Ken Ham: The Battle of Worldviews

A study was published a few months ago in Evolutionary & Developmental Biology — see The relative importance of religion and education on university students’ views of evolution in the Deep South and state science standards across the United States — confirming what most of us already suspected. The abstract says:

We found that the degree of religiosity mattered significantly more than education when predicting students’ understanding of evolution. When we focused on acceptance of evolution only, students taught evolution or neither evolution nor creationism in high school had significantly higher acceptance than those taught both evolution and creationism or just creationism. Science majors always outscored non-science majors, and not religious students significantly outperformed religious students. Highly religious students were more likely to reject evolution even though they understood that the scientific community accepted the theory of evolution.

[…]

Religiosity, rather than education, best explains views on evolution. In areas of the country where the vast majority of residents believe in God and the literal truth of the Bible, students may be hampered as they enter and progress through college. These same states tend to have lower state science standards and lower levels of educational attainment.

Nothing there is likely to surprise anyone, and ordinarily it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. However, that paper came to the attention of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.

As you might expect, ol’ Hambo is furious. Here’s his response: It’s a Battle Between Worldviews! We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us and Hambo’s bible references omitted. He actually links to the published paper and then he says:

A study conducted by a group of University of Alabama researchers has been making its way around the Internet, so I wanted to comment on it. This study highlights that the creation/evolution controversy is really a worldview-based battle.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’ve heard that before. Yes, it’s the worldview of people who wrote down some Babylonian folk legends 3,000 years ago, contrasted to what we’ve learned about the world since the development of science.

The ancients weren’t stupid — indeed, their spiritual insights still fascinate us — but their knowledge of the world was limited to what they could see of their own region with their unaided eyes. They knew nothing of the Earth’s history and the universe beyond it. They were geo-centrics who believed the Earth was flat and stationary (see The Earth Is Flat! and The Earth Does Not Move!), and that a ladder (see Jacob’s Ladder) or a tower (see Tower of Babel) could reach up to heaven.

Like everyone else at the time, they did the best they could with the limited information available to them, and of course they got a lot of things wrong. But Hambo doesn’t think so. Let’s read on:

It’s really a matter of observational science vs. historical science. … Historical science deals with the past and therefore cannot be directly observed, repeated, or tested. What you believe about the past is going to influence how you interpret the evidence and what conclusions you reach about historical science.

[*Groan*] The false dichotomy between observational science vs. historical science. We’ve heard that before too. There’s a section on it in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Hambo continues:

This study actually highlights that the battle is simply not a matter of helping people understand evolution or teaching people the supposed evidence for evolution. It’s a battle between two different worldviews. Students who are committed to the starting point that there is a Creator are going to interpret the evidence in a different manner than their evolutionary or atheistic professors. It’s not religion vs. science—it’s a battle between two different interpretations of the same evidence!

Right. If one begins with the unshakable opinion that the 3,000 year old misconceptions of the Babylonians are true, it will definitely cripple his ability to think about all the verifiable evidence that has been accumulated since then. Hambo describes this very clearly:

As Christians, our thinking on evolution and its counterpart, billions of years, needs to start with God’s Word. It’s God’s Word — not man’s ideas — that contains a true history of the universe.

He concludes by confirming that his faith in 3,000 year old scrolls is unshakable:

God was an eyewitness to creation and He told us how and when He did it in Genesis. Since God was there and He never lies, we can trust the account of history found in the Bible.

So there you are. It is indeed a battle of worldviews — verifiable reality vs. ancient guesswork and fantasy. The choice is yours, dear reader.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Ken Ham: The Battle of Worldviews

  1. WondrousTermagant

    This is perhaps the most pellucid explanation of the cretinism vs. science conflict that I have ever read. Bravo.

  2. WondrousTermagant

    p.s. You should add this to your “Curmugeon’s Best” feature.

  3. “Historical science deals with the past and therefore cannot be directly observed, repeated, or tested.”
    I hope you don’t find me obnoxious, SC, or at least not more obnoxious as usual. But I cannot resist the temptation to repeat my point.
    Ol’Hambo, go out and look through a telescope. The Universe is expanding. Also go out and check the background radiation as found by Penziac and Wilson. Oh – and there is radiometry. All belong to observational science according to your very own definition. These things are directly observed, repeated and tested. And every single one refutes your hypothesis that the Earth is about 6000 years old. Ol’Hambo, you’re wrong even according to your own dishonest standards.

    Btw I agree with WT above.

  4. The Biblical texts are so full of self-contradictory statements from the divine, a good case can be made that its god always lies.

    But if Divine Command Morality is the standard by which to judge, this shouldn’t matter to Ham! “God says he was there at the beginning, and if that’s what he wants us to believe today, well, we don’t want to go to hell!”

    So creationism isn’t even ‘”science” according to word of god,’ it’s ‘”science” according to the fear of hell,’ as far as I can tell.

