Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ham Fisted Sophistry

The other day I saw a Facebook post which had been "liked" by a friend of mine about how Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis fame) was lamenting the fact that Bill Nye, the fraudulent "science guy," has been smack talking him in the media since their infamous recent debate. At first I thought, "Well, there's a shocker," and moved on. But then, in a moment of admitted weakness, I returned to leave a comment (which has since been deleted ... explanation to follow).

My comment, as best as I can recall, was: "The problem here is that people are left with the impression that the only options they have on this issue are to choose Bill Nye's vacuous scientism or a Young Earth creationism devoid of supporting evidence. Since both are false, the debate has become polarizing."

By the way, my claim that "Young Earth creationism is devoid of supporting evidence," is not just my opinion. It is the admitted position of many of the leading Young Earth scientists themselves, but I digress.

Within a few minutes, Ken Ham himself responded to my comment as follows: "just like choosing to believe in a bodily resurrection [of Jesus] ... polarizing"

Do you see what he did there?

In one snide, snarky line, Ken Ham managed to: 1) illegitimately equate a young universe (for which there is no evidence) with the resurrection of Christ (for which there is plenty of good evidence), 2) construct a false non-sequitur that belief in an old universe is equivalent to denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, 3) attach that belief to me unjustly, and 4) thereby create a straw man argument against a view that neither I, nor any other believer in an old universe that I know of, holds. 

That's how Ken Ham rolls.

Not one to let such a comment go unexposed for its lack of class and sound reasoning, I responded to point out the unjust and unjustified thinking in Ken Ham's snide remark by relating the same four observations I just noted and asking: "Either you don't know this and are therefore guilty of intellectual laziness and a failure to acknowledge and respond to your opponent's actual position, OR you do know this and are therefore guilty of intellectual dishonesty and bearing false witness against a Christian brother. Which is it?"

Ken Ham's response was to delete my comments and his own responses to my comments and block me from ever commenting again. Ain't that special? This, in the midst of what resulted in more than 440 entries of back and forth debate between atheists who mocked his position and allies who praised it.

In other words, you can kiss Ken Ham's ring, or you can be violently anti-theistic in your opposition, but don't you dare challenge his views or presuppositions from within a Christian view of the world. That makes you a heretic worthy of expulsion. 

That's how Ken Ham rolls ... and that's how little confidence Ken Ham has in his own ability to defend his position. He'd rather cover it up by making it (or you) just go away.

On the heels of my personal experience, I learned that this type of behavior has apparently come to be a little too common for Mr. Ham. It seems that he is taken with declaring those who disagree with him to be "compromisers of God's Word" and that he does so with a special sort of nastiness. The upshot of some of this behavior is that Mr. Ham and his organization, Answers in Genesis (AIG), have been disinvited and banned from future participation in the Great Homeschool Conventions that had welcomed them over the last several years.

From the Great Homeschool Conventions conference organizer Brennan Dean in the email he circulated announcing his dismissal of Ham from their events:
"The Board believes that Ken's public criticism of the convention itself and other speakers at our convention require him to surrender the spiritual privilege of addressing our homeschool audience."
"Our expression of sacrifice and extraordinary kindness towards Ken and AIG has been returned to us and our attendees with Ken publicly attacking our conventions and other speakers," Dean wrote. "Our Board believes Ken's comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst."
Well, at least it's not just me ...

Listen, if you want to believe in a young universe and defend all that goes along with that view, God Bless You. That's your right and, who knows, you may be right. But please, do so with intellectual integrity, a smidgen of class, and respect for the well-thought out and biblically orthodox views of other Christian believers.

In other words, don't do it like Ken Ham ... or at least find someone besides him to do it for you.


9 comments:

  1. Thanks Bob,

    I would like to say that I am an Old Earth Creationist myself and firmly believe that what science tells us about the age of the earth is not only compatible with the Bible but overwhelmingly confirms its divine inspiration. I agree that Ken Ham is doing a great disservice to Christianity by asserting that belief in Christ as Savior and Lord requires a belief in a young earth.

    I would just like to say that I am not sure I am comfortable with saying, "There is no evidence," in reference to a young earth. I believe that there is overwhelming evidence against it and that the arguments put forward by young earthers are insufficient and often show a lack of effort to understand the the actual positions of their opponents.

