Hemant "The Friendly Atheist" Mehta Interviews Ray "The Banana Man" Comfort


Hemant Mehta does a fascinating interview with Ray Comfort, not about Creationism, but about Comfort's personal philosophy and the way he has gone about promoting Creationism and Christianity in general. Comfort, you'll recall, is the guy who tried to prove the existence of a benevolent interventionist God by appealing to the human-convenient shape of a banana--a plant that's been heavily modified by humans through controlled selection in agriculture. Kudos to Mehta for giving us a glimpse inside this particular head.

Hemant: The banana. Do you stand by the argument in your video? Do you regret saying what you did? Do you like when people associate that video with you? Was it a joke? Are you aware that the banana in your video is genetically modified while a "natural" banana would be virtually unrecognizable? (There are several other questions regarding the Banana, but these are the overall themes).

Ray: I deeply regret doing the banana routine on television without a live audience. I have been doing it for live audiences for more than 20 years, and it's never failed to get a lot of laughs. Regarding genetic modification. There isn't any evidence that the banana has changed its shape in the last 2,000 years. The anonymous creator of the well-publicized YouTube clip used a picture of a modern banana that was shaped like a potato, to make me look like a fool (and he did a pretty good job). To see evidence that the banana hasn't changed shape, go to the bottom of http://www.livingwaters.com/origin/presskit and click on the PDF of "The Banana Controversy." Humbling though it has been, the subject has worked in my favor. Being "The Banana Man" has left me with a very low bar to reach. People are quite amazed when I'm able to string a complete sentence together.

It's worth noting that, given Mehta's audience, this is pretty atheist-centric. However, I'm well aware that belief in the Christian God/Jesus (or any other deity) doesn't preclude acceptance of evolution and doesn't equate with scientific illiteracy. Mehta seems to be aware of that as well. Comfort, on the other hand, appears to be a little confused on the subject.

The Friendly Atheist: Interview With Ray Comfort

Image courtesy Flickr user ian_ransley, via CC


  1. “In your own words, how would you describe how evolution and natural selection are supposed to work according to the theory that is broadly accepted in the life sciences? (In other words, can you explain what evolution is before trying to debunk it?)”

    That is a GREAT question to ask a Creationist! I was surprised to hear him actually say “just a theory,” though, as if he was speaking to an easily-fooled audience. It’s 2009 already, and I’m sure that ploy has largely lost its effectiveness by now.

  2. Funniest thing about the whole banana nonsense is that the edible banana is the result of a random mutation mated to artificial selection. Banana trees are infertile; the mutation that made them edible also destroyed their ability to produce viable seeds. They’ve been artificially propagated by humans ever since because humans think they’re good to eat.

    1. Anonymous:

      So you are saying that modern bananas were, in fact, intelligently designed, just like that watch they always like to refer to. Moreover the self same ‘designer’ is still meddling with that darned fruit that won’t reproduce on its own. ; )

    2. “They’ve been artificially propagated by humans ever since because humans think they’re good to eat.”

      This proves that god is a banana.

  3. Fascinating. As an ex-Catholic atheist, fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism completely baffles me.

    Most interesting to me:
    1) He basically admitted that NO evidence could possibly convince him to accept evolution
    2) He says ‘”science” is forever changing its position as it searches for truth.’ as if that’s a bug and not a feature.

    1. The deeply religious often don’t really understand how science works (just as the deeply scientific often lack the profound sense of awareness that is faith). They think that scientists basically toss out wild ideas to see what sticks, and if no one can disprove it, then that’s what everyone’s taught. While the “no one can disprove it” part isn’t so bad, it implies that every theory is, at its heart, and unsupported and wild guess.

      Besides, you can counter the “banana” argument with one word: Pineapple.

      1. Pineapple, eh and do not forget the mighty artichoke but then there is the fact that grapefruits have zippers and watermelons have those handy little carrying handles, don’t they?

  4. AstRiske: Yup! That’s exactly it. Right now, the big deal is tinkering with it a bit more to prevent it from being wiped out by a nasty fungus.

  5. #2 anon, you make it sounds like the banana cannot reproduce without human help. Non-viable seeds does not make the banana infertile. When I was a kid, we lived in a house with some empty land behind it. We grew some bananas. Or rather we harvested it. Dad planted one plant. It fruited and died. Daughter plants grew around it. Repeat. Soon we had nearly a hundred. You don’t need to do anything besides clearing the weed.

    BTW: about pealing banana from the other end. It does not work with some varieties (especially the smaller ones). When you pull the banana from the “hand”, the skin tears off, leaving a hole where you can already see the fruit inside. Might as well start pealing from that end that already has a hole.

