Guest Author - Alicia Soueid
A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a YouTube video by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron claiming that they had the ultimate scientific proof of God's existence, and that this proof, which they entitled "The Atheist's Nightmare" was based on the humble banana. According to Comfort, it is evident that the banana was designed by God for man, with a shape made to fit perfectly into the human hand and mouth. Initially, I found the video amusing. After all, bananas fit perfectly into a chimpanzee's hand and mouth, too. And Comfort does look like a bit of a monkey fondling his banana much to Cameron's amusement. But the more I thought about the shallowness of his logic, the more inane I found his argument. Comfort would have us believe that because one fruit appears to conform to the structure of the human hand and mouth, therefore it and everything else in the universe must have been designed by an omnipotent, omniscient, loving creator. That's quite a leap of faith -- or slip of faith, if you will.
Having visited countries where the long, sweet, yellow banana we find in American supermarkets isn't as ubiquitous, I wondered whether some bananas might be less "well-designed" for human consumption than others. Thus, I began looking for information about older versions of the banana, but I didn't have to look far. Right below Comfort and Cameron's Banana video was a video called the "Atheist's Nightmare Debunked." Sure enough, the 2-minute Larfilms video revealed that the banana Westerners are most familiar with is a cultivated variety that evolved over thousands of years due to artificial selection by humans, and that wild bananas are largely filled with seeds. In other words, whatever design the modern banana may have is due to human cultivation, not natural design.
Not content to take this video's word for it, however, I did a little banana research of my own. This is what I learned as a result:
1. Modern edible banana cultivars were cultivated by crossbreeding a couple of strains of inedible wild bananas. While modern cultivars are sweet and seedless, wild bananas are inedible due to the mass of seeds and pithy flesh.
2. Cultivated bananas are seedless and therefore sterile. Unable to reproduce sexually, they must be propagated vegetatively. Commercially, the primary means of propagation is tissue culture.
3. Bananas do not ripen to human taste upon the tree. Thus, bananas are generally harvested green and either allowed to ripen on their own or ripened artificially using ethylene gas. Bananas allowed to ripen naturally usually retain their greenness even when the fruit is fully ripe. Only the peels of bananas submitted to lower temperatures or ethylene gas treatment will reach the yellow stage when the fruit becomes fully ripe.
4. Edible bananas include dessert bananas such as the ubiquitous "Cavendish" type, as well as plantains which must be cooked prior to eating. Most dessert bananas are shorter and fatter than the modern Cavendish banana.
5. Many wild and cultivated bananas are susceptible to destructive pests and diseases, many of which are almost impossible to eradicate once established. Moreover, the modern "Cavendish" varieties lack genetic diversity, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the threat of extinction.
After weighing the evidence, I concluded that the edible banana is evidence not of the genius of God's creation but of man's ingenuity in improving upon natural resources and using them to fulfill his own needs, as well as of man's desire to maximize commercial success to the point of endangering the very resources upon which he is most reliant. Unfortunately, Ray Comfort's ignorance of plant propagation and his tendency to play armchair scientist led him to a most erroneous conclusion. And while I might find his ignorant musings entertaining if this shallow sort of thinking weren't so widespread, it occurs to me that those who think the world was created for man and man alone are often ambivalent about trying to protect the planet over the long haul. Perhaps they naively think that their God will prevent or repair any damage they wreak so long as they continue to believe. In any case, Comfort and Cameron might do well to put down the banana and start peeling their eyelids open instead.