Ken Ham on the Origin of Life

Back in March we wrote How Life Began — Problem Solved?, about some chemists at Cambridge who had produced “everything necessary for life” from “just hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide and ultraviolet light” making “more than 50 nucleic acids — precursors to DNA and RNA molecules.”

Although we predicted “The creationists will be going crazy!” we haven’t seen any reaction until now. To our delight, we found something by 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.

Ol’ Hambo’s article is Origin of Life Mystery Solved? He refers to a couple of recent news articles about some different research, but those articles do mention the research in our post, so Hambo’s scoffing is exactly what we predicted. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

[O]ne of the laws of nature is the law of biogenesis; life only comes from other life. This law is confirmed no matter where we look on Earth and, despite years of research, life only ever comes from other life — it has never, not even once, been observed to come from non-life. This is a major problem, of course, for evolutionists, and one they must solve if they have any hope of life evolving.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We discussed that so-called law of nature in Common Creationist Claims Confuted, where we concluded: “Some fool or freak or fraud posted a crazed misinterpretation of Pasteur’s work at a creationist website and it’s been endlessly repeated ever since.” Hambo’s off to a great start! Then, discussing the news stories that seem to have enraged him, he says:

Well, these headlines loudly proclaim that this conundrum might not be such a problem anymore, based on recent research. It’s also good to recognize the tentative terminology rife in such articles such as this one where we read, “The new research . . . suggests a way . . . probably pools of water . . . The idea . . . Carter thinks he’s found a way for the information storage . . . still doesn’t answer the ultimate question . . . ”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Tentative terminology — nothing like ol’ Hambo’s absolute certitude. But whether intentionally or not, Hambo totally misses the point — if a natural process can be demonstrated that might be the way life emerged, it will then be obvious to everyone (except a reality-denying creationist) that no miracle was required. Hambo, however, prefers miracles. He says:

But what does this research really show? It reveals the presuppositions and wishful thinking of evolutionists! Basically, their answer to the mystery of the origin of life is that they don’t know how it came about, but they do have some stories of how it might have. Their thinking is, Well, even if we don’t really know, it simply must have happened since we are here today!

Wishful thinking? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! No, Hambo. There’s been a demonstration of a natural way it could have happened. But Hambo disagrees:

You see, what these scientists have “discovered” is they have “suggest[ed] a way for RNA to control the production of proteins by working with simple amino acids that does not require the more complex enzymes that exist today.” … This is observational science in the present and applies to the molecules and proteins that we have in the present. It has nothing to do with how life might have arisen — except in the minds of the researchers who have rejected the answer to that question found in the revealed Word of God!

Yeah — molecules might have been different back then. Were you there? Here’s more:

You see, this does not provide them with a code — information — from which life could come. All it provides them with is a pile of amino acids sorted according to shape and size. But this a far cry from the complexity of life. Without the information behind life, nothing is going to use these sorted amino acids, so they’re going nowhere.

Ooooooooooh — information! See Phlogiston, Vitalism, and Information. Hey — wait a minute. We skipped over something Hambo said earlier in his article, but it’s relevant here:

[I]nformation only ever comes from an information giver. We never — not even once — have seen meaningful information arise by random, natural processes. Information only comes from an information giver! So how did these researchers supposedly overcome these overwhelming challenges to evolutionary ideas?

Hey, Hambo — Who informed the information giver? Ah well, here’s one last excerpt from near the end:

Despite the brazen headline, they haven’t found a “missing link” in the question of the origin of life. They’ve simply, based on their belief in evolution, assumed that evolution happened and have suggested a not very satisfying mechanism that got life started.

So there you are. Hambo has demonstrated one of the basic principles of creation science: Once something has been declared a miracle, it will always be a miracle.

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

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21 responses to “Ken Ham on the Origin of Life

  1. Whenever I see something by Hambone, I wonder: is he really as ignorant as he appears to be, or is he just pretending.

  2. We never — not even once — have seen meaningful information arise by random, natural processes.

    What we have not seen – not even once – is “meaningful information” arise by supernatural processes. We do not even have a plausible explanation of how such a thing could happen. Assuming Ham is referring to the structure of the DNA molecule as “information”, we can actually observe new “information” arising from generation to generation. Ham, himself, is a new and different individual than any of his predecessors… does he think that is because of supernatural intervention as opposed to the natural process followed by his parents?

