Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Move over Banana, the Chicken is Ray Comfort's New "Atheist's Nightmare"

...except that it's every bit as bird brained as his first argument.
Ray thinks that the classic conundrum of the chicken and the egg is a stumper to evolutionists, but is cut and dry to those who take Genesis as fact:
"So which came first, the chicken or the egg? For those who believe the Bible, it was the chicken, and the first egg came some time later. However, it’s not so simple among the Genesis-less generation. Did the first chicken come from the first egg, or was it the chicken that first laid the first egg?"
He quotes Aristotle as posing this question himself, dumbfounded by the dilemma:
"Long ago, even Aristotle (384-322 BC) spoke of the egg dilemma. He philosophized: "For there could not have been a first egg to give a beginning to birds, or there should have been a first bird which gave a beginning to eggs; for a bird comes from an egg.""
Too bad for Ray that Aristotle lived some 2100 years before Darwin, and the idea of evolution had never even crossed his mind. (I also find it funny that he quotes Aristotle, when most classic theologians decried Aristotle's writings [and those of Plato and others] as being the works of heathens). Aristotle was a smart guy. If he had been chatting with Darwin, he would have easily seen an answer to his question.

Evolution is not stumped by this question. Quite to the contrary, evolution provides a very satisfying answer to it: the egg, of course, came first. Evolution would predict that, before there was a chicken, there was an ancestor to the chicken (let's call this ancestor a "protochicken"). The protochicken would have been very much like the chicken indeed, perhaps even phenotypically identical but genotypically distinct from the modern chicken. (This is a vast simplification of course, since there is no one type of chicken that can be called a "modern chicken"; all chickens are genotypically different at some level). A population of protochickens were subject to evolutionary pressure of some sort, certain aberrant traits were selected for, and one day, a protochicken or two (or likely, many) laid an egg, and out hatched a chicken. Evolution posits a firm solution to the chicken-or-the-egg question.

But Ray doesn't seem to get this very simple explanation:
"Let’s say evolution was responsible for the beginning, and let’s say the egg was the first to evolve (before the chicken). Why did it do that? Why would there be nothing, and over millions of years, nothing became simple organisms, then these organisms became an egg? I can understand that a fish evolved legs and lungs over millions of years--because he (and his necessary female help mate) wanted to breathe, and to walk on dry land. But why would a thoughtless egg appear first and then want to become a chicken?"
Ray shows here something that I see in creationist arguments somewhat often - the idea that organisms want to evolve. They seem to think that, for evolution to work, organisms have to want to evolve some particular trait. They suppose that evolutionary theory dictates that a giraffe evolved a long neck because it wanted to reach the leaves high up in the trees, or, as in Ray's example above, fish evolved legs and lungs because they wanted to breathe and walk on dry land. In other words, Ray is stuck behind the idea of Lamarckian evolution - that "needed" or "wanted" traits were acquired and passed on to progeny. Perhaps Ray did not get the memo, but Lamarck's ideas on evolution have been discredited for pretty much the last century or more.

There is no want in evolution. There is no thought out goal. What evolves is not product of an organism's needs or wants, but rather a product of the organism's environment. Eggs evolved shells, for instance, because those few with shells survived the rigors of the environment better than those without. It's really that simple.

Ray continues with more questions:
"If the egg was shaped with a rounded point at each end for ease-of-laying (a square egg would be painful), how did evolution know to make it that shape if there were never any chickens in the first place to know that an egg is made to be laid? Another small dilemma. How did the first egg get fertilized to become the first chicken? What or who fertilized it, and why did he fertilize it and sit on it until it hatched? How did the fertilizing creature evolve and have the ability to fertilize an egg that he found. How did he get the seed into the egg to fertilize it? And why did the (rooster) evolve as a bird? Unless he was an egg first, and if so, we have the above questions to deal with, because his egg would also need to be fertilized. Who did the fertilizing?"
Again, evolution did not "know" anything. Evolution is a blind process. It tries out many different things, and those that work best get passed on. How did the first egg get fertilized to become the first chicken? It was fertilized by a protochicken before it. Evolution is a slow, incremental process. The process to create an egg did not just come together all at once; it was the result of millions of years of tiny steps, one step an improvement on the step before it. All of the questions he asks can be explained through a basic understanding of evolutionary principals; asking such questions, then, shows Ray Comfort lacks such an understanding. (He also asked how the seed got into the egg to fertilize it. Perhaps he should Google "how a chicken egg is formed", and learn that the shell is not formed until after the egg has been fertilized. This is grade school stuff).

As with most creationist arguments against evolution, Ray displays a lack of understanding of how evolution is supposed to work. It makes me wonder if he's ever actually tried to learn about evolution aside from trying to find faults with it. I'd love to challenge him to take an exam on basic principals of evolution to see how he'd do, because from what I can tell, he doesn't have a clue.


Ian said...

The evolution answer can be summed up much quicker:

"Dinosaurs were laying eggs long before there were chickens."

C.W.G.K said...

And other organisms were laying eggs long before the dinosaurs came around. The hard-shelled amniotic eggs we think of are a relatively late addition to the evolutionary tree.

Dawson said...

Amazing how close he gets to his own answer when he brings up fish. Does he possibly not even realize that fish breed via external fertilization of... wait for it... eggs? >.<

...just you know, softer ones?

C.W.G.K said...


This is Ray Comfort we're talking about; the same guy who claimed evolution is impossible because we dont find life arising in a jar of peanut butter once you open it. I'd be surprised if he even knew fish laid eggs, let alone knew they lack a shell and are fertilized externally.