Tag Archives: Evolution

Ken Ham Crib Sheet

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog questioning the sanity of Ken Ham (found here), I have compiled a list of the essential arguments put forth by Ken during his debate with Bill Nye. While it seems at first viewing that he commands a dizzying array of arguments, they are mostly rephrased or derivative versions of the same few silly assertions. Distilled below is pretty much the entire Creationist repertoire that he repeats over and over in different ways with great airs of authority. I added my own sometimes mostly snarky rebuttals. Feel free to use these when you feel compelled to respond quickly to friends or coworkers who repeat these delusional arguments.

ken-ham

Man is not the ultimate authority. God is.

Science agrees that man is not the ultimate authority. It simply acknowledges that verifiable and reproducible facts are.

Science has been hijacked by secularists.

Ballsy try, but it’s clearly the other way around, with creationists like Ken desperately trying to gain legitimacy by donning the mantle of science.

Some scientists are creationists.

Ken repeatedly attempts to argue by authority by trotting out testimonials from scientists who share his delusions. Yes a very few scientists are creationists – and some priests are child-molesters. What does that prove except that some priests can be immoral and some scientists can be crazy? By the way, I sincerely doubt that he would accept the literal belief of a few demented Hindi scientists as proof that the universe was created by Brahma.

Interpretations depend upon your presuppositions.

Absolutely, and the scientific method is the only method we have to prove or disprove those presuppositions. But science doesn’t start by proudly proclaiming its presupposition that the bible is the inerrant and irrefutable source of all truth.

The bible predicts things and we see them actually confirmed.

No surprise when you proclaim anything you choose in the bible to be “symbolic” and then take license to interpret those symbols however necessary to confirm your desired predictions. Nostradamus made many more correct predictions than the bible.

How could we have logic without god if we are just random?

This is a centuries-old argument that is unworthy of a first-year philosophy class. The cosmos is not random and logic has no need for god when it can depend upon physical laws and causality.

Observational science is legitimate but Historical science is not.

There is no such distinction except within Ken Ham’s addled brain. He simply fabricated this artificial distinction to dismiss any science he does not like. Science is science. But when you try to understand what qualifies as ‘Observational’ science and what qualifies as “Historical” science, you quickly see that the only criterion is whatever Ken Ham wants to believe. Anything he agrees with is by his definition the good “Observational” science. Anything he wants to deny is by his definition illegitimate “Historical” science.

You must understand that parts of the bible are Literal and other parts are Poetic.

Just as he dismisses any science he finds inconvenient as “Historical,” he conveniently dismisses anything in the bible he disagrees with as “Poetic” while anything he chooses to believe is “Literal.” It must be very convenient when you can define reality based on whatever you want to believe. But that is also the unmistakable hallmark of delusion and even insanity.

The evolutionary tree should really be organized into Kinds.

Another way Mr. Ham attempts to redefine reality to fit his insanity is in his concept of biological “Kinds.” This is a cornerstone fabrication by Mr. Ham. By imposing his completely artificial notion of “Kinds” of species as a starting point, he is then able to make ridiculous claims and suggest completely contrived flaws in evolutionary theory. By starting with his “Kinds” construct, he is then able to argue that Noah could reasonably have carried every “Kind” of animal in the Arc, that the species diversity we see today could have plausibly arisen out of his “Kinds,” and that there is no evidence of his “Kinds” evolving into another “Kind,” thus denying the evolution of species. This is of course all utter nonsense, but if he can get people to accept his premise of “Kinds” as a starting point, then he can get them to follow him down this rabbit hole into Alice in Wonderland-land. The Mad Hatter was quite inventive and clever.

You can’t know that what is true today was true in the past.

Only if you are delusional. We actually do know that the laws of chemistry and physics apply always and everywhere in our universe without exception.

You didn’t observe the past directly so you can’t know anything about it.

So then Ken can’t know anything about his family history by leafing through a photo album – he didn’t observe the events directly after all. The simple truth is that we can and do know a tremendous amount about the past. We can observe the past directly just by looking into space after all. Or we can simply study all the evidence just lying all around us like little fossilized photographs.

Dating methods don’t agree.

Technically true, but still an obvious lie. Any differences between various scientific dating methods are minuscule compared to their vast disagreement with biblical claim of 6,000 years.

Can you name one piece of technology that could only have been developed starting with a belief in molecules-to-man evolution?

This is a red-herring, an invalid diversionary question. But sure we’ll play this game. How about clones, genetically modified foods, transgenic plants and animals, hybrid species, designer bacteria, and an exploding number of patents for new life forms? The list goes on and on.

You can’t prove any instance of a new trait appearing that wasn’t already there.

If Ken merely did a simple Google search of popular articles, he might find “10 Astounding Cases of Modern Evolution” reported by Popular Science (found here). There are thousands of such examples including the sudden development of new survival traits amongst bedbugs here in New York City. But this is yet another red-herring since most changes are incredibly tiny and only accumulate into observable traits after exceedingly long periods of time.

I hope this summary helps you to recognize and respond to these laughably fallacious sorts of arguments that some Creationists put forth. Unfortunately, guys like Ken are practiced at making themselves appear to be scientifically literate and they do appear to cite a plethora of legitimate arguments raising doubt in the science of evolution, but in reality they offer only smoke floating on air.

From Belief to Delusion

When I wrote my 2008 book Belief in Science and the Science of Belief (here on Amazon), I intentionally treated belief as just, well – belief. I intentionally softened any characterizations that might seem excessively inflammatory and personal. But in this more intimate setting amongst friends like you, we can ask whether the word belief is far too weak and benign, even inaccurate, to describe many of the assertions of the Religious Right.

