The Living Waters "Origin into Schools" campaign is happening on 100+ campuses in the US and 21 campuses in Canada, including U of T. The National Centre for Science Education (NCSE) has launched a counter-campaign to debunk the debunkers. On their website, dontdissdarwin.com, you can find among other things: a point-by-point refutation of Comfort's introduction, a "safety" bookmark for use while reading Comfort's book, and a one page flier titled "Why Ray Comfort is Wrong".
"My hope is not to destroy evolution, but to open people up to the claims of intelligent design," says Comfort. "God created everything and it was all very intelligently designed. If you don't believe that, try making your own eye."
Public Information Project Director of the NCSE, Steve Newton, has apparently never tried to make his own eye. "'Rational' attempts to promote creationism through ideas such as intelligent design are no more scientific than traditional creationism," says Newton. "Intelligent Design proponents mimic science, using the terminology but not the rigorous methodology of science. They try to claim the mantle of science without being subject to science's demands for evidence and critical review from one's peers."
When asked why they have decided to target university students, Comfort says, "They are future doctors, lawyers, and politicians. I hope they're open to free exchange. I want students to hear the other side."
Steve Newton believes there is no "other side" when it comes to evolution. "There is zero controversy about the validity of evolution in peer-reviewed scientific papers. There is no significant controversy among scientists. There is no controversy in the way evolution is described in science textbooks," he says. "What Comfort and his fellow travelers imagine to be a grand debate is nothing but their own small echo chamber."
Most people have no problem reconciling religion and evolutionary theory because, according to Steve Newton, they are independent of each other. "Collide balls of various masses together, and you can describe their movements by [Isaac] Newton's F = MA," he explains. "Newton was religious, but his physics operates the same for every observer regardless of their faiths. 'Reconciling' F = MA calculations with something else is unnecessary."
Prof. Mary P. Winsor, a historian of science at U of T, doesn't view Comfort's efforts on campus as a totally negative phenomenon. She says it might get people interested in studying biology and learning how evolution actually works. Also, says Winsor, "It would be a good thing if Comfort's preface stimulates a student to seriously study theology. It would not take much reading about religious history to expose how limited a spirituality Comfort represents, and U of T has excellent courses on religion available."
U of T also has an excellent conference, hosted by the Institute for the Philosophy and History of Science and Technology, this Saturday November 21-24, where some real dialogue about evolution will take place. Tickets and information are available at www.hps.utoronto.ca.
with files from Amy Stupavsky