Creationism: A House Divided Against Itself

Like everyone else on the sane side of The Controversy between evolution and creationism, we know that evolution isn’t a controversial theory among honest and informed scientists. Those who claim otherwise are creationists of one type or another.

We have also urged that scientists shouldn’t debate with creationists. Not only do many creationists use dishonorable debate tactics, but it’s strategically wrong to participate in such affairs as it misleads the public into thinking that there’s something worth debating, and that creationists are worthy debate opponents.

Creationism is a peculiar feature of some religious denominations, which places the subject outside the scope of science. We think that if there are to be debates about it, it should be between the pro-science and the anti-science denominations. This is typical of our posts on this subject: Creationism: The Debate About The Debate — II and also Religion and Evolution: Part III.

Unfortunately, the pro-science denominations (see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution) are seldom seen to publicly chastise their less informed brethren. Given the long and horrendous history of inter-denominational conflict, this is understandable.

But there’s another potential debate arena. There are numerous versions of creationism — young earth, old earth, theistic evolution, and the totally strange Discovery Institute position, which is not only anti-science (although they claim otherwise) but which also insists that it is an entirely secular enterprise (a claim which has never been credible). For a description of the whole spectrum, see The Creation-Evolution Continuum.

But how often do we see creationists attack one another? It’s rare, because while they have a common enemy — the rational world — they tend to overlook their own differences, which are often significant. We’ve written about a few such disputes. See Discovery Institute: Food Fight with Harun Yahya, and also Discovery Institute Attacked by ICR, and also Battling Baptists: Young or Old Earth?, and also Creationism: A Denominational, Not Scientific Issue.

Well, we’ve got another battle between creationists here, and this one involves Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the genius who brought you the website Answers in Genesis (AIG) and the mind-boggling Creation Museum.

We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Letter from Ken, October 2010: Why is the Christian worldview collapsing in America?, which appears at the AIG website.

But first, take a look at Hambo’s title. Why is his worldview collapsing? We can easily answer that. It’s because any sect that insists on reality denial isn’t going to survive for the long haul. But Hambo doesn’t see it that way. After all, he’s got The Truth.

Anyway, we’ll skip over Hambo’s long, rambling preamble, in which he suggests an analogy between himself and an early Reformation martyr. That’s embarrassing, even for Hambo. We’ll jump into his blog post after that, with bold font added by us:

To understand the times in which we live, we need to know how this sad transformation has come about — including how people view the Bible

The majority of church leaders have adopted the secular religion (i.e., millions of years/evolution) of the age and have compromised God’s Word — thus undermining its authority to coming generations.

Awwww, poor ol’ Hambo. But he has more to tell us about “this sad transformation.” Let’s read on:

Statistics are clear that most people in churches do not study their Bibles as they should. Frankly, we have a very biblically illiterate church today.

But Hambo doesn’t spend any time on biblical illiteracy. He venom is expended on the secularist church leaders — those who don’t share his young-earth creationism. At this juncture in his essay, we can see how the pack is turning on ol’ Hambo, so stay with us:

I want to give you two specific examples of this dramatic change — and I believe you will be quite shocked.

The first is of Dr. James F. McGrath, who holds the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis. Recently, Dr. McGrath wrote a blog item concerning AiG’s stand on a literal Genesis:

This is McGrath’s website. Hambo doesn’t give any links (there’s no need for any — he himself is the ultimate authority) but he claims to quote Dr. McGrath’s quoting someone else complaining about Hambo’s lack of academic credentials in the field of theology — that is, Hambo is ignorant, yet he’s out there babbling away. Then Hambo claims to quote McGrath own opinion of the matter:

Amen! . . . I think that the best course of action is for those who are well-informed about the Bible to debunk, refute and if necessary ‘refudiate’ the statements of those who have no expertise in any field of scholarship related to the Bible, and yet believe that without any real knowledge of the original languages, historical context, and other relevant factors, their pontifications will do anything but harm the souls of believers and the Christian faith itself.

As you can imagine, ol’ Hambo isn’t going to put up with that. He says:

Well, it is true that I personally don’t have formal theological training — but there are those at Answers in Genesis who do [names omitted]. And we do have quite a number of other highly qualified theologians whose counsel we seek to ensure we are accurate in handling God’s Word.

