Were You There?

You have all seen the debate technique beloved by young-earth creationists — their claim that no one knows the distant past because no human was there to witness what happened, and therefore scripture is the only source of truth about the past.

This extra-ordinarily ignorant argument is heavily promoted by creationists like Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia. He’s the head of his online ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom. Ol’ Hambo is also the brains behind the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum — which has become the North American Mecca for the mindless.

We wrote about this a year ago — Hey, Ken Ham: “Were You There?” That moronic question is Hambo’s shorthand way of expressing his contrived distinction between what he arbitrarily labels “operational science” (which he accepts) and “historical science” (which he insists is unreliable).

We’ve written about that several times, most recently here: Ken Ham Says He Loves Science, and we discussed it in more detail here Creationism and Science, and also Answers in Genesis Explains Science to Us. But there’s still more to be said.

First, what is the reason to question the work of science in reconstructing the past? Scientists from every continent who all have the same data will come to the same conclusions about the history of the earth and the universe. Geologists, physicists, astronomers, biologists, and others all converge on the same results. There is no evidence — none! — to suggest that any of their conclusions are seriously in doubt. But there are, of course, a multitude of creation myths that predate science and they all tell different stories. That’s understandable, but such tales have no scientific value.

However, if one wants to insist that one particular creation myth is The Truth, the only way to do so is to ignore all other myths (they’re blasphemy) and then reject all of the science — every bit if it — that reveals a different account. Hambo’s method of accomplishing this is to imagine that what he calls “historical science” has no value because it’s not validated by eyewitness testimony. Who made up the rule that the past is unknowable unless witnessed? Hambo and his tribe did. Why? Because Genesis is otherwise revealed to be mythology.

But think about it. If the laws of nature were utterly different in the past (when you weren’t there to see for yourself) then what kind of universe is this? It’s obviously a crazy, incomprehensible, chaotic universe — one which literally has no rules. It’s a universe where stars and planets can’t really exist — at least not for long — because the physics upon which they depend can suddenly change. Yet we observe nothing that even hints at such a bizarre universe. That point can’t be emphasized enough: There is no evidence — none whatsoever — to suggest that the laws of nature are subject to sudden, unpredictable gyrations.

So why would anyone ever consider the possibility of a chaotic universe? The only reason is to justify Hambo’s peculiar theology — which requires a different set of rules for his literal version of Genesis. We don’t know what your conclusion is, but for us, that reason is — lets us diplomatically say — woefully insufficient.

We’ll conclude with this. Hambo neatly wraps his doctrine of chaotic science into his childish question: “Were you there?” We suggest this as a response: “Maybe I was. How would you know?” Yes, it’s silly, but sometimes a silly question doesn’t deserve anything more.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Were You There?

  1. NeonNoodle

    Old-time radio comic Jack Pearl (“Vass you dere, Sharlie?”) is Ken Sham’s unsung, unofficial poster boy.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Pearl
    That’s exactly as it should be, because his mindless Creation Museum resembles nothing so much as a Baron Münchhausen flight of lunacy.

  2. I was there. The Genesis account didn’t happen.

    What do you mean I wasn’t there? How would you know, where you there?

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/sumerians-look-on-in-confusion-as-god-creates-worl,2879/

    According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

    “I do not understand,” reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. “A booming voice is saying, ‘Let there be light,’ but there is already light. It is saying, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass,’ but I am already standing on grass.”

    “Everything is here already,” the pictograph continues. “We do not need more stars.”

    Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

    Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

    “The Sumerian people must have found God’s making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else,” said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. “If what the pictographs indicate are true, His loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week.”

    According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God’s most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

    “These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant,” one Sumerian philosopher wrote. “They must be the creation of a complete idiot.”

  3. Gabriel Hanna says: “What do you mean I wasn’t there? How would you know, where you there?”

    Yes, I was there. And I remember you. You were running around telling everyone the world is flat.

  4. retiredsciguy

    “Were you there?”
    “Maybe I was. How would you know?”

    And yet another reason not to reveal your birth certificate…

  5. When creationist asks the “were you there” question, one should politely point out that, by asking such a question, they have completely demolished creationism.

  6. Gabriel wrote: “I was there. …”

    I saw Gabe there too. He sold Curmie and me some apples, and Curmie gave one to that dust-chick.

  7. @Tomato: And you told me the check was in the mail. (I was young, what can I say, scams hadn’t been invented yet.)

    $1.50 compounded at 5% for 6000 years, plus late fees, plus penalties, you owe me $2.914 x 10^130. Pay up, sucka.

  8. Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo)
    AKA Kanned Ham…

  9. Gabriel Hanna says: “Pay up, sucka.”

    Under Babylonian law, he can pay you in crops or slaves.

  10. Gabe wrote: “$1.50 compounded at 5% for 6000 years, plus late fees, plus penalties, you owe me $2.914 x 10^130. Pay up, sucka.”

    Yeah, well the $ hadn’t been invented yet either, and I distinctly recall you agreed to be paid in livestock. I shipped them by ArkXpress, and you should have gotten them 4000 years ago!
    Hang on, I have a tracking number around here somewhere …

    … Here it is:

    ArkXpress Tracking Number: 000000000001

  11. Only $2.914 x 10^130 ? As long as you are asking for more $ than there are atoms in the Universe, you should have gone for the Borel limit.

