Ken Ham Says Forensic Science Is Bogus

We have another winner from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia. He’s famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the mind-boggling Creation Museum.

Everyone is familiar with ol’ Hambo’s claim that there are two kinds of science — “operational” science and “historical” (origins) science. He mentions it even more than he mentions that he once debated with Bill Nye. It’s summarized in his sneering question: Were you there?

We debunked Hambo’s silly dichotomy in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. One thing we didn’t mention there is that forensic science is a form of historical science, and even if the investigators weren’t there to witness the crime, no one doubts that crimes can be solved that way. That’s what we’ll be talking about here.

It seems that the subject of forensic science has been mentioned to ol’ Hambo often enough that he feels obligated to deal with it. That’s why he just posted this at his blog: Can Forensic Scientists Prove Evolution?

The question in Hambo’s title distorts the issue. We would put it like this: If forensic science works — and it does — then what’s wrong with any other kind of historical science? Anyway, here are some excerpts from Hambo’s brilliant essay, with bold font added by us.

After introducing the topic of historical vs. operational science for the zillionth time — and also mentioning his debate with Bill Nye — Hambo says:

One branch of historical science is forensic science. It involves collecting clues and trying to piece together what happened in the past to solve a crime (or determine if indeed a crime even happened). … Now, evolutionists will often say that evolution is just like forensic science. They say that we can examine the evidence at a crime scene and piece together what happened, often with reasonable assurance, so therefore can we look at the evidence around the world and see that evolution happened.

Yes, that’s right. Okay, dear reader, get ready for a rough ride. Hambo tells us:

Now, there are many similarities between historical and forensic science. After all, forensic science is a branch of historical science. Just like in historical science, the facts don’t speak for themselves. They must be interpreted by the investigator. Sometimes the interpretation is pretty straightforward, but other times it’s not.

We know that. So what? Let’s read on:

The investigator must painstakingly collect all the data, find eyewitnesses, and compare the data with the eyewitnesses’ accounts of what happened. All of this is in an effort to reconstruct what happened in the past to produce the evidence left behind. But at times in this world, forensic scientists have come to the wrong conclusion and so the wrong person was charged with a crime.

Oooooooooh — sometimes forensic scientists get it wrong! We know that too. Hambo continues:

The investigator does not know if the evidence was tampered with, planted to frame someone, or was contaminated, or perhaps the investigator purposely falsified the evidence. And sometimes evidence that would be very relevant is missed because the investigator did not know of its relevance! Now, after all of the observational evidence has been collected, the data must be interpreted. Reconstructing what happened is historical science.

According to Hambo, forensic science is often a mess, sometimes even a fraudulent mess. Hey, Hambo — there have also been occasions when “operational” scientists have overlooked something, and on very rare occasions, they have faked their lab data. Does that invalidate “operational science” too? Here’s more:

When evolutionists say that the science that gives us forensics works the same as evolution and “proves” that evolution happened, they are neglecting to understand that forensics is a methodology, not a conclusion. We use forensic science to help us understand what happened, but the conclusion doesn’t come from the forensics — it comes from the interpretation of the evidence collected by the forensic scientists.

No one says evolution is “proven.” But all the evidence certainly points to that conclusion. It’s only the creationists whose “interpretation” of all that data causes them to deny it in favor of the totally un-evidenced tales in the bible. This isn’t a problem with historical science, it’s a cognitive disorder unique to creationists. Moving along:

There are plenty of examples of where the evidence was interpreted wrongly and, later, new evidence shed light on what really happened. For example, in 2002 a woman was convicted of robbing and murdering her neighbor because her fingerprint was supposedly found on a pill container. Later it was found out that the fingerprint wasn’t actually hers — she had been wrongly imprisoned because of an incorrect interpretation of the observational evidence.

