Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron visit UCLA

As I wrote before, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron were planning to distribute their "special" edition of Origin of Species to universities across the country. This special edition came with a special intro to refute evolution, and explain how Darwin was responsible for Hitler, etc.

Here's what happened. We knew for a long time that Ray Comfort was planning to distribute the books on the 19th of November. But on the morning of the 18th, I woke up and read this: Ray has a change in plans. Ray Comfort announced the morning of that he was coming in a day early! So we had to change our plans too. The original plan was to have volunteers hand out counter-flyers and bookmarks from the NCSE, while simultaneously holding a table on Bruin Walk where we would offer free t-shirts, stickers, and discussions. But given the sudden switch, we were just going to hand out counter-flyers and bookmarks.

I had classes all day, so I actually didn't get to see most of it myself. But I had a one-hour break. During my break, I found that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron had shown up on Bruin Walk personally. How flattering! I thought they were planning to go to Berkeley. I didn't ever get to speak with Ray Comfort, but I did get to speak with Kirk Cameron.

Kirk Cameron and me (on the edge in green)

Kirk Cameron expressed a bit of disappointment that there weren't more people protesting them. So asked him why they changed the day. Apparently, they were afraid of huge protests and book burnings. Apparently Dawkins had suggested one time burning the books. Silly Dawkins! I told Kirk that his expectations were silly. Really it was just our group and these bookmarks. I don't understand how they, on the one hand, want to get lots of attention, but on the other hand, want to avoid attention by switching the day at the last minute. Kirk Cameron was unable to clarify this for me.

He was also unable to satisfactorily explain why they had originally removed four chapters from the book. Apparently, including all the chapters would be too expensive and make it too daunting to read. He basically said they were waiting for people to call them out on the missing chapters. I told him that he should have foreseen that people would think it's dishonest to remove chapters.

Ray Comfort had actually chosen a really terrible day to distribute books, because the entire campus was thinking about the UC Regents' proposed mid-year tuition fee hike. There was a huge student protest on the 18th, with more than 500 demonstrators and fourteen arrests, but they were against the UC Regents on the other side of campus. In fact, if they had stuck to the 19th, they might have seen an even bigger demonstration against the UC Regents with about 2,000 protesters. I've been told that the reason the demonstration on the 19th was bigger is because that's when they were originally planning to vote on the fee hike. They were busing people over from other campuses and everything. However, they rescheduled the vote to the 18th, supposedly to avoid the big protest.

I told Kirk Cameron that the way they rescheduled the book distribution drew a very unfortunate parallel between them and the UC Regents. In retrospect, I don't think Kirk Cameron had any idea what I was talking about, since I'm not sure they were even aware of what was going on on campus. Also in retrospect, if there is a parallel between Ray Comfort and the UC Regents, it's probably the Regents who come out looking worse, not the other way around.

I also asked Kirk Cameron if they would be distributing books again on the 19th as originally planned. He said they would. But he lied. I didn't see them anywhere the next day. Too bad, we were distributing the free t-shirts that day, and he might have gotten one. Now we ran out. Oh well.

Spencer (left) and Ray Comfort (right) with a bookmark in his pocket

Ray Comfort soon stood on a soapbox and gathered a crowd around a mini stage that had been chalked on the ground. He asked people to come up to "home plate" so he could have an "open discussion" with them. This open discussion involved Ray Comfort yelling questions at them while his own crowd cheered at him. He asked "Have you ever lied in your life? ... What do you call a person who lies? ... Have you ever stolen anything in your life?" I think the idea is that we're all liars, thieves, and adulterers, and we need Jesus to save us. Unfortunate implication: it's okay to lie if, like Ray Comfort, you've accepted Jesus' forgiveness. If you're familiar with Ray Comfort, you know that this whole routine is the one bullet in Ray Comfort's toy gun; he has to collect it back every time he shoots because he has no other bullets.

That whole spectacle made it clear that Ray Comfort was more concerned about evangelism than about evolution, whereas our group cares more about how stupidly anti-evolution he is. When he asked each person on home plate, "Are you an atheist?" I wanted to ask him "Are you a Young Earth Creationist?" but I've been told that if I were actually up there, he wouldn't have given me a chance to ask any questions.

I had to go to class, so I'm not sure what else happened. However, I note with some amusement that Ray Comfort offered to pay the printing costs for the bookmarks. Ray Comfort, we are not the Secular Student Alliance (though we are affiliated), we are the Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists. Furthermore, I don't know how much the bookmarks cost because they were created and paid for by the National Center for Science Education. I don't know about the NCSE, but our group would happily accept any donations. Our treasurer would get a kick out of that.

I think the idea is to make up what he lacks in honesty with generosity. And make no mistake, Ray Comfort can be very generous. I've heard that he once visited the Atheists, Agnostics, and Rationalists at UC Irvine, and paid for their entire dinner. On the other hand, he seems to be less generous with his fellow Creationists. Though Creationists across the country were distributing his books for free, I heard that many of the distributors themselves had to buy them off of Ray Comfort.

But this is all my perspective. There were plenty of other BASS members who showed up. Here are a few other reports:
Spencer (from whom I stole the photos)


Jeffrey Ellis said...

Wow, a brush with greatness!

I just noticed how huge Kirk Cameron's forehead is. Must need to be that big to hold all the woo.

miller said...

More links! A video of Kirk Cameron appeared on Huffington Post and TMZ. Also see a transcript.

DarkSapiens said...

I admire the work you're doing in BASS :)

The first time I saw the banana video in YouTube, I thought it as actually a parody of creationists, a satirical video. Knowing the truth was a bit of a shocker —they didn't need that, since they were a parody themselves O_o

Is there any chance to see the design of those T-shirts? I'm curious :P

(And did you see that counter of the people who has died since you opened Ray Comfort's webpage? It has a precision of 1/10 of a person, WTF!?)

Nice discussion in the video. I ended reading the transcript due to lack of time, but those students did a good job. And your group got linked in Pharyngula several times! Awesome! :)

Really, good work to you all :D


miller said...

Why yes, the t-shirt designs can be seen right here! kindly donated the shirts to NCSE to give to us to hand out the day Ray Comfort came. I got one with a frog.

There are actually three other videos of the spectacle on Joe's youtube channel, though I can't guarantee their quality.