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.

4 Comments

  1. >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.

    I might disagree with that statement. There are some very vocal militant atheists who are hostile to Christianity, but much of that is directed specifically to the sort of Christianity epitomized by Ken Ham. If we could take that away I think we would see that most atheists are happy to live and let live (is the USA at least). There would remain a few anarcho-atheists types, but those guys don’t seem to like anything or anyone.

    Also, the adult mind is capable of considering competing ideas without necessarily subscribing to them. Ken Ham LOVES to conflate philosophical naturalism with methodological naturalism, but atheism is NOT the scientific method. You can have your Christianity (or whatever) AND other philosophies too. Maybe there are a few rough spots where philosophies disagree, but most people are able to find a practical compromise. I have occasionally criticized YEC as a philosophy for an immature mind, because it cannot withstand any competing thoughts.

    1. True…but I think I was really getting at the growing influence of guys like Ham on one end of the spectrum, and Dawkins on the other side of the spectrum. This kind of “debate” between these two extremes is eating away at that middle ground where clear-thinking people and hash things out and come to an understanding. But just yesterday I wrote a piece about Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and am currently going through the more “big name” Enlightenment thinkers–I don’t think too many people really see what guys like Rousseau were advocating for. And once you know that, well, you start to see traces of that in our current culture.

      In any case, my point is that Ham’s claim all that is due to not accepting Genesis 1-11 as history and science is ridiculous.

  2. Great post and the most salient paragraph was the reference to Leah Rimini and her comments about Scientology. Spot on. When people are convinced that to culture or the universe as a whole needs to be saved and their particular brand is the savior, then they can convince themselves to believe anything. That seems to apply to conspiracy theorists as well.

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