That sort of thing is rare, but yes, it happens. A fossil can be misinterpreted too. When other scientists discover the error (creationists never do such work), the error is corrected. Is there any other field of endeavor that so readily corrects itself? Well, there are a few. If a business offers a new product that flops, it’s quickly withdrawn. Like science, business is reality-oriented. Creationism, on the other hand … well, you know. Here’s another excerpt:

This is the same as evolution. The evidence from historical science must be interpreted. The assumptions of the researcher or scientist determine how the evidence is interpreted. An evolutionist interprets the evidence through the lens of man’s ideas about the past — millions of years and evolution. But a biblical creationist looks at exactly the same evidence and comes to a completely different conclusion because we have a completely different starting point.

No, Hambo, it’s not the same. The biblical creationist’s starting point is Oogity Boogity, and not surprisingly, that’s also his conclusion. With that kind of circular reasoning, it’s no wonder creationists are so irrelevant. On with the article:

Now, a big part of forensic science is reliable eyewitness testimony. In historical science, Christians have an eyewitness testimony from the Creator of the universe recorded for us in His Word. This testimony is the most reliable because it comes from the God who never lies [scripture reference]. But evolutionists totally ignore this eyewitness testimony — something a forensic scientist would hopefully never do! They reach the wrong conclusions because they have the wrong starting point.

Aaaargh!! We dealt with that topic here: Sherlock Holmes and the Mystic. Then Hambo really jumps the tracks:

Evolutionists also ignore other interpretations of the data. Unlike a forensic scientist who tries to look at all different angles for how the crime may have been committed and by whom, evolutionists are committed to their interpretation of the evidence. Few stop to question the assumptions of millions of years or evolution. Biblical creation — even if it provides a far more consistent and better explanation of the evidence — is automatically rejected because it doesn’t match with the starting assumptions of secular scientists.

No, Hambo — creationism isn’t rejected because of its starting assumptions. Rather, it’s because of a total lack of verifiable evidence. And now we come to the end:

Forensics doesn’t prove evolution. Forensics merely provides a good illustration of a historical science system that uses observational science methodology. The evidence must be interpreted, and what you believe about the past determines how you interpret the evidence. We need to start with God’s unchanging, infallible Word and reach our conclusions from that firm foundation.

So there you are. Now, whenever the subject of forensic science is raised, Hambo can link back to that blog entry as his response. Case closed. Oh, if Hambo is right we should immediately open the jails and release all prisoners. They were convicted on false assumptions.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

32 responses to “Ken Ham Says Forensic Science Is Bogus

  1. michaelfugate

    And eyewitnesses never lie? Who knew?

  2. I beg to differ from you,
    Creationism does not differ from science because of the lack of evidence.
    The most important difficulty Is that creationism does not offer an accounting for anything about the world. It does not attempt to say what happens so that things are the way that they are. Evidence? That is relevant only for distinguishing between accounts.

  3. (lets see if this %&&^! wifi will not kick me off this time…)
    As michaelfugate says above, eyewitnesses are the least trustworthy way to gather evidence about… anything. Just ask any cop or forensic scientist. Read any psychological studies on how well eyewitnesses perform in rigorous studies. That’s why actual physical evidence is so prized over eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses have faulty memories (especially if the event was significant, such as something violent), and eyewitnesses have their own “filters” about what might have happened.
    So, not buying this BS, either, Hambo.

  4. Let us not forget
    1) The Bible does not say that Genesis 1 is eyewitness testimony.
    2) Even if it did, we do not have any claim that our manuscripts are reliable copies of the “testimony”.
    3) Anyway, the Bible doesn’t say that there is no evolution.

  5. tl;dr: Sometimes people make mistakes, thus evolution is always wrong.

  6. The investigator does not know if the evidence was tampered with, planted to frame someone, or was contaminated, or perhaps the investigator purposely falsified the evidence.

    Yes, the great designer, blessed as he/she/it is, is very subtle and sly in planting false evidence leading to erroneous conclusions, all to trick the very humans he supposedly created. Ah, but we are so fortunate to have in our midst folks like Ken Ham who are not fooled one bit and can see through the great designer’s schemes.

  7. Diogenes Lamp

    The guy who keeps repeating “The Jury Is Still Out” knows he’s guilty of the crime.

