It takes a fool to deny the obvious

Neil Shubin reports that Bible tracts have begun appearing in copies of his book, Your Inner Fish, in bookstores. He even has photographic evidence.


This is remarkable news. We now know how bible tracts are made: they are degenerate forms descended from more complex and sophisticated texts, and they appear spontaneously when two pages, who love each other very much, are pressed together. They’re kind of like coke cans that way, arising without human intervention.


Oh, except that you’d have to be an idiot to think that.

The thing is, we know how coke cans (and bible tracts) are made: these are objects that are constructed by human beings. They do not have an independent capability to replicate. We actually have evidence for how aluminum cans are made, so we know the explanation given in that tract is false.

We also know that that is not how biological organisms are made. If we see something like, say, a rabbit, we know and have evidence for the fact that it was not punched out of an aluminum disc in a factory, and that it doesn’t even require any kind of external agency to make copies of rabbits: just put two of them together and wait. We can probe deeper and determine that the construction of a single rabbit involves nothing other than the autonomous activity of cells going through mitosis and meiosis and fusion and proliferation and development — that it is a natural property of cells to carry out these activities.

Furthermore, we know that rabbit replication is imperfect, and that reproduction produces variants. These variants are naturally selected in their environment, and that the properties of the population as a whole gradually change over time. We can also compare different populations over time and see the effects of this slow divergence, and we can compare different species and see the similarities and differences…and determine that the differences arose by the same mechanisms we witness in individual replication.

To deny evolution as a property of living organisms is analogous to denying that there are machines that stamp out cans from sheets of aluminum. We know the mechanisms and the process for both. I think I pass the atheist test: you’d have to be a fool or have an ulterior motive to deny the known processes that build aluminum cans and rabbits, and further, to try and imply that aluminum cans and rabbits have to be built by similar designed mechanisms.

But wait! What about bible tracts arising in science books? Isn’t that evidence of a novel mechanism of book replication?

No, because we can also use reason and evidence to puzzle out the origin of the tract.

Everyone familiar with that kind of argument saw that page, groaned, and said, “Fucking Ray Comfort again.” He’s been making this same pathetic, inappropriate, stupid argument for over a decade, and he never learns. It’s kind of sad, actually. You read further and find that the tract makes the “every building has a builder, every painting has a painter” argument (so every rabbit has a rabbiter somewhere?), sets up the false dichotomy that your only choice is that the universe was built by a designer or it was constructed entirely by accident, says that the only way you can know there is no god is if you have total, absolute knowledge of everything in the universe, and asks whether you’ve ever violated any of the ten commandments in any way, making you a sinner who is damned to hell.

It’s the Ray Comfort schtick through and through. Reason tells me that the source is Comfort, or one of his deluded acolytes.

Then there’s evidence. If I suspect Comfort is the source, all I have to do is search the Living Waters website for this tract, and presto, there it is. Eighteen cents apiece, purchasable in bulk quantities of 100. How mundane.

It’s easy to figure out where Comfort tracts come from. Biology is harder. There are a lot more details, and it all happens on a microscopic scale, and requires knowledge of physics and chemistry to work through, but scientists all around the world who have the requisite expertise have worked out where cells and organisms come from, and the answer is…evolution. Four billion years of trial and error replication, examinable in bulk quantities filling an entire planet.

Only fools and people with an ulterior motive deny it.


  1. says

    That is so appallingly stupid you almost have to think it’s intended to be self-refuting, that it’s satirical. That there are people who actually find that persuasive shows that rational discourse is feckless.

  2. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.

  3. leerudolph says

    I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.

    They’re very, very shy.

    But surely you’ve come into a grocery store early some morning and noticed that there are entirely new brands of soft drinks for sale on the bottom shelf? Where do you think they come from, Mx. Atheist Smartypants?? PWNED!!!

  4. DanDare says

    “I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.”

    Wow, you just haven’t lived man. Its like a blast, you know? You got to see it to grock it.

  5. marcoli says

    When I teach evolution to my introductory biology class, I mention that given the facts that there is all manner of genetic variation, and that some varieties demonstrably have a slight reproductive advantage over other varieties, then it must follow that those varieties that are more fit, however slight, will leave more descendants. I add: it would take active intervention to prevent natural selection from happening.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Has anyone notified the Coca-Cola Company® that their registered trademark name and packaging are being exploited and mocked by an unlicensed entrepreneur?

    They and their lawyers know the importance of asserting and enforcing their intellectual property rights, or losing them…

  7. Artor says

    The details of evolution are complex, but the basic mechanism is simple. Really simple, and refreshingly easy to understand. The fact the Comfort and his ilk persist in NOT understanding it is evidence for motivated “reasoning.” I know it’s been explained to him many times, but Comfort’s whole shtick, and thereby his income & livelihood, are dependent on him not understanding evolution, so he never will. It’s more than a little sad that someone will willingly be so pathetically stupid merely for a little scratch. What a shitty career track to choose!

  8. pwuk says

    “I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.”

    Oh I dunno, I’ve seen those mini cans on supermarket shelves.

  9. redwood says

    @7 Artor
    Being “pathetically stupid” for money is nothing. Just ask all the folks at FOX NEWS. What I hate are the people who are evil for a little money. Oh, wait, I can ask the FOX NEWS folks about that as well.

  10. taraskan says

    Don’t want to solicit so I won’t link, but clearly we should all do our duty and replace these with Sithrak tracks from Oglaf’s store.

