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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 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.

Conclusion
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.

Ken Ham’s Reformation: Don’t You Dare Challenge Him! (My thoughts on his thoughts about Joel Duff’s thoughts about him seeing himself as a modern day Martin Luther)

Ken Ham’s Reformation: Don’t You Dare Challenge Him! (My thoughts on his thoughts about Joel Duff’s thoughts about him seeing himself as a modern day Martin Luther)

Allow me to give a brief back-story to the topic of this post. On January 1st, Ken Ham wrote an article for the Answers in Genesis (AiG) website entitled, “Igniting a New Reformation in 2017,” in which he compared his efforts at the Ark Encounter to that of Martin Luther. Martin Luther had taken a stand against the corruption, and what he felt was the erroneous doctrines of the Catholic Church of his day, and Ken Ham is taking a stand against the findings of modern science, which he conveniently calls “blind belief,” because the findings of modern science conflict with his insistence that Genesis 1-11 is God’s historical-science textbook.

Then on January 2nd, biology professor Joel Duff (who maintains a blog in which he discusses the creation-evolution debate quite extensively) wrote a post on his blog entitled, “Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter to Usher in a Modern Day Reformation?” In his post, he points out that Ham’s YEC has its roots, not only in Henry Morris and John Whitcomb’s 1961 book, The Genesis Flood, but ultimately in the work of 7th Day Adventist George McCready-Price, who tried to argue scientifically that there was a literal world-wide flood of Noah and that the entire universe was only about 6,000 years old.

Duff also points out that Ken Ham’s fundamental claim for YEC is rooted is his understanding of biblical authority. Ham feels that if you don’t read Genesis 1-11 as history and science, you are undermining biblical authority. And Duff, like myself, obviously doesn’t not agree. Good biblical scholarship shows that the early chapters of Genesis are not intended to be read a historical and scientific accounts. I would add that, therefore, to insist that they are historical and scientific accounts, would be, in actuality, to go against biblical authority, or at the very least, to misinterpret those chapters.

Fast forward to yesterday, January 10th. Ken Ham wrote his own blog post, entitled, “My Parents are to Blame!” in response to Dr. Duff’s post. And that is the focus of my post.

A Quick Overview of Ham’s Post
If you ever wanted to learn how to engage in ad hominem attacks, Ken Ham would be a terrific case study. The gist of Ham’s post is basically this in bullet-point form:

  • Joel Duff writes for BioLogos, who wants churches to “reject a literal reading of Genesis and believe in evolutionary biology, geology, anthropology, astronomy”
  • I’m not going to respond to his “attack article”
  • Duff ignores the work of our “highly-qualified researchers,” and needs to do “careful research” instead of “following unbelievers”
  • Duff’s language is “sarcastic and demeaning,” and he uses ad hominem attacks against me
  • It’s a false accusation that AiG has its roots in 7th Day Adventism and Ellen G. White; I got my view from my parents!
  • Duff relies on the work of “the openly agnostic, apostate Seventh Day Adventist historian, Ronald Numbers”
  • YEC was not a “novel view invented by 7th Day Adventists;” it was “historical Christian orthodoxy” until the 19th century, when atheists, deists, professing Christian geologists decided to ignore Genesis; it was then that “most of the church quickly compromised with millions of years”
  • McCready-Price didn’t “invent” YEC; he was simply “interpreting the geological record using ‘biblical glasses’”
  • This is why we need a new reformation!

Let’s Get to the Facts
As you can tell from the bullet-points alone, there really isn’t much to Ham’s post other than, ironically, a lot of ad hominem attacks—the very thing he accuses Duff of engaging in. You can read Duff’s article for yourself, I’m pretty sure you won’t find a personal ad hominem attack on Ken Ham, despite what Ham claims here.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of specific claims that we can look at more closely. First, in regards to Ham’s claim that Duff ignores the works of young earth creations, I invite you to check out Duff’s blog and skim his posts. The simple fact is that Duff regularly analyzes and critiques the work of young earth creationists. So on this point, what Ken Ham is saying is demonstrably false.

Secondly, Ham claims that YEC doesn’t have its roots in either the work of Henry Morris or 7th Day Adventism, but rather was “historical Christian orthodoxy” up until the 19th century. (We’ll ignore his claim that he got his views from his parents, though—I’m pretty sure Duff was talking about the historical origins of YEC as a movement, and was not trying to speculate on where Ham personally got his views from).

Well, to the point, that’s simply not true. First, on AiG’s own website, you can find articles like this one about Henry Morris, in which Morris is called “the father of the modern creationist movement.” They also acknowledge that George McCready-Price was the first “flood geologist” of the 20th century.

In addition, it is simply a matter of historical fact that insistence on a literal/scientific reading of the early chapters of Genesis (and hence belief in a young earth) has never been “historical Christian orthodoxy.” No matter how many times AiG makes this claim, it simply isn’t true: no early Church Father saw the age of the earth as a fundamental of Christian orthodoxy; nowhere in the creeds is such a claim made; and nowhere in Church history has such a claim ever been made…until very recently…by young earth creationists like Ken Ham. Anyone familiar with how Christian theologians have read the early chapters of Genesis throughout history knows full well that those chapters have been read and interpreted a number of ways, and that at no time was it ever insisted that a YEC interpretation like that of Ken Ham’s was part of the historical, orthodox Christian faith.

The fact is that the YEC movement, according to AiG’s own words, was started by Henry Morris in 1961. The fact is Morris was influence by McCready-Price’s work. And the fact is that YEC has never been considered part of “historical Christian orthodoxy.”

