Ken Ham vs. Michael Gungor: Round 2

Gungor

A few days ago I received a comment regarding my original post on Ken Ham’s attack on Christian singer Michael Gungor. I promised this person I’d share my thoughts on Ken Ham’s other post on Gungor. So here it is…

In a September 8, 2014 post entitled “Award Winning Christian Musicians Mock Biblical Creationists,” Ken Ham once again went after Michael Gungor for saying that “science and rational thought” convinced him that the Noah story was not meant to be understood as literal history (I wrote about Ham’s initial attack on Gungor here). Ham interpreted this comment to be “mocking” the Bible, and then said, “So in other words, man’s autonomous reasoning and what Gungor calls ‘science’ supposedly mean we can’t take the account of the Flood in Genesis as a historical record.”

First of all, I personally didn’t see how Gungor’s comments were “mocking.” Secondly, it isn’t a matter of “autonomous reasoning,” but rather him using his God-given ability for rational thought to understand God’s creation better and to understand God’s Word the way in which the original hearers would have understood it. Part of that means admitting that modern science has shown that the universe is a lot older than 6,000 years, and that there was no massive, world-engulfing flood a mere 4,000 years ago.

Ken Ham, though, has his own special definition of science that I’ve discussed before. His comments here are nevertheless worth noting. He says that the proper definition of “science” is nothing more than “knowledge.” Therefore there are different kinds of knowledge: “observational science,” (the kind that builds technology), and “historical science” (the kind that is untestable, unprovable belief about origins).

Having established these fictitious categories that are not recognized within the scientific community, Ham then confidently and arrogantly proclaims, “When Gungor is asked why he doesn’t believe in the literal Flood account from Genesis, he is really answering this way: ‘Because of my autonomous reasoning as a fallible sinful human taken with fallible man’s evolutionary views based on naturalism, I can’t take God’s Word as written in Genesis.’”

Now a basic fact of biblical exegesis and biblical history is that if we take Genesis 1-11 “as written” to the original audience, then we absolutely cannot read it as a 21st century scientific eye-witness account of the origins of the material universe. There is absolutely no way the ancient Hebrews would have even been asking modern scientific questions; and therefore there is absolutely no way God would inspire Moses to convey something to them that they would have no ability to understand. Such a view goes completely against our understanding of inspiration. The one who is using autonomous reasoning, completely divorced from Church Tradition and basic Biblical context is Ken Ham, not Michael Gungor.

Do the Math: Ham’s “Kinds Claims” Don’t Work
In any case, Ham proceeds to make his case for a historical reading of Noah’s flood. He begins by claiming that Noah only had to take two of each kind, and not each species. “Kind,” according to Ham, is a modern scientific classification of animals that was used in the ancient world, but that is not recognized as a category in the modern scientific classification of animals.

Let that sink in for a moment.

In any case, Ham then claims, “Noah may have only needed fewer than 1,000 kinds of animals on the Ark, thus needing only 2,000–3,000 animals.” The problem with this claim comes down to basic math. As Bill Nye pointed out in their debate, in order for Ham’s claims to work, so that those original “kinds” on the Ark a mere 4,000 years ago would be able to branch off into the current 16 million species we have today, that would mean there would have to be 11 new species coming into existence every day for 4,000 years straight. Does that sound believable? Have you read any news about 11 new species coming into existence today? I don’t think so. For that matter, even if one species came into existence every day from those original “kinds” of Noah’s ark, it would still take 44,000 years to get 16 million species.

NOTE: Given what the NaturalHistorian alerted me to (see the comment below), I need to update Bill Nye’s math. If you start with “1,000 kinds” and then claim that from those “1,000 kinds,”  500,000 different species of land animals have developed over the course of the past 4,000 years, that would require an entirely new species to come into existence every 8 years. Granted, that’s nowhere close to 11 new species every day…BUT if you think about it, that’s a pretty extraordinary claim in and of itself. That would be an original “dog kind” would have had to have bred so much, and gone through so many generations within the span of 8 years, that there would have been enough genetic mutations to have produced an entirely new species of dog.

So let me suggest an experiment. Take your dog (let’s say it’s a beagle), and have it breed like crazy with another beagle; and then as soon as their puppies get old enough to breed, have them breed like crazy with each other. Keep doing this consistently for eight years. If by the eighth year you’re getting a litter of Siberian huskies, then congratulations–you will have proven Ken Ham’s claim to be correct. If you’re still getting beagles, don’t be upset. All that means is that evolutionary changes don’t happen that quickly. If you are suspicious that “a monkey can turn into a man” even after a few million years, okay. But if you feel that way, then you’ll have to be even more suspicious of the claim that a beagle can turn into a Siberian huskie within eight years.

