Evangelical creationist minister Ray “Banana Man” Comfort is an author and video producer who is best known for the “banana fallacy,” in which he claimed that the perfection of the banana is evidence of God’s engineering prowess in designing his creation. In putting forth this argument, Comfort was blithely unaware that it was humans who designed the Cavendish banana through modification of earlier cultivar subgroups.
But ignorance of food cultivation is only the tip of the very large iceberg that is Ray Comfort’s scientific illiteracy. On July 26, 2014, Comfort presented this gem of an argument to his Facebook readers:
If the Bible isn’t God-inspired, explain why how the writer of the Book of Job knew 3,000 years ago that “The earth hangs upon nothing” (Job 26:7).
It wasn’t until thousands of years later that science discovered that gravity doesn’t exist in space, and that this massive earth does indeed hang upon nothing [emphasis added].
Not long after posting this statement, Comfort revised it slightly to read, “science discovered that gravity doesn’t exist in space (as it does on earth), and that this massive earth does indeed hang upon nothing.” Of course, this revision does nothing to make his statement any less stupid. Whenever Ray Comfort makes a public statement pertaining to science, he never fails to entertain with comedy gold. There is never any shortage of atheists willing to correct him after enjoying a hearty laugh, which is probably why the majority of those who follow Comfort’s work are atheists.
The passage from the Book of Job that Comfort cites (“The earth hangs upon nothing”) does not have any scientific meaning whatsoever. The earth does not “hang” to begin with. The earth is in freefall orbit around the sun, a natural motion that requires gravitation. Ironically, to believe in the world-picture presented in Job 26:7, the passage that Comfort cites as evidence of scientific knowledge in the Bible, requires one to deny physical reality as shown to us by modern scientific knowledge. The cited verse, along with everything else in the Bible, was written by somebody who did not know the first thing about cosmology, physics, or astronomy. The only difference between Comfort and the ancient author of Job in this respect is that Comfort’s scientific ignorance cannot be excused due to lack of a wealth of information, readily available to him if he would only read a damn book.
Of course, Comfort is hardly the first Bible-believing theist to make erroneous connections between biblical passages and the findings of modern science in an attempt to argue that the Bible anticipated such discoveries. Ray is repeating a dead argument, because there simply is no connection between the Bible and modern science. This apologetic program of taking biblical passages out of context to make their scripture concordant with science is reminiscent of the postdiction engaged in by Nostradamus interpreters who try to apply the vague 16th century writings of the reputed seer to events in modern times.
We move on from Comfort’s misinterpretation and misapplication of ancient writings to a correction of his statements on gravity. The following is quoted from the BBC Universe website, one of many informative resources that Ray Comfort would easily have found had he taken the time to do the most rudimentary of fact-checking research before making his claims:
Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which all physical bodies attract each other. . . . Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces of nature, along with electromagnetism, and the nuclear strong force and weak force. . . . In modern physics, gravitation is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity proposed by Einstein, which asserts that the phenomenon of gravitation is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime.
The reason Comfort was under the impression that gravity does not exist in space probably has to do with the way astronauts appear to float around in space, seeming to defy gravity. But gravity does exist throughout the universe, and there is no shortage of evidence indicating its presence. Although it is the weakest of the four fundamental forces, gravity is the most far-reaching and influential physical force in the universe and its effects can be seen and measured throughout at any point in time and space we care to look. Forget God; the entire structure of the known universe is authored and built by gravity.
So, we can state without reservation that Comfort is about as scientifically illiterate as anyone possibly can be. He actually thought there was no gravity in outer space. In order to maintain this, one has to be completely ignorant of the most basic facts about physics and astronomy. Unfortunately, much of the U.S. population is about as unaware of how the universe works as Comfort is. But Comfort takes his ignorance a step further than most other people who, for whatever reason, simply have not developed an interest in science. He has made a career out of using his complete and abject ignorance of science as a basis for weighing in on and criticizing established science.
Hundreds of Comfort’s Facebook followers contributed comments on his “no gravity in space” thread to have some fun at his expense, but also to make legitimate attempts at correcting him. As a result, Comfort superficially acknowledged his error in another Facebook post published later the same day. Here he states,
Up until today I was one of the many who believed that there is zero gravity in space. We live and learn—thanks to the many atheists who kindly corrected me.
I say that Comfort only “superficially” acknowledged his error, because he goes on to say this in the same post:
Sir Isaac Newton is the one who so wisely noted “Atheism is so senseless.” I will therefore try and make it a little clearer for those folks who pretend that God doesn’t exist.
While there is invisible gravity in space (so much for “seeing is believing”), this massive earth hangs on nothing. It has no visible means of support–similar to the no means of support backing Darwinian evolution.
Translation: “Even though I was completely and utterly wrong, I was still right all along!” Comfort is clearly unmoved by facts. Observable reality has no effect on his thinking process. He does not care at all about the truth shown to him by those who have pointed out his errors and corrected him. His worldview has never been affected in any way by data that disconfirm his claims. The reason for this is simple: Comfort does not base his beliefs on facts, evidence, or even the most basic principles of logic. Instead, his approach to justifying his beliefs is to cherry-pick facts that appear (to him) to support his position. When he is shown to be wrong, he does not care. He has a whole catalogue of other facts from which he can scavenge for cherries. This is the modus operandi of young-earth creationists, who must justify and defend their demonstrably false arguments even after being corrected multiple times. They simply cannot admit to being wrong when their dogma-informed foregone conclusions are at stake.
A case in point is his transparent non-sequitur about “invisible” gravity in space (as opposed to visible gravity on Earth?) and his snarky “so much for ‘seeing is believing’” remark. We can see and measure the effects of gravity, both terrestrially and in space.