Listen to my debate with Ray Comfort on Creation versus Evolution

Hi everyone. Happy Darwin Day!

This morning I had the opportunity to debate the Creationist, Ray Comfort on the John Oakley show on AM640 Radio in Toronto. Here’s an MP3 of the debate.

ray-comfort-scott-campbell-february-12-2009

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Listen to my debate with Ray Comfort on Creation versus Evolution

  1. Jim Ellis

    I have been involved in this debate since the early 60’s from my original orientation as an evangelical Christian in high school, through my studies as a zoologist (PhD) in the late 60’s and early 70’s, to my theological studies in the early 90’s. While I do not share Scott’s atheistic perspective, his understanding of the evolutionary process which has produced life on this earth is intellectually and scientifically sound and satisfying. The most telling argument he makes is that the creationist starts with a view of the Bible which is no longer held by the vast majority of bibilcal scholars themselves, and then tries to make all available data fit that outdated conception.
    To make evolution and creation mutually exclusive options is totally unnecessary and has unnecessarily and regrettably, rather than facilitating faith, made belief in a divine presence much more difficult for many.

    To suggest that there can be irrefutable empirical evidence to support the existence or non-existence of God is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the scientific method. How does one have a controlled experiment which tests the existence of God when God by definition is everywhere?

  2. Russell

    Followed you over from NeuroLogica. I must admit that I find it hard to listen to the types of debate that you just had as it tends to make me go bald from pulling hair, but fortunately this was short and I made it through. FWIW I think you did a good job given the format and compressed timeline. Try as I might, I just can’t figure out how Ray’s brain comes to the conclusions that it does. But apparently he would feel the same about me. Weird.

  3. Russell

    Jim,

    Many pretty smart people seem to be able to hold onto god/creation/supernatural and science at the same time, but this seems to reveal more about the ability of humans to tolerate cognitive dissonance than anything else. Clearly through careful definition it is possible to create a space for the supernatural, such as you do by defining God (I’ll presume by “God” you mean the Christian God given your background rather than other gods, but please feel free to correct me) as everywhere and therefore immune to scientific inquiry. Unfortunately one can’t define something into existence as anything other than a concept, an intellectual construct. What we need to get at here is evidence for the supernatural/God/gods that exists independent of the will of the observer that it exist.

    Definition is clearly important as it defines the scientific search parameters (sorry, I know you trained as a scientist, but this point is for the lurkers). It forms the basis for the hypothesis to be tested. In order to explore the possibility of the existence of gods we need to know what to look for. You’ve given us at least part of your definition: “God is everywhere.” Are there other characteristics which you feel define God? If not, I must agree with you that since everywhere exists and God=everywhere God exists, but this provides no value other than to suggest that rather than say “everywhere you look you see flowers” one could say “God you look you see flowers” and have it mean the same thing. Not feeling the need for a new word for “everywhere” I find that I have no need for your God as you define him.

    I ramble, but a bit more on the subject of definitions. I find it interesting that everyone seems to have his/her own definition of god, and that often this definition is remarkably fluid. It makes this type of discussion all the more difficult since after addressing one theists point, another theist often denies that it addresses their argument because it ignores some variation in their definition. Occasionally the original theist will claim the same immunity through post hoc modification of the original definition. Gods always seem to find a gap to squeeze into, and I think this is why we see the same arguments over and over, from both sides. One thing about continuing to squeeze into ever shrinking gaps, though, is that gods need to become smaller and smaller to do so. Perhaps one day they will be so small that we don’t notice them at all.

  4. Jim Ellis

    I will do some rambling of my own:
    I am uncertain what you mean by the ‘Christian’ God but in any case I find little value in putting limiting labels on what some (including Tillich) have called the Ground of all Being. I am not suggesting that there is some separate living entity somewhere in the universe which we call God and which can be persuaded by us to intervene in magical ways. What I am saying is that the notion that there is what may be described as a divine or sacred dimension to this universe which may not be readily discernible to humankind is at least as plausible an argument as the one which posits the lack of such a dimension.

    Physicists such as Brian Swimme have suggested for instance, the sun’s extravagant sacrificial giving of itself (4 billion tons per second) in radiant energy which allows life on our planet to exist and eventually resulted in self-aware humanity, is a reflection of the very nature of the universe – which in human experience we call love.
    It seems as though the very nature of the universe has spawned life as we know it – we are, each of us a self-aware speck of this living universe, just as representative a part of the universe as any other, only able to reflect on its reality as we experience it. There is much evidence to suggest that what we characterize as ‘love’ is absolutely fundamental to the development of healthy, well adjusted human beings and society, and ultimately to a healthy planet.
    As the current Atheist/United Church bus ads’ discussion implies, no matter which alternative one intuits as the most likely, we can choose to live our lives with integrity and gratitude and genuine concern for one another and for our planet. Whether or not the universe is infused with what we call a spiritual dimension (‘God’ to some) – we can live without worry and enjoy our lives.
    I am much more invested in how I live each day than I am in what seems to be a fruitless search for an intellectual certainty about the nature of the universe which is beyond our ability to achieve.

