvious examples (like cats vs dogs or whatever), but you only show how effective your analysis is when you start mucking about in the corner cases.

    One approach would be to present them with examples likely to confound whatever taxonomical methods they claim to be using. (We already know they disregard the deeper anatomical features used by biologists to classify animals, so they presumably base their classifications on more superficial features.) In a previous thread I listed several animals that would be easy to misclassify, such as legless lizards vs snakes, snake eels vs sea snakes, caecilians vs worms or eels, etc. How does a creationist distinguish them, without the benefit of the biological evidence they otherwise reject?

    Another would be to confront them with conflicting proclamations within the creationist community regarding fossil evidence. I’m sure it would be easy to find examples of early hominids that have variously been described as “just an ape” or “just a deformed human”, or feathered dinosaurs as “wholly dinosaur” or “wholly bird” by different creationist camps. Aside from reaching contradictory conclusions, how were those different conclusions reached, and (if we grant the possibility that one of those positions was correct) how would one go about factually deciding between them?

  13. 13
    Draken

    I think we’ve discussed this before, but everybody lies and often it’s simply the right thing to do. Not only in the case of the Gestapo asking for a jew’s whereabouts, but also in “What do you think of my new glasses?”.

  14. 14
    Alex

    I think we’ve discussed this before, but everybody lies and often it’s simply the right thing to do. Not only in the case of the Gestapo asking for a jew’s whereabouts, but also in “What do you think of my new glasses?”.

    Yes of course, because for example the act of saying something by itself communicates something beyond the strict meaning of the words, and simply telling the unfiltered truth may communicate unintended things to the other person, for example that you want to make them miserable or that you dislike or disrespect them.

  15. 15
    gardengnome

    You should have known what he was going to do with the footage!

    Oh, you did…

  16. 16
    rorschach

    Well, nice try for a propaganda clip. If only facts and truth wouldn’t not rely on people believing in it. These creationists astonish me every time with their closed minds. 6 years on Pharyngula, and I still don’t know how their brains do it.

  17. 17
    Kagato

    If you’ve ever lied, whatever the reason, you’re a liar.
    If you’ve ever stolen, regardless of the value, you’re a thief.

    Also, if you’ve ever prepared a meal, no matter how simple, you’re a chef.

  18. 18
    Martha Bie

    I regret to inform you that “☆” does not render correctly in Safari. Or at least a slightly out of date Safari. I shall be forced to switch to Firefox to appreciate your starriness.

  19. 19
    David Marjanović

    I’m sure it would be easy to find examples of early hominids that have variously been described as “just an ape” or “just a deformed human”, or feathered dinosaurs as “wholly dinosaur” or “wholly bird” by different creationist camps.

    Already happened plenty of times. There are ape/human examples in the talk.origins FAQ.

    See also: “the defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology”.

    From context, a “kind” is obviously a set of things that laymen refer to by the same word.

    Unsurprisingly, different languages do that differently.

    For anurans, English has frog and toad. French, more or less correspondingly, has grenouille, crapaud – and a third independent word, rainette, that designates the treefrogs. German has Frosch, Kröte, and Unke, the latter referring exclusively to the fire-bellied toads.

    Naturally, the first two words don’t line up precisely between these languages either. The clawed toads are Krallenfrösche, “claw frogs”, in German; and phylogenetically speaking, both of these are equally hilariously wrong.

  20. 20
    grumpyoldfart

    That movie will be shown in church halls for decades – and for many viewers it will be the tipping point that finally convinces them the bible is true and scientists are liars. Another generation of brilliant minds erased because Ray Comfort wants 10% of their future earnings. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

  21. 21
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Ray Comfort is the biggest fraud in the Creationist thing. He’s had evolution explained to him countless times. He knows where his own arguments fail, and yet he keeps on using them.

  22. 22
    Owlmirror

    By the way, what’s the scientific definition of “kind,” anyway?

