Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crockoducks… and inevitably bananas

Kirk Cameron and his loathsome sidekick Ray Comfort famously attacked evolution by proposing one of these:

Crocoduck 

A crockoduck.  That’s right, a half crocodile half duck chimera.  There’s nothing like it in the fossil record so Cameron and Comfort feel safe to conclude that evolution isn’t true.

This is of course spectacular nonsense.  Evolution doesn’t predict crocoducks and we shouldn’t expect to find one in the fossil record.  To suggest we do is to misunderstand evolution in the most profound way.  Which Cameron and Comfort do, of course.  Ducks are not descended from crocodiles.  Rather, like all modern species, they share a common ancestor and evolution tells us not to expect intermediates between them.  The common ancestor of crocodiles and ducks would have looked nothing like either a crocodile or a duck and certainly nothing like a crocoduck.  Besides, there are quite a lot of things a bit like the crocoduck in the fossil record.  What Comfort and Cameron mean when they talk about crocoducks is that there are no fossils of intermediate species.  This, of course, is not true.  For example, there’s this chap:

archeopteryx_solnhofen3.jpg

Archaeopteryx.  It shows features common to both birds and reptiles.  Kind of like a crocoduck, I’d have thought, but one predicted by the Theory of Evolution.  And of course there are lots more transitional fossils.  In a very important sense, every fossil is transitional.  Comfort and Cameron know this and their claim is a downright, outrageous lie.

But their argument has been debunked on an evolutionary basis by more expert people than I such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. I want to talk about another bit of weirdness that shows the extent Comfort and Cameron’s blinkered dishonesty.

Evolution doesn’t predict chimera in the fossil record, but the bible does! For example, it discusses the cockatrice:

1121_cockatrice

which as you can see is not unlike the crocoduck (Isaiah 11 8, Isaiah 14 29, Isaiah 59 5, Jeremiah 8 17). 

Shouldn’t we expect to find cockatrices in the fossil record?  Perhaps that’s what Comfort and Cameron think Archaeopteryx is. What about Satyrs (Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14, Leviticus 17:7)? Unicorns? Dragons? Behemoths? 

Why don’t Cameron and Comfort explain why we don’t find evidence of these beasts in the fossil record?  It’s a level of dishonesty that goes beyond their simple lies about the lack of transitional fossils.  If their argument holds true for evolution, then it should be true for the Bible as well. 

But it’s unwise to underestimate Cameron and Comfort’s level of stupid.  They are the geniuses, you might remember, who brought us the news that the banana is proof of god because they are so perfect for humans to eat.  When I first saw that video, I thought it was a parody.  It’s not.  That’s how Comfort talks all the time.

I shouldn’t have to debunk the banana argument, but I’ve seen people taking it seriously, so here goes.  First, the argument is specious from the outset.  Apparent utility is not evidence of a designer.  And why is the banana so special?  What about the food that isn’t naturally good to eat?  We don’t digest meat well unless it’s cooked and thanks to things like salmonella, it’s not safe to do so anyway.  Many vegetables, such as potatoes, are not good for humans to eat in their natural state.  They are not curved toward us to make eating them easier (I can’t believe comfort makes that argument in all seriousness).  Why should bananas be singled out? Shouldn’t we see similarly amazing convenience in everything else, too?  If bananas really were perfect for humans, they’d probably grow nearer the ground and would be unpalatable to non-humans.  They’d be non-perishable and they’d grow everywhere.

Hilariously, of course, bananas do have a designer.  They are artificially selected into their current form by humans and cultivated asexually.  Wild bananas look like this:

wild banana

They are not good to eat.  They have numerous large, hard seeds. They aren’t the right shape.  They’re not easy to peel.  There’s no ring pull.  Interestingly, the ring pull method is not the best way to open a banana.  It’s not how monkeys open bananas.  They do it from the other end, like this.  Try it, it’s much, much easier than the way we were all taught.

Comfort and Cameron’s stupidity is deliberate.  They don’t want to hear counter-arguments and Comfort in particular will shout them down without addressing them.  They repeat lies even after those lies have been exposed.  And yet Comfort sells a lot of books.

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