How Many Ad Hominem Attacks Can You Spot?
The most fascinating thing to me about Ham’s post, though, wasn’t his factual errors. Those are simply par for the course. What continues to fascinate me is the subtle (or not so subtle?) way Ham and AiG engages in manipulative rhetoric. The very way they even set up an article or depict an AiG “opponent” is designed to evoke fear and suspicion before one even considers what that “opponent” says. You see this sort of thing all the time with partisan websites: if a left-wing website does a story on a conservative, chances are the picture they use of that conservative is a rather unflattering picture that makes that person look either sinister or ridiculous. The same holds true for right-wing websites.

What Ham and AiG does, though, is pepper their articles and posts with little comments, all designed to get you to not like the person they want you to not like, before you really even know anything about who that person is or what that person is saying. In Ham’s post alone, I noticed several ad hominem attacks on the first reading.

  • Look at how Ham depicts BioLogos. If you are a follower of Ham, the very mention of BioLogos will cause you be fearful, for Ham routinely depicts BioLogos as an enemy to the Christian faith. Duff’s article isn’t about BioLogos at all, yet Ham makes sure to let his readers know that Duff has written for BioLogos—why? Because for a Ham follower, BioLogos = Bad.
  • Look at how Ham characterizes Duff’s article as being full of “sarcastic and demeaning language.” Again, I challenge you to read Duff’s article and see if you can find any such thing. (Granted, I can sometimes get sarcastic, but I have yet to see much on Duff’s blog.)
  • Notice that Ham accuses Duff of ad hominem attacks against himself, although he doesn’t bother to give any examples. The reason why? There aren’t any in Duff’s article. Still, the effect of the charge is obvious: Ham is saying, “Duff has nothing! He’s just taking cheap shots!” In this case the charge of ad hominem questions the character person, and is in effect an ad hominem in and of itself. (And to be clear, am I accusing Ham of using ad hominem attacks? Absolutely. Does this reflect poorly on his character? Absolutely. Do I give examples of this? Yes, indeed.)
  • In Duff’s article, he mentions the book The Creationists by Ronald Numbers, a former 7th Day Adventist. Ham characterizes Numbers as an “openly agnostic apostate 7th Day Adventist” whose historical analysis is “distorted.” Later, Ham calls him an “unbeliever.” If that’s not ad hominem, I don’t know what is. Does such a characterization say to you, “This guy makes certain claims we disagree with; check him out—we’re confident that the evidence is on our side and you’ll find his argument unconvincing”? Or is the impression you get: “Agnostic! Apostate! Danger!”? Even if Numbers is not a Christian, does that mean one should reject his argument about the historical development of YEC out of hand? Ham certainly wants you to come to that conclusion.

UPDATE SINCE THE ORIGINAL POST: Something of a highly ironic nature has been made known to me by someone who commented on this post. You can see his comments in the comment section, but I wanted to insert his insight into the post itself. It turns out that Ronald Numbers’ book, The Creationists–the one that Ken Ham asserted was full of “distorted historical analysis;” written by an author that Ken Ham described as “agnostic” and “apostate”–was endorsed by none other than Henry Morris himself. That’s right, Ken Ham’s idol, the man whom AiG praises as “the father of the modern creationist movement,” was so impressed with Numbers’ book that he wrote a glowing endorsement of it that you can read on the back cover of The Creationists. Here is what Morris wrote: “For those interested in the background of the modern revival of creationism, whether evolutionists or creationists, this book is a rich mine of information and historical insights.” Henry M. Morris, Institute for Creation Research.

To say that I find that incredibly amazing is an understatement. It borders on the comedic.

  • In conclusion, Ham (as usual with anyone who disagrees with him) accuses Duff of “compromise.” Compromise of what? Biblical authority, of course. But is Duff really compromising on biblical authority, or does he simply think Ham is wrong to insist that the early chapters of Genesis are meant to be read as the “historical science textbook” Ham claims? After all, we need to be clear: it is Ham’s claims that run contrary to (a) modern science, (b) biblical scholarship, and (c) the entire history of the Church.

In Conclusion
Next month, to commemorate the three-year anniversary of Ken Ham’s debate with Bill Nye, I will be doing a series of posts on Ham’s book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, not to debate or rehash the arguments of the “creation/evolution debate,” but rather to analyze the tactics Ham uses when he discusses the debate. This post, in effect, is somewhat of a preview.

If you are someone interested in science, I highly encourage you to subscribe to Joel Duff’s blog. You’ll learn quite a lot. He also has a book out about the Grand Canyon that is a worthwhile read as well. In addition, if you look through my blog, you’ll find numerous articles on the problems with Ken Ham’s young earth creationism. Or, if you want a concise and thorough analysis of the creation/evolution debate, let me encourage you to check out my book, The Heresy of Ham.

Ray Comfort, Answers in Genesis, and Baraminology…It’s Kinda Ridiculous, Exegetically and Scientifically!

Ray Comfort, Answers in Genesis, and Baraminology…It’s Kinda Ridiculous, Exegetically and Scientifically!

About a week ago in one of the “creation/evolution debate” Facebook groups I am in, a young earth creationist (I’ll call him “Bob”) asked the question, “Can anyone point any example that proves evolution can change one kind of animal into another kind?” I have heard this question (or variations of it) many times before. If you want to get a taste of what this question looks like in real time, just watch a Ray Comfort video (pay attention around the 7-9 minute mark). In the one I’ve linked here, he goes around asking various people, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” And time and time again, Comfort emphasizes, “Kindskinds…a change in kinds.”

Well, there’s more going on with this question than I previously realized.

Kinds…Kinds….a Change of Kinds…
If you’re like me and have heard this kind (whoops…let’s say “type”) of question before, you have probably assumed the question is getting at something like, “Is there evolutionary evidence that a monkey has turned into a human, or a whale has turned into an elephant?” And, if you’re like me, you want to say, “That’s not how evolution works…it doesn’t happen all at once.” And that’s correct—that’s not how evolution works.