    I am reminded that in a paper in 2011, Phil Senter showed that baraminology agrees with evolutionary biology that birds are dinosaurs:

    web archive of Pharyngula post

    Panda’s Thumb version of the post

  23. 23
    Alex

    Ray Comfort is the biggest fraud in the Creationist thing. He’s had evolution explained to him countless times. He knows where his own arguments fail, and yet he keeps on using them.

    Yes, Ken Ham is more sincere in his evilness.

    Comfort, it would be interesting to look into his head. My guess is that he is not actively understanding that his position is false and just lie about it. I think that he gets told the arguments against his position and the evidence for evolution, and he simply does not allow himself to think too deeply about it, as a defense mechanism. He knows that the scripture is true, and so being convinced by the evidence against creationism would just be tantamount to falling victim to satan’s deceits. So yes, he listens to the evolutionists, and then defuses everything he hears on a superficial level so he can discard it before it makes any waves in his mind.

    At least that’s my guess….

  24. 24
    tbp1

    @jeroenmetselaar #8:

    “Have you ever told a lie?” is not a point ray should chase too much, methinks. Tu Quoque and all that.

    The thing is, he would (probably) admit that he’s a terrible, rotten person, fully deserving of eternal torture in Hell, but because he has just the right magical beliefs, he’s been forgiven. To what extent he would actually mean it, I have no idea. He could well be a con man just spouting the right words, but lots of people, including people much smarter than he is, are genuinely self-deluded enough to believe this stuff.

    I heard one of my relatives, who is a missionary, tell one of her children, who was complaining about something or other being unfair that “If life were fair, we’d all go to Hell.” I was about to go nuclear but another relative intervened and calmed the waters. She is not stupid at all, quite the contrary, and is in fact well-educated, well-read, reasonably sophisticated, and keeps up with what’s going on the world better than I do, probably. But as far as I can tell, she really believes what she preaches. It’s been a source of amazement for many years.

    I’ve never gotten to have a serious discussion with her about these things. She’s not a close relative, and although we almost got into it in the incident described above, we have a sort of tacit agreement not to talk religion (or politics) when we see each other. It’s usually only every couple of years, if that, for a day or two, and I think neither one of us wants to disrupt the relatively rare times the whole family manages to get together.

    Anyway, a long reply to short commentary. I think it’s sort of on point, or at least starts there.

  25. 25
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Tyrant:

    My guess is that he is not actively understanding that his position is false and just lie about it. I think that he gets told the arguments against his position and the evidence for evolution, and he simply does not allow himself to think too deeply about it, as a defense mechanism.

    Yeah. We have an example of that going on in the Hey, Ken Ham: don’t run away! thread. He even uses Ray Comfort’s “has a dog ever given birth to a cat?” argument against evolution, giving credence to grumpyoldfart’s post at #20. Well, except for the “brilliant mind” part.

    There is a certain amount of willful ignorance that goes with any creationist position. But, some border on obsessiveness about the willful part.

  26. 26
    ChristineRose

    Between the drama music and the jump cuts it reads like satire. Can you imagine some of our Youtubers doing something with the evidence for the resurrection?

    “Well, here’s the thing. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were right there, under the cross. But Mark had to leave for a few minutes. When he came back Jesus was dead. So Mark missed Jesus’ last last words.”

    “Were you there? If you can’t observe apostles having to cut out for a piss in ancient times, how do you know it ever happened?”

  27. 27
    Blondin

    One word of advice: wear a disguise to the premier (at least until you get to your seat).

  28. 28
    Alex

    You should sign up for the premier as Clinton Myers, just as an in joke.

  29. 29
    crocodoc

    By the way, what’s the scientific definition of “kind,” anyway?

    I assume that most times they mean “species” but simply need to avoid terms for biological classification. Because if they talked about species they would have to explain why that is so hard to define (just think about ring species). The distinction between micro- and macroevolution that assumes magic barriers between different “kinds” would crumble and fall. Talking about “kind” relies on intuition and linguistic classifications that are partly subjective, therefore strongly convincing. A dog is a dog, a lizard a lizard, a fish a fish. None of these would be a species, though.