  6. It is interesting that he can’t name a single thing that would convince him of evolution.

    Two other things to note:

    1) He’s continuing to harp males and females of species evolving separately even though people (including other creationists) have tried to explain to him that no one claims that happens.

    2) He seems to claim that speciation doesn’t happen (or at least claims explicitly that he doesn’t think there’s any evidence) even though the evidence for speciation is so overwhelming that Answers in Genesis and many of the other major creationist organizations list this as an argument that creationists should explicitly not use.

    These two together makes me think that he isn’t evil or trying to be deceptive. He really just isn’t able to assimilate information which contradicts something he already believes.

    He did have one minimally insightful point, when he said that being thought of as the banana man made people underestimate him.

    This interview makes me really sorry for him.

  7. “[…]I’m well aware that belief in the Christian God/Jesus (or any other deity) doesn’t preclude acceptance of evolution and doesn’t equate with scientific illiteracy. Mehta seems to be aware of that as well. Comfort, on the other hand, appears to be a little confused on the subject.”

    This is because Mehta dismisses those who believe differently than he does as wrong and as unbelievers. Evolution is accepted by the Catholic Church, for instance, but Mehta no doubt dismisses them as “not real Christians.”

  8. Regarding genetic modification. There isn’t any evidence that the banana has changed its shape in the last 2,000 years.

    What is the significance of the 2,000 year period? Does he think that people were incapable of cultivation until Jesus was born? Is he aware that there is solid evidence (reiterated in the Bible BTW) that humans existed and cultivated crops for millennia before Jesus came along? Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it sounds like he’s implying that God made the edible banana 2,000 years ago just to annoy scientists.

  9. Over and over the same statement comes from the Creationist and Intelligent Design front.

    Evolution is just a theory.

    As if that statement invalidates 150+ years of science and observation. Let’s be clear here; a theory is not a guess.

    In scientific terms a theory is a statement to define that which can be observed (I’m paraphrasing rather can ctrl-v’ing from the dictionary). A theory is not the same thing as a hypothesis which can be described as a type of guess.

    Evolution is a provable fact. If new evidence is introduced that can disprove Evolution as we currently understand it then it will be abandoned, but the mere fact that Evolution is “just a theory” does not debunk it.

  10. dainel: I don’t see what I wrote that implied that bananas didn’t propagate vegetatively on their own. Vegetative propagation doesn’t lead to tropics-wide distribution absent human help, however.

  11. I like how he tries to play off the whole banana thing as if he were just joking anyway when he says “I have been doing it for live audiences for more than 20 years, and it’s never failed to get a lot of laughs.”. Yeah, right, you really looked like you were fishing for laughs in that video of yours. hah! not. He was so obviously presenting his banana kookery in that video as if he genuinely believed that what he was saying truly constituted evidence for the existence of god, that his weasely “oh ha, ha, that always gets the laughs” ruse here is clearly just a baldfaced lie. What a fucking phony, liar, douche. And where’s his evidence that “the banana has changed its shape in the last 2,000 years”? I guess it’s just like how the apple hasn’t changed at all since we discovered it. Oh wait, http://www.pbs.org/thebotanyofdesire/apple-sweetness.php

  12. this is the first time i’ve heard of either of these people but i didn’t read much because i can’t even begin to take people seriously who have ridiculous names. whether it’s closed-minded or not, i’m not alone with my views either.

    i feel really bad for children of celebrities, starting with all of the zappa kids, and over half the kids born after them. how do they deal with it?

  13. oh hemant is actually an ethnic name… not much excuse for “comfort” though that one was definitely made up to get attn

    1. Bob, to my knowledge, both men are using their real names.

      Hemant Mehta is simply just not an English name. If that bothers you, I pity you. Ignoring people because their names have origins in cultures outside of Northern Europe is a pretty ignorant way to go through life.

      Even by the lame standard of “Only English/Euro names are normal”, though, I’m not sure why you think Ray Comfort is on a level with the Zappa children. That part just leaves me mystified.

  14. I’m still waiting for someone to ask the guy how proof of the existence of a God automatically proves the existence of HIS God and not, say, a giant platypus or Buddha or something.

  15. However, I’m well aware that belief in the Christian God/Jesus (or any other deity) doesn’t preclude acceptance of evolution

    OK, now I have a bit of a problem with that viewpoint.

    If someone claims to be a believer of a creed that expects you to believe that the contents of their declared holy book is true, and said book has explicit claims about how living things came to be, and those claims are blatantly nonsensical and utterly non-commensurate with the idea of evolution, then how is that believer supposed to accept the idea of evolution? Seems like a major logic failure to me; which I guess is pretty much par for the course when religion is involved.