In other words, Hambo admits that he’s a theological ignoramus. Then he says:

By the way, I’m so glad I have not been theologically trained in the way Dr. McGrath has (and sadly like many who are now being trained in Bible colleges and seminaries).

Hambo’s quite happy to know nothing about either theology or science. Hey, how could it be otherwise? He’s a creationist! Here’s more:

The second sad example is from Dr. William Dembski, a professor at what is known as a conservative seminary in the South.

Ah, now it’s a real knife-fight between creationists. Doncha love it? We’ve already linked to our earlier post on Dembski’s flirtation with unorthodoxy, but here it is again: Battling Baptists: Young or Old Earth?

Hambo gives examples of what he regards as Dembski’s unacceptable old-earth opinions, and then he concludes his self-righteous essay with this:

We would say that Dr. Dembski (who may be a fine Christian man) is taking the belief in billions of years (obtained by man’s fallible interpretations of the present in an attempt to connect to the past) as infallible, and in reality making God’s Word fallible.

So there you are. It’s not only Hambo against reality, it’s also Hambo against many of his fellow creationists too. This is good to see. That’s the reason for our title for this blog article. It comes from Matthew 12:25, which says:

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

So may it be with the house of creationism.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Creationism: A House Divided Against Itself

  1. “So may it be with the house of creationism.”

    Amen.

  2. Lets say you want to measure something. You’ve got two instruments: one gives the wrong value, but is always off by a some reasonably consistent (and measurable) amount. The second gives wildly varying measurements. Its not consistent at all. The first instrument is useful; it can be calibrated. The second instrument is not useful; you might as well unplug it and use it as a paperweight.

    When many learned theologians come to wildly different conclusions about what the bible means, what they are really demonstrating is that biblical exegesis is like the second instrument.

    Gould made a similar point in The Mismeasure of Man: folks (like Ken Ham) get so obsessed with a measurement value (e.g. what the book says) that they completely forget about the width of the distribution of that value. But knowing the distribution is often more important to understanding some situation than knowing the value itself.

  3. Creationists like Ham are only too happy to take potshots at science while claiming that science really supports them. However, their beef with the IDiots appears to stem from a recognition that Dembski and his ilk either lack or suppress–they apparently know that science by no means supports any sort of creationism at all.

    For instance:

    taking the belief in billions of years (…) as infallible, and in reality making God’s Word fallible.

    We, of course, don’t take anything as being infallible, including the age of the earth and Hammy’s pronouncements of what “God’s word” is, and it may be that Dembski understands science far enough to realize that deep time is fallible, if also extremely probable (although it’s hard to care what he thinks).

    He seems there to not think that science truly supports his claims, and holds to the concept that “God’s word” is the final authority. Evidently the latter part is really the position of the CSC fellows as well (except possibly for the nonsensical position(s) of Berlinski), no matter how much they may differ in interpretation. What the DI/CSC do that Ham can never like is that they will allow that science properly should decide whether or not evolution happened, or if life was designed.

    Ken may even realize in some way that there is no evidence for design, and plenty for evolution by “natural” (known, for the most part) means. If so, how could he possibly concede to science the conclusion of how life arose? Dembski et al. have taken a position that is politically expedient in the short run, but their pretense at deferring to science is detrimental to science-denying religion over the long run, and Ham is worried about the long run.

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if this constitutes a fatal split, as we’ve watched Dembski backpedal under YEC pressure (which was presented in the Ham puts it, as a matter of deferring to the Bible instead of science). Not fatal to YEC, actually, rather to ID.

    Let science decide, as ID says (but doesn’t mean), and in principle it’s all over for creationistic religion, since they don’t have science on their side (and Ham seemingly knows this). The mere fact that IDiots defer to religion doesn’t change the fact that their claims of deferring to science cannot fail to be unsettling to creationists at large.

  4. “We have also urged that scientists shouldn’t debate with creationists.”

    Since when is debating with a creationist so threatening? Afterall, if the creationists are right, shouldn’t science eventually (dis)prove creationism to the point of no return? You’re promoting cowardice, not healthy scientific debate. Being ignorant and becoming ignorant — neither will get us closer to understanding more of the universe if you’re not willing to provide enough proof to change the mindsets of the opposition. Obviously creationists are no longer teaching that the earth is the center of our solar system, so ultimately if there’s enough proof, they’ll change their teachings until eventually we’re left with truths.

  5. Cody says: “You’re promoting cowardice, not healthy scientific debate.”

    Goodbye, Cody. You’re right. We’re afraid.