  30. 30
    ChristineRose

    Actually crocduck, I think they define any species that can reproduce together (lions and tigers) as of the same kind. Most of them would agree that lions and tigers are related by “microevolution.”

    Basically you start with the phylogenetic tree and snip branches until you get few enough species to fit on Noah’s ark. All canids, for example, were descended from two dogs that were on Noah’s ark. That’s still quite ambiguous. Once you get beyond the two basic rules, interbreeding and ark capacity, the whole thing falls apart. There have been attempts to quantify kind but they never go anywhere. They usually start with “A interbreeds with B which interbreeds with C therefore ABC.” But they still need to snip further, and then there’s absolutely nothing to go on. People have proposed things, but there’s no real basis for any of it and they squabble.

    Of course the reality of Noah’s ark is that everything would have drowned a few hours into the thing, then they would have eaten Noah and each other, then they would have starved to death, then they would have drowned in poo, then they would have died in a flood-ravaged world, then they would have gone extinct due to lack of genetic diversity, then they would have died while walking to Australia. So there is no way to say how many animals would have been on the ark anyhow.

  31. 31
    jolly

    Have you ever lied? Yes, but I don’t do it for a living, unlike SOME people…

  32. 32
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    “Shaking the foundations of faith.”

    Far be it from me to teach him him to speak his own language, but beliefs with foundations are not faith. “Pointing out the huge gap between the ground and the first* floor” might be a more honest** way of putting it.

    *Or second floor for USians and Canadians. See here.

    **Silly me…

  33. 33
    tacitus

    That movie will be shown in church halls for decades – and for many viewers it will be the tipping point that finally convinces them the bible is true and scientists are liars.

    I think you overestimate the lifespan of stuff like this these days. Take a look at all the moribund websites Comfort now owns:

    http://www.livingwaters.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=439

    Most of them haven’t been updated in years. Once he releases his latest effort — i.e. uploads it to his website — it’ll catch the attention of many in the creationist community for a while, but in a few months Comfort will have his next “life changing” project underway, and this latest nonsense will slide back into obscurity where it belongs.

    Sure, some church halls will no doubt show it in years to come, but if it didn’t exist, there are dozens of similar movies that they would use instead. At the very least, watching Comfort’s brand of slick mendacity has a chance of turning the stomachs, and minds, of those who see it.

  34. 34
    Rey Fox

    By the way, what’s the scientific definition of “kind,” anyway?

    It’s like pornography. You know it when you see it.

  35. 35
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Shaking the foundations of faith.

    It seems when a person has to invert the meaning of everything (calling creationism science and actual knowledge gained scientifically as faith) then they have automatically lost the argument.

    Seems like a simple rule of thumb to me.

  36. 36
    gworroll

    You know, if evidence has to be currently observable to count…

    There goes the entire goddamned Bible. Apply his standards consistently, and there is no choice but to be an atheist. Hell, you could probably argue that the form of atheism this would demand would be so strong that even PZ would say “Hey, theism isn’t *that* ridiculous”.

  37. 37
    doug

    Some fair and balanced documentary filmmaking we have here.

    1. Start out with some orange hellfire-ish graphic under a Dawkins quote
    2. Imagine visiting top universities – there is a shrink ray effect on the building, giving it a fake, small, “other” feel.
    3. Shooting style – it is a choice. Everyone is shot from a high angle, camera looking down at them. The interviewer appears to be standing while they are sitting. Interview subjects are pushed against the background, again creating a sense that they are somehow smaller.
    4. Shoving a giant mic in a seated interviewee’s face while you are standing in front of them – it’s unsettling, creepy, and not just a little phallic.
    5. Editing – yeesh. No comment necessary or possible – if you were trying to make a documentary, and were not starting from your pre-ordained conclusion, you’d have to start the edit all over again.

