Ken Ham’s Claims and an Atheists Accusations—A Little Back Story
If you visit Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, you are going to find, among the displays, a few things about “ancient man.” The argument that is laid out at the Ark Encounter goes something like this:
- Evolutionists say that our ancient ancestors were just ape-like brutes with low intelligence. Therefore, they claim that it would be impossible for the ancient civilization of Noah’s day to know how to build a boat the size of the Ark.
- But the Bible says man was made in God’s image, and was highly intelligent from the start. In fact (and this is said elsewhere in AiG literature), since the genome was not as corrupted due to sin as it is now, the people living in the pre-flood world probably were a lot more intelligent than we are today, and had access to more advanced technology than we do today.
- In conclusion, ancient man was highly intelligent, and probably had some amazing technology that allowed men like Noah to build such an amazing Ark. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because the ancient world produced things like ziggurats, pyramids.
Needless to say, there is quite a lot wrong things in that argument. I’ve always zeroed in on Ken Ham’s baseless claim that the pre-flood civilization had access to advanced technology, but recently, in a rather heated discussion with an atheist about Genesis 1-11, another major problem with AiG’s portrayal of their argument caught my attention. It caught my attention because at the exact same time I saw the same problem with what this particular atheist was arguing.
In my discussion with this atheist, I was trying to point out that the problem with YECism is that they think that Genesis 1-11 is giving a scientifically and historically accurate account of exactly how God brought the world into existence, and that Genesis 1-11 wasn’t addressing scientific and historical questions. I thought this was a point on which we could agree.
Instead of actually interacting with me on this point, this person, after (for some reason) going on for quite some time about how Jesus of Nazareth never existed, finally got around to disparaging Genesis 1-11 with comments like these:
- [Genesis 1-11 is] “simply a collection of primitive origin myths from the fearful and ignorant infancy of our species.”
- “Our understanding of the universe has progressed since the days in the Bronze Age when Middle Eastern hill farmers thought the earth was small and flat and had a dome over it to keep the water above the sky out. We also now know that stars are not stuck to the dome and don’t shake loose and fall down during earthquakes, nor are the sun and moon lamps hanging from the dome.”
- “Science couldn’t give a fig what stupid notions Bronze Age hill farmers had. They are no more significant to science than are any other primitive creation myths or any other half-baked ignorant notions.”
- “Sorry, but the notion of the ‘wisdom of the ancients’ is just another myth falsified by the evidence, as are those in Genesis.”
Simply put, this person had the attitude that “those people back in the Bronze age” were just stupid brutes who had no scientific knowledge, and who instead believed in absurdities like myths that are completely unscientific and preposterous. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to tell him, “No, ancient myths weren’t addressing scientific questions to begin with,” he was intent on dismissing them as unscientific garbage.
At one point, I said: “The fact you associate Genesis 1-11 with primitiveness, fear, and infancy shows you really don’t understand what it is. It shows that you think if something isn’t scientific, then it is somehow primitive ignorance. And to describe myths as being a product from the ‘infancy of our species’ is really quite ignorant. The myths that came from either the ANE or Greece came from people who gave us things like democracy, law, architecture that built things like the pyramids, ziggurats, the invention of writing and some of the greatest literature in history. 3000-2500 years ago is not the ‘infancy of our species.’ If you knew anything about the genome, you’d know that the ‘infancy’ of our species goes back much further.”
As I wrote that, a little light bulb went off in my head, and I thought, “Hey, this is weird—this is kind of like the thing about ancient man that Ken Ham would say!”
…and it really is, but it’s actually totally different! Are you confused?
…Or do you see what I see?
Like I just said, it amazed me that I was essentially making the same argument about the ancient world that Ken Ham likes to make, namely that people living 2,000-3,000 years ago were not unsophisticated, unintelligent brutes. And the thing is, that is true. Ancient civilizations like Rome, Greece, Persia, Babylon, and Egypt all had some pretty amazing thinkers and built some pretty amazing things. They may not have our modern scientific knowledge, but they were in no way Bronze Age morons.
So, I was sort of making a similar argument to this atheist that Ken Ham makes about ancient man at his Ark Encounter. But my argument was actually completely different, in that it was addressing a different challenge and it had a completely different understanding of history. And to top it off, both Ken Ham’s argument and this atheist’s argument were making the same fundamental error concerning their assumptions regarding ancient man.
So, do you see it yet?