But when “Bob” asked this question last week, a light bulb went off in my head. This question, however ridiculous it may seem on the surface, is actually another YEC shell game, much like AiG’s “explanation” of the difference between “observational science” and “historical science.” What I realized was that the very way the question is framed makes it impossible for anyone to come to any other answer than the one young earth creationists want. There’s only one possible answer to that question, and young earth creationists know it: there is no example that proves evolution can change one kind of animal into another kind.

“A-ha!” young earth creationists will then triumphantly declare, “You see? Evolution can’t show one kind changing into another kind! Therefore, evolution is a lie!” And from there, they take (to put it kindly) the “highly questionable leap” and declare, “Evolution is the anti-god religion the government is using to indoctrinate our children into atheism and moral degeneracy!” Score one for the young earth creationists!

hamcomfortFor the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore that “highly questionable leap” that often happens in YEC and instead focus on the problematic question itself. To cut to the chase, this typical YEC question, whether it comes out of the mouth of Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, or any young earth creationist for that matter isn’t asking the question you think he is asking.

Current Answers in Genesis literature readily acknowledge genetic mutations and natural selection can happen between various species. What they deny is that there can be genetic mutations and natural selection between various “kinds.” The whole young earth creationist scientific enterprise is based on it, actually. Answers in Genesis will say, “We believe natural selection occurs. We believe speciation occurs. We believe adaptation occurs. But none of that is evolution, because evolution states all life came from a common ancestor, and no one has ever observed one ‘kind’ evolve into another ‘kind.’

I think we need to get some clarity on what YEC means by “kinds.” And yes, I’m sure many who are familiar with YEC will know what they mean by “kinds,” but I’m wondering if we have really thought about the deeper implications of this YEC claim. So let’s first take a clarifying glance at what YEC means by “kinds.”

Baraminology
No, that’s not a typo. It’s a real word—well, not really. It’s a made-up word YEC has created to try to make their really bad exegesis of Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25; 6:19-21 and 7:14 sound “scientific” and therefore legitimate. (In reality, you can’t truly call what they do with these verses “exegesis” in any way, shape or form. In reality, it’s simply Scripture-twisting).

baraminologyNow, the Hebrew word translated as “kinds” in these verses is min. The Hebrew word meaning “to create” is bara, so therefore bara-min would be “created kinds.” And hence, YEC then adds the -ology and (oh the irony) creates its own scientific-sounding word, baraminology, and claims that their baraminologists scientifically study the biblical/scientific category of animals of “kinds.”

You can read some of AiG’s explanations here. For that matter, you can simply google “Answers in Genesis, kinds, baraminology” and find more than enough articles and posts to read. Allow me to save you the trouble, and simply sum up their main points. They say the modern scientific categorization of animals is “man-made,” and, in fact, the modern categories of genus and species were originally used in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate to translate the Hebrew word min. Later, secular scientists changed the meaning of the words genus and species from referring to the “biblical kind” to now referring the modern, man-made scientific classifications, and this somehow paved the way for the acceptance of godless evolution. (I’ll be honest, I still don’t get the logical coherence in that argument, but that is not the point of this post).

In any case, the fact is that the modern classification system is Kingdom–Phylum–Class–Order–Family–Genus–Species, and there is (obviously) no “kind” or min. Why not? That’s simple—AiG claims those are man-made classifications, and God’s scientific classification of animals is that of min…the “biblical kind.” According to AiG, God’s classification of “kind” would be akin to the current man-made category of “family.” Hence, there was an originally created “cat-kind,” “dog-kind,” and “elephant-kind” (we’ll overlook the fact that the category of Elephant is actually that of “order,” and not “family”—AiG isn’t known for being consistent).

In any case, YEC claims that natural selection does indeed happen at the genus and species level—there’s clear “observational” evidence for that. But natural selection doesn’t happen at the level the “biblical kind”—there’s no “observational” evidence for that.

So what baraminology basically claims is:

  1. In the early chapters of Genesis, the Hebrew word min was God’s scientific classification of animals
  2. The biblical classification of “kind” corresponds to the modern classification of family
  3. Natural selection, speciation, and adaptation only happen  within the categories of “kind.”
  4. Therefore, there can be no “common ancestor” of all life because the Bible tells us that God created everything “according to their kinds,” and “kinds” is God’s scientific classification of animals.

So What’s the Problem?
Everything. And this is why Ray Comfort’s question, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” is actually quite insidious.

First, let’s start with those verses in Genesis that talk about plants and animals being made “according to their kinds.” AiG would have you believe that those verses are telling us about God’s scientific classification of plants and animals. They just throw it out there, move on, and hope that you don’t pause and ask a really basic question, “How do you know that Genesis is trying to give a scientific classification when it says, ‘according to their kinds’?”

Indeed, let’s play the game AiG insists we play with the Bible, and ask, “What is the ‘plain reading’ of the text?” I am willing to bet that if someone who had never read YEC literature had just picked the Bible and read Genesis 1:25 (“God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds…”), that person would interpret Genesis 1:25 as simply saying in a plain and general way, “God made all kinds of animals.”

Let’s be honest, the only person who would think those verses are conveying God’s “ancient-scientific classification” of animals is a person who had already been told by groups like AiG that those verses are conveying God’s “ancient-scientific classification” of animals.

In a similar vein, the only way someone would come to the conclusion that I Thessalonians 4:16-17 is about a “secret rapture” right before a literal seven-year tribulation period at the end of history would be for that person to be told ahead of time “this is about a secret rapture.” There’s absolutely nothing in I Thessalonians 4:16-17 that would indicate such a thing, and there’s absolutely nothing in Genesis 1:25 that would indicate “kind” is some sort of scientific classification.

Second, if it is clear that min is not God’s scientific classification of animals, but is rather used much in the same way we use “kinds” in everyday language (i.e. God made all kinds of animals), then it is obvious that YEC is, in fact, misinterpreting the biblical text. Simply put, such a claim about “kinds” isn’t biblical. And since it isn’t biblical, and YEC claims that min is the scientific classification of “biblical kind,” then it goes without saying that such a claim isn’t scientific either…in any way, shape or form.