    All of the above is absolutely intentional; they are specific choices made by the filmmakers.

  38. 38
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    My biggest take away from the video is “Shaking the Foundations of Faith” would be a great band name for a group of atheist musicians.
    I think also where Dr. Gail Kennedy (1:00 – 1:09) said “the problem with those who are unable to see evolution is they don’t have imaginations”, was unfortunate. I think saying “They don’t know / don’t understand the evidence” or “they don’t have a grasp of reality” would have been less quote-mine-able.
    PZ, I heartily second the suggestion that someone else videotape the interview for your own reference later when you are inevitably “creatively” edited to misrepresent what you actually said.

  39. 39
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    Rey Fox @34

    It’s like pornography. You know it when you see it.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. ;-)

  40. 40
    theignored

    To: Draken at #13

    I think we’ve discussed this before, but everybody lies and often it’s simply the right thing to do. Not only in the case of the Gestapo asking for a jew’s whereabouts, but also in “What do you think of my new glasses?”.

    Interesting that you said that. Why? Look at this article from Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis. If you don’t want to go to the actual AIG site, you can find the quote and commentary by atheists on it, here.

    Long story short: It’s still a sin to lie to a Nazi about hiding Jews.

    I posted PZ’s earlier post to their website. The link takes you to an “intermediary” website; a forum I post at in case you don’t want to go directly to the movie’s facebook page.

  41. 41
    newfie

    I wish that every biologist he interviewed just talked to him like he was a four year old. “No, Raymond. A bacteria doesn’t divide into two elephants. Now show me the sluice gates in the firmament. Oh, you can’t? I guess your little book is just wrong then.”

  42. 42
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    There should be a name for the fallacy that words automatically denote fundamental categories in reality.

    “Philosophy?”

  43. 43
    ChristineRose

    Oh gawd. I could tear that AIG lying screed to bits all from a strictly fundamentalist biblical perspective. I’ll resist the temptation though, as no one here would be impressed.

  44. 44
    mykroft

    I have two primary arguments against the “Were you there?” premise:
    - Suppose I snuck into someone’s home, attacked and killed them, and left unobserved. The victim gets some of my skin under his nails during the attack, ergo DNA evidence. I leave bloody fingerprints in the home, and being a really stupid murderer drop my wallet during the escape. I get arrested. Should my argument against my prosecutors be, “Were you there?”
    - This argument presupposes that the only good evidence is that given by eye witnesses. By that logic:
    — Everything in the Koran is true, because it was written by Mohammed’s contemporaries
    — Ditto for the Mormon Bible, the Hindu holy books, etc.

    Hopefully, someone will try that one on me someday. I look forward to the discussion.

  45. 45
    Patrick Mott

    I think what PZ and others need to do when interviewed by creationist is bring a very bright digital display with timer and wear it on your forehead. Start it at the beginning of the interview and when they try to edit your words to say something different from what you said the time will jump all over the place on the clock.

    Like a timestamp to ruin their lying for jesus.

  46. 46
    Azuma Hazuki

    Why not use Miller’s material against people like this?

  47. 47
    robertbaty

    Ray Comfort has replied, a couple of hours ago, to PZ’s article at:

    https://www.facebook.com/official.Ray.Comfort

  48. 48
    David Marjanović

    Ray Comfort is the biggest fraud in the Creationist thing. He’s had evolution explained to him countless times. He knows where his own arguments fail

    I’m with comment 23.

    Oh gawd. I could tear that AIG lying screed to bits all from a strictly fundamentalist biblical perspective. I’ll resist the temptation though, as no one here would be impressed.

    Oh, I’d find it very entertaining! :-) Much like the defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology.

  49. 49
    theignored

    robertbaty at #47

    This is the link directly to his facebook article about Myers.

    I’m so effing glad that none of my friends were like that. Comfort is just trying to look like the good guy here.

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