Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You have a homework assignment...

So a lot of you are probably aware that Ray "banana-shaped objects belong in my mouth" Comfort is preparing to distribute his own special edition of Charles Darwin's groundbreaking book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. If you're not at least somewhat familiar with the Origin of Species* then you're more or less catastrophically ignorant. In any case, Ray plans to distribute copies of this book for free on the campuses of "100 top U.S. universities". Now, given that Ray Comfort isn't exactly a friend of evolution he has added a 50-page introduction, which brings up hoary old creationist chestnuts that we should all have grown tired of by now. Likewise, in an effort to assert his honesty in this endeavour he observes on his website that:

This will be the entire publication (304-pages). Nothing has been removed from Darwin’s original work. As usual with reprints of On Origin of Species (there have been over 140 reprints), there will be an Introduction. My name will be on the cover (for those who think that we are somehow being deceptive). In one day, 170,000 future doctors, lawyers and politicians will freely get information about Intelligent Design (and the gospel) placed directly into their hands!

Thus, he's claiming that he's giving away unabridged copies of Origin of Species with nothing changed except the addition of his craptacular introduction. Sadly, whether or not this is true remains to be seen and at least one trustworthy source suggests that it is not:

Unfortunately, it will be hard to thoroughly read the version that Comfort will be distributing on college campuses in November. The copy his publisher sent me is missing no fewer than four crucial chapters, as well as Darwin's introduction. Two of the omitted chapters, Chapters 11 and 12, showcase biogeography, some of Darwin's strongest evidence for evolution. Which is a better explanation for the distribution of plants and animals around the planet: common ancestry or special creation? Which better explains why island species are more similar to species on the mainland closest to them, rather than to more distant species that share a similar environment? The answer clearly is common ancestry. Today, scientists continue to develop the science of biogeography, confirming, refining, and extending Darwin's conclusions.

Likewise missing from Comfort's bowdlerized version of the Origin is Chapter 13, where Darwin explained how evolution makes sense of classification, morphology, and embryology. To take a simple example, why do all land vertebrates (amphibians, mammals, and reptiles and birds) have four limbs? Not because four limbs are necessarily a superior design for land locomotion: insects have six, arachnids have eight, and millipedes have, well, lots. It's because all land vertebrates descended with modification from a four-legged ("tetrapod") ancestor. Since Darwin's era, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that the more recently two species have shared a common ancestor, the more similar are their anatomy, their biochemistry, their embryology, and their genetics.

In fairness, Ray defends himself, but does so in a way that I think makes him look rather more ridiculous than he does already. And so I won't spend any more time discussing it.

Now, as I said, Ray is giving away his special edition on campuses of 100 top U.S. universities. That said, I have two problems: (1) I dearly want a copy of this wacky edition, if only as part of my growing collection of creationist brick-a-brack,** and (2) I cannot find a list of which universities are considered part of that "100 top" group.

And this is where all of you come in. I want a copy, and someone is going to help me get my hands on one. The rules are simple: find me a copy of the Ray Comfort extra crazy edition of Darwin's Origin of Species. You are NOT to pay anyone money for it but bartering is acceptable. Preferably you will get a copy during the scheduled distribution. Once you have a copy, send me an e-mail at my usual address and we will try to figure out some way to get it to me without compromising anonymity. More than likely I'll have to coerce one of the handful of people who know who the hell I am into taking delivery. If you're a sociologist, so much the better, since the Scatterparty at the ASAs will make things easy.

What's in it for you? Well, maybe nothing, maybe everything. Make me an offer: I can write you a guest post, guest post on your blog, let you guest post on mine... I'm flexible. There will just be no money changing hands and I won't reveal my "identity."

So... anyone interested?

* True story: In high school, on my own initiative, I sought out a copy of the Origin of Species to read. I would often read it on the school bus and one day an evangelical Christian bus-mate noticed and began trying to convert me. Eventually, we reached an agreement: I would read a book he supplied explaining why evolution was wrong and he would read the Origin of Species. I read his book- the name of which eludes me right now- and reported back that it was a well-argued book that, unfortunately, was premised on the notion that one believed in god (e.g. "if you believe in evolution then god had to be lying when he wrote the bible", etc.). As I did not believe in god, the overwhelming majority of its arguments simply did not apply, and the remainder were quite weak. In any case, having fulfilled my part of the bargain I then asked whether or not he had started reading Darwin's book. He evaded this question for a while but eventually explained that god didn't require Christians to keep their word with heathens like me and renounced any intention of reading it. He had, it seems, only entered into our bargain as a way of conning me into reading his book. Annoyed, but not really surprised, I observed that his infidelity had done more to convince me of the wrongness of his faith than all of his previous arguing had done to convince me of the rightness of it.*** And, unfortunately, this experience was more or less just a preview of the twenty years to come.

** And believe me when I tell you that this is NOT the sort of collection my wife is pleased that I keep!

*** Keeping in mind, of course, that I was not nearly as polite and eloquent as this sentence seems to imply. I was, after all, in high school.

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