So Let’s Go Back to the Original Question
With all that said, let’s go back to the YEC question at hand: “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?”

Do you see why the only possible answer to that question is, “No”? It’s simple. Of course there’s no “observable” evidence for Darwinian Evolution producing a “change of kind”…because there’s no such scientific category of “biblical kind.” It would be like asking, “Is there any evolutionary evidence for ogres changing into goblins?” Of course not, because there are no such things as ogres and goblins.

Even if we were to acknowledge (for argument’s sake) YEC’s definition that “kinds” were some sort of original animals from which modern species have come about via natural selection, the fact would still be that those “original kinds” no longer exist. Even if there was an original “dog kind,” that “original kind” is long gone, and all that is left are the varieties of species that natural selection has produced. Therefore, still, there would be no “observable evidence” for evolutionary change of “kinds,” because the “kinds” that YEC is talking about no longer exist, and therefore it is impossible to “observe change” in the present of something that doesn’t exist in the present.

Conclusion
If there is one thing I’ve realized as I’ve researched the YEC of AiG over the past two years, it is this: they are very clever in their presentations. What often happens is that they throw something out, make some claim that sort of sounds right, but also seems a little off, but then quickly jump to another point or topic, never allowing you to take a breath and actually think about the claim they have just made. If you do, if you subject their claims to a little bit of critical thinking, you will soon be able to unravel the twisted tales they spin.

So next time, if you’re in a conversation with a young earth creationist, or find yourself in New Zealand talking to Ray Comfort, or in Kentucky talking to Ken Ham, and they ask, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” You can now respond with:

img_20160711_132211633
What are all these SPECIES doing, getting on the Ark? Ken Ham has assured us that only KINDS went on!

“Of course not, because your claim that min is God’s scientific classification of animals is not only not supported by the Bible, it isn’t a recognized scientific category, period. And even if somehow you were to make the exegetical case that min really is God’s ancient-scientific classification of animals (but of course you can’t), the answer to your question would still be ‘of course not,’ because you define ‘kinds’ to mean some sort of ancient animals that no longer exist—and given your (false) distinction between ‘observational’ and ‘historical’ science, and your definition of ‘observational’ science as being something that can be tested, observed, and repeated—you’re asking for ‘observational evidence’ for evolution changing one sort of ancient ‘animal-kind’ that no longer exists into another sort of ancient ‘animal-kind’ that no longer exists is fundamentally dishonest and misleading, for you are asking for supposed present observable evidence of evolutionary change of past extinct (and therefore unobservable) animals.

I’m pretty sure if you gave that answer, Ray Comfort or Ken Ham would probably just walk away, convinced that you were a “scoffer.”

Now, is that a little convoluted? Probably, but the arguments and claims of YEC are (I believe) designed to be convoluted, making it hard to follow them, and therefore catch them in their manipulative shell-games and double-speak. But it’s something you have to do if you ever hope to call them on their manipulation.

So to sum up: the typical YEC question regarding “observational evidence that evolution causes a change in kinds” is a bogus question for two reasons:

  1. The Hebrew word min (“kind”) is not some ancient-scientific classification of animals, therefore the question (not to mention the whole supposed field of baraminology is a sham;
  2. Even if you grant YEC the existence of these supposed ancient “kinds,” the question is asking the impossible: present, observable evidence for evolutionary change in past, extinct “kinds” (and again, the fact that in reality there were no “original kinds” make the question even more impossible…as if that were…possible!).

Yes, the notion of “created kinds”—it’s kinda ridiculous.

Ken Ham’s Accusation that Peter Enns is a Heretic: An Ironic Condemnation of Himself

Ken Ham’s Accusation that Peter Enns is a Heretic: An Ironic Condemnation of Himself

Yesterday, I wrote about the response Troy Lacey of AiG gave to the question, “Can someone promote heresy and yet not be a heretic?” This question had been asked because someone was confused by Ken Ham’s criticism of Peter Enns, where he accused Enns of spouting heresy, but then turned around and said, “I’m not calling him a heretic.” Lacey never bothered even defining what “heresy” actually was, and instead responded by basically lifting three biblical passages from their context and falsely claiming they were about heresy. His conclusion was, “Yes, one can spout heresy but not be a heretic…look at Peter, look at Apollos, look at the people Elijah complained about.”

My conclusion about Lacey’s response was simple: it was irresponsible and careless.

Peter Enns Continues to Promote Heresy!
In this post, though, I want to take a look at the April 20, 2013 post by Ken Ham about Peter Enns that originally initiated the question about heresy. The title leaves little to the imagination: “Enns Continues to Promote Heresy—Sponsored by Baptist Church.” And in the very first paragraph, Ham pulls no punches:

“Theologian Peter Enns rejects a literal Adam and literal Eve and a literal Fall. Thus he has destroyed the foundation of the gospel. Peter Enns also does not believe the book of Romans deals with the gospel or that God through Paul refers to a literal Adam back in Genesis.”

Origen-vs-Ken-HamNow, the first sentence is actually correct: Enns doesn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and therefore he doesn’t believe that a literal Adam and Eve ate a literal piece of fruit and literally “fell” from a state of perfection. I, for one, am in agreement with Enns on this point…and so are a number of early Church Fathers like Origen and Irenaeus to name just two.

Therefore, when Ham concludes that therefore Enns “has destroyed the foundation of the gospel,” this becomes quite problematic—how can Enns be destroying the foundation of the gospel when the historical witness of the early Church demonstrates that not only did the early Church not teach that belief in a literal Adam and Eve was “the foundation of the gospel,” but that many of them didn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve and “fall from perfection” themselves?

Secondly, it is beyond shocking that Ham would accuse Enns of not believing the book of Romans deals with the gospel. It is one of those statements that simply defies logic. Of course Romans deals with the gospel; of course Enns believes Romans deals with the gospel. He just doesn’t believe Paul is making a historical argument that Adam was a literal person. Enns argues that whether or not Paul believed that Adam was a literal person of history is pretty much irrelevant to the theological point he was making in Romans 5. Somehow, though, Ham interprets this to mean Enns doesn’t believe Romans is about the gospel. Again, that simply makes no sense.

In any case, this condemnation at the beginning of Ham’s post stemmed from the clear fact that Ham was infuriated that he got banned from a homeschool convention because he had publicly attacked and condemned Enns, who was at the same homeschool convention, promoting his own curriculum. That homeschool convention dropped Ham, but retained Enns. What is a guy like Ham to do? The answer is easy: write equally nasty blog posts and ramp up his attacks on Peter Enns…

…and anyone who associates with Peter Enns.

Beware of Scholarship! It Undermines God’s Word!
In the case of Ham’s post, that “anyone” was Pastor Rodney Kennedy of First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. Kennedy’s church was hosting a convention, and Enns was the keynote speaker. Kennedy had said the conference was aimed at offering other explanations than six-day creationism. He clearly stated that science has shown the universe is 14 billion years old, and that the Bible did not refute the big bang theory. He wanted to strengthen the faith of believers by showing them that there were alternatives to young earth creationism.

After pointing out that he had found the following statement on the church’s website, “We study the Bible along with the gift of critical scholarship through the ages. Literalist interpretations are left to others,” Ham wrote, “So its not surprising at all this church is sponsoring this conference that undermines the authority of God’s Word and the gospel.”

C.S. LewisIf that is not a blatant rejection of education and scholarship, I don’t know what is. With that one statement, Ken Ham makes it clear that he opposes informed scholarship of the Bible and that he equates informed scholarship with undermining that authority of God’s Word and the gospel. This rejection of scholarship reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.”

One of the things that has always enamored me to Christianity, beginning with the first time I read Mere Christianity in high school, was not only how intellectually challenging it was, but also how fearless it was. I didn’t have to fear challenging myself intellectually; I didn’t have to fear reading about other religions; I didn’t have to fear asking tough questions, because I could take Jesus Christ at his word, “If you seek me, you will find me.”

Yet, sadly, when it comes to the likes of Ken Ham, all I see is distrust of education and critical scholarship and fear…of everything.

And No Ham Post Would Be Complete Without “It’s Not a Salvation Issue, but…”
In any case, Ham then insists that a historical reading of Genesis 1-11 isn’t a salvation issue, but it is a gospel issue. As I’ve said before in other posts, this is just pure double-speak, for the gospel is about salvation. Instead of dwelling on this, though, Ham makes the odd claim that if evolution were true, then that would be blaming God for death and evil (i.e. animal and plant death would have been happening before human beings existed), instead of blaming our sin on Adam.

Responding to this could take a book, but let me just offer these two observations. First, let’s get even more “biblically literal” than Ham, and let’s note that the Bible does not say that animal and plant death are the result of Adam’s sin. Read through Genesis 2-3—it’s just not there. It says (A) Adam will die because of his sin, (B) his toil of the ground would be frustrated by thorns and thistles. Therefore, to be clear, the Bible doesn’t say thorns and thistles came into existence because of Adam’s sin.

Second, I can’t help but notice Ham thinks it’s legitimate to blame his own sin on a figure in the past. In a sense, he’s doing the very thing Adam in Genesis 3 is doing—blaming someone else for his own sin. The point of Genesis 3 isn’t to give us someone to blame our own sin on; the point is to declare that we are Adam and Eve. The story of Genesis 3 is the story of each one of us—that’s what we do, and that’s why we need salvation.

Simply put, Genesis 3 highlights human beings’ natural state and the obvious fact that we sin. So yes, understanding Genesis 3 is important to salvation, in that it lays out and explains the human condition, and it also emphasizes God’s commitment to redeem and work through human beings (who are made in His image) to ultimately defeat death and transform His creation.

It simply isn’t giving historical information.

And speaking of “historical,” then there is “Historical Science”
And then there is Ham’s obsession with “historical science.” He takes issue with Peter Enns comment in an article that he wondered if Ham “made up” the term “historical science.” Ham was clearly upset by this, and went out of his way to say that “even Enns’ friends at the compromising BioLogos organization” acknowledges “historical science,” even posting a link to a BioLogos article on it (we’ll just leave Ham’s snarky “compromising” accusation alone).

Surprisingly to me, yes, there was an article by Deborah Haarsma in which she discussed “historical science.” What should not be surprising, though, is that her definition of “historical science” (i.e. we can come to a fuller understanding of the past of the natural world by projecting back the constant natural laws we observe today), bore little to no resemblance to Ham’s definition of “historical science” (i.e. beliefs about the past that cannot be tested, repeated, or observed, and therefore need to be taken on faith, based on the assumption that Genesis 1-11 is God’s eyewitness testimony about how He created everything 6,000 years ago).

So sure, one could say Enns was careless a bit in his comment about never having heard the term “historical science” before, but at the same time, one has to concur with Enns on this point: when it comes to Ham’s definition of “historical science,” yes, he pretty much made it up.

Ham’s Conclusion
The title of Ham’s post claimed that Enns was promoting heresy. In his conclusion, Ham comes back to that charge, and states,

“Enns’s treatment of Scripture related to biblical creation is appalling—in fact, it is heretical. Once you reject a literal Fall of man, then your teaching is heretical. Now, let me be clear: I am not calling Dr. Enns a heretic. But he has a very low view of the Word of God and some of his beliefs are certainly not a part of orthodox Christianity and thus are heresy.”

Adam and EveSo to be clear, according to Ken Ham it is “heretical” to reject a literal “fall of man” (which he means belief that there were two historical people who had a perfect genome, but who “fell” from that state of biological and spiritual “perfection” when they ate a literal piece of fruit). To reject that belief is (A) to have a very low view of the Word of God, and (B) to not be a part of orthodox Christianity.

Ham is simply wrong on both counts. First, the witness of the early Church clearly shows Ham’s view of Genesis 3 wasn’t the view of early Church. They didn’t view Adam and Eve as “perfect,” and they certainly had no concept of a “perfect genome.” They viewed Adam and Eve as naïve and childlike. Therefore, it is hard to believe that the early Church, the people who preserved and eventually formed the biblical canon of Scripture, somehow “had a very low view of God’s Word,” simply because they didn’t have the view of Genesis 3 that Ken Ham does today.

Secondly, and this flows from the previous point, since this was that testimony of the early Church, it is blatantly obvious that belief in a “perfect” couple and a literal “fall from perfection” wasn’t the traditional, orthodox Christian belief concerning Genesis 3. Thus, Enns’ view of Genesis 3 is actually more in line with the early Church and traditional Christianity than Ham’s view.

And thus, in a stunning instance of irony, Ham’s attempt to accuse Enns of heresy by appealing to the history of traditional, orthodox Christianity actually proves Ken Ham himself to “not be a part of orthodox Christianity.”

There is one more article that further illustrates AiG’s obsession with Peter Enns and their misuse of the term “heresy,” but that must wait for another day.

 

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 2)

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 2)

In my last post, we left off in our journey through Ken Ham’s Creation Museum right where he had just transitioned from the claim that people date dinosaur fossils according to their given “starting point” assumptions as to how old the universe is, and had pivoted to the display that talks about how the Bible is the “starting point” to understanding the big questions about life, meaning and human destiny.

Thus at the Creation Museum, one literally “turns a corner” from an initial display that presents the fallacious claim that geologists, astronomers, and biologists come up with their conclusions based solely on their preconceived biases regarding the universe’s age, to a display that claims the Bible is the starting point in one’s quest to discover life’s meaning—something, however true, that nevertheless has no connection to scientific questions regarding the age of the universe.

But for AiG, it does, for their fundamental claim—the very reason for the Creation Museum itself—is that if Genesis 1-11 isn’t historically and scientifically accurate, then the rest of the Bible, society and morality itself, will go out the window, and there is no meaning or morals at all. Society is on its way to hell in a handbasket.

So get those handbaskets ready. Welcome to the dystopia of Ken Ham…

Hell in a Handbasket
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What we see in the next exhibit is the result of questioning young earth creationism: moral decay in society. Or as one of the signs said: “Scripture Abandoned in the Culture leads to relative morality, hopelessness, and meaninglessness.” And then another: Scripture Compromised in the Church leads to scripture abandoned in the home.”

Along with these signs are images of things like a giant wrecking ball crashing into a church, graffiti, riots, drugs, drinking, and small displays that depict dysfunctional family in various situations family breakdown. Why is little Jimmy uninterested in the sermon, and is instead eating peanuts while the pastor is preaching? Because the pastor is telling his congregation that Genesis 1-11 is only a “story,” and therefore isn’t important.

The message is clear: our society is in a mess because “secular scientists” and “compromised clergy” are telling people that the Bible isn’t true. But let’s face it, what AiG really is referring to isn’t Scripture as a whole, but more specifically, their insistence that Genesis 1-11 must be historical and scientific. That’s a huge difference. Saying Genesis 1-11 isn’t in the genre of history is not the same as saying it’s not true. But you’d never know that by listening to Ken Ham.

In any case, this part of the exhibit reminded me of those “hell houses” that many ultra-Fundamentalist churches put on during Halloween. In this case, all the horrors of modern society are traced back to rejecting AiG’s claim that Genesis 1-11 is historically accurate and scientifically true. The whole display was an example of fear-mongering wrapped up in bad biblical exegesis and bad science: comical and disturbing at the same time.

But There is Good News…Well, Sorta…
No, what comes next isn’t the Good News of the resurrection of Christ that is on display. It’s a giant recreation of the events in Genesis 1-11, starting with the Garden of Eden, complete with Adam and Eve frolicking with…yes you guessed it…dinosaurs, who were busy eating fruit.

But soon after seeing a display of Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent, my friend and I entered “Corruption Valley,” which was essentially the Cain and Abel story…and a dinosaur.

Before you get to the life of Adam and Eve outside the Garden, and the eventual murder of Abel by Cain, you pass by…you guessed it…a velociraptor. But unlike the dinosaur in Eden who was eating fruit, this one was feasting on flesh—according to AiG, the dinosaurs of Eden suddenly became savage meat-eaters soon after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, a mere 6,000 years ago. Nevermind the fact that nowhere in the Bible does it say velociraptors became vicious meat-eaters as soon as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, according to YEC logic, this had to be the time dinosaurs started eating flesh. Why? It’s all about starting points! When you ignore modern science proper biblical exegesis, and insist that the universe is only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs have to fit somewhere!

IMG_20160711_132100658In any case, after the Cain and Abel display, we arrived at what one might call “The Prototype to the Ark Encounter.” In the next room we found ourselves in the interior of the ark, complete with an animatronic Noah discussing the building of it, as well as “pagan workers,” discussing how Noah was a religious fanatic, and how they were just building it to get paid. Of course, if this scenario of AiG had really happened (i.e. Noah hiring pagan workers to build the ark), the last thing they would accuse Noah of being would be a “religious fanatic.” Pagans worshipped many gods, and had idols that represented them. They would have seen Noah as a veritable atheist: an invisible God, with no idol to represent him? That’s no god…at least it wouldn’t be to an ancient pagan culture.

But those are just some inconvenient details that completely undercut AiG’s fanciful (and unbiblical) claims regarding Genesis 1-11.