    You can’t stand up and claim that homosexuality is violating your religion based upon the book of leviticus and then declare that you can wear nylon and cotton and linen without equally violating your religion. In just the same way, you cannot claim to accept the idea of evolution (forgetting the specific case of modern Neo-Darwinian Evolution for a moment) if you also claim that the inane nonsense in the book of genesis is true.

    If you claim “I don’t believe that bit of holy book X as a way of explaining your position, then how do you count as a believer?

    1. Because belief in god!=biblical literalism. There may be people who believe in a Christian God, and who may even choose to follow the teachings of Christ (or not… perhaps their idea of God just is similar to the Christian one), but who recognize that the Bible is full of metaphor and contradiction and it would be insane to take it literally. I agree that if you are a Christian who thinks the bible applies about homosexuals but not about shellfish(or divorce), then you are simply using your religion to excuse your bigotry. But not all Christians or theists are such. Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, and can have plenty of room for reason and science at the same time, though they often seem mutually exclusive.

    2. If you claim “I don’t believe that bit of holy book X as a way of explaining your position, then how do you count as a believer?

      I’m not sure why one would have to be a complete literalist to count as “a believer”. Maybe it’s a result of exposure to the idea for years, but selective or nuanced belief just doesn’t seem that odd to me.

      In my experience there are a fair number of Christians who view various sections of the Bible as being allegorical depictions or attempts to convey meaning and purpose, rather than as documents attempting to accurately portray physical events. My impression since college has been that it’s a pretty common practice for biblical scholars, Christian or otherwise, to try and figure out the context in which the books were written and what influences the author might have been reacting to, in order to determine why the writer felt their words conveyed some important truth about God or societal good given the situation and audience at the time.

      But aside from that, “The Bible” itself is a collection of documents compiled over quite a few years. At some point various people clearly decided certain documents were consistent with what they could believe while other writings were too incredible for one reason or another. Yet I strongly suspect that most of the compilers could accurately be described as “believers” in the documents they retained. So there does appear to be historical precedent for the practice of selective belief.

    3. It’s surprisingly uncomplicated, believing in God and accepting the fallibility of humanity. Assuming God, no matter what you think of what God was saying, it got filtered through human minds and hands, and rearranged and edited over several thousand years. There are flaws aplenty in the church. Theology, since its application to Christian thought, has attempted to reconcile the mishmash of frequently-contradictory statements that is the Bible to extract the intention behind it.

      Anyway, Christians of many stripes freely admit that the Bible is not completely infallible, but instead say that it reflects both human error and divine intent.

    4. “If someone claims to be a believer of a creed that expects you to believe that the contents of their declared holy book is true, and said book has explicit claims about how living things came to be, and those claims are blatantly nonsensical and utterly non-commensurate with the idea of evolution, then how is that believer supposed to accept the idea of evolution?”

      There’s a lot of variation amongst different Christian denominations, but the one idea they all have in common is that Jesus showed up to replace what was in the old testament. The fire-and-brimstone half that’s usually the source of the absurd and offensive stuff. Few Christians take the old testament literally.

      I survived 12 years of Catholic school, and don’t ever remember a time when Genesis (indeed most of the old testament) was taught as anything other than allegory. Science, on the other hand, was compulsory – and free of creationist meddling.

      The evangelical creationist stuff seems to be largely an American invention, a rarity elsewhere.

  16. My problem with one of the points in his logic of defending his banana theory is that because its named banana which is finger then it must have always been that way.

    Like the “banana” couldn’t have evolved for thousands upon thousands of years without a human naming it first.

    And yes I do agree that people are gullible and willing to believe wild and crazy things if they are told it enough…

  17. I really don’t think many christians believe the bible is literally true. I’ve never met any anyways, that would be a bit silly.

    I don’t quite see why it’s expected to be internally consistent or logically complete either. god’s presumably above all that tedious mr logic stuff ppl some seem to like to fumble around with.

    1. You need to get out more. You could start by paying a visit to your local fundamentalist Christian congregation. You will find people who believe the bible is the infallible, literal word of God. Many do not want their worldview sullied by contradicting information. Others lack the intellectual curiosity or rigor to understand the fundamentals of science. Still others want their understanding of the universe spoon fed to them by a paternalistic figure who’s knowledge is not to be questioned. Have some chats with various members of the congregation. It’s an eye opening excursion into the minds of various adherents, and you get some pretty creative answers to “why are there dinosaur bones in the earth?” I’m not saying these are the only people you’ll find. People go to church for all kinds of reasons – some of which have nothing to do with the bible, jesus or god.

      1. Yes, but thank God those congregations are limited in their influence. It’s times like these you LIKE having a Pope telling people: “No, really, it’s evolution and that’s okay.”

