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.
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