Yesterday as I was about to cross the street a guy with a big cardboard box asked me, “Would you like a free book?” I hesitated because I wasn’t sure what it would be, then said, “Sure.” And he handed me a copy of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. I looked at it and said, “Hey, thanks!” This being Tennessee–home of the Scopes Trial–it’s nice to see Darwin’s book being handed out. And close to a college campus too.
Then I looked more closely and realized the edition is edited by Ray Comfort. Comfort has published this book to be distributed free around the United States, and claims “Nothing has been removed from Darwin’s original work.” Nothing, that is, except for Darwin’s introduction and at least four chapters.
In reviewing the book, Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, says, “there’s no reason for students to refuse Comfort’s free—albeit suspiciously abridged—copy of the Origin.” She adds, though, that the introduction is,
a hopeless mess of long-ago-refuted creationist arguments, teeming with misinformation about the science of evolution, populated by legions of strawmen, and exhibiting what can be charitably described as muddled thinking.
Of course Comfort and his ilk seem content to use misinformation and even outright dishonesty to promote their opposition to science, and they’re certainly free to do so. In the world of ideas, unfortunately, natural selection doesn’t always work. While facts can’t be driven to extinction, it seems that neither can some lies, because people like Comfort keep resurrecting them no matter how many times they’re knocked down. And yet I think there might be value in this book. Comfort’s work does stand as a reminder of the kind of dishonesty and anti-intellectualism that constantly tries to pollute our thinking.