IMG_20160711_132211633We got though the ark room, and in the next room we found some rather cool models of the ark, complete with animals making their way in, two by two: elephants, giraffes, lions, bears…and, you guessed it…dinosaurs. The problem, of course, is that not only does the Bible not mention dinosaurs, according AiG’s own claims, animals like modern elephants, giraffes, bears, and lions would not have existed at that point.

Again, just some more inconvenient details…

IMG_20160711_132222307…and I won’t even bother going into detail of the display of the ark at sea, along with scores of people on a nearby mountain time, being consumed by the floodwaters (although a few are being mauled by tigers). Bodies everywhere…

And That Was It….
Although there were a few other side exhibits, the main exhibits were done. Ian and I made our way to the bookstore that was filled with merchandise and books, all touting the YEC doctrine of a young earth and dinosaurs in Eden and on Noah’s Ark. I noticed that one of the books, written by Ken Ham’s son-in-law Bodie Hodge, was entitled World Religions and Cults. I opened it and found there was a chapter on Eastern Orthodoxy. I’m not sure if Hodge thought it was another religion or a cult, but skimming the chapter it was pretty clear—he felt something was really wrong with it because Eastern Orthodoxy relies on Church Tradition along with the Bible.

IMG_20160711_134813779
How can you tell the difference between humans and apes? Human skeletons read their Bibles.

Imagine that. Eastern Orthodoxy isn’t truly Christian because it values Church Tradition and practice. I wasn’t really surprised, though. I had just spent a couple of hours being told that Beowulf was historical, that dragons in folklore and literature were based on dinosaurs, that scientists just make conclusions based on their own biases alone, that dinosaurs were vegetarians in Eden, that dinosaurs started eating meat shortly after that, and that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. And then there was this display…

…by the way, did I mention the dinosaurs? Because at the Creation Museum, it seems to be quite important that to be a faithful, Bible-believing Christian, one has to believe dinosaurs are in the Bible, even though they aren’t.

Conclusion
There you have it. In these five posts on both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, we have gone down the velociraptor hole, and have been witnesses to a very bizarre wonderland indeed. I know that there are some who are absolutely enraged with Ken Ham and AiG, with both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. I, though, am not.

Yes, I’m enraged at how so many young earth creationists and biblical literalist treat and condemn any and everyone who dares question them. That is the very reason why I wrote my book. Such things need to be brought to light.

But the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum doesn’t enrage me. Both simply bewilder me. If you listen to the videos I took (they can be found in this post as well as my Ark Encounter posts), I’m sure you’ll be able to tell in my voice how much I found it all so humorously ridiculous. You simply can’t be mad about it—it’s too funny.

To be sure, one visit was enough for me. I’m glad I had the experience, though. It’s one thing to write about Ken Ham, AiG, and YEC from afar; it’s quite another thing to inspect their work up close. And what can we conclude? Simple: YEC is false and Ken Ham is wrong. Time will bear this out. All we can do is patiently, and perhaps with a bit of humor, keep bringing the truth to light.

IMG_20160711_135138259On a positive note, the gardens at the Creation Museum were beautiful. I thought I saw Claude Monet.

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 1)

My Visit to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum: Down the Rabbit Hole (or should I say Velociraptor Hole?) (Part 1)

Over the past couple weeks, I have written a few posts about my visit to the Ark Encounter. This week, I hope to write a couple of posts about my visit to Ken Ham’s initial attraction: The Creation Museum. My friend Ian Panth and I spent the morning at the Ark Encounter, live-streamed various parts of our visit, and took a lot of pictures. After that, it was off to the Creation Museum, which was about a 30-minute drive from the Ark Encounter. If this post is interesting to you (or even if it isn’t!), please consider buying my new book, The Heresy of Ham: What Every Evangelical Should Know About the Creation-Evolution Controversy.

As far as specifics were concerned, I really wasn’t sure what to expect at the Creation Museum. I figured it would focus on arguing for a young earth, and giving supposed scientific evidence for those claims, but beyond that general assumption, I really wasn’t sure what I’d see.

Three weeks later, I still can’t get my mind around what I saw.

Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs! (Did I Mention Dinosaurs?)
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As my friend and I made our way to the front door, we saw a statue of dinosaur on the outside, and as soon as we walked in, it became obvious by just glancing around the foyer—Ken Ham is obsessed about dinosaurs. In fact, after going through the entire Creation Museum (as well as the Ark Encounter), I’d have to say that his #1 objective is to try to convince people that dinosaurs lived only a few thousand years ago.

As soon as you walk in to the Creation Museum, you see banners and signs that all make statements like, “Dragons were dinosaurs!” “What dragons?” you might be wondering? Well, the dragons in various literatures around the world, of course! I’ll just focus on one example that was particularly disturbing to me: the display regarding the Anglo-Saxon Epic Beowulf. As you can see in the picture, after summarizing the basic storyline of Beowulf, AiG claims that “The epic contains accurate historical information…” The display then goes on to say that the dragons in Beowulf may have been based on real events…and that this would be “consistent with the Bible.”

IMG_20160711_124900162I’m sorry…WHAT??? No! Beowulf does NOT contain accurate historical information…it is fiction! To then say, “The dragons in Beowulf could have been dinosaurs,” and then turn around and say, “This would be consistent with the Bible” is so unbelievable that even today, three weeks later, as I write this, I feel my head it going to explode. The Bible never mentions dinosaurs in the first place, and you can’t speculate “the dragons may have been dinosaurs,” and then turn around and use that baseless speculation as supposed “evidence” the Bible is true, because Beowulf doesn’t mention dinosaurs, and neither does the Bible!

Yet somehow, at the Creation Museum, AiG just has this absurd claim on display. My literary sensibilities were probably offended just as much, if not moreso, than my biblical sensibilities.