Observational Math vs. Historical Math?
Simply put, Ham’s own claims take more than 4,000 years—the math simply doesn’t work. Perhaps Ham will reveal soon that there are two kinds of math: “observational math,” which is the kind of math you use for your checkbook and grocery bill, and “historical math,” which is the kind of math you use to calculate how 1,000 kinds can transform into 500,000 species within 4,000 years. You can’t understand it, and can’t actually calculate with it—it’s just a matter of faith that you can’t test or observe. That’s “historical math.”

If that sounds too harsh, I’m sorry. It’s essentially the very reasoning Ham uses to argue against Gungor…just change the word “math” for “science.” Astonishingly, Ham has the audacity to claim that scientists have not proven the “belief” that life arose over millions of years. He actually says, “There is no evidence to confirm molecules-to-man evolution or long ages.” Not to be too blunt, but everything in biology, geology, and astronomy provides evidence for the gradual evolution of life into its various forms and that the earth is millions of years old. All the evidence points in that direction.

So how can Ham say this? Simple–with his made up category of “historical science,” he has already ruled out the possibility of any kind of evidence either way—it’s all “starting points” and “beliefs.” Nothing can be proven, because “historical science” isn’t about evidence. It’s about belief! In this respect, Ham proves himself to be the reincarnation of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, who argued that there is absolutely no way to be certain of any event in the past.

Gungor is Calling Jesus a Liar? No, but YEC is Docetism!
Ham though, as he always does, goes even a step further. Because Gungor doesn’t think Genesis 1-11 is meant to be read as literal history, Ham accuses him of not believing the Bible is true, and actually says, “If Gungor says that we cannot trust the Bible when it comes to Genesis, then he is essentially calling Jesus a liar—as well as the Apostles Peter and Paul!” After all, they all at one point or another quote from Genesis 1-11. Therefore in Ham’s view, since they quote from Genesis 1-11, that means they must take it as a 21st century scientific/historical account. Ham apparently knows what Jesus, Peter, and Paul were thinking when they quoted Genesis 1-11.

This reminds me of an encounter that a friend of mine had with a young earth creationist who brought up this very point. My friend had said that Jesus didn’t know about modern science, and therefore probably assumed Genesis 1-11 was historical. To that, the young earth creationist said, “So you deny his divinity, the Trinity, and the resurrection too? Is Jesus dumb or just a liar?” To that, my friend responded, “No, I affirm that he was fully human, fully divine, and that I am not a Docetist.”

For those of you who don’t know, Docetism was the heresy that said Jesus was really just God who only seemed to be human, thus having no real human limitation whatsoever. It was a denial that Jesus really had human limitations. This is quite important when understanding the claims of young earth creationism, for this very argument (i.e. Jesus quoted Genesis 1-11, Jesus was God, Jesus was omniscient, therefore Genesis 1-11 must be historical, or else Jesus isn’t God, and is just a liar) is fundamentally a form of Docetism…a heresy the early Church condemned as not being reflective of the historical Christian faith.

***Side Note: the young earth creationist said in response, “Jesus is the Word and the Word is the Scripture, therefore Jesus is the Scripture, and the Scripture just means what it says.”

I don’t even know where to begin with that quote, so I’ll just leave it at that, and let you, the reader, soak it in.

Some More Problems with Ham’s Thinking
Ham continues in his typical fashion with various over-simplistic and uncritical accusations against those who believe the universe is older than 6,000 years old. I will comment on just one. I find it incredibly ironic that Ken Ham, time and time again, accuses everyone who doesn’t agree with him of “trying to fit millions of years into the Bible,” and of putting their fallible beliefs over the infallible Word of God—for this is what Ham does himself on a regular basis. Where in the Bible does it talk about things like power tools for Noah, that Cain married his sister, that “kind” should be interpreted as a modern scientific classification of animals, and that the 16 million species developed at a rate of 11 per day for the past 4,000 years?

The answer, of course, is nowhere. It has to be clearly stated, Ken Ham’s organization Answers in Genesis is a misnomer, for none of the answers he gives are actually in Genesis.

In any case, Ham ends his post by saying “if Genesis is a myth, then the gospel is also a myth.” By saying this, Ham displays his inability to understand the concept of literary genre, as well as his uncritical acceptance of the Enlightenment concept of truth. Saying that Genesis 1-11 is a “myth” is not saying that it’s not true: it is saying it bears the marks of a certain kind of ancient literature. It’s like saying Jesus’ story of the prodigal son is a parable, or that Psalm 23 is a psalm. It’s a description of literary genre, not a statement of whether or not it is true. Yet Ham cannot understand this, for he is too busy believing what atheists like Thomas Huxley say about Genesis 1-11 than what biblical scholars like N.T. Wright say about Genesis 1-11.

