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The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 53): Darwinism, Genocide, and the Fear of Evangelicalism

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 53): Darwinism, Genocide, and the Fear of Evangelicalism

In the last few posts, I have been going into detail about Charles Darwin, and his books, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. And whereas I have tried to emphasize that the theory of evolution is a valid scientific theory that is not a threat to the Bible or Christianity, I have also touched upon the very dangerous and dark philosophical assumptions that can be seen in The Descent of Man. The threat to the Bible, to Christianity, and indeed humankind itself, is not the theory of evolution, but rather philosophical materialism that attempts to hijack evolution to justify its atheism, and then is pushed to its logical conclusions.

Let’s be clear: if there is no God, and if human beings are nothing more than slightly more evolved animals, and if all that matters is the health and propagation of the human species, then you simply are not too far away from justifying things like the sterilization or even killing of human beings who are weak, genetically flawed, or retarded. Not to sound alarmist, but we need to realize those were the kinds of conclusions that many people came to in the early part of the 20th century, and that regimes like the Nazis and Communists sought to implement on a worldwide scale.

My simple point is that even though it is imperative that we take a meat cleaver to the notion that the theory of evolution and atheism are joined at the hip, we need to admit that for the better part of 150 years, not only has the general opinion throughout society been that those two things were joined at the hip, but the worst atrocities in history have occurred precisely because people believed they were joined at the hip.

I submit that the real reason why so many in the Evangelical world are opposed to evolutionary theory isn’t so much they disagree with its scientific claims (most don’t really understand them); and it’s not even really that they think it is a threat to biblical authority (even though this is the common mantra among YECists like Ken Ham). The real reason is because they fear that evolution leads to things like moral anarchy and eventually mass genocide. And let’s be honest, why do so many Evangelicals think that? That’s easy: because that is exactly what has happened in the past. Evolution has been used as the justification for everything from your garden-variety perversion and promiscuity to forced sterilization, racism, Zyklon-B, the concentration camps and the gulag.

Those who read my blog will be shocked to read what I’m about to write: in a way, Ken Ham has a valid point. But I’ll come back to that point in a bit. First, I want to go back to the Scopes Monkey Trial…stay with me, it’s related.

A Civic Biology

Clarence Darrow, a famous Chicago lawyer, and William Jennings Bryan, defender of Fundamentalism, at the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Most people know, at least vaguely, about the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. It was where the issue of evolution was debated in a show trial in Dayton, Tennessee. The two major combatants were William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. I touch upon the specifics of the trial in my book, The Heresy of Ham, but in this post, I want to draw attention to the textbook that created the ruckus in the first place: A Civic Biology, by George William Hunter.

To the point, if I was alive at the time, I’d have a big problem with this textbook as well. In it, in an American high school biology book, it wasn’t just the scientific theory of biological evolution that was covered and endorsed. There within its pages, right alongside the presentation of Darwin’s scientific theory, was a thorough discussion and endorsement of the philosophical worldview of Social Darwinism and Eugenics.

  • It advocated that the same breeding methods used on animals should be applied to human beings, for the betterment of the health of the human race.
  • It claimed that the human race should demand of anyone who gets married “the freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring.”
  • It claimed that certain diseases were “not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity.” It described eugenics as “the science of being well born.”

A Civic Biology even went so far as to characterize people who cannot contribute to society as “parasites.” It actually contemplated killing those “parasites” off as a means to cleanse the gene pool. But it quickly lamented, “Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.” 

That’s right—in an American science textbook in the 1920s, students read how successful eugenics had been in Europe in preventing “degenerate races” from being allowed to propagate. In the same year A Civic Biology was praising European efforts to rid the world of the degenerate races, Adolf Hitler was publishing Mein Kampf, in which he too endorsed those same efforts. Let’s be clear: Hitler was not an anomaly—he was a product of the times. What he did was what the Eugenicists of Europe and America were calling for—and they made it a point to use evolution as their justification.

Make no mistake, A Civic Biology was not simply a science textbook. It was a propaganda manual that advocated the very things that later Nazis and Communists enacted. It had a clear agenda: treat human beings in the same way you treat your dog. Now, we rightly condemn the Nazis for their “final solution” and their horrific treatment of not only Jews, but also of the weak, infirm, and mentally retarded. But we need to come to terms with the fact that Hitler merely put into practice the very things American biology textbooks were advocating in the 1920s.

It’s Not the Scientific Theory…It’s the Presuppositional Worldview
Such thinking should chill any rational person to the bone. Benjamin Wiker claims that eugenics “was and is a direct implication drawn from Darwin’s account of evolution, one that Darwin himself drew quite vividly in his Descent of Man(91). I need to amend that comment on one point though: the eugenic movement is a direct implication of evolution only if one starts with the presuppositional worldview of atheism, and the ontological assumption that human beings are nothing more than highly-evolved animals.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: Now, I should make clear that I am obviously not saying that a tenet of atheism is the desire to commit mass genocide, and so therefore, saying the “presuppositional worldview of atheism” might not be quite right. I asked one person who commented on this how he would phrase the above statement, and he put it this way:

“The eugenic movement is a direct implication of evolution only if one starts by naively applying evolution to morality, with a moral system that evolutionary fitness is a moral good, while evolutionary weakness is a moral evil. In this naive evolutionary morality, if humans are nothing more than highly-evolved animals, then breeding better humans is a moral good, and culling unfit humans is also a moral good.”

I think that is very well said, and deserves to be mentioned. I would only add that such a mindset is one that denies the inherent worth and dignity of the individual, and values only the health and welfare of that State as whole. Back to the original post…

We must be clear: Darwin’s theory of evolution alone does not, and cannot, get one to eugenics, the Nazi concentration camps, or the Soviet gulags. All evolution does is describe what, in fact, happens in the biological world. But what the Nazis, Communists, and Eugenicists of the early 20th century did was they combined Darwin’s theory with a presuppositional atheism and rabid racism, and then they claimed evolutionary theory justified the atrocities they committed.

Eugenics, the gas chambers, and the gulags are the logical conclusion of those who deny the dignity and inherent worth of human beings, for they say the worth of someone is dependent on that person’s health and ability to contribute to society. The individual is inconsequential; society, or the State, or the Communist utopia, or the Third Reich—that is what matters. The Eugenicist takes the Enlightenment notion that society will “force one to be free,” to the next level, and simply adds, “…if not, society can sterilize you, lock you away, or kill you—it’s all about what’s good for society.”

And in the 1920s, that presuppositional worldview was prevalent throughout Europe, the Soviet Union, and America as well. Therefore, given that dark history, it should not surprise anybody that so many Evangelical Christians are scared to death of evolution—it really was used as the justification for the worst genocides in human history.

The challenge, therefore, is to try and get people to realize that the scientific theory of evolution and the presuppositional worldview of philosophical atheism are two different things. We need to point out that it wasn’t evolution that was the problem; the problem was the way that the Nazis, Communists, and Eugenicists wrongly used evolution to justify their actions.

Now, I don’t know how successful anyone can be at getting people, especially the YECist segment of Evangelicalism, to make this distinction. Consider the two pictures here. The Eugenics movement promoted itself as a veritable “Tree of Life,” and eugenicists intricately linked their movement with evolution. Should it be all that surprising that the Creation Science movement then pictured itself as chopping down that very tree that claimed evolution as its trunk? I think these two pictures say it all: if you want to know why there is such a hatred and fear of the scientific theory of evolution, these two pictures clearly illustrate all you need to know.

That’s why arguing science with a YECist, by the way, never will get you too far. The real concern isn’t science. And, as I’ve come to realize, you don’t get much further trying to get them to see that Genesis 1-11 isn’t giving scientific information, because you’ll just be accused of trying to twist Scripture and lead people astray. The real reason there is so much hatred and fear of evolution among many Evangelicals is because they are convinced that it lies at the root of all of society’s ills. And where did they get that idea from? From the very people who used evolution to justify the worst atrocities in history.

Was Darwin a Racist? Does Evolution Promote Genocide?
There is one final thing I want to note, specifically about Darwin. For all practical purposes, it does seem that Darwin was probably quite racist. For that matter though, most everyone throughout human history has been racist, and if you know anything about the British Empire at its height, you know that it had a pretty racist attitude towards all the people it subjugated. If you grew up in 19th century England, chances are you’d probably hold some racist views as well.

And thus, when we read this following quote from Darwin in his book, while it should obviously shock us at how racist it is, it also shouldn’t surprise us, given the prevalent attitudes of 19th century England. When speculating about the future evolution of species, particularly human beings and other ape-like creatures, Darwin said:

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes…will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

This quote makes it quite clear that Darwin viewed negroes in Africa and the aborigines in Australia as just lower evolutionary forms of life—no doubt “higher” than your average ape, but also certainly “lower” than European Caucasians. And he thought it was only a matter of time that white Europeans simply “won out” in the great evolutionary battle. I wonder where those eugenicists and Nazis got their ideas? That is why The Descent of Man is so horrific and dangerous. It laid the foundation for the 20th century carnage and genocide that done in Russia, Europe, and even flirted with here in America. It is what happens when people try to take the descriptive task of science and turn it into a prescription for how to “better breed the human animal.”

AiG might not use the “tree metaphor” as seen in the earlier pictures, but the sentiment is exactly the same.

We need to realize that one of the reasons why Evangelical Christians have traditionally been so hostile to the theory of evolution is not the theory itself, but rather of the kinds of atrocities I’ve talked about in this post. They think “evolution = gas chambers and euthanasia.” They think that because the people who advocated for those atrocities used evolution as justification for them. I know many get frustrated with Evangelicals for making that leap from “evolution” to “genocide,” and claim that Evangelicals are just using scare tactics, and trying to slander evolution as being inherently racist (Ken Ham and the YECists at Answers in Genesis do this all the time).

Before we just dismiss such claims, though, we have to realize that they’re not just making this connection up. They are pointing to the very statements of those who made that very connection in order to justify those very atrocities. That is why it is so important to divorce the scientific theory from the philosophical worldview that tries to attach itself to evolution, like a parasite.

Deep down, despite the rhetoric that “human beings are no different than animals,” despite that biologically-speaking that is true, human beings know that there is something ontologically unique and special about human beings that make them distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom. If we weren’t, then we wouldn’t consider the atrocities of the 20th century to be atrocities and we wouldn’t consider forced sterilization to be a problem—but they are atrocities, and those are problems.

We may indeed share our biology with the rest of the natural world, and evolutionary theory certainly does explain that relationship between human beings and the natural world, but human beings are not just animals. Our very humanness and our sense of morality, testifies to the fact that we are made in God’s image.

Author’s Note #2: Another comment a few people had about this post is that they felt I was saying that evolutionary theory was the sole reason for atrocities done under Communism, Nazism, and the Eugenics movement, and that I did not take into account a host of other cultural and societal factors. So I wanted to be clear: of course there were other factors involved. But what I was seeking to point out that once evolutionary theory was introduced, those “other factors” seemed to attach themselves to it in order to justify their own agendas.

Or to put it another way: the Enlightenment had hailed science and reason over religion; it had promoted Deism, the idea that if there was a God, He wasn’t really involved with the world anyway; it had even held up “the general will of the people” as “the deity;” and it had promoted the idea that our morality is derived from nature itself.

Put all that together, along comes evolutionary theory–what impact will it have on those Enlightenment ideals and assumptions? Let me suggest the following: evolution explains how nature works without the need of God; it is survival of the fittest; and so, since we need to seek what is best for the fitness and survival of society, and since we should take our moral cues from nature itself….what should we do with all these unfit people who are obviously threatening the fitness of society?

Enter Eugenics, Communism, Nazism, Scopes’ A Civil Biology…and there you have it. Now obviously, using evolution as philosophical justification for committing those atrocities is wrong–but that is what happened. And that is the point of the post–that is why I think there still is a segment of Evangelical Christianity that is so hostile to evolution: they associate it with those things.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 52): Charles Darwin and The Descent of Man–Yes, Racism and Eugenics are Really Bad

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 52): Charles Darwin and The Descent of Man–Yes, Racism and Eugenics are Really Bad

If my previous two posts about Charles Darwin has come across as a validation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, it should, at least partly. The point I wanted to make was that one must make a clear distinction between the biological/scientific theory of evolution and the philosophical/naturalistic worldview of Social Darwinism. The two are not the same. Failure to make this distinction has led to 150 years of unnecessary conflict.

To be clear, Origin of Species puts forth the biological/scientific theory of evolution, and that theory rises and falls on the weight of the natural, scientific evidence. And since it is a scientific theory, both the Christian and the atheist (and anyone in between) can analyze, debate, doubt, and be convinced of the entire theory, or parts of it, for it is a theory that is limited to the natural world, and has absolutely nothing to say regarding the existence of God or the dignity of man.

Darwin’s Other Book
But in 1871, twelve years after Origin of Species, Darwin wrote another book, The Descent of Man—and that book is, so to speak, quite a different animal. It is a book in which Charles Darwin contemplates the possible impact his scientific theory may have on understanding the society mankind, and this immediately brings philosophical issues into the mix. Benjamin Wiker cites The Descent of Man as one of the top ten books that has screwed up the world. And after reading Wiker’s take on The Descent of Man, I just might have to agree.

My reason is simple: The Descent of Man essentially starts with the assumption that human beings are not only biologically no different than the animal kingdom, but ultimately, they are no different ontologically either. Therefore, any concept of human beings being uniquely made in the image of God goes out the door, and human beings are assumed to be “just animals.” Wiker puts it this way: “The deep-down nastiness of the Descent is eugenic: the idea that the ‘survival of the fittest’ should be applied to human beings” (Ten Books that Screwed up the World 88).

Now it is true: if there is no God, and if the laws of nature are the only things guiding a natural, evolutionary process, and if human beings are inherently no different than anything else in the natural world, are ontologically no different than apes, and thus have no special dignity and are not created in God’s image (which would go without saying if one already didn’t believe in God)—if all that were true, then yes, “survival of the fittest” should be applied to human beings, because that would mean human beings are natural, biological organisms…nothing more.

But as I’ve mentioned in the earlier posts, it must be stated again clearly: Darwin’s theory of evolution is completely impotent when it comes to answers those larger, metaphysical questions, just as, let’s say, a technical manual explaining the construction and inner workings of a computer—however technologically fascinating it may be—it still completely unable to tell you anything about the person who first designed and built the computer, or what the internet is, or what “the cloud” is, or who Bill Gates first kissed, or what is love anyway? …you get the picture.

Or to put it another way: biological descriptions do not determine ontological significance. Those who attempt to do so are using science to do something it cannot do; they are, in actuality, hijacking science to push a particular philosophical agenda. It was The Descent of Man that essentially gave the eugenicists of the early 20th century license to (in the name of “science”) commit some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind.

Communists, Nazis, Shaw, and Sanger…Descent, Indeed
The problem with The Descent of Man, and the subsequent problem that we see surface in the first half of the 20th century, is its dabbling in the philosophical worldview of Eugenics—a movement that (a) began with the philosophical presupposition that human beings are just more highly-evolved animals that contain no God-given, inherent dignity or worth, and then (b) rushed to the frightening conclusion that human beings can and should be “bred” in the same manner as one would breed dogs. It was the worldview of Margaret Sanger, George Bernard Shaw, the Nazis, and a host of other progressive (and outright racist) thinkers in the first half of the 20th century. Make no mistake, the philosophical worldview that underpinned the Eugenics movement was completely inhumane, anti-Christian, and evil. It was a philosophical worldview that manipulated Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution to suit and legitimize its own goals.

But Darwin did write Descent of Man, did he not? Was he not a eugenicist? Well, he certainly contemplated the possible ramifications of his biological theory. Perhaps the most infamous quotation from his book is this one:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health…. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox.

“Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one has attended to the breeding of domestic animals and will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.  It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Now, that certainly sounds like Darwin is berating human beings for showing compassion to the weak and wanting of the human race. In Expelled, the 2009 “Intelligent Design” movie starring Ben Stein, Stein reads this very quote—the point the movie is making is quite clear: it is claiming that the theory of evolution itself is inherently racist and eugenic. But, like I’ve said before, we cannot conflate the scientific theory with the philosophical worldview some might try to attach to it.

Darwin’s Clarification
In any case, we must allow Darwin to speak for himself. Yes, as the first part of his argument goes, it does seem odd that human beings, unlike other species, do in fact care for the “least of these” within the human species. Let’s face it, that is true: when one looks in the biological world or animal kingdom, one does not see animals, plants, or any other organisms take care of and look after the weaker members of its species. At this point, Darwin is not saying anything that anyone would disagree with: in the natural world, human compassion is clearly unique. The question thus becomes, “Where does human compassion for the ‘least of these’ come from?” Darwin continues:

“The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. Hence, we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.”

Not surprisingly, Darwin chalks up human compassion to the evolutionary development of social instincts. As a Christian, I obviously think that not only is he wrong at that point, but that when he makes this point, he stands on the edge of the philosophical abyss. For to reduce compassion to simply an evolved instinct is to obliterate the uniqueness of human beings; and opens the philosophical door to a worldview that says human beings are nothing more than animals. And once you step across that threshold, all talk of morality and right and wrong go out the door, for that means everything about human beings–even morality itself–is reduced to mere natural processes.

As the quote shows, Darwin actually dangles his toe over that threshold, so to speak, by suggesting that it would be a good thing to prevent “the weak” from marrying and propagating (which is a eugenic tenet to the core). But even then, he quickly draws back and says, “…we can’t expect this happening.” Nevertheless, though, it was Descent of Man, and not Origin of Species, that opened the door to the dark movement of eugenics. Even if Darwin proved himself too timid to even really open the door, he did open it a crack, and it would be thrust open in the next century. The 20th century would witness the most cruel and inhumane societal actions known to man, be it eugenics, the Nazi program, or Communism.

An example of how “creation science” sees evolution: as the root of every evil in modern society, including Racism, Nazism, Euthanasia, and Communism.

Tomorrow, I will have one more post related to Darwin that will attempt to tease out the tension and challenge that people still wrestle with today regarding the relationship between the scientific theory of evolution and the potential societal implications it has on a philosophical level. The fact is, Darwin’s theory did have tremendous philosophical and societal implications that people are still debating today. Hopefully tomorrow’s post will shed some light on this very challenge.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 51): Charles Darwin–What His Theory is…and Oh, He Wasn’t an Atheist

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 51): Charles Darwin–What His Theory is…and Oh, He Wasn’t an Atheist

If you follow the current creation/evolution debate, chances are that you might not really understand what the theory of evolution actually states. And if you are a Christian (particularly one who has been influenced by YECists like Ken Ham), you probably have assumed that Charles Darwin was an atheist who came up with his theory of evolution in order to try to convince people that God doesn’t exist. Well…welcome to my post. You’re going to learn a few things.

Darwin’s Theory
When it comes to Darwin’s actual theory, his genius lay in his understanding that the entirety of the biological/natural world is intricately connected on a wide-ranging, biological and natural scale. Essentially, it was the realization that life is not static: every living organism is constantly reacting to, and influencing at the same time, the environment in which it finds itself. And, given the fact that 19th century geologists (most whom where clergymen!) were unearthing ancient fossils of dinosaurs and speculating that the earth itself was possibly millions of years old, Darwin’s theory of evolution drove him to speculate that perhaps, if given enough time, all the varieties of life we observe in the world today ultimately “descended” from a common ancestor, way back in the past, millions of years ago.

Simply put, Darwin (and biologists ever since) observed small-scale adaptations within species (i.e. finch beaks), and observed a number of biological similarities between a cross-section of species. Therefore, the speculation was that if the earth was indeed millions of years old (and geologists were already making that case long before Darwin), then it is possible that perhaps all these different species evolved from a common ancestor. Ever since then, especially with the advancement in genetic studies today, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been verified time and time again.

Limitations…Let’s Be Clear on the Limitations
But it must be emphasized again that Darwin’s theory is limited to the biological world of nature, and it is only concerned with the development and evolution of biological life. In no way does it make any philosophical or theological arguments regarding God or the dignity of man; and in no way does it make any argument regarding the origin of life itself. Simply put, when Darwin wrote Origin of Species, he was putting forth a theory on the origin of species from a pre-existent form of life; he was not putting forth a theory on the origin of life itself.

This is important to note for a number of reasons. First, the current YEC movement (as well as the followers of William Paley), are objecting to a claim that Darwin’s theory never makes, namely that nature is a random accident, and that God does not exist. They are mistakenly attaching a philosophical claim onto the biological theory, and then attacking the biological theory on the false basis that it is an atheistic, philosophical worldview.

Second, the current New Atheist movement (championed by the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris) are, in fact, high-jacking Darwin’s biological theory and attempting to claim that it is the scientific basis for their atheistic/philosophical claims. Both YEC and the New Atheists are a threat to clear thinking and honest inquiry, for both are either willfully ignorant or purposely misleading.

Third, since Darwin’s theory is limited to biological life in the natural world, and since it simply cannot even address questions regarding God, morality, or the dignity of man, the theory itself it subject to different philosophical interpretations that the theory itself cannot verify or reject. If you are an atheist, you will look at evolution and conclude that “nature can do it all by itself,” and therefore God doesn’t exist. Of course, your conclusion that God doesn’t exist in no way can be extrapolated from the theory of evolution—it is a philosophical leap in the dark that is not buoyed by the evolutionary evidence.

Furthermore, if you come to that conclusion, it is quite obvious that (a) the “god” you are rejecting is the god of deism, and (b) you aren’t aware of the difference between the deistic god and the biblical God. Therefore, when Richard Dawkins claims that evolution makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, someone should remind him that some of Darwin’s earliest supporters—Charles Kingsley and Frederick Temple—were Christian clergymen.

Darwin’s first sketch of his “tree of life” from his notebook (circa 1837)

If you are a Christian, you should realize that being convinced of the theory of evolution does not entail a disbelief in God. In fact, if you are a Christian, you are free to conclude that evolution is the way by which God, not only has created, but is continuing to create, the natural world. This is what Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901) (as well as millions of Christians today) believe. Ronald Numbers tells us that Le Conte “…perhaps the most influential theistic evolutionist in America, described science itself as ‘a rational system of natural theology’ in that it pointed beyond itself to a divine Mind that served as the ‘energy’ that was immanent throughout creation” (Galileo Goes to Jail166).

We must see the theory of evolution in a clear light: it is a biological theory that has produced some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs and discoveries in human history, but it still is (as all scientific theories are) a working, provisional theory that is always open for revision and questioning.

In addition, and unfortunately, the theory of evolution has been abused, misrepresented, and manipulated to support some of the greatest atrocities in human history. But the moment one begins to present Darwin’s theory as the basis for any philosophy or ideology, is the moment one takes a step in either one of two misdirections: (1) Nazism or Communism, which, like nature itself, is “red in tooth and claw,” or (2) cultish, heretical, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and ultimately anti-Christian movements like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis.

Darwin’s Own Loss of Faith (Oh Hell, that Hurts!)
One more misconception about Darwin himself must be cleared up here: Charles Darwin was not an atheist. He didn’t come up with his theory of evolution as a way to justify his rejection of God. At the same time, though, neither was Darwin a Christian, and he never had a “death-bed conversion” back to the Christian faith. He, like so many Englishmen of his day, grew up in a nominally Christian household. And although he eventually lost his Christian faith, he never described himself as an atheist. He was, by all accounts, an agnostic later in life. But again, it was not his theory of evolution that was the cause for his loss of the Christian faith.

The reason for Darwin’s problem with Christianity was two-fold: first, there was the Christian teaching of hell—namely that there was a place where the souls of unbelievers would be tortured for all eternity; second, there was the existential problem of pain and suffering in the world.

Regarding the teaching of hell, we must realize that much of what we believe today regarding hell is not so much from the Bible itself, or even from the teaching of the early Church, but rather is a product of a certain strand of Catholic thought from the High Catholic Age. Dante’s Inferno is more influential to our modern concept of hell than the Bible actually is. Therefore, although Christians for the past 2,000 years have speculated as to the nature of hell and to the justified and proper punishment for those in rebellion against God, the dogmatic teaching of eternal hellfire and souls tormented forever in eternal pain is a teaching that has never been universally held by the Church, and is one that is not spelled out in the Bible itself. And so, it is unfortunate that one of the reasons why Darwin left the Christian faith was a teaching that wasn’t particularly Christian.

Regarding the problem of pain and suffering, this is one we cannot dismiss out of hand. Darwin certainly could not. Within the span of three years, Darwin experienced the death of his father (1848) and the death of his eldest daughter (1851). Indeed, when one comes face to face with suffering, pain and death, it is undoubtedly going to be a challenge to any kind of belief in a loving God. “How could God allow this to happen?” “Why did God not intervene?” Questions like these are ultimately unanswerable. This is not the place to get into an extended discussion on the problem of pain and suffering, but given the topic at hand, we must admit that the problem of pain and suffering is, in fact, a very real challenge to anyone’s faith.

Despite losing his Christian faith, nonetheless, Darwin never rejected belief in the existence of God. He himself viewed his own theory of evolution as simply uncovering the natural laws imposed on creation by a creator God. As Ronald Numbers states, “Although an agnostic late in life, Darwin denied he had ever been an atheist and frequently referred to evolutionary outcomes as the result of laws impressed on the world by a creator” (GGJ 227). Simply put, using modern categories, Darwin would have probably labeled himself as a theistic evolutionist—although not a Christian.

In addition, we must also note that not only was Darwin not an atheist, he also harbored no ill will toward Christianity, Christians, or the Church. Ronald Numbers again: “[Darwin] himself fell away, but he gave generously toward church repairs and sent his boys to be tutored by clergymen. Local priests always had his support; the Reverend John Innes became a lifelong friend. In 1850 they started a benefit society for the parish laborers, with Darwin as guardian. Innes later made him treasurer of the local charities and, with a testimonial from him in 1857, Darwin became a county magistrate, swearing on the Bible to keep the Queen’s peace” (GGJ 150).

Darwin’s Grave: Westminster Abbey

All this goes to show that Darwin, despite falling away from his Christian faith, never was an atheist, never was hostile toward Christianity, and never viewed his own theory as something that “proved” or supported atheism. Not only did he not see his theory as an atheistic threat to Christianity, neither did the Church of England. After all, as Numbers tells us, “The English lay no one lightly in Westminster Abbey, their national shrine, much less the mortal remains of those who affront the monarchy, the established church, or Christianity” (150).

The implications that Darwin’s theory of evolution had, philosophically, theologically, and socially, certainly had to be worked out—and for the past 150 years we’ve witnessed the mess—but the theory itself was not philosophy, it was not theology, it was scientific. It no more is anti-biblical or anti-Christian as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is either anti-biblical or anti-Christian. It is high time that extremist ideologues on both sides of the non-existent “creation/evolution debate” are rejected as the charlatans they are.

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 50): Charles Darwin, Evolution….the the Opening of a Can of Worms, Oh my!

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 50): Charles Darwin, Evolution….the the Opening of a Can of Worms, Oh my!

When I was hired back in 2003 at a Christian high school in Arkansas, I was hired to teach mostly English, but also one class in “Worldview.” Specifically, I was to teach Senior Worldview—a class that looked at the major thinkers of the modern world. There was a unit on Karl Marx and a unit on Sigmund Freud. In my last post, I talked about Marx, and eventually I’ll write about Freud—both men, I believe have contributed greatly to the disintegration of the traditional Christian worldview in the modern world.

A third major figure from the 19th century that often gets lambasted for destroying the Christian worldview is Charles Darwin—the politics of Marx, the psychology of Freud, and the science of Darwin: all three have sounded the death knoll of Christianity in the modern world…at least that is what your typical Worldview class in many Evangelical Christian schools teach.

Speaking as someone who ended up teaching Worldview at Evangelical Christian schools for 12 years, I can say that Marx and Freud certainly are pretty bad, and deserve a lot of criticism. Darwin, though, has gotten a bad rap.

I’m going to devote a couple of posts to Darwin because (a) he really is important, and (b) he really has been misunderstood. The fact is, the creation/evolution debate isn’t going away anytime soon. So even if you don’t care specifically about it, you have to realize another fact: the creation/evolution debate really isn’t about science; the reason it’s a debate is because people are arguing religion and philosophy with it—that’s why it’s so controversial and often so confusing. And so, I’m going to do my best to bring come clarity regarding just who Charles Darwin was and why he is important to understand.

Let’s Meet Charles Darwin
It was in the 19th century that Charles Darwin (1809-1892) lived and made his contribution to history in the form of his theory of evolution. Now, unlike Marx (and later Freud), Darwin’s theory actually was scientific—it addressed biological questions in the natural world. Despite all the bluster of the misguided “creation vs. evolution debate” of the past century, it must be said up front that Darwin’s theory of evolution was a scientific theory, and not a philosophical worldview.

Now, it is true, Darwin’s theory certainly has had tremendous philosophical and theological ramifications—every scientific discovery impels human beings to rethink and adapt their philosophical and theological assumptions. Indeed, Darwin’s scientific theory is still challenging a tremendous amount of philosophical/theological contemplation regarding nature itself, not to mention God and human beings. But we must be clear: Darwin’s theory of evolution is a mere biological/scientific theory, and not some sort of atheistic/philosophical worldview that attempts to attack Christianity.

Despite the amount of ink, both from atheists and biblical literalists alike, that has been spilled on the theory of evolution—indeed, more probably, because of the amount of ink that has been spilled—most of the populace is utterly ignorant of precisely what Darwin’s theory entailed, and what his philosophical/theological worldview really was. So the best place to start is to give a brief explanation of what Darwin’s theory actually says.

Contemplating Nature
By the time Darwin boarded The Beagle in 1831 to spend the next six years of his life travelling the world (until 1836), people had already begun to speculate on issues like the age of the earth and the development of all life in the natural world. In fact, many of the leading geologists and biologists of the day were, in fact, clergymen. Nevertheless, the influence of 18th century deism still held considerable sway. Deism was the idea that although there was a Creator God, that he had created the universe—in particular, the earth—to run according to unchangeable natural laws, much like a watchmaker makes a watch. Therefore, since “natural laws” governed the workings of the universe, God himself had no direct relationship with the natural world, not any more than a watchmaker would have to “intervene” with his watch to keep it running—it just would run.

Now the idea that the universe is governed by observable, rational, laws of nature was nothing new. In fact, the early scientists of the High Catholic Age (although they would call themselves “natural philosophers”) based their scientific undertakings on this very assumption: that God was a rational and orderly God who created a natural universe to run according to rational and orderly laws. And because of that, it was possible for human beings, being created in God’s image, to use their own rational faculties to observe the natural world that God created and to understand it, for the purpose of fulfilling the biblical mandate to have dominion over and to care for God’s creation. Simply put, the philosophical presupposition that there was a rational and orderly Creator God led the early scientists to investigate God’s creation.

The Enlightenment and William Paley
During the so-called Enlightenment, though, secular thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau took the Christian conviction of a Creator God who created a rational and orderly universe and—no surprise—secularized it. They accepted the concept of “God” in a general—in fact, pantheistic—sense by equating “him” with the laws of nature itself. The result was deism, and the belief that the universe was nothing more than just a giant machine, running according to the laws of nature—a personal “God” was not needed; the universe could run all by itself, thank you very much!

The philosophical worldview of the universe as nothing but a giant machine, though, prompted some Christian apologists like William Paley (1743-1805) to argue that the precision by which the universe ran was in and of itself a rational argument for God. Simply put, Paley was one of the first people to advocate the “intelligent design” argument. Very well then…the orderliness of nature point to the probability of a “Designer God.” But in reality, this idea was nothing new—the Bible itself says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

But it must be pointed out that Paley’s underlying assumption, though, was in fact one put forth by so-called Enlightenment thinkers: namely that the natural world was a machine. Such a view, given the time period, should not be surprising. The industrial revolution was radically changing, not only economics, but also men’s philosophical categories. Simply put, before the industrial revolution, no one would have put forth the categorical concept of the natural world as a machine.

It’s one thing to point to the orderliness of the natural world as an indication that it was created by a rational God; it’s quite another to (in fact) reduce the natural world to being solely mechanistic. Such a worldview reduces not only nature, but also God, for it reduces God to…nothing more than a cosmic watchmaker; one who cannot have any personal relationship with his creation, any more than a watchmaker can have a relationship with his watch.

All this goes to say that this was the over-arching view of nature and God in the early 19th century. What Charles Darwin theorized—somewhat metaphorically—amounted to throwing a giant monkey-wrench into the philosophical idea of the “cosmic machine” (although at the time, it was thought to actually verify it). At the same time, his theory of evolution also provided the rationale for the later dark and twisted ideologies of Communist and Nazi regimes alike. Needless to say, Darwin’s theory of evolution opened a Pandora’s box of philosophical and theological conundrums that, as of today, still have not been adequately understood and figured out.

Still, the key thing to remember is this: for all the philosophical and theological ramifications Darwin’s theory evoked, the theory itself is not philosophy or theology; it is a biological theory, limited to the workings of the natural world.

Darwin’s Actual Theory
After years of study and research, in his ground-breaking work, The Origen of Species, Charles Darwin put forth the biological theory that the variety of species and life forms in the world have come about through a long, slow process of natural selection. Now, “Nature” is not some being that “chooses” and “selects,” but rather what Darwin what suggesting was that somehow organisms adapt to their environments, and given enough time, they can change so much that they end up “evolving” (i.e. adapting) to become entirely different species.

At the time, given the cultural climate of the industrial revolution, Darwin’s theory was couched in the mechanistic terms: namely, “natural selection” provided the mechanism for adaptation and evolution into the variety of species in the world today. Therefore (given the cultural influence of the deism of the time), some began to claim that Darwin’s theory “proved” that there was no need for a God in creation: natural selection was the industrial-like mechanism that did it all!

As the Anglican priest and scientist John Polkinghorne has stated: “Charles Darwin…presented us with natural selection as a patient process by which such marvels of ‘design’ could come about, without the intervening purpose of a Designer being at work to bring them into being. At a stroke, one of the most powerful and seemingly convincing arguments for belief in God had been found to be fatally flawed” (Christianity on Trial, Vincent Carroll, 78).

But is that really true? Did Darwin’s theory provide a “natural mechanism” that, by nature (oh the irony!), ruled out the need for God? The answer is a simple, “No.” We must be clear, the “god” that Darwin debunked was not the Creator God of the Bible; it was the distant watchmaker of 18th century Deism; and ironically, the “intelligent designer god” of William Paley.

What the Bible Says…
Any common sense reading of the Bible, and any competent understanding of Church history, should make it quite clear that the Bible does not give a detailed, ‘nuts and bolts’ description of the way in which God created—indeed, creates—the natural world. It simply isn’t there, not in the pages of Scripture, and never dogmatized in Church history. The Bible tells us essentially two things about God and his relationship to the natural world (and to us as human beings as well): (1) God created everything, and (2) God is a personal being who is intimately involved with his creation.

The Bible does not tell us how He created—unless, of course, you happen to fall into the camp of young earth creationism. That being said, it must be stated at present that the current form of the “creation/evolution debate—namely, that of young earth creationism vs. Richard Dawkins’ brand of “new atheism” couched in scientific garb—was not the form of the 19th century debate.

The basic point here is that Darwin’s theory was never an attack on the biblical God of Christianity. It was a scientific/biological theory regarding species, and the varieties of life we observe in the natural world. When it was invoked within philosophical/theological debates, two things must be stated clearly:

(1) Darwin’s theory was still being couched in deistic terms (i.e. mechanism; natural selection), and therefore was still being discussed and debated from a presuppositional worldview of 18th-19th century deism—and that has created problems and had muddied the waters up to today; and

(2) the “god” that Darwin’s theory rendered irrelevant was the “god” of deism, not of Christianity.

Unfortunately, because of the influence of deism, so-called Enlightenment philosophy, and the industrial revolution, 19th century Christianity had come be described with largely deistic/mechanistic terminology, and this caused much confusion. For all his good intentions, William Paley’s “intelligent designer” argument for God was nothing more than an apologetic for a Christian-sounding deistic watchmaker God. Darwin’s theory threatened Paley’s arguments, for sure; but Paley was arguing for a deistic god, although he thought he was arguing for the God of the Bible. The failure to realize this has been the source of much confusion regarding Darwin’s theory, the biblical God, and the natural world, ever since.

In my next post, I will continue to look at the effects of Darwin’s theory.

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 10): This is the End–Rebuttals, Final Thoughts, and the Wicked Servant

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 10): This is the End–Rebuttals, Final Thoughts, and the Wicked Servant

This will be my final post discussing Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I hope these posts, no matter how comical and/or frustrating they have been, have been able to help crystalize precisely the methods, tactics, and rhetoric that YECists like Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis routinely use. And, if I may state right at the start, I think the fundamental problem with YEC (and there are many) is that it truly thinks that scientific questions regarding the age of the earth are core religious issues that are a threat to the Christian faith. Simply put, the only reason Ken Ham rejects radiometric dating, for example, isn’t because he really thinks there is a more convincing way to date rocks; rather, it’s because he thinks old rocks threaten the Christian faith, and therefore, he is willing to pull any and all possible explanations out of thin air in order to try to discredit modern scientific discoveries.

Of course, those “explanations” aren’t explanations at all—they are just more smoke and mirrors that he constantly employs in his arguments. And this is precisely what we see in HH’s take on the final two rebuttals of the Nye/Ham Debate.

Ken Ham’s Second Rebuttal
The first clarification Ken Ham put forth was that YECism was not “Ken Ham’s model,” but rather God’s account of creation. By saying this, Ham is (once again) putting forth rhetoric that insulates him from any criticism, and that perpetuates his narrative that “secularists” are “attacking God.” He wants people to believe this is a religious war, and not a simple scientific question, and so he consistently presents his view as God’s view—to question him is to attack God and the Bible.

Amazingly (once again), HH then claimed that Bill Nye failed to address the debate topic. Again, the topic was “Is YECism a viable scientific model for origins.” And, as we’ve seen, all Bill Nye did was provide evidence for an old earth that would refute the claims of YECism—that, to me, is addressing the topic. But apparently not for HH: “[Nye] changed it to attack ‘Ken Ham’s view,’ but never really addressed creation as a whole to see if it is a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era. …He was more persistent at ad hominem arguments against Mr. Ham” (187).

That should concern everyone. For not only did Bill Nye stick to presenting actual scientific evidence that challenged the YEC claim (which again, was the topic of the debate), but I never once remember him “personally attacking” Ken Ham. The only ad hominem attacks came from HH all throughout their book: “hostile atheist,” “ignorant of science,” “attacking God,” “using the serpent’s tactics.” It is so blatant throughout the book, that to read that above quote is simply chilling to me, because it is so blatantly false.

In any case, the rest of Ham’s second rebuttal was a rehashing of his previous statements: (A) Bill Nye an agnostic and must borrow from the Christian worldview to use the laws of logic; (B) Bill Nye doesn’t know his science well enough to even know the difference between “species” and “kinds” [Side Note: there is no scientific classification of “kinds”—that is something YECists have made up, just like “historical science”]; (C) All of Bill Nye’s evidence of ice cores, tree rings, etc. are assumptions and unreliable because “he wasn’t there” and “one can’t prove the past;” (D) Noah had access to highly advanced technology in the pre-flood civilization that would put our modern technology to shame [Side Note: Again, think about what Ken Ham is claiming!]; (E) Distant starlight isn’t a problem for YECism because AiG has come up with their own models to explain away distant starlight—besides, “there is a God who can easily get light from created stars to earth just like He commanded in Genesis 1:15” (191) [Translation? “Poof!”]

HH concluded their assessment of Ham’s rebuttal as follows: “Mr. Ham’s rebuttal was concise and accurate…. This is what a rebuttal should be” (192).

I’ll let the reader assess the accuracy of that assessment on his/her own.

Bill Nye’s Second Rebuttal
When turning to analyze Bill Nye’s response, HH noted that Nye had said he was unsatisfied with Ken Ham’s responses because they failed to address the fundamental questions of the debate (i.e. is YECism a viable scientific model). HH’s response was: “Mr. Ham completely undercut the very reason Mr. Nye was on stage,” (192), and then proceeded to harp (once again) on the fact that Mr. Nye was an agnostic and couldn’t account for the “laws of logic,” and therefore Mr. Ham clearly won the debate because he “dealt very carefully with the debate topic…” and “Mr. Nye did not do this” (192).

If I may translate this: After Bill Nye provided his evidence for an old earth, and then asked Ken Ham to provide his evidence for a young earth, the response Ken Ham gave was, “I totally gave evidence! You didn’t, you agnostic! Laws of logic! I’m a Christian! I win!”

What can you say to that? I am a Christian, and that reaction personally offends me.

In any case, Nye brought up (again) the 680,000 snow layers that Ham didn’t sufficiently explain, to which HH responded with, “You clearly don’t know the difference between observational and historical science!” Then they said, “Mr. Nye claims to be the ‘science guy,’ but it is Mr. Ham who truly understands the meaning of the word ‘science.’ Mr. Ham taught the audience how to think about the issue correctly” (193). Can you spot the ad hominem attack there? Do you see that Ham never addressed the issue?

And then Nye brought up (again) the mathematical problem YECists have when they claim all of today’s current species came from a mere 2,000 kinds of animals a mere 4,000 years ago—that translates into 35-40 new species per day. HH’s response? “There were only 1,000 kinds on the Ark!” Well, that would make the math even more impossible, wouldn’t it? But HH simply moved on.

Then Nye brought up (again) the extraordinary claim that Noah and his family could have built the Ark by themselves. HH’s response? “To deny Noah was an extraordinary shipwright, Mr. Nye needs a better answer than his opinion” (194). No, if HH is going to claim Noah was trained in shipwright school and used highly advanced technology, HH has to provide evidence, which they do not do.

Nye brought up the fact that the pyramids in Egypt are old than 4,000 years. HH’s response? Those are just man’s fallible dating methods—the pyramids were build after the flood.

And what about Nye’s point that there are millions of deeply religious Christians who do not accept Ken Ham’s YECist claims? HH’s response: “Mr. Nye is deeply religious. Let me repeat that. Mr. Nye is deeply religious” (199).

So what about those Christians who don’t agree with Ken Ham? “…they are acting like humanists on this point. They are mixing two different religions—man’s word and God’s Word. How did God view the Israelites when they mixed their godly worship with the Baal worship in the Old Testament? The Lord was not pleased and often judged them severely” (200). So there you have it, Christians who don’t agree with Ken Ham—you’re acceptance of the reliability of radiometric dating is no different than Baal worship…you’re going to get severely punished. You had better repent.

And finally, Bill Nye made a point that in science, scientists routinely try to make educated guesses about what they should find, based on the evidence that they have. And if something is proven wrong because of new evidence, they throw that discredited idea out and continue to try to understand more about the natural world. Well, HH scoffed at this notion and said, “…biblical creationists don’t have to guess! They already have a revelation from the One in whom are ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3)” (205).

 Just to make clear, with that quote HH is admitting that YECists don’t do science and, in fact, don’t need to do science, because they believe that Colossians 2:3 is saying that God has given all the relevant scientific information in the Bible. Someone needs to tell them that Paul is not talking about scientific information in Colossians 2:3.

As they always do, HH shows that they base their rejection of science on their gross misinterpretation of the Bible.

Final Thoughts
So there it is: the “analysis” Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge put forth in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I’m going to forego the section of the book that dealt with the “question and answer” part of the debate. As you can probably tell, after ten posts, much of this simply gets redundant.

But I do want to touch upon HH’s “Final Comments” in their book, for they truly do sum up what is so wrong with YECism.

Amazingly (once again) they claim that Bill Nye never addressed the debate topic—they even quote the debate topic, and still somehow claim that Nye never addressed it. Therefore, they claim, “By avoiding the actual issue, he lost the debate out of hand” (280).

And then, when it comes to the question of whether or not YECism was a viable scientific option for studying origins, HH says this: “the debate showed that creationists do observational science and even excel at it in today’s modern scientific and technological age” (280). Allow me to show my frustration here, but…

La-di-fricking-da! That wasn’t the debate topic! The debate topic, that you just quoted, was whether or not YECism was a viable model for origins (what you call “historical science”)! So for you to say, “We won the debate because creationists can do observational science and technology,” is simply insane—you are blatantly changing the debate topic! Using your own fictitious categories of  “observational science” and “historical science,” anyone can clearly see that the ability to do “observational science” isn’t evidence that YECism is a viable model for “historical science”!

HH then concluded by quoting Ken Ham that his goal for the debate was to “defend the Christian faith,” and he knew he just did his best to “unashamedly stand on the authority of God’s Word and share the saving Gospel” (283).

Well, as a Christian, I feel it is important to share one’s faith and to stand on the Word of God. But the fact was, the topic of the debate was whether or not YECism was a viable scientific model. And that is something that Ham simply was able to prove.

And, to add insult to injury, HH ended their comments in a truly arrogant and condescending fashion: “For those Christians reading this, please be in prayer about Mr. Nye and his salvation. Be praying for Mr. Nye to repent and receive Christ as Lord. And be praying for those who are not saved reading this book that they will be able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to see through the false religion of evolutionary humanism in its various forms” (284).

Honestly, such comments make my blood boil. I try to make these posts pointed, direct, and sometimes humorous, but I simply cannot make a joke about such pharisaic arrogance. Of course, I hope Bill Nye comes to the Christian faith, but such comments coming after an entire book where HH’s insults Bill Nye left and right is just condescending and infuriating. I can guarantee you that Bill Nye probably is a little further off from coming to the Christian faith, precisely because of Ken Ham’s condescension and arrogance. When I read that quote, all I can think of is “God’s name is blasphemed among the nations because of you” (Rom. 2:24).

Thus ends my month-long critique of Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, as my way of commemorating the three-year anniversary of the debate. In time, YECism will go the way of the countless other fringe movements that die out, simply because they are not true. Of that, I am sure. In the meantime, though, it is frustrating to see how people can so blatantly mislead, misrepresent, and distort the Christian faith, and do it with such religious zeal and conviction that they are right, everyone else is wrong, and they are being persecuted for their faith.

I’m sorry, but the one with the club who is constantly beating on Christians and non-Christians alike is not the one being persecuted. That’s the persecutor. That’s the “wicked servant” who beats his fellow slaves (Matt. 24:48-49). That might sound harsh, but I think that is blindingly true.

I hope you’ve found these posts informative, worthwhile, and hopefully witty in places. More than that, I hope they have shed light upon the tactics YECist groups like Answers in Genesis routinely use in their debates and arguments.

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 9): I Like Re-Buttals, and I Cannot Lie!

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 9): I Like Re-Buttals, and I Cannot Lie!

Yes, the next two posts are brought to you by Sir Mix-A-Lot…not only are they about the rebuttals in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate, but as we will see, the the main tactic of Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate is to try to “mix a lot of stuff up.” Enjoy…

In debates, rebuttals are the opportunity each opponent has (a) to reiterate his/her main argument and (b) address any challenges the other debater levelled at his/her position in the main presentation. In that respect, most things in rebuttals are simply a re-hashing of what has already been presented. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that certain arguments and points are able to get teased out a little bit more.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rebuttals in the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, there wasn’t much that Ken Ham was able to tease out regarding his argument that YECism was a valid scientific model for origins, given the fact that he didn’t really ever make an argument in the first place. In fact, his “argument” can probably be summed up as follows: “YEC is based on a special kind of science that isn’t subjected to the scientific method (mirror 1), and that comes from God’s historical science textbook, the Bible (mirror 3). Sure the evidence is the same, but it’s all about the different religious starting points (mirror 4). So who are you going to believe? God, or the fallible, ill-educated, hateful Bill Nye who believes in humanistic mythology (mirror 2)? There’s a culture war going on, and it’s time we fight it (mirror 5)!”

And so, once you lay aside all the mirrors, blow away the smoke, and focus on the topic of the debate, the relevant part of Ham’s argument is this: “Is YECism a valid scientific model for origins? No, we at AiG reject modern science when it comes to this topic. We’ve simply relabeled our assumption that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically accurate as ‘historical science,’ placed it outside of the realm of the scientific method, and have declared that it’s all a matter of religious belief anyway. It’s not about science—it’s about faith.”

So…that would be a “No.”

And given that, what can Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) talk about for 60 pages in their analysis of the rebuttals of Nye and Ham? Simply put, more of the same, just at a higher volume. Just as Niles Tufnel says in Spinal Tap, they turn it up to “11.”

Ken Ham’s First Rebuttal
In Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, pages 151-167 take up HH’s analysis of Ken Ham’s first rebuttal. In it, they focus on the follow points Ken Ham made:

  • The age of the earth cannot be observed; therefore, it is historical science (mirror 1). And since evolutionists can’t provide human witnesses, none of what they claim is reliable. By contrast, young earth creationists have God as their witness, and He has told us exactly how old the earth is and how He created everything within six literal days—in the Bible (mirror 3).
  • Young earth creationists come to their conclusions about the age of the earth by adding up the genealogies in the Bible (mirror 3).
  • Radiometric dating methods (“which Mr. Nye held to with a God-like devotion”) are inaccurate and unreliable, and are based on mere assumptions of Bill Nye’s false, humanistic religion (mirrors 2 and 4).

It was at this point, that HH decided to take a shot at any Christian who disagrees with Ken Ham’s YECism. After giving a brief overview of the various other theories (i.e. gap theory, day-age theory, theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis), HH dismisses them all out of hand on the account that all of them admit that there was death of some kind before sin. HH then claims that when God created everything in Genesis 1 and called everything “very good,” that this meant it was a perfect creation. (Of course, the Bible doesn’t say “perfect,” and the earliest of early Church Fathers actually say that such a view of Genesis 1 was a gnostic heresy).

In any case, that doesn’t stop HH from then claiming that belief in an old earth undermines the atonement itself (165). And then, to top things off, HH says this: “Mr. Ham’s response led straight to a presentation of the Gospel. My hope is that these Christians (who have bought into an old earth), will return to the plain teachings in the Bible and stop mixing God’s Word with secular beliefs that clearly contradict God’s revelation and undermine the Gospel by blaming God for death instead of sin” (165).

So there it is: in was to be a rebuttal about the scientific viability of YECism, HH made it a point to call upon all Christians who disagree with Ken Ham to repent.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: More Religion….
Pages 167-187 are then devoted to HH’s attempt to cut Nye’s argument down to size, or rather convince their readers why it is okay to dismiss each and every argument of Nye’s out of hand. They start off by saying that Nye “revealed his allegiance to his ‘god’” (168)—autonomous man, who thinks he can determine truth about origins apart from God; and after that, they once again claimed radiometric dating was fallible and based on “secular assumptions” (mirrors 2, 4).

HH then felt impelled to address Bill Nye’s point that it was problematic that Ken Ham was basing his supposed scientific claims on essentially an English translation of the Bible. Obviously, Nye’s point is that Ham doesn’t even know the original languages of the Bible, and yet he is basing all his claims on his limited understanding of a translation of the original texts. Well, HH interpreted this as Nye was “attacking God’s Word,” and proceeded to claim that not only was God able to guide the original authors to produce the inspired text (which is true, by the way), but that also God was able to perfectly preserve the text—this, though, is…well, false.

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but just look at your Bibles—have you ever noticed the footnotes that say things, like “In the earliest manuscripts, this verse is missing,” or “…it reads this way”? Do you know what that tells you? There is no such thing as a perfect copy or manuscript. We don’t have any. Now, I can assure you that virtually none of the variants found in the thousands of manuscripts we have really amount to anything substantial—but nevertheless, HH’s claim that somehow we have a “perfect copy” that God has preserved for us is simply false.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: The Laws of Nature and the Bible…Again
In any case, HH then tried to tie in the laws of nature to the reliability of the Bible. Now, to be clear, Bill Nye had made the point that what Ken Ham was doing was dismissing what scientists have found while observing the natural world (i.e. basic science), and substituting his claim that the Bible (specifically Genesis 1-11) was giving scientific information. Bill Nye thought that was a mistake—I do too, namely because the Bible simply isn’t doing science in the first place. Simply put, Ken Ham is misapplying the Bible—he is claiming it is addressing scientific issues when it simply isn’t.

HH, though, tried to turn Nye’s comments against him by saying something I simply have yet to make sense of: “Observations made today are not in discord with what the Bible says. Nor are the laws of nature in any conflict with Scripture, but Scripture must be true to make sense of the laws of nature in the first place” (173). And then HH jumped back directly to their “the laws of logic can’t be account for from a naturalistic worldview” canard of mirror #2, prefacing it with, “Take note…that Mr. Nye never did even try to answer Mr. Ham’s devastating challenge…” (173).

I can answer that: because that wasn’t the topic of the debate, and just because Bill Nye isn’t a Christian doesn’t mean he is unable to use his logic, even if he can’t adequately acknowledge where it came from. And as for the previous quote: (1) Sure, observations in nature don’t conflict with Scripture, because the Scripture isn’t attempting to give scientific observations; (2) what does the second part of the quote even mean? Scripture must be true in order make sense of the laws of nature?

Starlight…It’s Not in the Past! It’s in the Present…in your Telescopes!
HH then re-addressed Bill Nye’s statement that when you look at the stars in the night sky, you are actually looking into the past, precisely because the light that you see that has finally made its way to earth, originally came from a star that was millions of light years in the past. This was something I just assumed everybody knew: it takes time for light from distant stars to reach the earth.

Well, surprise, surprise! HH flat out claims that is not true. After actually mocking Nye with, “One would think the concept of past, present, and future would be easy to grasp,” (175), HH then proceeds to explain their logic: “If Mr. Nye goes and looks through a telescope tonight, he is not seeing the past, but instead is seeing the present. Of course he has an assumption that the light he is viewing takes millions of years to reach his eyes—so that’s why he claims he’s viewing the past” (175).

That’s right, HH essentially denies the speed of light. How in the world can they claim the starlight in the night sky we see is actually instantaneous, and did not take time to travel through space? They pretty much butcher Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Essentially, Einstein, although he agreed that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum, also acknowledged that technically, light can only be measured round-trip: the time it takes light to travel from “point A” to “point B” and back. If it never returns, then technically it cannot be measured. Got it?

Well, HH takes that to mean that since light cannot technically be measured going one direction, that therefore it is possible that the speed of light can speed up in one direction! And then they actually say, “If the one-direction speed of light toward earth is near instantaneous, then we are not seeing distant starlight from many years in the past, but are seeing things like starlight close to real time” (176).

I just have this feeling that Albert Einstein might disagree with that claim…just a bit. And please note, if what HH is true (which it is obviously is not), then they are claiming that the natural law regarding the speed of light can change speeds in a vacuum. Why is this important to note? Because in the very next point HH makes, they accuse Bill Nye of falsely accusing them of claiming the laws of nature have changed: “Mr. Nye has set up a straw man fallacy here. Creationists don’t believe that the laws of nature in the past have changed” (176). They say this right after they argue that the speed of light can speed up or slow down at random.

And, in case anyone takes a breath and realize just how absurd that is, HH quickly pivots to accusing Bill Nye of “being a materialist” whose “religion” cannot account for the consistency of the laws of nature…and “if anyone should believe the laws of nature can change, it is Mr. Nye” (177). AND THEN, they call upon Mr. Nye to repent of his “naturalistic religion!”

I don’t want to sound mean, but the duplicity and hubris of HH is utterly astounding.

Bill Nye’s First Rebuttal: Wrapping Up
In the rest of their “analysis” of Bill Nye’s first rebuttal, HH runs the gamut of accusations, from accusing Nye of being ignorant of “historical science,” of “mocking the account of Noah’s Ark,” of “intellectual schizophrenia,” and of falsely accusing Ken Ham of claiming the Bible is a science text—yet another “straw man fallacy” according to HH.

Now, you might be thinking, “How is that last point a straw man fallacy? Isn’t that exactly what Ken Ham himself said?” Well, amazingly, according to HH…no! Confused? Let me explain: According to HH, Ken Ham doesn’t claim the Bible is a “science text” in the way Mr. Nye means, because the fields of biology, physics, or geology are constantly changing—and those things are what is taught in schools and universities. As Ham has said, “We don’t take the Bible as a science textbook, and that is good because the science textbooks change every year” (181). So obviously, the Bible is like that! The Bible is perfect and never changes—hence it is God’s infallible, unchanging, perfect historical science textbook, not the fallible assumptions and fairytales that pass for “secular science.”

So, what can you do with that? Really…what can you do with that? I don’t even know how to respond. I just find myself staring at that page in disbelief, and silently praying, “Please, Lord, don’t let people be blinded by this!”

Well, I can tell you what HH does with that. After accusing evolution of being an inherently racist philosophy (as opposed to a basic scientific theory), they end their assault on Nye’s first rebuttal with an amazing use of more mirrors. Let me preface this by reminding you that the agreed topic for the debate was “Is YECism a viable scientific model for origins?”

Well, here’s what HH say: “But this is the debate: man’s word versus God’s Word, and here Mr. Nye reaffirmed his religious belief in man being the ultimate authority over God.…Mr. Nye demonstrated what the devil, through the use of a serpent, offered Eve in the Garden: ‘…you will be like God’” (186).

Change the debate topic! Blind people with a literal demonization of Bill Nye and reflect that blinding light off of mirrors #2 and #4!

And scene….catch your breath. Tomorrow, we have the second rebuttals to go through. I’d love to have people leave their comments and respond with their thoughts on this post. Until then…

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 8): 7 Things to Do, or Do Not do…(there is no try!)

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 8): 7 Things to Do, or Do Not do…(there is no try!)

Here we come to “Part 8” of my month-long homage to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham that took place three years ago. The focus of these posts has been the analysis that Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge gave of that debate, in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. The focus of these posts, though, has not so much been on the actual arguments made during the debate, as it has been on Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s (HH) take on the debate. In short, it has been on the “smoke and mirrors” YECist groups like Answers in Genesis adeptly use to avoid addressing challenges to their YECist claims.

In “Part 7,” I summarized HH’s use of these smoke and mirrors in their attempt (a) to delegitimize the scientific evidence Bill Nye gave of an old earth, (b) to distract their followers from the actual topic of the debate, (c) to demonize Bill Nye himself, and (d) to declare a call to arms in their culture war. If you read that post, you no doubt were struck how HH completely dismissed any and all evidence for an old earth as “mere assumptions” and “fairytales.” Fossils, rock layers, ice cores, tree rings, and distant starlight—all received the same reaction: “Was Bill Nye there? It’s all just assumptions; Bill Nye is dishonest and relies on the mythologists of humanistic evolution, and Ken Ham is wise to rely on God’s historical science textbook!”

I ended that post by asking a simple question: “How should a Christian go about addressing the claims of YECism?” In this post, therefore, I want to contemplate that question and offer some reflections.

Personal Stories
Although most of the responses I have received about both my book, The Heresy of Ham, and the numerous posts I’ve written this month on the Nye/Ham debate, there have been a few comments and questions to the effect of, “Why are you attacking a fellow brother in Christ?” Well, believe me, when I wrote my original blog posts on the debate three years ago, I never imagined I would still be writing about YECism three years later. In fact, I wrote about my thoughts on the debate just to clarify in my own head what I felt the fundamental issues of the debate were. I thought I’d write my few posts and move on, focusing on teaching my classes working on finishing up my four-year Worldview curriculum that I hoped to eventually get published.

As things turned out, those posts ended up being used against me by a rather over-zealous YECist headmaster to eventually oust me from my job. Needless to say, my experience over the past three years has made me realize that YECism isn’t just a fringe movement that Christians can amicably disagree about—YECists like Ken Ham do not allow that as an option.

In addition, I’ve also come to realize that most Evangelical Christians have never really thought much about this issue or really think it is all that important. Consequently, many are surprised (like I was) when they realize that there those who are insistent that belief in a 6,000-year-old universe is a core tenet of the Christian faith upon which the Gospel rises or falls.

My friend Ian Panth has recently written on his blog about how quickly YECists demonize you as soon as you let on that you don’t believe the earth is 6,000 years old. Just the other day, a friend of mine from church told me about a recent experience she had in her homeschool group—they were planning to use some YECist science textbook, and when she asked why, they said, “Well, we’re Christians,” and they practically treated it as if it were a salvation issue. And over the past year, I’ve gotten numerous responses to my posts on YECism by people who have been deeply hurt by YECists, particularly Ken Ham, and who almost lost their faith because of the way they were treated.

Simply put, if YECism was just another secondary issue Christians tended to disagree on and felt free to debate and discuss, I doubt I would be writing about it, and I doubt I would have lost my job over it. But the fact is, YECists like Ken Ham feel it is their duty to declare war on fellow Christians who disagree with their YECist claims. If you don’t believe me, just join a YECist Facebook group and say, “I don’t see what the big deal is if you think the universe is 14 billion years old; a lot of Christians don’t read Genesis 1 literally.” Sit back and let the comments come in…and you’ll see.

The reality, though, is the facts of science, proper biblical exegesis, and Church history are not on Ken Ham’s side. That’s a big problem for organizations like Answers in Genesis—and, as I’ve shown in the previous seven posts, you can say that AiG’s strategy can be boiled down to this: “If you can’t debate, obfuscate!” And, if you take the time to slow down and actually pick apart what they say (as I’ve tried to do in this series), you realize that their arguments have more holes in them than Swiss cheese…that has been blown apart by a shot gun.

And if you visit the Ark Encounter, some of the stuff is well, just plain silly: elephants on treadmills on the Ark, powering a pully-system that helps dispose animal waste in the sea? A pre-flood civilization that had coliseums, where giants threw innocent people to the…velociraptors? Noah had access to incredible pre-flood technology that would have put our modern technology to shame? Where is any of that in the Bible? For someone who claims to be upholding biblical authority, Ken Ham certainly has a tremendous ability for telling some incredibly tall tales.

So What is One to Do? (Or Not Do?)
And this brings me to the main question for this post: “How is a thoughtful Christian to deal with YECism?” Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t bury your head in the sand: Don’t be like I was, and think this is not a big deal, and that honest Christians can have different opinions on this issue. Realize that for the real hard-core YECists, this is an issue of life or death. For them, (as crazy as it may sound), if the earth is 4 billion years old, then Christ died for nothing and the Gospel is undermined.
  2. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a big deal: No, I’m not contradicting myself. What I mean here is that no matter what anyone may tell you, the age of the earth is utterly irrelevant to the Gospel. No matter what anyone might tell you, the reality of human beings’ sinfulness is not dependent upon whether or not there was a literal couple named Adam and Eve. What is a big deal is this: loving God and loving your neighbor; it is sacrificing your life for others; it is caring for those in need; it is developing the talents that God has given you; it is allowing yourself to be transformed into God’s image through the inevitable sufferings that come into your life. “He has told you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). For the life of me, I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible that says “What is good” is to claim that God’s entire gospel of salvation in Christ is dependent on whether or not you think Adam and Eve had a pet dinosaur.
  1. Don’t get nasty and hateful with YECists, even if you find yourself really hurt by them: It doesn’t do anybody any good to ruthlessly mock and denigrate YECists and groups like AiG—it belittles you and it actually helps feed into their narrative that they are being persecuted. That’s not to say that a humorous jibe or and clever quip when pointing out any one of their many outrageous claims is a bad thing. Like in any debate, humor and cleverness is fine. In fact, you need to have a sense of humor when discussing YEC. I mean, look at this picture. Look closely at the animals represented–it really is just funny! There’s a difference between humor and sheer meanness. I realize it’s sometimes hard not to slip into that (I think one time, I told a guy he was dumber than a bag of hammers…not my finest moment). But the thing to remember is that the people who arrested, beat, and handed Jesus over to be crucified were the religious leaders of Jesus’ own people. And part of what He exemplified is the willingness to take the beatings without repaying in kind. And dang it, if you’re a Christian, you’re called to imitate Christ—so even if a nasty comment sneaks out here and there, do your best to curb that desire to repay in kind.
  1. Don’t “play nice” with YECists like Ken Ham: At the same, it isn’t good to just “play nice” and refuse to say anything at any time that might be construed as being mean. Again, if you read through the gospels, Jesus could really take it to the Pharisees at times, and just look at what he did when He got to the Temple! Sometimes, it is right and good to confront someone who is doing something wrong and hurtful. I know a few people objected to the title of my book, The Heresy of Ham, on the grounds that it sounded too confrontational. My response is that it is confrontational! It is challenging the basic claims of YECism in light of the fundamental tenets of the historical Christian faith, and it is calling Ken Ham out on the vitriol that he has put out there in which he savages fellow Christians simply because they disagree with him. Divisive, hateful behavior needs to be challenged and called out. When Ken Ham claims biblical authority, and then turns around and claims that a pre-flood civilization threw innocent people to savage dinosaurs in their pre-flood coliseums, one has to say, “No, that’s not in the Bible.” When he claims that if you don’t believe there are time zones in space, or that Adam and Eve had perfect genomes, then you are a compromised Christian, one has to say, “No, that has never been part of the Christian faith.” Simply put, don’t let yourself be bullied, and stand up to the bully when you see other people getting verbally abused by that bully.
  1. Don’t worry, but rather have faith that truth is revealed in the light: The Catholic monk Thomas Merton once said something to the effect, “There’s no need to defend the truth; you just have to make sure that you bring it to light—the truth can take care of itself.” The number one priority for a Christian shouldn’t be to “defend” anything; it rather should be to shine the light on what is true. If you’re a Bible scholar, shine the light on what certain passages say; if you’re a scientist, shine the light on what certain theories (like evolution) really say…and let the truth speak for itself.
  2. We need to realize that all this debate…is actually kind of necessary: What I mean by that is this: this is how we learn and grow, both individually and as a society. I actually started looking into this whole issue when the Ben Stein movie, Expelled, came out in 2008—it was about the Intelligent Design movement. At first I thought it was a good movie, but then I started to look more closely at it. Now, at that time, I would have said I didn’t think evolution was true—micro-evolution, sure; but macro-evolution? Come on. In any case, I got into a conversation with a guy who had huge problems with the I.D. movement, and to make a long story short, it was because of that conversation that I started to look into the whole creation/evolution debate more, and eventually got to the position I am now: I am a Christian who believes in Christ, and who is convinced that much of the theory of evolution is scientifically correct—if future discoveries change that view, great…it won’t bother me either way. But the point is, it took time for me to research and think things through…and it takes time for anyone to think these things through. That’s how we learn.
  1. Finally, don’t forget that there’s a whole lot more Bible beyond Genesis 1-11. Don’t me wrong: Genesis 1-11 is extremely important, in that it lays out the over-arching backdrop to the rest of the Bible. But we have to remember that Genesis 1-11 is pretty useless if we don’t read beyond it. It’s the back curtain and backdrop, if you will, to the stage of biblical history—but if all you do is stare at the back curtain, you’re going to miss the play going on throughout the pages of Scripture. So by all means, debate creation/evolution and talk about how to interpret Genesis 1-11. I sure do! But don’t neglect looking at the whole biblical story.