    I do, however, recognize why a person might come to the young earth position after a superficial reading of Genesis 1 and having been raised in a church where the young earth was a dominant teaching. Despite the many intellectually dishonest young earthers I have met, I want to recognize that I have met genuine young earthers who are charitable in the defense of their position and recognize that they could be wrong.

    Although I'm sure it wasn't your intention to deny this, I think we should be careful to not insult genuine believers who do have reasons for what they believe, even if we believe those reasons to be inadequate.

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    1. Spencer,
      I agree with you and hope my post here didn't suggest I have a disrespectful view of YECs. I don't. Maybe my disdain for the tactics of folks like Ken Ham make it sound that way but I can assure you that is not the case. In fact, I respect their devotion to protect and honor a high view of Scripture. I just wish charlatans like Ken Ham would acknowledge the same of me.

      Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Hi guys... I've spent the last twenty years examining various arguments for creation (young and old), evolution, cosmology, philosophy, theology, and geology. For the first ten I wouldn't even consider YEC because I thought it so absurd it was not worth considering. Then I consented to read a book for my pastor - he hadn't time to read it himself - and when he handed it to me I realized it was a YEC book by Ken Ham (of whom I had never heard).

    I had already read most, if not all, efforts to reconcile Genesis and an old Earth, every one of which did violence to the text of Genesis. Fortunately, I had other reasons for thinking the Bible reliable and did not leave the church but, even so, I was troubled by the apparent discrepancy between the Genesis narrative and what I 'knew' was true.

    You see, all my life I have been a science buff. The assured discoveries of science were beyond doubt for me. Then, since I had promised my pastor I would do so, I read "Why Won't They Listen?" by Ken Ham.

    The book forced me to face my prejudice. It didn't make me a YEC. But it did confront me with my unwillingness to explore a particular option because "science", written by the likes of Haldane, Darwin, Dawkins, Hawking, etc., all atheists who hate Christianity, says the Bible is false at its very root.

    I have examined the arguments from YEC, and if some who profess YEC 'admit' there is no evidence, they are misinformed. I would suggest that the evidence for YEC is at least as solid as the evidence for an old earth. That evidence has been defended by some of the finest minds in science.

    The materialist version of science has some problems. It cannot account for the origin of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe, the privileged conditions of Earth, the origin of life, the diversity of life, and human consciousness nor the transcendent nature of human agency (among other things). To my mind, the error of old earth creationism and / or theistic evolution is that those who profess it have uncritically adopted the axioms of the atheists. The least error in the beginning is magnified a thousandfold in the end.

    I am well aware that my analysis may be flawed, it is almost certainly flawed in some respects, but I have found enough evidence, both positive and negative, to convince me that the atheistic account of origins is demonstrably false. Given that efforts to reconcile the atheistic account and the Biblical account inevitably do violence to the Biblical text, and given the demonstrable veracity of that portion of the Bible we may confirm through archaeology, I have decided to take the Bible at its word.

    Quite frankly, given the Bible and nothing else, the question would be moot. But given the Bible and all the philosophies of man, we are faced with a choice. Do we trust the Bible? or do we trust human philosophy?

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    1. Dave ... I respect your willingness to investigate both side of the OEC/YEC debate. I have done the same. I guess we disagree on the weight of the evidence for a YE, and that's fine. My beef with Ken Ham is that, unlike you, he does so with an air of arrogance and condescension that disgusts me. But enough of that ...

      I also agree with your assessment that "the materialist version of science has some problems." That's an understatement! It not only fails to explain the most important questions we have in this life (minor detail), I also believe it is demonstrably false.

      However, I would caution you for the claim that OEC and theistic evolution (TE) have equally "adopted the axioms of the atheists." While I could accept that view of the TE model (to some extent), the OEC model does no such thing.

      OEC believes in a God-directed creative record in nature; TE believes in an undirected (Darwinian) lack of evidence for intelligent agency. OEC accepts Scripture at face value; TE sees the Genesis creation account as an allegory that is not based in history.