  8. michaelfugate

    Since science has been wrong in the past and will likely be wrong in the future, let’s just stop using science altogether and rely on the Bible for everything. Hell if it isn’t in the Bible, then God didn’t want us to know it. You remember what happened when we rebelled against God in the past – smiting that’s what.

  9. Ham sez: “There are plenty of examples of where the evidence was interpreted wrongly and, later, new evidence shed light on what really happened.”

    Unfortunately, in the justice system, rectifying mistakes years later is little consolation for the wrongly convicted, but isn’t what Ham says above one of science’s greatest strengths?

  10. Ken Ham: “The investigator does not know if the evidence was tampered with, planted to frame someone…”

    Like, f’rinstance, Satan burying fossils? C’mon, Ham, we know you want to say it!

  11. As a criminal investigator, I can reiterate the point raised above in that “eyewitness” testimony is the least reliable of all forms of evidence. I absolutely hate when I get cases where there is no physical evidence and I have to rely on remembered accounts alone. I would say only about 5-10% of individuals have the intelligence and ability to accurately remember and relate events that they have encountered to an accurate and somewhat objective standard.

    That said, Genesis isn’t even an eyewitness account. It’s obvious mythology just from a literary standpoint. Ham is wrong way before he even gets to anything science.

  12. Christine Janis

    “After all, forensic science is a branch of historical science. Just like in historical science, the facts don’t speak for themselves.”

    If the facts “spoke for themselves” there’d be no need for “operational science”, either.

  13. I personally don’t know anybody who was alive during the Cambrian Period.
    Egad. Ken must be right ! No eyewitnesses means it can’t be true.
    BUT GOOD NEWS. Ken’s research has LOTS of eyewitnesses.
    We just don’t know who actually wrote down the chronicles of their experiences.

  14. What Ol’ Hambo unintentionally but brilliantly shows is that Evolution Theory is a stronger conclusion than any conviction based on forensic studies. See, the conclusion of the latter always are based on one unique case, by definition. The conclusion that evolution happens – is a historical process, to use terminology that Ol’ Hambo will understand – at the other hand is based on the study of countless cases.
    One case of misinterpreting evidence by forensic scientists can lead to a wrong conviction, sure. One case of misinterpreting evidence by paleontologists at the other hand does nothing to undermine the conclusion that evolution has happened, does happen and will happen.
    Thanks, Ol’ Hambo. I learned something from you today, but surely not what you wanted to teach me.

  15. Charles Deetz ;)

    Hambo’s got his ‘gotcha’ as the frame of view of the investigator, where he thinks those ignoring the evidence of the bible are making a mistake. Well, I’d say that a forensic investigator with a firm frame of view … is someone who thinks they know who committed the crime and just needs to fill in the blanks to prove themselves right.

    So, Hammy, stand on your metaphor, stand on your frame of view, and you are going to prove yourself a corrupt historical/forensic scientist.

  16. I was waiting for piltdown man to be brought up as proof that all of evolution is a lie. I’m disappointed.

  17. What Ham is saying is that, in order to agree with him, one has to be willing to discard whole domains of knowledge.
    That is an interesting comment on the strength of the basis for evolutionary biology.

  18. TomS:
    “What Ham is saying is that, in order to agree with him, one has to be willing to discard whole domains of knowledge.”

    True for the educated, but his target audience is not within that subset of humanity. No, unfortunately, his followers do not have whole domains of knowledge to discard.