I realize this post might have proven to be a tad more dull that the previous ones, but I wanted to lay out these thoughts before I write the two concluding posts about the Nye/Ham debate: the rebuttals and the questions/answers time.

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 7): Unleash the Kraken! (i.e. How AiG Dismisses the Evidence and Attacks its Opponents)

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 7): Unleash the Kraken! (i.e. How AiG Dismisses the Evidence and Attacks its Opponents)

In my past six posts reflecting on the Nye/Ham debate of three years ago, I focused on how Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) “analyzed” the debate in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. Specifically, I looked at how discussed the five-minute openings of both Bill Nye and Ken Ham, and then how they elaborated on Ken Ham’s 30-minute presentation. My essential metaphor has been HH’s use of “smoke and mirrors” to obfuscate the actual issues regarding the creation/evolution debate, and to instead convince people that evolution is the same thing as atheism, and that there is a culture war to fight.

In the next couple of posts, I will now focus on HH’s “analysis” of Bill Nye’s 30-minute presentation, but I want to do it in a rather different way than the other posts. Now, it is virtually impossible of me to adequately cover every detail of HH’s 70-page critique of Bill Nye’s presentation. I found reading those pages to be both surreal and frustrating. I imagine that if you ever have gotten into an extended debate with a YECist acolyte of Ken Ham, you will understand: diversion, personal attacks, bizarre claims from left field, random Bible references that come out of nowhere (and have little or nothing to do with the actual original context of that particular verse)…it goes on and on until you feel your head spinning. Not to sound unkind, but those kinds of “debates” end up being an incoherent mess spoken with a certainty and conviction that does not match the rhetoric.

In any case, in this post I want to do something different. Instead of trying to rationally explain how irrational most, if not all, the critiques HH gives of Bill Nye in their book, I am going to give you a taste of it. After all, if there’s one thing to realize about the arguments of YECism, it is this: the power of their argument does not come from well-reasoned and articulated points about either science or the Bible. The power of their argument is found in the sheer volume of invective, condescending statements, and hysteria. It wears opponents down, and by doing so, it gives the impression to their followers that they’re winning the argument, when in reality, they are just putting a strobe-light and a mirrorball into their fun house of mirrors, and blinding everyone.

Overview of Bill Nye’s Arguments
That being said, a brief overview of what Bill Nye argued is necessary. Basically, Nye put out a number of scientific arguments that point to an old earth, thus refuting Ham’s claims for a young earth. In addition, Nye also raised specific questions regarding Ham’s claim that there was a world-wide flood 4,000 years ago, and that the story of Noah was a historical event. Nye’s arguments ranged as follows:

  • Fossils in Kentucky are evidence of an ancient earth
  • Ice cores in Antarctica are evidence of an ancient earth
  • Bristlecone pine trees have 9,000 rings, and thus are older than 6,000 years
  • How can plant life survive underwater for an entire year?
  • The impossibility for all the various rock layers to settle so quickly after the Flood
  • The fossil record is evidence of evolution and an ancient earth
  • How could animals get to Australia from the Middle East, a mere 4,000 years ago?
  • The impossibility of the millions of species today to have developed that quickly from the animals that came off of Noah’s Ark, a mere 4,000 years ago
  • The impossibility of one man and seven family members to build an Ark
  • YEC’s lack of predictive ability
  • In order for YEC to be true, natural laws would have had to change in the past
  • The distance of starlight points to an ancient universe

There were numerous other sub-points made, but overall, the above list sums up Nye’s presentation. And as you can see, they were specific scientific arguments that are worth addressing in an honest fashion. That, though, is something HH chose not to do. So without any further adieu, I present to you my summary of HH’s 70-page critique of Bill Nye’s presentation in one post…enjoy…(actual quotations will be italicized). [Please note: I am writing as HH…these are not my opinions!]

Ham and Hodge Go on the Offensive: Changing the  Topic, Fossils, Ice Cores, and Pines
Well, right out of the gate, Mr. Nye showed he was not playing fair. He “immediately changed the agreed topic of the debate (Is creation a viable model or origins in today’s modern scientific era?) to something else (Does Ken Ham’s creation model hold up? Is it viable?)” (81). Let’s get one thing straight, this isn’t Ken Ham’s model…it’s the biblical model that God told us. How dare Mr. Nye devalue creation!

In any case, Mr. Nye first talked about the fossils in the rock layers here in Kentucky, and he claimed that they were, in fact, millions of years old. Someone untrained might have thought Nye gave a devastating argument…but of course he did not! He just merely assumed what he claimed he was proving. Not only that, he clearly didn’t understand creationism: Noah’s Flood laid down all those rock layers!

Then Mr. Nye tried to convince people that the ice cores in Antarctica had 680,00 layers, and therefore that showed 680,000 winter-summer cycles, hence 680,000 years. Wrong! Ice cores don’t come with labels on them! Here in Kentucky you can get multiple ice layers in one winter! He’s just assuming that each cycle represents a year. Just assumption and guesses…that proves nothing!

And what about the Bristlecone pine trees that have 9,000 rings? Mr. Nye would like you to believe that proves they’re 9,000 years old. Wrong! That’s just an arbitrary claim and more assumptions! Many trees can have multiple growth cycles and multiple rings in the same year. Mr. Nye can’t prove that those trees got only one ring per year—he’s just assuming that. Now, “the bristlecone pines, with its dry climate, doesn’t readily afford multiple tree rings, but to assume the climate has always been identical to that of today is without warrant, even by Mr. Nye’s standards” (87). It’s just all fallible assumptions—God’s historical science textbook (the Bible) tells us that the Flood causes massive changes in weather patterns. So no…those trees prove nothing, other than the fact that Mr. Nye is using man’s historical science to battle God’s historical science.

HH on the Global Flood, Rock Layers, Skulls, and Kangaroos
And then Mr. Nye tried to say that claiming a global flood could lay down all those different sediment layers in a short time was unreasonable. Well, that’s just him claiming his own authority and questioning God! Concrete (“which is in reality artificial rock”) can solidify very quickly—who’s to say that couldn’t have happened with the rock layers after the flood? Was Bill Nye there? No, he was not!

And then Mr. Nye showed a bunch of different skulls on a slide, and tried to argue that you can’t really tell which ones were human or ape. Well, “this was a very poor attempt by Mr. Nye to intimidate people into believing his evolutionary view. Anyone can quickly show a slide depicting lots of skulls, claim this is evidence of evolution, and move on! That was a very unfair tactic by Mr. Nye, and not becoming of someone truly wanting to debate the issue of origins in a carefully thought-out way” (95).

And then Mr. Nye mocked YECism by asking, “How could animals from the Middle East make their way to Australia?” Well, there could have been a land bridge; or they could have floated to Australia on driftwood. Why can’t creationists come up with models based on their beliefs? Mr. Nye will never accept them, though, because he just wants to mock the Bible!

He also pointed out that if kangaroos travelled from the Middle East to Australia, then why are there no fossils found anywhere on the route from the Middle East to Australia? Well, “just because one doesn’t find the fossils of animals in an area doesn’t mean those animals didn’t live there. …Not finding fossils someplace is not a good indication that they never existed there…” (97-98). Clearly, Mr. Nye’s assumptions are not reasonable at all!

HH on Kinds, Species, Noah’s Ark, Ancient Technology, and the Fossil Record
Mr. Nye then totally claimed Mr. Ham said something he never said. Mr. Nye said that Mr. Ham said there were 7,000 kinds of animals on the Ark. Mr. Ham never said that! He said there could have been 8,000! But it could have been as few as 1,000 kinds…in any case, that’s Mr. Nye for you! Just blatantly misrepresenting things! He didn’t even know the difference between “species” and “kinds!” Clearly, he didn’t do his research. “The more I listened to the debate, the more I realized that Mr. Ham’s understanding of the nature of science and the origins issue was way above that of Mr. Nye” (102).

Mr. Nye then mocked the Bible by saying it was not reasonable to believe that Noah and his family could have built an Ark. Well, how does he know that Noah wasn’t an expert shipwright? After all, he could have studied for 500 years before he built the Ark! Besides, the ancient technology of that time was probably pretty amazing; unfortunately, but the time of the Age of Exploration, much of that knowledge had been lost. In addition, Noah could have hired workers; men like Methuselah and Lamech could have helped. We just don’t know.

But Mr. Nye won’t accept this, because he’s relying on autonomous human reason—he’s a materialist, and he has no basis for the laws of logic and reason! He has to borrow from the Christian worldview! How dare he try to make a logical argument against God!

Then Mr. Nye asked, “How could only eight people take care of all those animals on a floating zoo?” Well, “I want the reader to understand that Mr. Nye’s accusation implying bad treatment of animals is one tactic used by skeptics against those who believe the account of Noah’s Ark in the Bible” (110). Noah would never neglect those animals! Mr. Nye’s accusation was just a vicious attack.

This is the actual illustration the book gives to argue for AiG’s view of the fossil record and rock layers.

After that, Mr. Nye tried to convince people that the Geological Time Scale is true, and that all those fossilized animals were buried in sediment millions of years apart. Well, that is just an evolutionary story based on Mr. Nye’s worldview and religion of naturalism. We look at those same fossils and say they were all laid down during Noah’s Flood. Same evidence—different interpretation! Why can’t our beliefs be taught as science too?

We need to just state the obvious: evolution is no different than Greek mythology. “Really, Mr. Nye’s evolutionary belief is nothing but a human fairy tale about origins similar to the Greek myths” (122).

HH on Scientific Predictions, Natural Laws, and the Big Bang
And then, Mr. Nye started to harp on “predictions,” and how YECism doesn’t make scientific predictions. He had the audacity to say, “Ken Ham and his followers.” Let’s be clear, “it is not Ken Ham and his followers, but rather Mr. Ham and fellow followers of the Bible” (125). Anyway, why is Mr. Nye so hung up on predictions? He’s a materialist! “Why would his religion with the teaching that nothing is immaterial include a concept like predictability, which is not material? This is self-refuting for the materialistic worldview that Mr. Nye has been professing” (125).

But if you want to talk about predictions, the Bible is full of them—they’re called prophecies. So why do evolutionists reject biblical prophecies and rely on “the failed ‘prophecies’ or ‘predictions’ by secular scientists (e.g., dropped transitional forms, changing evolutionary ideas), and yet keep coming back for more (125)! It’s a spiritual issue, really—they are sinful and are in rebellion against God.

And can you believe it? Mr. Nye again accused YECists of saying that the natural laws have changed. “Creationists do not say that natural laws have ever changed. Mr. Ham said this. …he couldn’t understand what Mr. Nye was really saying here, as it didn’t make sense” (126).

Mr. Nye also tried to point to various dating methods, like radiometric dating, in an attempt to “prove” that there are rocks that are millions of years old. Well, you can’t trust radiometric dating. “Uniformitarian dating methods simply assume something has been uniform in the past—that is, unchanging” (139). Besides, radiometric dating is just filled with assumptions, and are just unreliable.

With that kind of absurd accusation, it shouldn’t surprise you that Mr. Nye believes in the Big Bang. But you know what the Big Bang is? It’s just an unprovable assumption. In fact, it is a disprovable assumption, because the Bible gives a different view that disproves the Big Bang! The Big Bang says that stars came before the earth; but we know that’s not true! Some Christians try to say God used the Big Bang, but that creates more problems. “If Christians attempt to force the Big Bang into the Bible, they have to say that God’s Word in Genesis in regard to the creation of the earth and the sun is totally wrong! (129).