  3. When I read the article which called into question the scientific finding that the there was more than 10,000 years – by calling into question the timing of the Big Bang – well, they are really feeling the pressure. As if, as difficult as it would be, as if the far reaches of the universe were only millions of light-years apart, that would support YEC.
    So, too, if Ham has to go back to the origin of life to find difficulty with evolution. If we know nothing at all about the origins of life, that does not call into question our knowledge that, for example, all the tetrapods are related by common descent involving evolution over hundreds of millions of years (including humans and the other primates, birds and dinosaurs, etc.)
    Times must be tough for the YECs, if they are driven to question the details of our knowledge of billions of years ago.

  4. Dave Luckett

    It’s based on the idiotic notion that what Ham calls “information” is something imparted only by words. This is of a piece with the Genesis account: God spoke and it was so. The same from the first verses of John’s gospel, which consciously echoes Genesis: “In the beginning was the Word…”

    Ham knows that patterns appear by no other means than the material and the natural. He can see dendritic drainage systems, or snowflakes. He knows that these are patterns. In one part of his mind he must know that information is needed to create patterns; in another part he denies that patterns contain information.

    It only demonstrates that Ham’s mind is deeply fractured.

  5. if a natural process can be demonstrated…than no miracle was required.

    It has always fascinated me that YECs like Ham insist upon so many unnecessary dichotomies. Natural processes neither rule out nor demand the involvement of supernatural entities or forces. Yet, YECs fear that when science points to natural processes, it is somehow an anti-theism declaration.

    Should the discovery (long ago) that tiny seeds produce big trees by natural processes over time be considered a threat to theism? After all, that discovery surely made the existence of trees seem less miraculous.

  6. Yes, many of them fear that if more and more mysteries get explained by natural processes, then eventually no mysteries will remain and God will be “debunked”. But why? Does the existence of God hinge upon the persistence of some minimum required number of mysteries?

    Obviously, this is a topic for a philosophy or theology class and not a science class. Yet, I wonder why YECs think it so strange that the kind of “orderly” and “rational” universe they claim exists (because it is the product of an intelligent deity) would not be expected to have lots of natural explanations due to the “natural” matter and energy which composes that universe. Indeed, if a “rational Creator” is behind all of those “rational” natural processes, why be afraid of natural processes and prefer miracles instead? If a deity likes matter and energy so much that he made a vast universe filled with them, what’s wrong with God preferring to use natural processes, that is, processes arising from matter and energy?

  7. Furthermore, unlike many Christians of the charismatic movements and sign-gift traditions, fundamentalists Christians have accurately emphasized that in the Bible’s timeline of history, miracles are very rare and confined to a few relatively brief spans of times and very limited places. Indeed, a recurrent theme in the scriptures is “Why no divine intervention? Why no miracles when we need them? Hundreds of years have gone by!” In fact, I could always quickly assess the Bible literacy level of a first year religious studies student based on his/her reaction to the aforementioned facts about miracles and the Bible. Moreover, it was the fundamentalist students who tended to be proud of that knowledge concerning miracles, and they saw it as another reminder that their fundamentalist Christianity was far more Biblical, mature, and “rational”(!) than “those emotion-driven, shallow-thinking, miracle-obsessed charismatics!

    Combine that with the fact that Jesus taught that a demand for and obsession with miracles is the mark of “a stiff-necked and stubborn people”, and it gives me yet another sharp stick that I can use to goad anti-science YEC fundamentalists. However, I do it not because I enjoy tormenting them. (No. Really!) It is actually just another of many ways of pointing out that their positions are more about traditions than about Biblical texts. Young Earth Creationists are more traditional than they are scriptural.

  8. Derek Freyberg

    And, not for the first time, Kenny boy conflates evolution and biogenesis.