  19. (The scene opens in a courtroom. Ken Ham is the lead “forensic investigator” as well as prosecutor. Bill Nye sits calmly at the table for the defense. The judge walks in and calls the court to order…)
    Judge: Mr. Ham, will you please present your case.
    Ham: Thank you, your honor. I have the privilege of presenting the case that the earth and universe are only 6,000 years old, give or a take a few years. To understand how I arrived at the figure, we have to look at the Bible as the source of all knowledge.
    (At this point, the judge raises a faint eyebrow at Ham, but otherwise stays mute.)
    Ham: You see, the Bible was written by the one witness who was there, God. Therefore, it cannot be incorrect, because God wrote it. Reading the Bible, you understand that the earth and universe are only 6000 years old. Thank you, your honor.
    (At this point, Ham sits down.)
    Judge: Is that all you have, Mr. Ham?
    Ham: Yes, your honor. What else is there?
    Judge: Very well. Mr. Nye, your turn.
    Nye: Thank you, your honor. For my first witness, I’m going to call Ken Ham to the stand.
    (Ham appears at first shocked, then confused. He looks between the judge and Nye)
    Judge: Very well. Mr. Ham, please take the stand.
    (Ham slowly walks to the stand, takes the oath, and sits down, looking quite pensive.)
    Nye: Mr. Ham, you’ve just stated that the age of the earth and universe is only 6,000 years, give or take. You’ve also stated that the Bible is the source of this information. Did I state that correctly?
    Ham: Yes, that is correct.
    Nye: The first question I have is this: how do we know that the Bible was actually written by God?
    (At this point, Nye walks over to the stand and picks up the same Bible Ham has just used to be taken under oath.)
    Nye: For example, this Bible that I have in my hand, the same one you just used to take your oath, was it literally written by God?
    Ham: Well, yes, it was.
    Nye: So this very Bible (Nye emphasizes his point by shaking the Bible in his hand) was written by and then printed by God? The Almighty Himself put ink on the paper, binded it, then put it in the bookshop from which I’ll bet someone with the local court system purchased it?
    Ham: No, God did not literally make that Bible, but He did write the words in it.
    Nye: So this Bible was actually printed by humans, is that correct?
    Ham: Well, yes, it was, but…
    Nye (interrupting Ham): Would you also agree that this is the same for pretty much all Bibles? That they were actually made by humans?
    Ham: Well, yes, but…
    Nye (interrupting Ham again): Which means that humans are literally involved in the making of Bibles. Does this not also mean that humans, who as you constantly point out are full of sin and are fallible, could be making mistakes when making Bibles?
    Ham: No, that’s not possible. The Bible is written by God. It is infallible.
    Nye: But Mr. Ham, you just said that people actually make Bibles, which means that they’re involved in the process. Let’s get to another point. Are you familiar, Mr. Ham, with the term “corroborating evidence”?
    Ham: Well of course I am, but that does not have anyth…
    Nye (interrupting Ham yet again): What is your corroborating evidence for what the Bible says?
    Ham: Everything corroborates the Bible. All of science, including geology, physics, chemistry, biology, all of it corroborates the Bible.
    Nye: Really? I have here a laptop connected to the Internet. According to the US’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration website, the earth alone is over four billion years old. Obviously that does not “corroborate” your statement that the earth is only 6,000 years old. How do you account for that?
    Ham: That’s because NASA relies on the unreliable “historical science”, as opposed to “observational science” that one would really need to know the age of the earth.
    Nye: Your honor, at this time, I’d like to play a short clip from Peter Hadfield addressing this topic.
    Judge: Proceed.
    (A few minutes later, the lights come back up in the courtroom.)
    Nye: So, Mr. Ham, so far you’ve not come up with any corroborating evidence, other than saying “God did it”, and pointing to obscure passages within the Bible.
    Ham: That’s not true. It all depends on your worldview as to how you interpret the evidence.
    (At this point, the judge smacks down his gavel.)
    Judge: I’m going to stop this here. I find that the prosecution is making a mockery of this court and my common sense. Mr. Ham, your license to practice forensic science is revoked. Case dismissed.
    (The judge smacks down the gavel one last time and, with a deep sigh and shaking his head ruefully at Ham, gets up and walks out of the courtroom.)

  20. Unlike a forensic scientist who tries to look at all different angles for how the crime may have been committed and by whom

    So, Kenny … name us one forensic scientist who considers the possibility that a murder was committed by a spirit.