  5. To accept Hambo’s attempts at redefining his war on reason as battle of world views would put one’s own cognitive abilities in question.

  6. We know God lies …. with women – hence Jesus.

  7. These same states tend to have lower state science standards and lower levels of educational attainment.

    Oddly, while Ham waxes on about worldviews, and his dismissal of science he doesn’t like as historical science, he never addresses the report’s conclusion that states with more residents that hold similar beliefs to Ham tend to have “lower state science standards and lower levels of educational attainment.” That seems to be glossed over.

  8. It’s really a matter of observational biblism vs. historical biblism. … Historical biblism deals with the past and therefore cannot be directly observed, repeated, or tested. What you believe about the past is going to influence how you interpret the evidence and what conclusions you reach about historical biblism .

    Well, isn’t this what Ham is really meaning to say?

  9. I note that this article is put together with the help of AiG researchers. Is Mr Lie suffering from Alzheimer’s? There’s nothing here he hasn’t re-written almost word for word ten thousand times before. Why does he need a team of researchers to re-write it yet again?

  10. All this confirms what I have been observing about ID/creationists since the 1970s. I often gave talks to audiences about “scientific” creationism and intelligent design after Edwards vs. Aguillard.

    I and a number of others had already observed back in the 1970s that the followers of Henry Morris and Duane Gish systematically bent and broke scientific concepts to fit sectarian dogma. Morris and Gish used blatantly fake etymology, quote mining, and phony erudition to redefine scientific concepts.

    ID/creationists are still doing it. That means, of course, that the concepts no longer apply to the real world. Some of those distortions of scientific concepts were deliberate taunts in order to pique scientists into debating them on public stages; but after a short period of time, ID/creationists came to believe the distortions of their leaders.

    Furthermore, besides the morphing of “scientific” creationism into Intelligent Design after Edwards vs. Aguillard, and despite the disclaimers of the ID/creationists about their own history, it became easy to identify them by their misconceptions and misrepresentations of fundamental scientific concepts at even the high school level. Among all pseudoscience, ID/creationism has a characteristic set of misconceptions and misrepresentations unique to them.

    It is now an easily checked fact that even the PhDs of ID/creationism fail miserably in articulating fundamental scientific concepts; they maul the concepts and their history in predictable ways. Jason Lisle’s pseudo relativity is but a recent example of the routine mangling of science that has been going on since Morris founded the ICR. For all their puffery, ID/creationists can’t pass basic science concept tests at even the high school level.

    One of the encouraging results of this ID/creationist history is that, even if politics gets corrupt enough to force their pseudoscience into the public school curriculum, the concepts are dead wrong and can be easily debunked. An instructor could easily flunk ID/creationist students on their misconceptions of science by making exams that require knowledge of the real science and penalize the misconceptions and misrepresentations of ID/creationism.

    ID/creationists have painted themselves into a corner with their 50 year history of pseudoscience. We no longer have to get tangled up in the quagmires of politics and “viewpoint discrimination” in order to stomp on this socio/political movement. Their pseudoscience is pure crap; and no conscientious professional instructor is obligated to teach any of it. And any instructor who is an ID/creationist sympathizer can be required, as are all instructors, to make detailed lesson plans and objectives for teaching ID/creationist pseudoscience. That then becomes hard evidence for incompetence at teaching science.

  11. My observation about every variety of evolution denial is that it is self-contradictory and does not attempt to offer an account of major features of the world of life.
    The Biblical-literalist-inerrantist style cannot point to a Scriptural text which even treats of features of the world of life such as: the majority of the variety of life which is microbial; the variety over space (biogeography) and time (paleontology and contemporary evolution); taxonomy. Any attempt to say anything about those topics is nothing more nor less than mere speculation with no concern for what the Bible says. Their methodology, such as it is, would as much call into doubt heliocentric astronomy as evolutionary biology.
    Intelligent Design has deliberately and openly refused to offer an account for he variety of life, but has confined itself on attempts to cast doubt on evolutionary biology.
    One does not have to have much knowledge of science to observe that.

  12. In a sense, Ham is right about worldviews …

    There are those who cower in the dark and mumble incantations to ward off evil and those who light a candle and say: “Hmmm, I wonder what made that bump in the night?”

  13. There are those who cower in the dark and mumble incantations to ward off evil and those who light a candle and say: “Hmmm, I wonder what made that bump in my breast?”

    Fixed.

  14. @John Pieret
    In a sense, Ham is wrong about worldviews.

    For there are people of a great variety of worldviews who agree on heliocentric astronomy, atomic chemistry and evolutionary biology. One can be a monarchist, a Communist, an anarchist, a democrat and see no reason that one’s political views have anything to do with E=mc^2. One’s opinion on same-sex marriage, abortion, the death penalty, has no correlation with whether germs can cause infectious disease. And one can be any one of the wide spectra of Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, or secularists, and understand that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

    I see no reason why even people who are fearful of noises in the night can have no fear of being related to chimps or falling off the edge of the Earth.

