The banana fallacy is an argument from design for the existence of God, based on the form and function of the common banana, formulated by evangelist Ray Comfort. Comfort calls the banana “the atheist’s nightmare,” claiming its ease of use, nutritional value and “colour-coding” are irrefutable proof of intelligent design.
In a now-famous video on YouTube, Comfort, with his fellow evangelist Kirk Cameron (yes, the actor), starts with the design of a soda can: the outer casing to contain the liquid, the size designed to fit the hand and the ring-pull that gives you easy access. This primes the audience to perceive design. The argument for the banana being designed is based on the following:
- The banana is shaped to fit into the human hand.
- It comes with a protective, non-slip surface to hold.
- It is curved towards the face for ease of consumption and does not squirt in one’s face during the act.
- There is a “pull tab” at the top for easy access.
- It has a simple color code to show ripeness: Green; too early. Yellow; just right. Black; too late.
As it happens, these features do point to an intelligent designer — but it isn’t God.
Now, take 64 seconds to watch the video. It’s completely worth it.
The point where the argument falls down is that the banana has been intelligently designed — by humans, through artificial selection. Almost all our usual fruits, vegetables and food animals have been selectively bred to their present form.
The banana was first domesticated around 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, probably in Papua New Guinea. There is nothing natural about the banana as we know it today. The banana Comfort uses is an asexual clone quite different from its wild predecessors. It is only through human cultivation that it has managed to survive. Wild bananas reproduce sexually, pollinating their flowers in the usual way. They are small, dry cacao-pod-looking things loaded with inedible seeds. The soft, yellow flesh of the edible varieties is the result of thousands of years of cultivation.
Comfort also never mentions that bananas only grow between 30 degrees north latitude and 30 degrees south latitude. In fact, many cultures outside of the tropics never saw a banana until well into the twentieth century. Even today, many people have never seen a banana. If bananas are really such perfect examples of God’s handiwork, a perfect food for humans, then why do they only grow in the tropics where so many people have no easy access to them? And if God designs foods to be easy for humans to eat, what was He thinking with the pineapple, the kumquat or the durian?
Comfort was so taken aback by people laughing at this video that he later claimed that it was a hoax by atheists.