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 RichardDawkins.net 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.