And by the way, that means that the stars aren’t expanding because of the Big Bang—we know they are expanding because God is stretching them out. Just consider Isaiah 42:5: “Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out…” There are lots of other verses just like that: all giving accurate, scientific information about the universe. “On the basis of God’s Word, Christians would expect to find the heavens stretching as well as evidence of it having been stretched. This stretching is a great confirmation of what was predicted based on the Bible” (133).

Speaking of stars, Mr. Nye then made an outrageous claim that the elements (as in the table of elements) were created when stars exploded! “Has anyone observed this? No. Has anyone repeated this? No. So at best, this is mere wishful thinking to try to tell a story about how they believe elements came about” (136). All it is, is fairytales! “Once upon a time,” those secularists say, “Once upon a later time…and an even later time!” It is all simply fiction! “It is stories, on top of stories, on top of stories. [Mr. Nye] is deliberately mixing historical science and observational science together and calling them one word—science” (137). It all is just as ridiculous as Greek mythological stories! “So whose arbitrary stories should be trusted—those of the Greek mythologists or the modern humanistic mythologists?” (138).

Sure, Mr. Nye tries to point to distant starlight as supposed “proof” that the universe is 14 billion years old—but how does he know that? It’s all just a bunch of assumptions. Genesis 1 says God created light on Day 4, and that was about 6,000 years ago…case closed. God could have created light in transit, the speed of light could have been much faster in the past [Writer’s Note: Reflect back on HH’s insistence that they don’t believe natural laws change], or there could be time zones in space. Who really knows? Was Mr. Nye there? Who are you going to believe? Mr. Nye and his humanistic fallible fairytales, or God’s historical science textbook, the Bible?

HH and Their Conclusion about Bill Nye
Well, Mr. Nye concluded that “Ken Ham’s creation model” is not viable. AGAIN—it’s not Ken Ham’s creation model—it is the Bible! In any case, “Although Mr. Nye brought up hosts of points, he really didn’t present anything that would be construed as remotely devastating to creation” (154). It was all just a bunch of assumptions, poor research, and assertions that were simply wrong.

Mr. Nye probably knew how pathetic his points were—that’s why he used the Skeptical Method in hopes of discrediting the Bible. “However, a careful check of his claims uncovers that he was not able to poke holes in the creation model built on God’s revealed Word” (154). It was like Mr. Nye took a gun, fired off a bunch of shots, but they were all blanks—and all he could hope for was that perhaps Mr. Ham would be rattled by the noise.

But of course, Mr. Ham wasn’t rattled at all! He was truly wise to ignore all that noise “and instead concentrate on teaching the true nature of science and relating the worldview conflict that was being acted out before the eyes of the worldwide viewing audience” (154).

Whew…to Conclude
So, let me, the actual Joel Anderson (not my “inner HH”), just ask: Was that convincing, or was that rather frustrating to read? Did HH convincingly address Bill Nye’s scientific arguments, or did they essentially dismiss every single one, out of hand, as “assumptions and fairytales”? Did you see the dizzying use of the five “mirrors” AiG employs in their arguments? Can you see through the smoke?

I know this post was rather long, but I wanted to put it all together in one post, so that you can have a taste of the unrelenting barrage of pseudo-science, ad hominems, and manipulative rhetoric that went on for 70 pages. In my next post, I will offer my thoughts and observations on what I illustrated in this post. After reading this, though, ask yourself how would you go about addressing any of this?

And indeed, that gets to the deeper question about all of this “creation/evolution debate”: How should a thoughtful Christian go about addressing these kinds of claims by YECism? Trust me, I know how frustrating it can be, especially when you get sucked into a debate with someone who continually parrots what is laid out in this post. I’ve probably said a few things in the heat of the moment I shouldn’t have.

So, what is one to do? What is the best way to go about it? That’s for next time.

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 6): The Mirrors are in Place…Cue the Smoke! (Ham’s biblical predictions that aren’t predictions; plus: giants and dinosaurs in a pre-flood coliseum!)

The Nye/Ham Debate (Part 6): The Mirrors are in Place…Cue the Smoke! (Ham’s biblical predictions that aren’t predictions; plus: giants and dinosaurs in a pre-flood coliseum!)

In my last two posts about the analysis that Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (HH) gave regarding Ken Ham’s main presentation at the Nye/Ham Debate three years ago, I set out five set talking points that Answers in Genesis (AiG) routinely uses in most of their debates and articles. These talking points, though, actually aid in distracting people from focusing on the issue at hand. I equated their methods to smoke and mirrors. The five talking points I likened to the mirrors, and I can guarantee you: read any amount of material from AiG, or watch any talk Ken Ham gives, you will see virtually everything being reflected off these mirrors.

That being said, there still is the smoke to deal with—and that is what we will be looking at in this post. The “smoke” is unlike the mirrors, in that those are the set talking points; the “smoke” is any kind of argument or unique point Ken Ham makes that, upon closer inspection, isn’t an argument at all. Often, upon closer look, it doesn’t even make much sense.

Ken Ham’s Supposed Predictions
One of the things that HH highlight in their book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, was the part of Ken Ham’s presentation in which he explained that there is observable evidence (i.e. observational science) that confirms predictions based on the biblical creation model (54). He then listed six predictions: intelligence produced life; the kinds of animals; a global flood; one race; the Tower of Babel; and a young universe.

Now, I’m not going to critique every detail in these claims, other than perhaps a passing comment. But what I do want to draw your attention to is the blown smoke right at the beginning: Ken Ham’s claim that observational science confirms the predictions of a biblical creation model for origins. Do you see the problem? Ham had already argued that observational and historical science are two completely different things, and that historical science is not subject to the scientific method because it cannot be tested or observed. Yet somehow, he then turns around and claims that observational science can confirm historical science.

Secondly, let’s just be honest, Ken Ham’s supposed “predictions” aren’t predictions.

  1. Intelligence produced life: “Because the Bible is true, we expect to see evidence that life was created by an intelligence” (55). Ham then points to DNA, and then to the law of biogenesis that says life cannot spring from non-living things.

Well, okay…but how is that a prediction? That’s not a scientific prediction.

  1. After their kind: Ham claims that when Genesis 1 says that God created the animals “according to their kind,” that he was classifying them with a scientific category. Then he points to the fact that dogs produce dogs, and says, “So this prediction in biology based on the Bible is confirmed” (56).

I’m sorry, what is the prediction? Genesis 1 isn’t making a prediction; it’s stating that God created all kinds of animals—that’s all. Not only that, but “kinds” is not God’s scientific classification of animals. That is something that YECists have simply made up.

  1. A Global Flood: Genesis 6-9 speak of a global flood; Ken Ham believes it was a literal global flood about 4,000 years ago. What is the observational evidence that confirms this? Two things: (A) “Most cultures around the world have a Flood legend that contains similar elements to that in Genesis” (57); and (B) the fact that there are fossils in rock layers all over the world.

Now to be sure, Point A is interesting. But it isn’t observable scientific evidence of a global flood. As for Point B, fossils buried around the world isn’t evidence of a singular global flood; it’s evidence that fossils have been buried as a result of flooding, and there have been many local floods all over the world that have resulted in buried fossils. Again…this isn’t evidence of a global flood 4,000 years ago. And Genesis 6-9 isn’t a prediction.

  1. One Race: Here, Ken Ham makes two astounding claims. First, that evolutionary theory is inherently racist; and second, that the Human Genome Project “confirmed the Bible’s account of human history when they announced their findings to the world” (61)—that there was definitively one human race; all human beings were genetically related. Ham thus concludes that the evolutionary prediction was false, and the biblical one was true.

But let’s be clear: yes, there were some racists who tried to use evolutionary theory to justify their racism—but that doesn’t make the theory itself racist. There were also racists who tried to use the Bible to justify their racism—but neither Ken Ham nor I would think of throwing the Bible out simply because some racists distorted it. The same holds true for the theory of evolution. And second, regarding the Human Genome Project, Ham fails to mention one tiny thing: the Human Genome Project conclusively proved that the human race goes much further back than 6,000 years. If anything the HGP conclusively proved Ham’s claim that human beings have been around only 6,000 years to be absolutely false.

  1. The Tower of Babel and Languages: HH claim that the “biblical framework” tells us that Adam and Eve were preprogrammed with an “original language,” and that this original language survived until Noah’s flood. It was only after Babel that different languages came into being. All that obviously comes from a literalistic/historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11. The problem is that linguists will tell you that language has been around a lot longer than 6,000 years. And so, HH’s response is this: linguists are a part of the secular humanistic community, and they have just “made up” this story of the gradual development of languages. HH then equates linguistics with Greek mythology, and claims “an unbelieving secular community has refused to allow God in the door. So they must come up with stories to try to explain languages naturalistically” (63).

And there you have it: linguistics are secular humanists who have shut the door on God; and linguistics are no different than Greek mythology. Why do they equate the two? The answer should be obvious: they can’t actually address the findings of linguistics, so they have to attack the academic field and denigrate it by calling it “mythology”—and then they can just equate linguistics, as well as science, as something no different than “pagan mythology.”

And do I need to point out that I have no idea how any of that can be considered a “prediction” that confirms the biblical account of origins?

  1. A Young Universe: The gist of Ham’s “evidence” for this is quite simple. The universe is 6,000 years old, because that’s what we can calculate in the Bible: 5 days (first 5 days of creation) + 2,000 (total the genealogies from Adam to Abraham) + 4,000 years (from Abraham to present day). There you go: Ken Ham’s “evidence” of observational science that confirms predictions based on the biblical model is…the Bible?

Now please, don’t take this to mean I’m mocking the Bible—I most certainly am not. I’m just pointing out the absurdity of what Ken Ham did: he pointed to the Bible as the “observational scientific” evidence that confirms the prediction based on the biblical model.

What? Again, where is there a prediction in any of that? I thought observational science was the technology that can be observed and repeated by the scientific method—where is the observational science in any of that? Let’s face it: Ham’s “scientific evidence” that the biblical model for a young earth is correct can’t be the Bible—you can’t point to the thing you’re trying to prove as proof of that thing you’re trying to prove.

Bonus Material: Newsflash, the Earth’s Not Flat
As crazy as that example of circular reasoning is, HH mention something at this point that made my mouth drop to the floor. They wanted to respond to Bill Nye’s statement that scientists can show the earth isn’t flat, and they can show the earth isn’t 10,000 years old. HH wanted to make crystal clear that YECists are not flat-earthers.

Now, before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, I need to share you the reason they give as to why they are not flat-earthers: “The Bible makes it clear that the earth isn’t flat, in plain language…” (65). And what is the plain language? It’s Isaiah 40:22 (“It is He who sits above the circle of the earth…”), and Job 26:10 (“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters…”).

The Ancient Near Eastern Understanding of the Universe

What makes this claim so incredible is that in their attempt to prove the Bible is scientifically accurate, HH has quoted poetry. Not only that, but a circle is not the same thing as a globe. The picture both Isaiah and Job are describing is that of the ancient Near Eastern concept of the universe: the primordial waters below (often associated with Sheol); the flat circle of the earth resting on top of the primordial waters, held up by subterranean mountains or pillars; and the heavenly dome above them. Think of it like putting a snow-globe on top of one of those fake coral reefs that jut out above the water in your fish tank. Or just look at the picture provided here.

That was the ancient concept of the universe: a circular earth resting on primordial waters, with the heavenly dome above. Those verses are not talking about the earth as a globe! And yet, HH confidently trots these verses of poetry out as evidence that the Bible is scientifically accurate! And let me just emphasize, that it would be wrong to think the above ANE picture is an “inaccurate scientific understanding” of the universe,” because it wasn’t a scientific understanding of the universe in the first place. “Science” was not even a real category of understanding at that time, at least not in the same way it is today. It simply a poetic/metaphorical description based on the limitations of what they saw.

There’s still more! They even make sure to mention the idea of pillars. They say, “Poetic passages such as Psalm 75:3, which refers to the ‘pillars’ of the earth, were also used to derive the false view of a flat earth. Commentators…rightly point out that this is figurative for a firm foundation set by Christ” (66). I’m sorry…what? Psalm 75:3 actually says, “When the earth totters…it is I who keep steady its pillars.” The psalm itself refers to the earth tottering on its pillars! And yet, somehow, HH can say with a straight face, “It’s about Jesus,” and move right on!

And then they have the audacity to conclude: “By using observational science, we have been able to study the earth…and see that it is indeed round, circular, or spherical, thus confirming the passages in Isaiah and Job” (66). But Isaiah and Job aren’t claiming the earth is a globe, so the scientific discovery that the earth is round doesn’t confirm Isaiah and Job, because Isaiah and Job are reflecting the ancient Near Eastern cosmology of their times…and that’s entirely okay!

If it seems I am more worked up over their comments on this point than the others, I am. Science is not really my area of interest—the Bible is. And when I see such a blatant misuse of the Bible, it really annoys me.

In any case, as can be seen in these six supposed “evidences,” none of them are predictions. Bill Nye had made the point that what makes a valid scientific model is its ability to make scientific predictions. Ken Ham came back with these “evidences,” none of which were scientific…or even predictions.

That is a whole lot of smoke.

