On Ray Comfort’s post-show blog he wrote:
“Maybe the guys on “The Atheist Experience” were too nice. Someone needs to really take me down. It needs to be someone who is extremely eloquent and knowledgeable, and with a sarcastic and cutting tongue…”
While there simply wasn’t enough time to address every failed bit of reasoning in Ray’s comments, I think we did manage to hit some of the highlights. He accepts scientific findings, on the same grounds we do, unless those findings challenge or refute his existing beliefs – at which point he labels them faith-based, and rejects them. Yet while claiming he won’t believe things on faith, the entire justification for his closed-minded certainty about the existence of god is predicated on faith…faith that his perception of the experience he attributes to a god are actually reliable.
This is not only hypocritical, it’s a particularly nefarious bit of self-deception that results in some of the most painful examples of cognitive dissonance that I’ve ever seen. In any other area, Ray seems to grasp that independent confirmation is a grand tool for increasing the accuracy of our perceptions of reality, but on the subject of the biggest questions – his own experience not only needs no independent verification, it trumps all information to the contrary.
When presented with a good analogy (the language analogy for speciation), he’s rendered silent…just long enough to regroup and reject the claim with another unjustified assertion.
After presenting many bad analogies, logically flawed arguments, appeals to “common sense”, implying that we’re lying about recognizing design/creation and countless bald assertions, Ray finished the call by refusing to acknowledge a simple and obvious error that would have, hopefully, led to a correction that would have improved his own ministry efforts.
In the conclusion of his book, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think“, he evaluates the 4 major world religion by testing them against what the Bible says. When I pointed out that this was a dishonest assessment, as it presupposes Christianity in order to affirm it (and that a Muslim could presuppose Islam in order to demonstrate that the tenets of Christianity don’t resolve the problems intrinsic to Islam), Ray denied this and simply stated that it wasn’t dishonest, because you have to begin with the Bible.
He responded to an exposition of a circular argument by simply saying “no” and restating that circular argument.
He’s so mired in his certainty that he can’t even see obvious errors like this – errors which have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of his claims. This was a simple attempt to get him to recognize a logical fallacy, in simplest terms, but he simply can’t break free from his chains long enough to view the argument on its own merits.
Meanwhile, he acknowledges that his personal experience couldn’t be justification for someone else and that it’s the individual’s own fault if they didn’t have the same experience he has….and he does all of this while claiming that anyone who doesn’t reach the same conclusions he’s reached is unreasonable or possibly insane.
Clearly he has a different understanding of reason, than I do.
Common Sense, Ray, isn’t what you seem to think it is. It’s not a reliable pathway to truth, it’s a visceral assessment of information with respect to what an individual already understands about reality. It’s a quick, gut-check of whether or not the new information is likely to be reliable. It’s not the end of inquiry, it’s the first step – and until you’re ready to go beyond that first step, you don’t get to claim to be more reasonable or sane than those who do.
It’s a tool that is forged from critical thinking skills and honed by inquiry and investigation. It’s a tool that is dulled by appeals to absolute certainty and a stubborn refusal to change one’s views as the evidence dictates. Refusing to recognize that there’s a possibility that you’re wrong…is like leaving it sheathed.
I don’t dislike Ray, though I know others do. Like a puzzle with a missing piece, he used to frustrate me and annoy me – because I was busy trying to solve it. Now, I’m just trying to find that missing piece.
If we do this again, I think I’d like to start by getting his take on logic, reason and fallacies. We may have to go back to basics before we have hope of moving forward.
So, there you have it. Not as eloquent as the Professor you were taunting, nor as sarcastic. If I get the opportunity, I’ll ask Richard Dawkins how long he’d have lasted in that conversation before simply pointing out that it’s pointless to attempt a discussion with an unreasonable, woefully uninformed buffoon who rigidly asserts his certainty while being blind to his credulity. One wonders if a child with his fingers in his ears is any less receptive to information that Ray.