  12. Jim Thomerson

    I think we should promote a popular cultural model of what we do in science, particularly historical science. CSI, Crime Scene Investigation, shows are fairly abundant on TV. They reconstruct a crime based on evidence left behind, with application of modern science to that evidence. Other than thinking of the Universe as a crime scene, which seems a little warped, CSI is exactly what we do.

  13. Curmudgeon: “Yes, I was there. And I remember you. You were running around telling everyone the world is flat.”

    You might remember me there too. I was the one who kept asking Tony “the Geocentrist” Pagano where the center of the earth was. Even then he refused to answer. Even though the answer was right under his nose.

  14. docbill1351

    I was there, too! I remember Curmie when he was just learning to crawl. He used to follow this old brontosaurus around and one day the danged thing pooped on him! Funniest thing I ever say. Dino poop in his hair, ears; what a mess.

    Glad to see you finally cleaned up your act, boy!

  15. docbill1351 says: “He used to follow this old brontosaurus around”

    That dinosaur ate my homework.

  16. docbill1351

    Which explains why you never got past “Tird” Grade!

    Bah-dum-CHING!

  17. Ceteris Paribus

    Ham was there also. Ham was at that time on the bottom side of the flat earth, too busy running his brass smelting works to take note of what was happening on the other side.

    Quite a profitable operation for him too, on account of the local environmental regulations having been fine-tuned for free enterprise ventures.

    Then one day a few thousand years after creation, without so much as a “by your leave” a
    rude bunch of religious zealots started throwing their demised Canaanites down into a hole
    they called “Sheol”. Which unfortunately for Ham lined up exactly with his profitable lake of boiling brass.

    Well, everybody knows you could on any given day throw an occasional tyrant or despot or Hitler or two into the crucible without taking much notice of the effect on the batch. Bbut eventually the torrent of dispatched Canaanites of all sizes and ages was more than Ham’s alloy recipe could stand, and he was forced to sell out at a loss to a venture capital specialist.

    Ham vowed revenge, and is at this very minute operating on our side of the earth running a
    side-show circus scam he designed to turn a once rational people into blithering idiots capable of no thoughts that they do not hear from a fundamentalist preacher/politician/broadcaster.

    So that explains why we can see Ham walking around today, stopping every now and then to
    wrinkle his brow and squint over his bifocals while he fixes his eyes into those of anyone careless enough to look his way. And when he asks “Were YOU there?”, it is not a question requiring your answer. It is merely a rhetorical question intended to convey the depths of depravity to which he was forced by the religious zealots of an earlier time.

  18. docbill1351

    Where you there when Ken Ham (American AIG) split from parent company Australian AIG?

    Do Google that saga! Apparently, old Hambo discovered gold in them thar hills in Americky especially hicky Americky down there in Ken-hicky-tucky where money and moonshine are in abundance and common sense ain’t so much.

    Yep, the Oz Boys didn’t cobber to Hamster bilabonging the brass and thought they deserved some skin of the old kangaroo if you get my drift, continental-wise. But that Ham-fisted old so-and-so digeriee-don’t Hambone said “Up yours, mate, I’ve got another date” and skuttled his dags to the hinder parts where he re-sold copyrighted material out of the reach of the constable. Started his own AIG, he did.

    Poor old Oz AIG was left at the alter with no alter boy, a dry bilabong, a handful of dags and no bazzer! Shameful, it was, shameful. I mean, if you can’t cork your own flickle then what’s the point?

  19. Charles Deetz ;)

    I was thinking the same thing, Jim Thomerson. How many of these creationists spend their evenings lapping up episodes of CSI??? Maybe they should add an investigator whose job is it to keep asking ‘were you there’ and annoy the creationists until they see their hypocracy.

  20. After the rejoinder “How do you know whether I was there?”, the next thing that occurs to me is that it shows that the YECs recognize just how overwhelming the evidence is for an old Earth.
    The YECs realize that, in order to deny the evidence for an old Earth, their only refuge is to deny vast amounts of human knowledge.

  21. It’s a point you’ve made before, but it bears repeating: Ham also becomes extremely keen on historical science when he thinks there’s a chance it confirms his beliefs.

  22. Charles Deetz: “How many of these creationists spend their evenings lapping up episodes of CSI???”

    That’s yet another reason to consider the radical difference between the scam artists and rank-and-file evolution deniers. You might recall the early episode about a skeleton that was initially assumed to be human that turned out to be that of a gorilla. Most rank-and file evolution deniers would have no problem with that the episode. In some cases it probably helped alleviate some of their doubt. In other cases they just “compartmentalized” away the similarities in morphology. Only the most beyond-hope subset of deniers would object to the episode, but they’re unlikely to watch that kind of show even if it promoted the pseudoscience side. The scam artists watch those shows, but only to look for inaccuracies and oversimplifications that they take out of context to help them peddle more incredulity.

  23. jonnyscaramanga: “Ham also becomes extremely keen on historical science when he thinks there’s a chance it confirms his beliefs.”

    That blatant double standard must be a key reason that the more astute scam artists started backpedaling on the “whats and whens,” even before it became imperative to drop the “creator” language.

  24. Mark Joseph

    @Ceteris Paribus

    If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that Ham is a brass hole, right?