      I take the Bible at its word too. We just disagree about what the words mean. This is not a capitulation to "trust human philosophy." It is a recognition that human philosophy, properly understood, is based in a Biblical view of reality. Philosophy is nothing but a love of wisdom (philo + sophia), which I hope we can agree cannot be anti-Biblical.

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    2. So what do you believe regarding evolution? I know you believe in an old earth. Please bear with me if you have answered this question before, but I am not sure what you believe beyond OE. Do you believe in Adam and Eve being the parents of all mankind? Do you believe in the biblical account of the fall?
      Thank you!

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    3. Rebecca,
      Good question. Just remember that Evolution and the age of the Earth are different categories. The age of the earth is a cosmological question. The origin and diversity of life is a biological question. Because they listen too much to folks like Ken Ham, many YE people conflate the two by assuming you have to accept Evolution if you believe the earth is old.

      Nothing could be further from the truth. I have written about it quite a bit (if you put "Evolution" in the search bar above, you can read what I've said about it here on my blog) but let me summarize to answer your question:

      1) I don't see any evidence for the "molecules-to-man" version of Evolution (I call it "Big 'E' Evolution" that is touted by the priests of scientific materialism. None. It is an assumption that the start with BEFORE they examine the evidence.

      2) There is plenty of evidence for evolution in the dynamic adaptation of organisms to their environments. I see that as evidence of design that God uses to allow his creation to work so amazingly.

      3) There seems to be plenty of evidence that Adam and Eve existed a few thousand years ago and that all human beings are related through them ... just like the Bible says.

      4) Because of 3), and because of the reliability of the Bible and the God it reveals, I believe the fall was a real, historical event that has affected all mankind. Otherwise, the rest of the story makes no sense.

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  3. Hi Bob

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I don't we differ in our views by anything substantial. Your reply to Rebecca acknowledges a 'real' Adam and Eve, which is intriguing given your antipathy to YEC. (At the risk of appearing irreverent I'll paraphrase the atheist argument for atheism "I just believe in one more chapter than you)

    When I say "adopt the axioms of atheists" I am referring to our tendency to trust the results of atheistic geological / cosmological dating methods. I struggled with that for a very long time and I still doubt the validity of my solution to the struggle since the solution is based upon a 'balance of probability' rather than a solid proof. But a balance of probability is the best we can hope for when examining the distant past.

    One reason I am moved toward a simple literalism regarding Genesis is an offhand comment by Allan Guth about his idea of cosmological inflation. Guth and his colleague, Henry Tye, were investigating "how many cosmological defects which would have been spawned by the big bang."

    "The answer that Guth and Tye found that year, however, was still crazy: The universe should be swimming with cosmic defects.

    In fact, these defects should have been so numerous and so massive that if they actually existed, the age of the universe "would turn out to be about 10,000 years," Guth says, with a laugh. "This doesn't turn out to be the case, scientifically." "

    Now, I have no way of knowing if Guth was just being facetious or if he was serious about the 10,000 year old universe, but it is a rather odd sort of humor for a cosmologist to indulge in this context. The solution Guth devised is cosmic inflation which is described as follows.

    "So, they turned to exploring whether the early universe (we are still in its first trillionth of a trillionth of a second) "supercooled" as it expanded. A 100,000-fold drop in temperature might have given the forces inside the early universe a bit more time to line up nicely with each other, essentially producing fewer defective cracks in creation.

    "Once you write down the equations, it is not a hard problem at all. It is really kind of obvious," Guth says. The supercooling does dramatically affect the expansion rate of the universe. "It drives the universe into a period of exponential expansion," he says, now called cosmological inflation."
    [news.nationalgeographic.com/news/innovators/2014/06/140630-alan-guth-profile-inflation-cosmology-science/]

    The 'solution' is an ad hoc kludge which posits a hypothetical supercooling mechanism and rapid, many multiples of the speed of light, inflation (Guth uses a variation of General Relativity to skirt the light-speed issue).

    It is these kludges, coupled with the realization that all cosmology owes more to philosophy than it does to science, that moved me from my trust of atheistic dating methods (a rather disconcerting state of affairs at the time).

    Dictionary dot com defines 'religion' as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, ..." Cosmology certainly fits that description. It is not a case of 'science vs. the Bible" it is a case of 'religion vs. the Bible'.