  21. Garnetstar

    Hambo neglects to mention that the analogy between evolution and forensics is even more apt: in both, the evidence collected is put on trial (we call that “peer-reviewed publication”), and a determination is made on whether the case is “proved beyond a reasonable doubt”. Just like in criminal cases, evolution is not proved beyond all doubt.

    And, if enough new evidence should later emerge that challenges that, the whole trial thing is done again, sometimes with the opposite verdict reached.

    Gary, love your drama! When you cast it, I suggest Tom Cruise as Hambo, Ben Affleck as Bill Nye, and the inimitable Judge Jones as himself. Be sure to add a line where Judge Jones gets to say “breathaking inanity”.

  22. You guys are conceding too much to Ham.
    There is nothing in the text of Genesis which indicates, or even hints that it is the work of God. Moreover, it is not written like eyewitness testimony. And, beyond that, there is nothing anywhere in the Bible which says anything about evolution or the fixity of species.
    What you have is stuff that Ham just makes up (or copies from some unnamed authority). It isn’t in the Bible.
    and …
    He makes up a distinction between different kinds of science, just because he thinks that it helps his case. Why should we take him as an authority on the different kinds of science?

  23. Dave Godfrey

    Ken Ham must be a very talented man to be able to play the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch of the West and the Wizard of Oz (or should that be Oz?) all at the same time.

  24. @Gary: Echo Garnetstar — Love your drama!

    Potential Wikipedia article:

    Ken Ham: “The Bible is the Word of God.” [citation needed].

    “There’s observational science and then there’s historical science.” [citation needed].

  25. Why not, TomS? See, even when we do Ol’ Hambo is inconsistent and incoherent. And the results can be great fun.

  26. What’s even more remarkable about Ham’s claim that evolutionists see through a non-Godly “lens” is that pretty much all of the people who found evidence for and were convinced of the existence of an old Earth were Christians, often strong Christians who went to their graves unwavering in their faith, and that a large number of Christians don’t see any conflict between an old Earth and an infinite God.

  27. I wish that Nye, at least one of the times that Ham said that the answer was in his book, would have called him on that: “No, that isn’t in your book. You’re just making stuff up.”

  28. I am reminded of the routine of Severn Darden

    Metaphysics Lecture

    Intro: And now, ladies and gentlemen, Professor Walter von der
Vogelweide will present “A Short Talk On The Universe.”
    Darden: Now, why, you will ask me, have I chosen to speak on the 
Universe rather than some other topic. Well, it’s very simple, heh.
 There isn’t anything else!
    Now, the Universe we examine through what Spinoza has called “the lens
 of philosophy”. He called it this because he was a lens grinder.
 Heaven knows what he would have called it had he been, for example, a pudding manufacturer.

  29. Apologies if the obvious has already been mentioned, but it’s funny how Ham claims that forensic science is bogus, while Dembski’s filter depends on it being not bogus.

  30. Forensics doesn’t prove evolution. Forensics merely provides a good illustration of a historical science system that uses observational science methodology. The evidence must be interpreted, and what you believe about the past determines how you interpret the evidence. We need to start with God’s unchanging, infallible Word and reach our conclusions from that firm foundation.

    Or in other words, we need to assume Genesis is true as written to prove . . . that Genesis is true as written! Brilliant!

  31. @Eric Lipps
    I suggest that you take a look at Presuppositionalism.

    Of course, there are those who have no compunctions about making up their own stuff and claiming Scriptural authority for it. For example, the doctrine that the Bible is the only infallible and inerrant source for all truth, including about the natural world. Genesis does not claim that for itself, does not claim that it stems from God, or that it is to read literally.

  32. Charles Deetz ;)

    @TomS I don’t know how one can read the bible and not see it as a collection of human stories about god and humanity.

    I don’t even think it would exist in its current imperfect form if past christians thought the bible was By God and The Truth. Certainly someone would have seen fit to fix errors and contradictions over the last 2000 years to make it more authoritative. Poor Hammy is stuck explaining why two animals were required on the ark, but in other verses it is seven, but god was right both times somehow.