Remember the formal debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on creationism? Ham challenged Nye to debate the topic and the notable exchange took place on February 4th, 2014. You can find the debate online if you missed it (here on YouTube). If you are old enough, you might know Bill Nye as the amiable “Science Guy” from his highly-regarded science show that ran from 1993 through 1998. Mr. Nye continues to be a passionate advocate and popularist of science.

Creation Museum

“Learning” at the Creation Museum

His opponent, Mr. Ham, was and is the President of the Answers in Genesis Ministry and is a tireless evangelist preaching young Earth creationism – mainly targeting kids. Mr. Ham is a key principal behind the Creation “Museum” (website) – a Biblical-themed amusement park that you may have glimpsed in the film Religulous by Bill Maher.

As I listened to the specious and frankly ludicrous arguments put forth with such conviction by Mr. Ham (see here), I could not help but wonder whether belief is far too mealy-mouthed a word for what Ham and those like him suffer from. Is not delusion is a far more accurate word to describe his kind of thinking? And if so, is it really helpful to be so very reluctant to call it what it is?

Now, before the psychologists amongst you get all up in arms that I’m diagnosing my fellow human beings, let me assure you that I use the word delusional purely in a lay sense, not as any kind of clinical diagnosis. But just because the word has particular meaning in clinical settings, does not mean we are not allowed to use it in a more general sense. We don’t need a judge to certify certain criminal activity as criminal and we don’t need a priest to proclaim certain behaviors as evil. We are perfectly free to do so as well.

For a fair and impartial definition of delusion we can most conveniently start with Wikipedia (go to link), which defines it as follows:

“A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.”

That definition establishes a very clear distinction between belief and delusion, one which is easily recognizable at least at the extremes. A belief is simply an unsupported conclusion based on insufficient or incorrect information. A delusion is a belief that persists regardless of any amount of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of Ken Ham, his creationist views go far beyond a mistaken belief based on false or incomplete information. He maintains his unalterable convictions despite incomparably superior evidence to the contrary. No doubt, he would argue that the evidence for evolution is not actually superior, but any delusional person would similarly deny all evidence contrary to their delusion. Any objectively rational person could not help but conclude that the evidence for evolution goes far beyond merely superior to overwhelming and that the convoluted arguments that Ham puts forth to deny this evidence are utterly irrational.

According to Wikipedia again, delusions are further subcategorized into four distinct groups. One of these, the “Bizarre Delusion,” is defined as follows:

“A delusion that is very strange and completely implausible; an example of a bizarre delusion would be that aliens have removed the reporting person’s brain.”

I contend that the thinking of Ken Ham and other evolution deniers should be fairly and accurately categorized as a Bizarre Delusion. Their creationist views are certainly “completely implausible” and it would be considered “very strange” if they were not so commonplace. It is important to recognize that they have studied this a lot, and do not simply hold a completely uninformed and clueless belief in creation like presumably say, Rick Perry. And they are evidently not just lying about their belief like at least some other Conservative politicians. They are truly delusional.

Words matter and they should be used accurately. In principle, if a more accurate word is available it should be used. It seems undeniable that Bizarre Delusion is a far more appropriate word than belief to describe the thinking of Ham and those who share his delusions. But words also have power, and we should avoid words that convey implications or elicit reactions we would like to avoid. So even if the bizarre thinking of Ham and others like him is in fact delusional by definition, what value is there in labeling it as such? Doesn’t that just necessarily alienate those you would like to bring around to a less delusional way of thinking?

Even considering those possible undesirable side-effects, the word belief is neither accurate nor helpful in describing these delusions. It is not merely polite and non-confrontational but it actively helps enable these delusions. It suggests that such delusional thinking is harmless and even reasonable and acceptable when sheltered under the protective umbrella of other more rational beliefs. But delusions are seldom harmless and never reasonable or acceptable. Calling this kind of delusional thinking “belief” gives it more legitimacy than it deserves. If we were to consistently refer to this kind of thinking as delusions rather than as beliefs, we would more accurately communicate the true nature and real-world implications of these tangibly harmful assertions.

Certainly using the word delusion instead of belief would elicit a much more visceral response by opponents and allies alike, but I for one would welcome that reaction. I say call a delusion a delusion and stand by the implicit assertion that such delusional thinking goes way beyond mere belief and that it is irrational, unacceptable, and harmful. Calling a delusion a delusion may be just the hit of reality that these deluded people need, or at least those influenced by them need, to honestly reconsider the soundness of their reasoning. At the very least, it may give some people, politicians in particular, some hesitation in associating themselves with these delusional ideas.

So the next time someone espouses delusionary thinking, consider calling it out (nicely) as delusion. Instead of responding with the customary “I respect your beliefs but I don’t share them,” you might say something more provocative like “sorry but I can’t give any credence to such delusions.” If the other party questions how you dare characterize their sincere, heartfelt belief as a delusion, you should be able to give them a very clear and compelling justification for your use of that word. Or just refer them to Wikipedia.

But do not overuse it. Although one could arguably call any belief in god delusional, to do so would only dilute its effectiveness. There is a wide grey spectrum between belief and delusion. Reserve the label of delusional to those like Ken Ham who are clearly at the delusional end of the spectrum.

Here is an extra credit homework question for you. If Ken Ham has clearly slipped from belief into delusion, how far has he slid down the slope from delusion to insanity?