        1. @keneke #43

          “those congregations are limited in their influence”

          Sarah Palin attended one of those congregations.

          ironedithkid has it right. these people are in fact absolute fundamentalists. their faith is so weak, that anything that calls their guiding document into question calls their entire religion into question. most of the time, they don’t even realize that. and it’s not just christians. fundy muslims have similar problems, which is why the taliban was destroying historically significant buddha statues. and why fundy jews in israel will question some peoples’ “jewishness”, as if faith has to be born into you.

  18. The discussions around whether or not a christian can believe in one part of the bible but not another is missing the point of this post and Ray Comfort’s argument.
    The point is that Comfort argues that since the banana is so perfect it must have been designed by an intelligent engineer. The counter-point is not meant to debunk christianity or the bible.

    Does the perfection of the banana prove the existence of an intelligent designer?


    Do gaps in the evolutionary record mean that “God did it?”


    1. The point is that Comfort argues that since the banana is so perfect it must have been designed by an intelligent engineer.

      If God designed the fruit, did Satan design the peel, so laden with tragicomic slipperiness?

  19. if god is all powerful and all knowing, why couldn’t he have set up evolution? what’s better than a creation that can adapt to change? a design that cannot adapt is not intelligent. change is a constant in this world, nothing stays the same. what would be more perfect than life that could adapt?

  20. Even if banana does mean finger, and even if it was finger-shaped. It doesn’t prove they were fit to be eaten by holding them in the hand, peeling them and eating them raw.

  21. Contrary to popular belief all this has been settled since 400 AD. Here’s a quote from Saint Augustine in his “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” :

    “Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

  22. What I don’t get is this : Even *if* the banana hadn’t changed shape for thousands of years, what does that argument proves ?

    A particular fruit is practical to eat, fine. What about the thousand other species of fruit ? Do they prove that there is no God that designed them ?

      1. Moriarty, “Secular Fruits” is going to be the name of my new queer, atheist rock band.

  23. What really drives me up the wall about this creationism vs evolution thing is how utterly irrelevant it is to the whole point of Christianity. The religious people who focus on this as though they were somehow doing “God’s Work” are so misguided it’s just sad. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or join a circle or support or something.If you have to argue, write a letter to totalitarian regime for Amnesty International or become a reporter and bear true witness to real events. Similarly atheists must have better things to do. I know, I know, atheists would be doing those better things if they didn’t have to put up with religionists making ridiculous claims.

  24. Note that even without Humans artificially breeding perfect bananas, the theory of evolution is perfectly capable of explaining why an arbitrary species of fruit is well-formed for animal eating without needing to bring God into it, thank you very much.

    For fruits that spread via animal ingestion, there is a selective pressure to be ingested by animals. Therefore fruits that are more suited to being eaten by animals will be better selected for. That’s basic Darwinism, and can be deduced from first principles.

    In some world where Humans didn’t artificially breed bananas, finding a banana that fit perfectly in the had, was “color coded,” had “perforated peel for easy opening” (whatever the hell that means), and so would would simply be more evidence for the theory of Natural Selection and nothing more.

  25. Ah, so you can selectively believe parts of the christian holy book and stay a christian? Hmm. That sounds a bit like one or other of the motor racing classes that allowed competitors to remove or add parts to a stock car and claim it was still a stock car. Eventually you have nothing but the label plate staying ‘stock’. So lets file off a bit her, add in a little idea there, disavow that stuff, emphasize this… whee! I just proved Scientology is Christianity! And all without being any more dishonest than religionists!

    And if you actually think the biblical literalists are a tiny minority with no influence you can’t have been reading much world news, or even US news, recently.

    1. The biblical literalists are noisy and get a lot of news attention, but they do not speak for all Christians (or theists).

      Religious faith isn’t about proving anything (which is why I don’t understand why some people get so hung up on proving the existence or lack thereof of God…)

      I’m a Christian. I’m a professional engineer and scientist. There is no disconnect. No intellectual dishonesty. No cognitive dissonance. Just my life, and the way I live it.

      (I’m also not a Biblical literalist. Or a politician.)

  26. “Ah, so you can selectively believe parts of the christian holy book and stay a christian?”

    Selectively believing parts of the bible is *the definition* of christianity. The new testament is the part of interest to christians. You know, the part about christ (subtle clue in the name there). The new bit supersedes the old. (Which of the old bits still apply is the subject of much debate and the main reason there are many different varieties of Christianity).

  27. I’m surprised Ray didn’t mention that most apes eats bananas from the other end without peeling them first. Since a lower lifeform doesn’t know how to eat a yellow seedless banana correctly, doesn’t that prove that God made them for humans?

    He’s said that before, I really wanted to hear it again.

    Evolving Ray Comfort

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