Finally, although Ham often claims he never says a literal reading of Genesis 1-11 is a “salvation issue,” he actually says in this post, “the foundation of the gospel is in Genesis, where we read about the origin of sin, death, and our need for a Savior.” This is a perfect example of double-speak: “It’s not about salvation…it’s about the gospel…which is about salvation.”

Ham ends with a question: “If we can’t trust God’s Word in Genesis, then why are we to trust His Word in the gospels?” To that, we can simply say it isn’t a matter of “not trusting” God’s Word in Genesis; it’s a matter of valuing the Bible so much that we make sure we are reading it correctly. Claiming that Genesis 1-11 as an “eyewitness, historical account” of the material origins of the universe, is in fact to lie about the Bible.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Joel, good stuff. Just one thing I want to correct. You talk about taking 2 to 3 thousand animals and then making them into 16 million species. The 16 million isn’t right because that is all species not just animals. Those 2 to 3 thousand animal representatives may have become 100 to 500 thousand or so. Remember the two of each kind doesn’t’ include insects which are the most specious organisms on earth. I think it is unlikely but YECs are going to say that millions of species coudl have survived the flood in dormant stages etc.. You could be criticized for exaggerating the YEC claim of how many new species formed but you really don’t need to exaggerate because what they claim is already unrealistic enough.

    1. Thank you for that…I was unaware of that. I was simply going off of what Bill Nye said in their debate. So what would that take to get from 2,000 “kinds” 4,000 years ago (4,000 years would mean 1,460,000 days….let’s round up to 1,500,000 days) to 500,000 “species” today?

      I’m guessing you’re better at math than I am.

      1. Ah, yes, I had forgotten that Bill Nye had made that statement. Not sure how much time but suffice it to say we are talking millions of years via the mechanisms of natural selection, mutation, and genetic drift. AiG hasn’t suggested any other specific forces at play so unless they are withholding a new mechanism of speciation they have no support for such fast rates of speciation.

        1. Well, using my rudimentary math skills, I figured: 1,000 “kinds,” 4,000 years, 500,000 species. That’s an average of 1 new species every 8 years, which when you think about it, still is quite impossible. I added an extra “NOTE” to this post that mentions this. I really have liked your last two posts on the “Ken Ham-speciation-on-red-bull-lightning-round-of-rapidity” claims. A few years ago, when I started teaching a Darwin unit at the school where I used to teach (I simply laid out all the different views on this debate), it struck me then, and I said in class, “Hey, actually, Ken Ham does believe in evolution–he’s just saying all the variety has happened over the past 4,000 years.” Eventually, a new headmaster saw that I had written something to that effect on an earlier blog I had, and he took issue with it. He then gave the AiG “definition” of evolution, to which I responded with, “No, ‘molecules-to-man without an intelligent designer isn’t the definition of evolution.” I then gave Ernst Mayer’s definition. He responded by saying I was being intentionally deceptive, and that I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who was trying to inject the evolutionary worldview into the school.

          That mindset is just mind-boggling.

  2. More nitpicking, a Siberian husky is not a different species of dog from a beagle. They can absolutely still interbreed and create fertile offspring. A closer analogy might be imagining the interbreeding beagles turning into something like a jackal or dingo. While it would still be ridiculous to imagine a bunch of purebred whatevers turning into a new breed in eight years, it not being speciation means that it can be considered a separate question and thus doesn’t follow from the original math.

    It’s also important to note that “one new species every eight years” is not an equivalent statement to “it takes a given population eight years to become a new species”, because the latter statement would generate an exponential relationship that would result in a vastly (mind-staggeringly) higher rate than the former (consider: even if there is just one original population with one species, it becomes two populations of two species at eight years, those two become four at sixteen, 1024 at eighty, 1048576 at 160 years, and by the time we get to four thousand years we’re at…. 3.273391e+150 species, that is, roughly the square of the number of atoms in the universe, or put another way, each atom in the universe could be assigned (number of atoms in the universe) distinct species without any atom sharing any species). The math to produce the average rate of speciation for any *given* population to become a new species is more complicated, but would be longer than eight years, in a way that would make the specific example you give less stark to a lay person, especially of the type of background already susceptible to YEC claims (although it would still be ridiculously fast in real terms, it would probably be longer than human lifetime or two and thus hard to grasp conceptually).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: