Monday, February 13, 2006

Fawning Over Ham

It seems like every couple of months the LA Times discovers there are young-Earth creationists out there. And every time they make this discovery they feel compelled to write bemused but respectful articles about them.

Here's their latest foray into this genre. The subject is Answers in Gensis front man Ken Ham:


Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

“Boys and girls,” Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, “you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?”

The children roared their assent.

“Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,'” Ham told them. “Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.'” He waved his Bible in the air.

“Who's the only one who's always been there?” Ham asked.

“God!” the boys and girls shouted.

“Who's the only one who knows everything?”

“God!”

“So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?”

The children answered with a thundering: “God!”


For some reason this reminds me of a scene near the end of the movie Firestarter. Drew Barrymore plays an eight-year old with the power to start fires with her mind. She and her father (who has some gnarly superpowers of his own) are captured by some obscure, and thoroughly evil, government organization that wants to use her as a weapon. One especially evil fellow, played by George C. Scott, poses as a janitor and manages, via a series of cleverly planned subterfuges, to win Barrymore's trust. He then uses that trust to manipulate her into cooperating with the government types.

One thing leads to another and Barrymore's father, played by David Keith, contrives a clever escape plan that culminates with Barrymore and Keith touchingly reunited in a barn. It looks like they're going to get away with it. But then Barrymore casually mentions that her friend the janitor wants to come with them. Keith's face melts in horror since he knows, I forget how, that the janitor is one of the bad guys. He realizes that Barrymore has told Scott about their plan.

Scott is concealed behind some bales of hey on the second floor of the barn. Keith turns, his horror turning to anger, and yells something like, “Congratulations! You managed to fool an eight-year old. You proud of yourself?”

That's all Ham is doing. He's shamelessly fooling children. And the Times' editors believe that such a man deserves respectful coverage in a major article.

Don't expect the Times to make it clear that everything Ham says is nonsense. Certainly not. They're too busy being bemused and above it all:


In two 90-minute workshops for children, Ham adopted a much lighter tone, mocking scientists who think birds evolved from dinosaurs (“if that were true, I'd be worried about my Thanksgiving turkey!”).

He showed the children a photo of a fossilized hat found in a mine to prove it doesn't take millions of years to create ancient-looking artifacts. He pointed out cave drawings of a creature resembling a brachiosaur to make the case that man lived alongside dinosaurs after God created all the land animals on Day 6.

In a bit that brought the house down, Ham flashed a picture of a chimpanzee. “Did your grandfather look like this?” he demanded.

“Noooooo!” the children called.

“And did your grandmother look like that?” Ham displayed a photo of the same chimp wearing lipstick. The children erupted in giggles. “Noooooo!”

“We are not just an animal,” Ham said. He had the children repeat that, their small voices rising in unison: “We are not just an animal. We are made in the image of God.”


The children have an excuse. They don't know any better. But how is it possible that there are adults in this country unable to see how mind-numbingly stupid that is?

The article does, inadvertently, manage to get at something important:


As the session ended, Nicole Ableson, 34, rounded up her four young children. “This shows your kids that there are other people who are out there who believe what you believe, and who have done the research,” she said. “So they don't think 'This is just my parents believing in fairy tales.' ”


I've made precisely this point myself. For the rank and file creationists, the service offered by people like Ham has nothing to do with providing scientific information. Do you think for one second that Ableson really cares about paleontology or genetics?

These people know they believe the Biblical account, but they also understand that they don't really know anything about science. So here come people like Ham to give slick, polished performances with the right balance of jargon and folksiness to sound both scientific and approachable at the same time. What service does Ham provide? He allows people like Ableson to be content in their ignorance, confident that there are people smarter and more knowledgable than they who share their beliefs.

I'll close with one more quote:


Emily Maynard, 12, was also delighted with Ham's presentation. Home-schooled and voraciously curious, she had recently read an encyclopedia for fun — and caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. “They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that's how it could happen,” she said.

Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham's mantra: “The Bible is the history book of the universe.”


Caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. Charming.

14 Comments:

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous darthwilliam said...

Can lying to children be considered child abuse? I mean, he is intentionally and knowingly LYING to them. Doesn't that also breach his own supposed "Christian" ethos?

Sometimes I wonder why PZ Meyers is so angry, then you show me stuff like this.

Ugh!

--darth

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous MWR said...

darthwilliam said...
Can lying to children be considered child abuse? I mean, he is intentionally and knowingly LYING to them. Doesn't that also breach his own supposed "Christian" ethos?

If Ham believes in evolution and is lying then yes that violates his "Christian" ethos as you put it. So are you a mind reader? You know what he believes? Wouldn't that take a supernatural ability to do that? I could easily say the same of many of the evolutionist out there. They are all just lying because they know what they are teaching is not the truth.

MWR

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger bmk md said...

Maybe Ham's lying, maybe he's not.

But at the very best he is seeing what he believes instead of believing what he sees.

He's an example of what children should be warned about, not braggged about.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous darthwilliam said...

mwr -

looking at the evidence, it is impossible to logically reach Mr. Ham's conclusions. I assume he is well informed on the subject and has seen the evidence that points toward evolutionary theory. Therefore, assuming he is capable of rational thought (a big assumption I admit), he cannot possibly believe what he is telling these kids. Ergo, lying.

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

mwr: It's not a matter of knowing what Ham believes. He's lying about facts. He is making statements and is labeling them as such, he is not merely saying "in my opinion" or "as far as I know."

There isn't even a chance that "I didn't know" can be used as an excuse, because he's been confronted with the truth many times. So, for example, someone telling children that there are no transitional fossils is lying. Period. And telling kids that man lived alongside of brachiosaurs is a LIE.

I'd also like to ask him a question regarding his "ask your teachers if they were there" comment: Were YOU there? Don't tell me you have a book, because the book has been proven to be wrong in many areas, and besides you have NO PROOF as to its authenticity. WERE YOU THERE? Besides, where's the proof that God was there? If he wants proof of evolution, I want proof of God. And don't say "the proof is all around, because God made all of this," because that same cop-out can be used for natural explanations.

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Darth -

I wouldn't bet on Ham's being well-informed about evolutionary theory. I don't think anyone who has at least a high school level understanding of evolution could believe the crap that Ham spouts.

It's more likely that Ham is willfully ignorant - one who doesn't let facts get in the way of his politics.

And a question for MWR - if "evolutionists" are lying, what's the evidence for an alternative explanation? Cite one example of some phenomenon that is in contradiction to evolutionary theory. And please, don't use any of Ham's examples - they're all bullshit.

 
At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Oh, and one more thing, MWR.

Fred brings up a good point about the "were you there" argument.

If that argument were true, then there would be no such thing as forensic crime re-construction or accident investigation. Or archeology.

Physical processes leave behind evidence of their having occurred. You see a dead body on the street, with a bullet hole and you conclude "This guy was shot." Ah, but were you there??? No one saw it, saw I guess no murder has happened.

Now, I bet if Ham's house was burglarized, he'd call the authorities and want an investigation launched in hopes of catching the thieves. But by his own logic, that would be impossible - there were no witnesses, so no burglary occurred. Ham must be aware of this. So now that I think about it, yeah, I think it is reasonable to conclude that he is knowingly lying to those kids.

 
At 10:58 AM, Anonymous mwr said...

Fred said...
someone telling children that there are no transitional fossils is lying. Period.

I am still waiting for someone to show me transitional fossils that don't require me to look at it sideways and stand on my head and then just believe that it so.

I know that the fossil record will not hold everything you need to prove your point, but it should hold more that a couple of things that are more than 50 million years apart. I still say show me the transitional fossils.

Just because thing look alike don't mean that they came from a common ancestor, just a common creator.

I agree with your were you there argument. Very weak.

MWR

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

MWR -

Here is 1 or 2 things to consider when it comes to transitional fossils.

Assuming that there are no transitional species, i.e., that each fossilized critter represents a species that remained unchanged since its creation, then that means that there must have several creation events throughout the earth's history.

Now, as you know, the majority of fossilized species are today extinct, which means that, some time in the past, they were unable to successfully adapt to and live in their environment. This brings up some questions about the Creator: why would he/she/it create a species ill-suited to its environment? Did the creator not see the environmental changes coming? Or did he need a few warm up pitches to get things right?

I suppose that in itself does not disprove the miraculous creation, but it does make you question his competence, doesn't it?

And why is it, in the case of hominids for example, that the fossils get more and more similar to modern humans as the fossils get younger and younger? Pretty big coincidence. And if each hominid was specially created, I guess God was warming up to make humans.

So I guess we're left with two choices: 1. Evolution or 2. God needs to take practice shots.

And if #2 is true, how do you know that WE are not just another practice shot on the way to perfection?

 
At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am still waiting for someone to show me transitional fossils that don't require me to look at it sideways and stand on my head and then just believe that it so . . . a couple of things that are more than 50 million years apart. "

What examples of (alleged) transitional fossils have you seen? Which ones are you referring to? What should a transitional fossil look like?
I know, rather snarky sounding questions, sorry.

One interesting stop for anyone interested in reading/talking/debating transitional fossils is the Talk.Origins Transitional Vetebrate Fossils FAQ. ( It does have some drawbacks (last updated almost a decade ago, no illustrations - anyone knows a better site?)

As pope zach 64 points out, human evolution has some rather good examples of transitional fossils. Do you disagree with this? Why?

"Just because thing look alike don't mean that they came from a common ancestor, just a common creator."

Sure, and vice versa. For example, looking at cars over time, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that cars are evolving, etc (in the biological sense). We don't make this silly mistake because we know - based on all kinds of evidence - that cars are manufactured - created, so to speak. On the other hand, we also know that living creatures aren't manufactured (at least in mechanical sense). In fact, we know that living creatures reproduce. We also know that the resulting offspring are often not exact copies, but show both considerable variation - even copying errors. We also know a bit about how this works (genetics)*. Based on all this and various other lines of evidence (see our host's Darwin Day Talk for a sample), common ancestry seems a more likely answer, and indeed is supported by essentially all scientists working in the relevent fields. Doesn't mean it's right, but it's the very best explanation we have so far.

Of course, a third possibility is a Creator used evolution in some fashion, rather like an engineer using simulated evolution, etc. - but there doesn't seem to be any evidence for (or against) this, nor is it clear how we could tell.

As for the Ham piece - it's like reading about someone going around and trying to convince kids that medicine is stupid, or computer-related stuff a waste. Although remember, this is how a lot of folks seem to view the teaching of evolution - people taking kids and turning them away from something very important, rather than a way of learning more about this marvelous world.

*Indeed, the same ideas and techniques used to test whether and how individual creatures of a species are related (paternity tests, trace your ancestry kits, etc) are used to study the relationship between species. It's not clear why this would work in the first instance but be misleading in the second.

-Dan S.

 
At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Steve III said...

First there is not one single transition fossil, second if everything is evolveing than why are fossils that are supposed to be millions to billions of years old still the same as their ancestors today ie. starfish, coelacanth...

Another thing for those bashing Ken Ham have you ever actually listed to a full seminar from him?

Also have you ever read the bible to see what it actually says and have you ever read "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle of Life" by Charles Darwin? Did you even know that is the full title to his book of theories?

Well I've read both the Bible and Darwin's book plus several other books from both sides of the argument and there is plenty more evidence for creation than for evolution.

Also evolution is not science it is a theory! Science is somthing that can be OBSERVED, TESTED, & TESTED again and the theory of Evolution can do none of that.

So before you spout off you should try to look at both side of an argument instead of being a conformist and buying into what someone just tells you.

There are also plenty of scientist who believe in creation and the number is growing everyday.

I will pray for you!

Steve III

 
At 5:40 AM, Blogger cnocspeireag said...

Oh, Steve III! Those with any real science education find it difficult to sit through more than a few minutes of the hambone, because he simply repeats old lies from the beginning and there is no point in listening to more. Your letter starts with the well worn lie that 'there are no transitional fossils' and doesn't improve. Go to a real museum or take a genuine science course and you will begin to understand your mistakes, but it will take time and effort.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger cecillia said...

Nice info. Thank you.
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