  9. It is always fun to watch the reaction of a rabidly anti-evolution, Young Earth Creationist when I explain to them what they would learn about the thinking of their favorite Christian pioneers of science if they were to take a History & Philosophy of Science class. First, they would be shocked to discover that the methodological naturalism of science was not an evil conspiracy on the part of “devious atheist hijackers of science.” Instead, the “materialistic focus” of science was something those Christians who they revere (e.g., Bacon, William of Ockham, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Descartes, Lavoisier, et al) insisted upon because they realized that natural philosophy (aka science) had the tremendous advantage of being subject to empirical verification and could free them from the shackles of both Greek philosophy and theological traditions. They weren’t just being rebellious and they certainly didn’t consider themselves anti-God. They simply realized that the best way to understand God’s material creation was to use materially-based procedures and tools, which we now call the scientific method.

    Secondly, and more shocking to Young Earth Creationists, is my insistence that they start looking at science like just like their Christian heroes did. Before Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, many Christian philosophers explained the movements of the heavenly bodies as the result of God commanding his angels to push them around through the heavens. Yes, that was a kind of explanation but not a very useful one and certainly not predictive of future movements. So when they focused on the natural processes they observed in creation itself, the scientific explanations they published didn’t necessarily contradict theological explanations at all. Instead, they described how natural processes provided proximate explanations and causations, not ultimate causations from the First Cause, aka God.

  10. When I explain all of this to a Young Earth Creationist for their very first time, one often sees a shocked look on their face. I will say something like this:

    Don’t you agree that it is entirely possible that a truly omnipotent and omniscient God could create a universe where the “laws of physics” were designed by him in such a way that over time those natural processes inevitably brought about the first self-replicating molecules and the first biological organisms? And do you deny that the Creator God described in the Bible was and is fully capable of establishing “laws of biochemistry” and other natural processes which would, over time, adapt life on earth to whatever myriad environments would arise and eventually produce the tremendous diversity of life we see all around us today? Is the God you believe in big enough, powerful enough, and smart enough to do that?

    Of course, they must agree that God is powerful and wise enough to produce such a world–and you can watch them quickly run it through their mental filters. (“Just as God used gravitational forces to move the heavenly bodies, why can’t evolutionary processes diversify the biosphere?”) Sometimes you can actually see a moment of vulnerability, a brief glimpse of intellectual freedom, and a startling if but momentary realization that there does not have to be a false dichotomy forcing them to choose between God-created-everything versus evolution-denies-a-Creator–but then the chains of tradition suddenly jerk at their neck, much like a dog joyfully leaping into the air to gracefully catch a rising frisbee. The chains stop them just short of a “catch” and jerk them back to the hard ground of the encumbering servitude of cherished traditions.

    Even so, many will continue to mull this radical concept for days thereafter: (“Could it be possible that evolutionary processes operate much like every other natural process? After all, we are told that microevolution happens all the time. So then we must consider God the Creator of evolutionary processes. Could God be using evolution just as he uses gravity and Newton’s Laws of Motion?”)

    I believe that it will take these kinds of strategies to lessen the dangers which evolution-denying Young Earth Creationism poses to science education in America today. Destroying the false dichotomy of “Genuine Christians must choose between belief in God and atheist-materialist-naturalistic science” would reduce an opposition of science that is based upon unnecessary fears.

    Unfortunately, some outspoken scientists (e.g., Richard Dawkins) appear to agree with and fully support this false dichotomy, which may explain why surveys indicate a several point rise in the percentage of Americans who deny The Theory of Evolution. When people who were formerly in the undecided column kept hearing both Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins insisting that there was no middle-ground and that those who truly believe in God and the Bible must must choose a side–and reject science and the evidence which supports it–I think many made what they thought was their only viable choice. Alas, both Dr. Dawkins and Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson often display a confident ignorance of the history of science and its relation to Christian philosophy which is not a whole lot better than Ken Ham’s.

  11. Fortunately, successfully turning back the Young Earth Creationist threat to American science education does not require that we “convert” all YECs to “evolution-believers” (or “evolution-affirmers” if you prefer.) No, debunking the false dichotomy may prove to be quite sufficient.

    After all, if a Young Earth Creationist ceases thinking in terms of “Everyone must choose between belief in God versus belief in atheist-materialist-science (including The Theory of Evolution)”, aggressively promoting YEC doctrines outside of Christian circles becomes far less important. After all, exactly how God made the first dinosaurs and birds is far less important to them than “God exists”. And that’s why virtually every public controversy and attempt to eliminate The Theory of Evolution from the schools is fundamentally about perceived “atheism creep”. [Consider that a descriptive term for “force”, not a type of individual!]