    God bless, Dave

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    1. Hey Dave ... I definitely agree with your last paragraph!

      The inflationary/kludge model you describe is fascinating. I've read some about the inflationary model and the way it could support a young universe. I guess I would need to dig into it more before I would be willing to adopt it (I will look at the link you offered). If that ends up winning the day, I would be more than happy to change my mind. I honestly don't "care" how old the universe is. I just try to follow the evidence as it stands and see if it is compatible with a reasonable interpretation of the biblical account. If they contradict one another, we have a problem. If not, one of the interpretations must be wrong. So far, I don't see any incompatibility with an old universe scientific interpretation and the Bible. Maybe that will change.

      This whole discussion also makes me wonder if we ALL have it wrong and the biblical creation account has nothing to do with chronology at all. If you're interested in what I find to be a fascinating alternative, check out these two books. Both are VERY good:

      "In The Beginning We Misunderstood," Miller & Soden
      http://www.amazon.com/In-Beginning-We-Misunderstood-Interpreting/dp/0825439272

      "The Lost World Of Genesis One," Walton
      https://www.google.com/shopping/product/14469206900445599375?sclient=tablet-gws&hl=en-US&sboxchip=Shopping&q=genesis++walton&oq=genesis++walton&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.&bvm=bv.75775273,d.cGU,pv.xjs.s.en_US.9YGum3Fv7uk.O&espv=1&biw=1024&bih=672&dpr=2&tch=1&ech=1&psi=DVMfVMeGItHioASQiIDwBw.1411339029598.10&ei=dlMfVOO6EJfboATbtoFo&ved=0CNUBEKYrMAY

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  4. Hi Bob
    I have no doubt that "we ALL have it wrong" but that doesn't mean that the Bible is wrong. I have no illusion that I can provide any definitive proof that the universe is less than 10,000 years old. But neither can anyone demonstrate it is 13.7 billion years old. Any attempt to account for the origin of the universe is hostage to the assumptions we bring to the table.

    Keeping that in mind, I am inclined to follow the advice of Martin Luther,
    With respect, therefore, to this opinion of Augustine [that the world was created in an instant,] we conclude, that Moses spoke properly and plainly, and neither allegorically nor figuratively : that is, he means, that the world, with all creatures, was created in six days, as he himself expresses it. And if we cannot attain unto a comprehension of the reason why it was so, let us still remain scholars, and leave all the preceptorship to the Holy Spirit!

    As regards that which can be demonstrated, within that category is a great portion of the post-flood biblical narrative, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the unbroken chain of testimony from the ante-Nicene fathers to today. Given the overall reliability of the transmitted text it is somewhat like choking on a gnat while swallowing a camel to dismiss the creation while affirming the incarnation.

    Luther understood that without the correct axioms even the most meticulous reasoning will necessarily produce erroneous conclusions. It is for this reason that Luther was adamant the all reasoning begin from biblical axioms.

    This may sound fideist to our ears but that is only because we have been conditioned to believe that all reason should begin from secular axioms. Axioms are, by definition, unprovable assumptions and so there is no 'reason' to prefer, a priori, secular axioms to biblical axioms. Our mistake is to think there are reasons to prefer secular axioms. The only real test of axioms is the conclusions we develop when reasoning from them. if the conclusions do not match the reality we experience and observe, and our reasoning is sound, then we must re-examine our axioms.

    My reason for drawing attention to Guth's inflationary model was to highlight the problems with the conclusions drawn from secular axioms. Guth's inflation is, if I understand it correctly, and ad hoc patch intended to overcome the discrepancy between theory and observation. Other patches to the standard model include hypothetical 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' which 'correct' other discrepancies. From my reading of Guth the discrepancies are so serious the standard model would collapse in as little as his 10,000 years.

    That does not mean that the universe is only 10,000 years old. All it means is that the standard model is defective. Even if the standard model were not defective it is still only a model, a mathematical formula which appears to describe some aspects of the universe. We must not mistake the model for reality, at best it is a simulacrum.

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Though I do not moderate comments, I reserve the right to delete any comment that I deem inappropriate. You don't have to agree with me, but I don't tolerate abusive or objectionable language of any kind.