Religious group takes on Darwin

An evangelical group handed out 1,000 free copies of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” at Cal Poly Wednesday morning, but there was a hitch — the group’s version included a 50-page introduction discrediting the author and promoting its version of Christianity.

As many as 1,000 students on the campus received the 150th anniversary edition of Charles Darwin’s historic work that set forth his ideas of evolution, according to Alan Peek of the religious group Living Waters, based in Southern California.

There were no conflicts, Peek said, whereas at some campuses the group’s effort was met with hostility. Some students accept the book and rip out the introduction, he wrote in an e-mail to The Tribune.

“As you would expect, it was a mixed reaction from the students,” Peek wrote. “The atheists/agnostics were more or less cordial and respectful to us. For the most part the students were interested and were happy to receive the free copy of ‘Origin of Species.’ ”

However, Cal Poly professor Brian Greenwood said many people, like him, gave back the book when they realized what it was.

Greenwood, an assistant professor in the university’s parks and tourism administration, said he objected to the deception.

When Living Waters claims people “took” their book, Greenwood said, it shows that those people supported Darwin, because they believed they were getting a free copy of the “The Origin of Species.”University officials had no comment on the event.

The book’s introduction by Ray Comfort, the New Zealand evangelist who founded the fundamentalist Living Waters movement, is meant to honor the 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of Species.”

However, many fundamentalists believe Darwin shortchanged the Bible story of creation.

In his introduction, Comfort initially takes on Darwin in a scholarly way, but soon attacks him for being racist, sexist and laying the intellectual foundation for the rise of Adolf Hitler.

“The legacy of Darwin’s theory can be seen in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, racism, infanticide, and abortion,” Comfort writes.

Comfort then segues into religion, comparing Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam unfavorably to his group’s version of Christianity, and chastises those who don’t believe in Heaven and Hell.

“Perhaps the thought of going to Hell doesn’t scare you, because you don’t believe in it,” Comfort writes. “That’s like standing in the open door of a plane 10,000 feet off the ground and saying, ‘I don’t believe there will be any consequences if I jump without a parachute.’ ”