Making Darwin UnComfortable

Evangelical minister Ray Comfort recently put out a “150th Anniversary Edition” of On the Origin of Species, with a Special Introduction attacking Darwin, the theory of evolution, and atheism.

Yeah, big deal. It’s been all over the Internet lately. Well, as an assignment for one of my university courses, I wrote a nice report on Comfort’s edition, comparing it to the original 1859 first edition, which we conveniently have a copy of in a library here on campus.

It was very revealing.

You can see the entire 11-page report here, though don’t be frightened by its length: it’s double-spaced and in a nice, large, easy-to-read font.

Enjoy, everyone! Feel free to spread this around the Interwebs as much as you’d like.

For the impatient, here are the highlights:

  • Ray Comfort’s table of contents omits page numbers entirely, so you can’t skip to specific chapters. In fact, new chapters start in the middle of pages, and chapter headings are in tiny font, so you can’t even find chapters if you want to find a specific detail. It’s worthless as the edition for “universities and higher education” it claims to be on the back cover.
  • The text of his Special Introduction is in a nice, large font, whereas Origin is in a tiny, unreadable font. It is painfully clear that Comfort does not even want you to read Origin, just his introduction. If he were truly interested in shortening this edition to make it cheaper to produce, he would have shortened his introduction as well.
  • The nice, 12-page index is completely omitted.
  • Darwin’s credentials, once present on the title page, are left out.
  • The one figure included in the first edition, a nice tree of life diagram, is omitted, leaving four pages or so of Darwin blabbing about a figure illustrating his point with no actual figure to illustrate his point. Comfort’s Introduction, however, includes numerous photographs and cartoons.
  • Comfort’s claim that atheists wanted book-burnings and generally had a huge violent outcry is mostly unsubstantiated. Though one atheist on calls Comfort out on his “ideological masturbation fantasy.” (Yeah, the paper’s worth reading just for that quote.)
  • I did not, in fact, see much response at all from the religious online community, besides some criticisms of Comfort.

What does this lead me to believe? Well, here’s my conclusion:

Comfort’s edition of On the Origin of Species is not the product of a society that has rejected Darwinism. It is the product of a society that accepts Darwinism more than ever, whose acceptance has driven Ray Comfort to the conclusion that society is rejecting God. To a deeply religious minister, that is cause for action. Thus, a new Origin was produced, one designed to bring people back to God by emphasizing a religious message and discouraging anyone from even reading Darwin’s words. In his view, after all, Darwin is the man who drove them away from God in the first place.

This is no ordinary edition of Origins, with a nice introduction stating the “other side” of the story, as Comfort makes it out to be. It is an outright, but very subtle, attack. And it deserves to be treated that way.


  1. To be fair to Mr. Comfort (with whom I share almost no ideological common grounds), he has stated that he was having difficulty getting the size of the book down to make it economical to give away as a free book (1st edition of Ray’s version omitted several chapters, 2nd version which was distributed did at least have all of the chapters).

    This is a quite reasonable explanation for the typography, indexing, diagram and credential concerns expressed here.

  2. I might buy the notion that Comfort abridgements were motivated purely by cost considerations rather than by his desire to censor the text if he listed the deletions in his forward and explained his reason for the cuts. As it is, it seems a more reasonable explanation that he is deliberately attempting to mischaracterize the book.

  3. Fai,

    Doesn’t it strike you as suspicious that Comfort has enough money to produce *this* version but not enough to produce something that provides legible text and a a diagram.

    How many thousand has he had printed? Why not print fewer books at acceptable quality? Why cut costs by ways that make the book largely unusable except for his introduction?

    At best it’s very suspicious the way Comfort has produced the book, and given his past performances I’d say it’s clear that he’s up to his old, sneaky tricks because he knows full well he can’t win the argument by any other means.

    The phrase ‘lying for Jesus’ was invented for a reason. 😉

  4. I actually have looked at both printings of the book: the first printing with four missing chapters (well, not missing entirely — there’s a note saying “find them online at this site!”), and the second printing with the chapters included. Each is about the same length, so the font size had to be decreased considerably in the second printing.

    What I’m curious about is why you’d put back four chapters but not one measly diagram.

  5. I think Fai pretty much nailed it. It’s a genuine tragedy that so much valuable time is directed toward an effort that will never bear fruit. A ‘Meta-Dogmatist’ in any form will never understand, let alone consider, the meaning of the word ‘theory’ in the context of The Scientific Method. Theories are flexible- supportable, and destructable. To be a competent Theorist in any arena requires tremendous effort. And the ‘Payoff’ is ever uncertain. Dogmatism is easy- Simply Believe. Perhaps that is why so much energy is left to pursue and attack those who understand dogma, but do not ascribe to it.

  6. The referenced paper, and indeed most of the online references to this recent effort by Comfort, seem to neglect the aspect of Comfort plagiarizing Dr. Stan Guffey for his text used in the new introduction. I would have loved to see Comfort challenged on this by one of the people at UCLA during the giveaway. Here’s one reference to this scandal, but you can find several by googling:

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