Let’s Untangle this Web of Confusion
Here are the problems with the Ark Encounter’s take on “ancient man”:
It claims that evolutionists say man’s ancestors were ape-like brutes (this is true), but then it implies that evolutionists believe these “ape-like brutes” made up human civilization a mere 4,000 years ago (this is not true…by a long shot).
- It then implies that the reason why evolutionists (and in reality, we should say most people) don’t believe people living 4,000 years ago could build a boat the size of the Ark, isn’t just because they didn’t have sufficient technology (and this is true; they didn’t, despite what Ken Ham claims), but also because they those people 4,000 years ago were nothing more than ape-like creatures who were still just banging rocks together (this is not true; nobody in their right mind believes that).
- Therefore, Ham’s claims are wrong on a number of levels. Putting aside his absurd claim that people living 4,000 years ago had highly advanced technology, Ham is completely misrepresenting what evolution claims when he places those “ape-like creatures” that evolution says are our distant ancestors into the time period of 2000 BC. No one believes that or claims that. But that’s how Ham frames his argument, because, quite frankly, he is either purposely trying to deceive people, or he is so caught up in his own bizarre assumptions that he can’t even see it.
- So to be clear, even though Ken Ham is right that people living in the ancient world did some amazing stuff, he is utterly wrong when he claims that evolutionists believe ape-like brutes were running around in 2,000 BC, and, of course, he’s wrong when he claims that the Noah story in Genesis 6-9 is a historical account.
Having said that, here are the problems with the comments of my atheist debate partner:
- He believes that people living 2,000-3,000 years ago represented the “infancy of our species” (this is not true; according to what we have learned from the Human Genome Project, the modern human species came into existence about 120,000 years ago).
- He believes that since people living 2,000-3,000 years ago didn’t have the scientific advances and technology we do today (this is true), that means they were all foolish, superstitious dolts (this is not true, unless you want to call the likes of Plato and Aristotle dolts, and then close your eyes to the truly amazing things the ancient world accomplished).
- Therefore, he concludes that since myths aren’t “modern science,” that they are worthless and stupid, and that’s why he won’t even take the time to consider what Genesis 1-11 was actually addressing. For him, “myth” simply means, “ancient scientific/historical claims that have been proven false by modern science” (and of course, this understanding of ancient myth is completely wrong).
- So to be clear, this particular atheist thinks people living 2,000-3,000 years ago represent the “infancy of the human species,” and that people in the ancient world were just ignorant and stupid because they didn’t have modern science and technology, and they had these things called “myths” that this particular atheist won’t bother even trying to understand what they were, because hey, they weren’t scientific.
These Are Two Extremes to Avoid
Both Ken Ham and this particular brand of atheism my debate partner exhibited display the kind of thinking that, I dare say, one will never be able to reason with, for they both are so caught up in their own particular agendas that they fail to see the utter absurdity of their most basic claims. The irony of all this is that the very thing that Ken Ham wrongly asserts that evolutionists claim—namely that the human species were nothing more than stupid, ape-like brutes with no sense and no understanding of any kind of technology whatsoever—was essentially what this rabid atheist was claiming in his attempt to discredit the intelligence of the ancient people and biblical writers who lived a few thousand years ago!
Sure, I don’t think this atheist actually thought people living 2,000-3,000 years were literal ape-like beasts; but he clearly thought they were ignorant brutes—and a basic knowledge of human history reveals quite the opposite.
But what lies at the heart of both of these extreme positions is ultimately their inability, or refusal, to read and understand Genesis 1-11 in its proper historical and literary contexts. Ken Ham is so convinced that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically and historically accurate, that he ends up completely misrepresenting what evolutionary theory is, and he ends up making some truly absurd claims about dinosaurs on the Ark, and pre-flood civilization with dinosaur-gladiator tournaments. His YECist claims makes him unable to appreciate the wonders of what creation evolution has discovered.
And because some atheists are so rabid in their hatred for Christianity and the Bible, they refuse to see that what Ken Ham says about Genesis 1-11 isn’t true. They have convinced themselves that YECism represents historical Christianity, and they insist that it is nothing more than bogus scientific claims made by “Bronze Age farmers.” Their hatred of Christianity makes them unable to acknowledge the true knowledge, philosophy, creativity, and literature of the ancient world, the Bible included.
And that is why I have come to realize that the ultra-extremists on both sides of the creation/evolution debate are so far out there that they end up resembling each other in quite a few ways. They are the dopplegangers of their own sworn enemies.