  6. Tyndale. He’s comparing himself to Tyndale.
    Ham isn’t a scientist. He isn’t a theologian. He does, however, appear to have no problem with “self esteem.”
    Tyndale would eat him for breakfast.

  7. The creationists are always against each other except when briefly united against science. The DI is a perfect example of this “enemy of my enemy” philosophy. For example, the DI promotes Vatican astronomers when they say something anti-science or pro-creationist, otherwise the VatAstros are panned mercilessly.

    It all boils down to a common anti-science theme, which as we all know is the height of irony as they use all that modern science provides to wage their war.

    Imagine the good old Hambo could do if he used his $25 million to fund a children’s hospital rather than to defraud the public. Such a sad waste.

  8. Ellie says: “Tyndale. He’s comparing himself to Tyndale.”

    P.T. Barnum would be a better comparison.

  9. P.T. Barnum would be a better comparison.

    Comparing Ham to Barnum is an insult to circus showman.

  10. I don’t get it. First I give out a big “YES!!!!” for you being one of the rare “Darwinists” (TomS and I being among the few others) who finds the “pseudoscience code of silence” among anti-evolution activists deserving of much more than a yawn. But then you spend the rest of your post beating up our best “useful idiot.” Granted, Ham generates most of the hard data, while the Discoveroids would rather duct tape their mouths shut than criticize a YEC. But evasion is data too, and I would pound on them every time they “look the other way,” e.g. with Freshwater.

  11. Frank J says: “I don’t get it.”

    I am merely a chronicler of creationist food fights. A pox on all of them.

  12. @Cody if you’re still reading:

    Most anti-evolution sites disallow debates, so if you advocate real fairness, and not the usual “handout,” you should agree that pro-science sites deserve that right too. Nevertheless, many pro-science sites, particularly Talk.Origins, do encourage debates with evolution-deniers. They also encourage debates between evolution-deniers who disagree with each other, though the evolution-deniers almost always decline that perfect opportunity to show some scientific integrity.

    So I encourage you to visit TO, and debate whomever you want. Who knows, maybe you’ll be that rare one who challenges creationists as well as recycling long-refuted arguments against “Darwinism.”

  13. Unfortunately, science can cure the pox!

  14. “A house divided against itself”

    …. ah bollocks…just goes to show what a Theological Ignoramus ™ I am…there was me thinking it was a rather natty and accurate line scripted by one of your better Presidents. I really liked that one as well.

    Shagnastys!

    Thanks for educating me Mr C, even if it is a bit of a let down.

  15. I have to disagree with the “don’t debate” idea. Lots of people do think there is something worth debating, and refusing to debate merely allows creationists to claim science is afraid to face them or that science has no effective answers.

    The key, though, is to be well informed, and getting well informed is the equivalent of a major research topic. So if you’re not willing to put as much effort into it as publishing a major paper or getting a grant, stay out. A scientist who asks “why can’t evolution merely be God’s way of creating species?” is revealing only his own lack of research.

    I have to take a moment to slam the gawdawful video “Flock of Dodos,” which is applauded by dodos but is an absolutely appalling hack piece of “equal treatment” documentary. If you can call something a “documentary” when the producer only learns of the existence of the Discovery Institute 80% of the way through the video.

    As for Ham’s theology, I like to cite Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Ham likes to think that his belief in the Bible trumps everything else, but the Bible says that if you can’t deal honestly in small matters, you won’t in great matters. If you can’t present science honestly, anything you have to say about spiritual matters is worthless. Of course, that’s only what the Bible says.

  16. Steve Dutch says:

    Lots of people do think there is something worth debating, and refusing to debate merely allows creationists to claim science is afraid to face them or that science has no effective answers.

    So what? Lots of people think the Moon landings were a hoax. That’s no reason for an astronaut to debate with them. Nor is there any reason for an astronomer to debate with an astrology buff. Same thing regarding creationists. If they want to learn, there are abundant resources available to them. These things don’t get decided in debates.

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    I understand the wisdom of refusing to debate creationists but I do not have the temperament to let lies and distortions go by unchallenged.

    About 95% of anything any creationist says is a lie about Darwin or science. And I try to limit myself to showing that. The reason is that there are always more people reading comments than writing comments, and I don’t want them to go away thinking that what the creationist said is unchallenged because it is true.