Ray Comfort the Plagiarist

University of Tennessee professor Stan Guffey is accusing Ray Comfort of plagiarizing his biography of Charles Darwin:

Since spring, e-mails had been trickling in alerting him to extensive similarities between the first three pages of the edition’s introduction and “A Brief History of Charles Darwin,” which Guffey wrote in 1997 for UT’s first Darwin Day event. He wrote the biography, handed out on campus each February and available through the Darwin Day website, “to make Darwin accessible to people who thought Darwin was a devil, to make him human.”

It seems to have appealed to New Zealand-born evangelist Ray Comfort, who wrote a 50-page introduction for Florida publisher Bridge-Logos’ reissue of Darwin’s treatise on evolution. Bridge-Logos lists dozens of titles by Comfort in its catalog, including some co-authored by actor Kirk Cameron, who also co-hosts a television series with Comfort. Guffey is not acknowledged in the book, but the introduction begins with his biography of Darwin. A few sentences were chopped or shortened, and a paragraph on Darwin’s youth was rearranged and reworded, but most of the passage appears taken directly from Guffey.

Now Guffey is considering legal action. Here are some parallels (courtesy of AIG Busted):

Ray: On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of specimens he acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene. In 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. That same year he published his journal of the voyage of the Beagle, which brought him immediate celebrity among London’s intellectuals. In 1842 he and Emma moved to Down House in Kent. It was there that she bore ten children and she and Charles spent the rest of their lives.

Stan: On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of natural history specimens acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene. In 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood, and saw his journal of the voyage of the Beagle published. In 1842 he and Emma moved to Downe house, Kent where Emma would bear 10 children and she and he would live for the rest of their lives.

Ray: During his great adventure as the Beagle’s naturalist, Darwin had studied certain aspects of the morphology and biogeography of the many species of plants and animals that he had observed. He eventually concluded that species exhibited varying degrees of similarity because they were to varying degrees related.

Stan: On his great adventure as the Beagleʼs naturalist Darwin had noted and begun to ponder certain aspects of the morphology and biogeography of the many species of plants and animals that he had observed. In particular, he had begun to explore the possibility, and eventually concluded, that species exhibited varying degrees of similarity because they are to varying degrees related.

Ray: …[Y]oung Charles showed less interest in studying than in hunting, natural history, and scientific experimentation. In 1825, he enrolled at Edinburgh University.

Stan: Early in his youth he demonstrated predilections for hunting, natural history, and scientific experimentation. In 1825, after public school education, he enrolled at Edinburgh University.

And there are other sources he copied word for word:

Ray: During the Voyage he had ample opportunity to see the cruelties of slavery and wondered how god could allow such inhumanity to exist. He also could not accept that a kind god would allow humans to live in such a wretched state as the natives of Tierra del Fuego. Why would god allow such suffering in the world was an internal conflict Darwin could not resolve.

Source: During the voyage he had ample opportunity to see the cruelties of slavery and wondered how God could allow such inhumanity to exist. He also could not accept that a kind God would allow men to live in such a wretched state as the natives of Tierra del Fuego. The issue of why God would allow such suffering in the world was an internal conflict that Darwin could not resolve.

Ray: He continued to give support to the local church and help with parish work, but on Sundays would go for a walk while his family attended church.

Source: He continued to give support to the local church and help with parish work, but on Sundays would go for a walk while his family attended church.

Ray: As a clergyman, he would have the free time to follow his real intellectual love: natural history. Darwin was a passionate student of nature, and while still in school he had amassed a considerable beetle collection as well as other specimens.

Source: As a clergyman, he would have the free time to follow his real intellectual love: natural history. Darwin was a passionate student of nature, and while in school he amassed a considerable beetle collection as well as other specimens. [from the introduction to Charles Darwin's autobiography!]

I knew Comfort wasn’t intellectually honest, but I didn’t know he was this intellectually dishonest. It’s a shame the Bible doesn’t provide him with a better moral framework — perhaps we can recommend him a better holy book to follow and defend?

Update: There’s a line-by-line comparsion over at RationalWiki. Here is Guffy’s original handout, and here is Comfort’s. There is even more similarities than RationalWiki shows, parts are just rearranged.

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