  11. says

    Whenever someone says, “A book/soda can/building cannot create itself out of nothing,” I always reply, “Yeah, but that’s because man-made objects don’t have fossils.”

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.

    (New Zealander Accent) “But when they do, you can be sure that they’ll aluminum cans, of their kind. You’ll never see an aluminum can give birth to a blender, or a 747, or a banana, or a crocoduck…”

  13. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    @#12 Akira MacKenzie
    Okay, but then you have to define “kinds”. Coca Cola aluminum cans procreate as other Coca Cola products’ cans? Or do they cross over into Pepsi products, too? What about aluminum cans that aren’t for beverages but for canned foods, like baked beans or fruit? I’m afraid you still need to explain what the boundaries of “kinds” of cans are.

  14. Rick Pikul says

    I’ve never seen aluminum cans humping and having offspring with variation.

    I take it you don’t watch anime then.

    OK, Akikan is really about aluminum and steel cans fighting each other but the battle forms are mostly designed for fan service. Besides, Rule 34 applies to them.

  15. wzrd1 says

    So, does Comfort originate from a comforter?

    Honestly, I make a better case than he does using the platypus as an example of a creator’s sense of humor.
    The face of a bird, electrolocation, DNA that is reptilian, bird and mammalian. Surely a joke by a creator.
    Or perhaps, a niche creature left over, a veritable missing link that refused to go missing because it was ideally suited for its environment.
    And to top it all off, a totally cool animal!
    The other monotremes are just weird in comparison. ;)

  16. jacksprocket says

    “Atheists must come to Jesus, so I’m hiding tracts in popular science books”, he said inefficiently.

  17. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    @#20 jacksprocket
    I know, right? They should hide them in pornography instead. That way, the sinful atheists could come to Jesus and, if they’re so inclined, also come to Jesus.

  18. DonDueed says

    Every bear has a bearer. Smokey in a sedan chair, amirite?

    Every tick has a ticker. I’m sure you can find a heart if you look hard enough.

    Every bug has a… nope, not going there.

    About violating the Ten Commandments, sure I have — well, most of them. There are times when it would be downright cruel not to.

  19. Marcelo says

    @22 DonDueed

    Every bug has a… nope, not going there.

    That one is easy. Every bug has a formic.


  20. inquisitiveraven says

    @#21 Saganite Wouldn’t that be something of an own goal? Conservative Christians are much more interested in porn than atheists.

  21. Rob says

    Akira @12, if you want to put on a New Zealand accent, you’ll have to start by saying Aluminium. ;-)

  22. emergence says

    What do you bet that the deluded goons that insert these into science books never bother to actually read what’s in the books? Anyone with the necessary intelligence to seek out, read, and understand Your Inner Fish or a similar book would be too smart to find that cheesy little pamphlet compelling.

    The argument in the pamphlet seems to deny that anything at all can be formed by natural processes. We can see tons of structures form through natural processes, especially from a geological perspective. Does Comfort think that crystals were carved by his god? We’re the craters on the moon created by his god poking holes into it? If those things can form through natural processes, then why is it impossible in principle for living things to arise naturally? Even most other creationists have the sense to make up some reason why life is different from non-life in this regard. They don’t just insist that anything that exists needs to have been made by an intelligent entity.

    Even compared to other creationists, Ray Comfort is an ignorant fool.

  23. methuseus says

    @Rick Pikul #17:
    I thought you were making a joke about some anime about mechs. I’m baffled that someone actually came up with that idea. It’s very odd to me.

  24. says

    Let’s not stop at the “every painting has a painter” idea.

    Every painting has a painter, who worked with tools (brushes, paint, and a canvas), with technical skills that were learned, with the pre-existing history of art, and with a world to look at and interprete.

    Have you ever seen a painter who worked with no brushes, or poofed them into existence out of nothing? Who never learned to paint, yet produced complete and intricate works? Who hd never heard about art before, and never seen a flower, a landscape, a human face?

    Your god is no painter, Mr Comfort. He’s a combination of contradictory and abstract ideas that can’t be applied to any concrete reality. He’s a bladeless knife with no handle.

  25. rietpluim says

    Oh wow. The good ol’ watch maker argument. Haven’t seen that one in a while. A couple of weeks, to be precise.

  26. multitool says

    I feel like there ought to be atheist versions of chick tracts.

    Like: A cartoon of where rabbits come from, with a whole garage of mechanics hammering and nailing on a half-assembled rabbit, screwing on ears and then kicking it out the door to hop away.

    Then: No silly! Rabbits come from other rabbits! You don’t need a person to make them, and you don’t need a person to change them.

    The Pharyngula crowd can confidently laugh off Comfort’s stupid crap, but I think he’s a real threat to the minds of children and naive adults. There have to be more portrayals of evolution that can be understood on a gut level in about 1 second.

  27. rietpluim says

    How about a cartoon about where rabbits really come from?
    After all, that’s what rabbits are famous for.

  28. wzrd1 says

    @rietpluim, a couple of weeks?! You poor soul, you really should use more discretion in your companions. ;)
    I haven’t heard that shit in decades, thankfully.

  29. rietpluim says

    @wzrd1 – Thanks for your sympathies! I engage in debate with creationists quite often, in the comments section of my favorite on-line newspaper, which happens to be christian and draws quite a number of fundies.

  30. Ragutis says

    They should really put those just inside the front cover, because by page 36 it’s too late. Even the most ignorant reader should understand more about evolution by then than Comfort ever will.