  15. At this point, it’s practically useless to comment on anything Ken Ham says or does; he’s a nutcase with money, one of depressingly many, and that’s the end of it. His statement that one must “start with God’s Word,” which “contains a true history of the universe,” says it all: you don’t have to actually look for any physical evidence, because God was there, He never lies, and He told us everything in Genesis.

    Of course, the whole thing rests on a key assumption: that the Bible really is the Word of God, dictated by Him personally to mortal men. If that isn’t true, or even if it just isn’t assumed to be true, Ham’s argument fries like bacon.

    The trouble isn’t Ken Ham–it’s all the other nutcases out there who believe as he does. Some of them are even in Congress, and a few have even been presidential candidates.

  16. Eric Lipps says: “At this point, it’s practically useless to comment on anything Ken Ham says or does”

    Yes, but at the moment, he’s the only one generating anything I can blog about. The Discoveroids are boring, so is ICR, and there’s nothing else going on worth mentioning. So make the most of ol’ Hambo.

  17. An excellent post. Thank you TSC. Good comment Mike Elzinga, thank you.

    Best, Steve

  18. With great respect – and it is a great post – may I quibble about Jacob’s Ladder and the Tower of Babel? The ancients didn’t believe that either of them could reach to heaven.

    Jacob’s Ladder was in a dream. The ancients knew as well as we do that impossible things happen in dreams. (I had a dream last night that my father, dead these twenty years, was explaining to me that he had a Protestant handgun that only shot Catholics, and he aimed it at me to prove it, fired and missed. Make of that what you will.)

    The Tower of Babel did not and could not reach to heaven, because God forbade it. Now, maybe you can say that the ancients thought such a tower was impossible for the wrong reason. But they still thought it was impossible.

  19. Dave Luckett says: “may I quibble about Jacob’s Ladder and the Tower of Babel? The ancients didn’t believe that either of them could reach to heaven.”

    Maybe not, because they couldn’t reach high enough, but it shows what they thought was the structure of the world.

  20. TomS:

    I think we are just talking about different levels of “worldview” (an ill-defined term, in any case). To me, fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims share the same “worldview.” I was talking about the worldview that fears the world and wants a rag of false “security” to cover that fear, versus the worldview that knows the world may be scary but wants to know what it is really like anyway.

  21. @Eric Lipps
    I know that people would like to let on that they are just following what the Bible says. Like those who say that the science supports evolution, but they must believe what the Bible says.
    But the Bible clearly says that the Sun goes around the Earth.
    And the Bible clearly does not say, well, there is plenty that is just made up.

  22. Some tangential food for thought. Derren Brown conducts a few informal experiments to demonstrate and to probe the psychology of irrational and religious beliefs. (Apologies if this video has been posted before.)

    In the immortal words of Richard Feynman, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

  23. To my knowledge, no one has commented on this blog about plate tectonics being very clear evidence of deep time. back in 1965, J. Tuzo Wilson coined the term “plate tectonics” to describe the theory that the earth’s crust was made up of several plates, and that they were moving over the mantle independent of one another.

    Back then, it was dubbed the Theory of Plate Tectonics because we didn’t have the means to directly measure this movement. Well, we no longer need to call it a theory, because we can now use GPS technology to actually measure the speed of the moving plates — anywhere from 0 to up to 4″ per year.

    It’s now beyond any dispute that the North and South American Plates were once attached to the Eurasian and African Plates, and they are now separated by the width of the Atlantic Ocean. There is absolutely, positively no way the plates could have moved that far apart in 6000 years.

    And then, even if some YEC would dispute that, there’s the Pacific Plate with several volcanic island chains, including Hawaii, that have been formed (and are still forming) as the plate moves over various magma plumes from hot spots in the mantle. The Hawaiian Chain is a perfect example of how the volcanic island (or seamount) furthest northwest of the currently active volcano is the oldest island in the chain, as determined not only by radiometric dating of the volcanic rock, but also by simply comparing the amount of weathering and erosion that has taken place.

    We could write volumes covering the examples of great age evidenced by plate tectonics, such as the remnants of ancient folded mountain ranges that were eroded down to flat plains and then buried under miles of sedimentary rock (the Grand Canyon, for example). But a true denier of observational evidence would just say, “That’s just the way God created it” rather than jeopardize his acceptance into heaven.

  24. Just as the best reason for accepting evolutionary biology is that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

    So, nothing in astronomy makes sense except in the light of heliocentrism.

    And nothing in the world makes sense except in the light of the past.

    The creationists who want to exclude the possibility of knowledge of the past are demonstrating that the evidence for evolutionary biology is so compelling, that the only way to escape it is to deny vast amounts of knowledge. They are showing that they recognize that necessity, and they’re willing to deny knowledge rather than accept the obvious.