  5. Russell

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments and apologize for misunderstanding and mischaracterizing your concept of God. I think your concept is becoming clearer to me, but I suspect that as I try to understand your point of view better I will continue to make erroneous assumptions. I beg your pardon and indulgence of these errors in advance.

    I can’t yet agree with your assertion that the existence of a spiritual dimension is equally or more plausible than the lack thereof. The idea of the sun or universe expressing agency designed to establish human life seems both based on anthropomorphism, and egotistical (in the sense that everything would seem to exist for the purpose of establishing human life and that human life is the pinnacle of creation.) Nor can I agree that humans are just as representative of the universe, at least on anything larger than a subatomic level, as any other part. Not only is the elemental constitution of humans unusual, but the patterning of those elements is, so far as we know, highly unusual. Still, I find this idea intriguing and attractive in a romantic sort of way. Is there additional evidence that leads you to this conclusion?

    I certainly concur that the world would be a better place if everyone chose to live their lives toward the goal of goodness without regard to concern over the existence of God or lack thereof. I think it is likely that you and I approach daily life very similarly. I am unable to be complacent, however, and accept that a search for a better understanding of the nature of the universe is necessarily fruitless.

    Everyone has a point at which they can be happy with their level of understanding of their world. It just seems that I am more inclined to continue digging than you are, perhaps because I haven’t understood things as you have and so am compelled to continue working to understand. I imply no value judgement regarding our different degree of interest.

  6. kamamer

    http://skepchick.org/skepticsguide/index.php/topic,18137.0.html

    Posted a bit about it on the SGU forum. Not sure if you’re a member. Good job.

  7. theformerfundie

    Kamamer, thanks for the free publicity and for your comments on the SGU site.

    I am a true SGU devotee!

  8. Just took a listen, wow, getting through Ray is like pounding your head on a wall, he doesn’t listen at all to what you’re saying and makes these huge generalizations. He doesn’t even understand what evolution really is, that is apparent.

    I think you did a great job, and I especially liked the part where you point out the agenda that believers have to fit science into their dogma; if it contradict their dogma then it must be wrong, since God can’t be wrong.

    I’ll be blogging about this on my website.

  9. theformerfundie

    Formo-Mormo, thanks for your comments. And I have got to say, I LOVE your username!

  10. LOL, thanks, I’m a former-mormon in case you didn’t guess.

    I blogged about your debate here…

    http://topicagnostic.com/2009/02/14/debating-a-creationist/

  11. Felix

    Ray just rattles down his old standard script of bad arguments. He knows all the facts that you present, he understands why his logic doesn’t work, but he doesn’t care at all – because all he needs are a bunch of people who will believe him for being on God’s side. They’ll buy. Ray makes a living.
    I’ve pondered if Ray may be actually mentally ill for so thoroughly blocking himself off from anything he’s told – the same things over years constantly. But he’s not. Mental illness has certain phases, ups and downs. Ray is constantly productive and apparently has a functioning family life. Brainwashed people break down over time when constantly exposed to counter-evidence and demonstrations of where their logic fails. They don’t function socially as Ray does.

    He’s a con man. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for months, but his recent and ongoing activity (flooding radio audiences with his interviews), new book, tv, dvd sales etc. have convinced me that he’s a hard-working merchant staking out a nice piece of the financial pie for himself and his family’s future. I expect him to announce his retirement within the next several years and spend his life with barbecues at the pool side. He’d be dumb not to.

  12. Felix

    I’ve just read the comment thread on Panda’s Thumb (about more dishonesty from IDers). They confirm exactly what I express above, having watched the creo/ID scene for decades longer than I have. It’s all about canned responses to filed keywords and phrases. There’s no understanding, not even imagination involved. Just memorizing, and a few rhetoric twists to adapt to the discussion format. It would be sad, or funny, if they weren’t fleecing the uneducated regular guys who think they’re on Jesus’s side and wouldn’t be lying.
    Fortunately this age of the intertubes makes their fleecing more and more difficult. Even under-averagely intelligent and under-educated people can easily find information, and no ‘protect-me-from-unchristian-evil’ filter will prevent at least a few truths slipping through.
    It remains to be seen if their increased reach can make up for the spread of information that exposes the conmen’s scheme.

  13. Jim

    Scott, I’m listening to the debate now. Kudos to you for doing a great job.

    Here’s how I’ve handled the “Transitional fossil” question. I try to frame the debate within a framework where fossils are evidence. Since creationists always wiggle around the enormous amount of evidence, I have instead asked this question:

    Fossil records truly show this: 50 million years ago the earth was teeming with life, as it is today. However, almost NONE of those species exist today, and almost NONE of the species that exist today existed 50 million years ago. What happened?

    Then wait for their explanation. If they concoct a story that God created all those species at the beginning, then you ask THEM for the fossil evidence to show it. There is none! I have yet to hear them say that God created new things later as time went by, but that would be a beauty.

    REALLY nice job on the rest of Comfort’s tripe!

  14. theformerfundie

    Thanks, Jimmy boy. And great suggestion on the transitional fossils. That’s a keeper for sure.

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