On to the Exhibits
In any case, as we made our way to the actual exhibits, I saw a giant display of AiG’s Seven C’s of God’s Eternal Plan: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion (that takes us up to Genesis 11), then Christ, Cross (that’s the gospels), and Consummation (that would be Revelation). I was amazed that apparently, outside of Genesis 1-11, the entire Old Testament is of little or no importance to AiG. Or to put it another way, I find it highly ironic that not only does AiG insist that Genesis 1-11 is “history” when it clearly is not, but that it turns around and dismisses out of hand the actual history that is in the Old Testament. God’s dealings with Old Testament Israel is inconsequential to them.

IMG_20160711_125124632As we waited in line to enter the exhibits, I noticed other displays as well—they showed examples of varieties of plant and animal life. Underneath all of these (as turned out to be the case throughout the museum) were little descriptors and explanations that argued for YEC and against evolution. One of the signs said, “There is not enough time—even billions of years—to get such differences by small steps from a common ancestor. The Bible tells us where this amazing variety came from—created by an all-knowing, all-powerful, creative God.”

Now, I agree. I believe all the variety in the world, indeed in the universe, comes from God. I just don’t think He poofed it all into existence within the span of a week, a mere 6,000 years ago. But the thing that struck me was the claim that there wasn’t enough time to get all the variety we see today. It struck me because Ken Ham believes that natural selection and genetic mutations are the processes that account for the variety of species and life forms in the world. He just denies the idea of a common ancestor, and he claims even billions of years wouldn’t be enough time.

Rather, what Ken Ham believes is that all the variety of species and life forms we see today have come about within the past 4,000 years, since Noah’s flood. So if “billions of years” isn’t enough time, what are we to make of AiG’s claim that it only took 4,000 years? Sure, they say the starting point wasn’t one common ancestor, but rather 1,000 original “kinds,” but trust me, if you do that math, that still is an impossibly ridiculous claim. I’ve said it before as an example: Ham’s claim would require an original “dog kind” to procreate so much, with so much genetic mutation, to have so many generations within the span of seven years, that by that seventh year the offspring would be Siberian Huskies. And then it would have to happen again, only this time…wolves; then another seven years…poodles. This would have to happen at that rate to account for all the varieties of land species to have come about in a mere 4,000 years.

That claim has about as much historical merit as Beowulf’s killing of Grendel.

The First Main Exhibit: Dinosaurs Again…and the Battle Between Man’s Word and God’s Word
The first main exhibit focused on…you guessed it…dinosaurs. There was a life-sized display of a standard archeological dig, with two archeologists inspecting a dinosaur fossil in the rock layer. The explanation below this display said, “Dinosaurs don’t come with tags on them telling us how old they are, where they lived, what they ate, or how they died. …Because we never have all the evidence, different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.”

Above the display was a video screen where the two archeologists were talking about the fossil. One concluded it was millions of years old, and it died in such and such a way; the creation scientist said, “You see? He’s just interpreting this fossil based on his assumption that the earth is millions of years old. I look at this fossil and conclude that this dinosaur lived 4,000 years ago and was instantaneously buried in the waters of Noah’s flood. It’s all about starting points!

There was also another chart on the wall, further arguing this point. This was shocking to me, because when it gets right down to it, what AiG is claiming is that scientists don’t really do science when studying the fossil record. AiG gives the impression that a “secular geologist” looks at a fossil and simply says, “Oh, it must be millions of years old, because I just assume the world is millions of years old!” And then AiG turns around as essentially says, “That’s how we come to our conclusions, only we assume the world is only a few thousand years old!”

In order to make themselves sound “scientific,” AiG resorts to redefining scientific disciplines like geology to nothing more than “labeling things according to starting assumptions.” But that’s not science, and real geologists, astronomers, and biologists don’t do that. That’s what AiG does, though, and that’s why, despite scientific-sounding jargon, they’re simply not doing science.

IMG_20160711_125507398_HDRAlong with this initial display, there were other charts involving astronomy and the variety of species, including human beings. Each one was clearly labeled with “Man’s Word” on one side, and “God’s Word” on the other, thus giving the impression that Genesis 1 was presenting accurate scientific information in the fields of astronomy and biology. I’ve written on this before—simply put, that’s not true. Insisting Genesis 1 is literal history and accurate science has about as much logic as insisting Isaiah 55:12 (“The mountains…will burst forth in song…and all the trees of the field will clap their hands”) is making the claim that mountains have voice-boxes and trees have hands.

Starting Points and Biblical Authority
From this initial display, we went on to see that AiG took this notion of “starting points” and turned a corner away from archeology and fossils to the issue of morality and human existence: “Why am I here? Am I Alone? Why do I suffer? Is there any hope? Why do we have to die?” Now, granted, these are important questions—I just was at a loss to see how they had anything to do with inspecting dinosaur fossils.

IMG_20160711_125848983In any case, this opened the door to AiG’s other major display: Biblical authority. In the next room there were life-sized representations of various figures in the Old Testament, from Moses, to Jeremiah, Isaiah, and David, followed by an empty tomb, and then the Apostle Paul. The emphasis was clear: if you want to get answers to life’s important questions, you’ll find them in the Bible. Again, this is true—but again, I was at a loss to see how this had anything to do with dinosaur fossils and distant starlight.

Well, AiG made the connection for me, for the very next exhibit dealt with “attacks on the Bible,” namely attacks from “secularists” and “evolutionists.” The logic is like this: if you say the earth is millions of years old, you are “attacking” Genesis 1, and are therefore undermining the truthfulness of the Bible. Or in other words, If Genesis 1 isn’t scientifically reliable, then the Bible isn’t truthful, and is therefore unreliable…and any society that questions that will find itself going to hell in a handbasket.

We’ll get our handbaskets ready for the next post, in which I conclude our tour of the Creation Museum.

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