And to finish thing off, HH decided to reflect all that smoke off their reliable mirrors: it’s all a worldview conflict and a battle over belief about the past. And after saying Bill Nye was openly an agnostic and a humanist HH said, “Well, I have news for Mr. Nye…he has deeply held religious beliefs in secular humanism (man is the supreme authority in existence!) He views his thoughts as being greater than God and His Word. …Clearly Mr. Nye believes himself to be greater than God” (70). And then, of course, HH equated Bill Nye with the serpent of Genesis 3.

It’s amazing how far a lot of smoke regarding non-existent predictions and accusations of your debate opponent essentially be Satan, reflected off the various mirrors in Ken Ham’s fun house, can take an organization like Answers in Genesis.

By side-stepping every scientific challenge, making up a fictitious definition for a fictitious category of science, re-defining science as religion, and then appealing to poetic passages in the Bible as “evidence” for their scientific claims…I’m sorry, the fun house isn’t too much fun. It actually becomes quite disorienting. When you twist people’s minds up that much, you can tell them anything, and they’ll believe it, because they’re convinced everything you say is a fundamental part of the gospel.

And when I say everything, I mean everything. Even new dioramas being installed at the Ark Encounter that claim to depict biblical account of the depravity of the pre-flood civilization, complete with coliseums, giants in quasi-Romanesque gladiator gear, and innocent people being thrown to….no, not the lions…but to vicious dinosaurs.

I don’t recall any of that being in my Bible. For that matter, I don’t recall a lot of the stuff at the Ark Encounter being in my Bible. I can only conclude that it’s a different gospel, one of smoke, mirrors…and gladiator games with dinosaurs.

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 5): The Last Three “Mirrors” of YEC’s Debate Tactics

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 5): The Last Three “Mirrors” of YEC’s Debate Tactics

In my last post, I began to point out five specific talking points/tactics that are routinely used by young earth creationists. We see these in play in both Ken Ham’s debate with Bill Nye and the book by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge about the debate, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate. I equate these talking points with smoke and mirrors, for they serve, not to actually make a positive argument for a young earth, but rather to obfuscate the issues and dismiss any and all scientific discoveries that challenge Ham’s claims. I covered the first two mirrors in my previous post; I want to touch upon the other three mirrors in this post.

The Third Mirror: Genesis 1-11 is God’s Historical Science Textbook
The third “mirror” Ken Ham and AiG employs whenever the argue for YEC is the claim that Genesis 1-11 is God’s eyewitness historical account of the origin of the universe, and is therefore conveying accurate scientific information.

Claiming that Genesis 1-11 is essentially historical is not anything that uncommon—a lot of people assume that. What is uncommon, though, is the relatively new claim made my YECism that Genesis 1-11 is conveying accurate scientific information. And what is absolutely astounding is the lengths to with they go in order to make that claim. In order to get to the point where he can argue that Genesis 1-11 is “doing science,” Ken Ham has to jump through a number of hoops: he must claim there are two kinds of science, and then claim historical science is just about belief (Note: if you define something as not being subject to the scientific method, then it is not science. If you say, “This kind of science is belief based on one’s religious worldview,” then it is not science.)

In any case, this is where the third “mirror” comes into play: the Bible is God’s “historical science textbook.” It is important to realize that Ham is not saying that Genesis 1-11 is “science” in the way most people think (i.e. the study of nature that is subject to the scientific method). He has already split the realm of science into two distinct categories, and has already claimed that his belief that Genesis 1-11 is conveying accurate information as to how the world, indeed the universe was formed, is scienceGod’s historical sciencethe kind of science that the scientific method can’t touch…the kind of science that is belief.

In fact, Ken Ham positively brags that Genesis 1-11 isn’t the same kind of science as “secular science,” because “secular science is always changing, but God’s Word never changes.” Of course, the reason why science is always changing is because scientists are learning new things about nature, and are thus constantly learning more—that’s what makes advances in learning about the natural world possible.

Furthermore, Ham is simply misunderstanding the biblical passages that talk about God’s Word never changing—simply put, it is not talking about how the Bible gives accurate scientific information. But this is the kind of thing that happens when someone comes up with his own definition of a special kind of science, and then couples it with very poor biblical interpretation, and verses ripped out of context.

The Fourth Mirror: Same Evidence, Different Interpretations based on Different Starting Points
With the first three “mirrors” in place, Ken Ham’s fourth “mirror” allows him to shoot down every and any piece of scientific evidence that refutes his YECist claims: it’s all about different starting points, and any information that points to an old earth or evolution is just based on secular/humanistic assumptions.

And sure enough, HH praises Ham in the book for making this very claim in the debate: same evidence, but different interpretations. Thus, according to Ham, it “actually becomes a worldview/religious debate” (53). And voila! Ham has taken what was to be a debate over whether or not YEC is a viable scientific method, and has turned it into a religious debate. And once he does that, he can then bring in the fact that his starting point is God’s infallible Word (i.e. God’s historical science textbook), but that “secular scientists” have a starting point of “man’s fallible word” (i.e. religious naturalism).

Starlight pointing to an old universe? Nope—your starting point is an assumption the universe is old, and you clearly are in rebellion against God; Ken Ham’s starting point is Genesis 1—God’s historical science textbook. The various dating methods that point to an ancient earth? Nope—you just are starting with the assumption the earth is old, and you are mocking Noah; Ken Ham’s starting point is Genesis 6-9—God’s historical science textbook.

No matter what the evidence is, Ken Ham simply dismisses it, claim it is all based on assumptions, and say his famous, “Were you there? I have a book written by God who was there!”

By strategically placing those first four mirrors throughout his presentation and books, Ham has not only made it possible to never actually address any scientific evidence that challenges his YECist claims, he also sets the stage to argue for his real agenda: the culture war. That is the fifth mirror.

The Fifth Mirror: The Religious Culture War
The fifth mirror is really what all the other four mirrors are angled to, for it reflects Ham’s real concern. Arguing for YECism is simply a means to this end. And indeed, the last few pages of the chapter are devoted to it.

After blowing a lot of smoke into the debate (the smoke will be looked at in the next post), Ham brought his 30-minute presentation to a close by hammering home what his real concern and real agenda was: fighting the culture war. For he is convinced that evolution and claims of an old earth are systematic attempts by secular humanists to undermine the Bible and to encourage immorality in the culture.

Now to be sure, I do believe there is a significant culture shift going on in our society that is disturbing; and yes, I think the more our culture succumbs to the secular thinking of the Enlightenment, the more our culture is going to disintegrate, for the Enlightenment worldview is rooted in philosophical naturalism, and is decidedly hostile to Christianity.

It is just that none of that is rooted in scientific discoveries regarding the natural world or the age of the universe. But this is Ham’s foundational point to his entire organization and life’s work: in order to save the culture, we must convince people that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically true.

To be clear, what will save the culture is the Church bearing witness to Christ, caring for the poor and needy, living out cruciform lives that are willing to lay down their lives for others, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in people’s lives as they see Christians bearing the image of Christ. Trying to convince people that Genesis 1-11 is a special kind of science that isn’t subject to the scientific method, and attacking anyone who isn’t convinced of such an argument is not going to save the culture because it’s not true.

Ham’s Grand Finale: Marriage, Death, and Clothing
In any case, in a debate that was focused on the question of whether or not young earth creationism was a viable scientific model for origins, Ham concluded his presentation by talking about how “biblical creationism” is vital for Christian doctrine, and then calling for Christians to fight the culture war.

Ham’s first concern was marriage. Obviously, there is a controversy raging in our current culture about gay marriage—I am not going to wade into those waters. But I do want to point out the curious claim by Ham that marriage is a doctrine. Yes, the Bible clearly assumes marriage is between a man and a woman; yes, throughout all of history and all cultures, up until the later part of 20th century Western society, marriage has always been between a man and woman—but marriage isn’t a doctrine; and for that matter, the reason why marriage has always been understood to be between a man and a woman isn’t because the Bible says so, and it certainly is not dependent on whether or not there was a historical Adam and Eve.

Simply put, the argument for traditional marriage is not dependent on whether or not Genesis 2 is about two historical people.

Ham’s second concern was with sin, death, and Christ’s atonement. Yes, the Bible is clear: Christ came, suffered, died, and resurrected in order to cleanse us from sin and conquer death itself: that’s the salvation message. But apparently, Ken Ham believes that is all contingent on whether or not Genesis 2-3 is literal history. He objects to evolution because that would mean there was death in the world before Adam, and that would mean God didn’t create a perfect world at the beginning.

As HH writes, “If death had been around for millions of years prior to sin, then death would be very good and perfect, as God described everything He made as ‘very good.’ This would undermine the very reason for Christ’s atoning sacrifice” (78). If evolution were true, HH claims, then “we would expect to see death in heaven” (78). Therefore, “Believing in millions of years undermines the atonement—and undermines the WORD. As Christ is the WORD, not believing the WORD is an attack on Christ” (78).

Now, theological question of death is a serious one, but HH’s claims are riddled with problems. I’ve written about this issue in other posts (here and here), but to make a quick point, early Church Fathers like Irenaeus, did not teach that God created a “perfect” world or that Adam was created “perfect.” In fact, he said that such a teaching was a gnostic heresy. Simply put, they taught that suffering and death, while obviously not good, are still inevitable parts of this creation, and that it is through suffering that we grow into maturity and the likeness of God, as Christ demonstrated and now empowers us to do through the Holy Spirit.

Simply put, Ham’s premise is wrong: “very good” does not mean “perfect,” millions of years does not undermine the atonement, and it certainly isn’t an attack on Christ. But in any case, notice the effect of the rhetoric used here: HH is telling their readers that being convinced of what astronomy, biology, geology and genetics have discovered is to attack Christ. That is a scare tactic if there ever was one. In a debate over whether or not YECism is scientifically viable, Ham is telling people that they are in danger of hell if they doubt his YECist claims.

The final “doctrine” Ham mentions is…clothing. Now, I do not see how clothing is a doctrine, but nevertheless, when discussing this part of the presentation, HH states, “Clothing is a biblical doctrine. Originally, man had no shame in a perfect created order” (77), but because of sin, we now have shame, and that’s why we wear clothes.

Ham is wrong on two counts:

  • His assumption that God created the world and man “perfect.” To a point, the Bible doesn’t say that, and the early Church Fathers didn’t teach that.
  • His assumption that Genesis 2-3 is to be read literally as history, and not metaphorically.

In any case, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with the culture war?” Well, Ham is concerned with the increase of nakedness in our culture. I for one have not seen naked people walking our streets, but apparently, Ham is alarmed over nakedness. Apparently, Ham believes that if we don’t teach Genesis 2-3 is literal history, then more people are going to start walking around naked.

I just honestly don’t get that.

And Finally…
By the time we get to the last two pages of HH’s analysis of Ham’s presentation, we are light years away from the debate topic. Here are the points they made:

  • There is a bias against creationists in public schools
  • The origins debate isn’t a scientific one, but a religious one: “It’s a battle over religion—that of God or that of man: Christianity versus humanism” (78).
  • Public schools are forcing the religion of atheism on students
  • Public schools “arbitrarily define science as naturalism and outlaw the supernatural” (79).
  • Ken Ham showed “the implications of the secular religion that is being forced onto students and the subjectivity or arbitrariness behind it” (79).
  • In a secular worldview, you have gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion.
  • A literal/historical reading of Genesis gives us the doctrinal basis for “clothing, truth, honor, logic, science, medicine, knowledge, morality, kindness, helping the elderly and diseased” (79).
  • In a secular worldview “everything is meaningless and nothing really matters” (79).

And after all that, HH concludes: “Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era” (79).

Let me make just three points:

  1. None of those points had anything to do with the debate topic.
  2. By making those statements, Ham has essentially convinced his followers that if someone is convinced by modern science (of course, he’d say, “If someone believes evolution,” because he wants to convince people it’s a religious issue, not a scientific question)—that they are therefore brain-washing nihilists who are for gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion, etc.
  3. And finally, the last statement made was not proven at all…at all.

But this is the point of the five “mirrors” employed by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis: to avoid answering actual scientific challenges, to demonize anyone who challenges his YECist claims, and to frighten his followers into thinking that evolution = atheism = attacking Christ = moral degeneracy = ultimately hell.

I’ve had countless debates with YECist Ham acolytes, and these five “mirrors” come into play every time; and every time, it is obvious that they are convinced that I am anti-Christ because I disagree with Ken Ham. It is ultimately sad and tragic. They are so caught in this mental loop that just bounces everything off of these five “mirrors” that they cannot see anything else.

It reminds me of what Leah Remini has recently said about her time in Scientology. She said that when you are in it, you are so convinced that the fate of the universe hinges on your devotion to Scientology, that you are willing to accept the most outrageous and illogical claims Scientology makes, and you actually convince yourself that anyone who criticizes Scientology is an insidious enemy, not only to Scientology, but to humanity itself. You can’t think straight, and you actually believe that all the problems in the world go back to Lord Xenu and brainwashed thetans attaching themselves to people’s bodies.

In my book, I argued that YECism is essentially a heresy, but it wasn’t necessarily a cult. The more I think about it, though, I think it just might have all the markings of a cult. Now that I’ve pointed out the mirrors of YEC tactics, in my next post, I will discuss the smoke of YEC that HH puts forth in their analysis of Ham’s presentation.

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