  12. “This is observational science in the present and applies to the molecules and proteins that we have in the present.”
    Oooohhh … this makes me drool, exactly for the reason SC pointed out.

    “We never have seen meaningful information”
    Personally I never have seen meaningless information that didn’t come from an information giver. AIG is an excellent example of this.

  13. You see, this does not provide them with a code — information — from which life could come. All it provides them with is a pile of amino acids sorted according to shape and size. But this a far cry from the complexity of life. Without the information behind life, nothing is going to use these sorted amino acids, so they’re going nowhere.

    Apparently Ken Ham either didn’t actually read the article or doesn’t know the difference between amino acids and nucleic acids.

    n, scientists will have proved nothing until they build a human being from raw chemicals in the lab. At which point, of course, creationists with pitchforks and torches would storm the lab to burn the soulless abomination and its God-defying creators and James Whale will rise from his grave to film it all.

  14. As usual, a creationists wants ONE experiment to prove everything about evolution, the Big Bang, origin of life etc in one go. Anything less, in their minds, invalidates science.

  15. Once again:
    If one wishes to make a distinction to “observational science”, the science of the here and now, then it would be “remote science”. “Remote science” is not only remote in virtue of distance in time, but what cannot be reached because it is distant in space – or because it is impossible (or dangerous) to reach, or because it is too big to encompass, on to small to observe (sub-microscopic), or because it happens too fast or too slow.
    Before the Space Age, even the Moon was beyond our reach, and the Solar System was the subject of “remote science”. We had no “direct observation” of there being atoms and forces beyond a thin shell of the near surface of Earth. We had no justification by “observational science” of saying anything about the far side of the Moon. Not until that astronaut did that experiment of dropping a hammer and a feather on the surface of the Moon, could we say that Newton’s laws applied on the Moon!
    Even today, we have no “observational science” about the core of the Earth. Where you there, to know anything about the center of the Earth? Even its very existence is “only conjecture”.
    It is as if one could doubt the reality of World War II because no one could observe it in its entirety. And, of course, no one can repeat it. All that we know is about are local events – even the Battle of Midway was too big to be seen, or the Battle of Britain, the Battle of Stalingrad, let alone there being something encompassing all of those and so much more.

  16. Semi-off-topic: Ham’s latest offering is a diatribe against Miley Cyrus:

    Of course, Ms Cyrus is having the time of her life carefully cultivating an image as out-of-control hedonist badgirl, but now she has particularly offended Ham as well. Not only does she have the audacity to say that it is her own business how she defines her gender identity and organizes her sex life. Not only will she let herself be depicted naked, happy with her nude body even though Genesis 3:7 tells her she should be ashamed of it. No, NOT ONLY THAT – in an interview she also said that it is “f—ing insane” how many people buy into the Ark story as historical fact!

    Ham notes how she told Paper magazine what she “thinks of people who believe Noah’s Ark was a real vessel. ‘That’s [expletive] insane,’ she told the magazine. ‘We’ve outgrown that fairy tale, like we’ve outgrown [expletive] Santa and the tooth fairy.’”

    Ham quotes her numerous times in his article. He may seem to be deliberately selecting quotes that will let him bleep her out with “[explecitive]” brackets, and so not-so-subtly demonstrate what a depraved, foul-mouthed person we are dealing with here. If only her parents had drilled Genesis 1-11 into her head before it was too late!

    There is a passage in George Orwell’s 1984 where the protagonist reflects that his girlfriend “seemed unable to mention the [authoritarian] Party, and especially the Inner Party, without using the kind of words that you saw chalked up in dripping alley-ways. He did not dislike it. It was merely one symptom of her revolt against the Party and all its ways, and somehow it seemed natural and healthy, like the sneeze of a horse that smells bad hay.”

    I guess Miley Cyrus, for all her excesses, has smelled the bad hay fundamentalists want to serve their horses, or rather their sheep. And this unabashed irreverence, often less than eloquent but ultimately healthy, is what will finally bring down unthinking Bible-literalism as a major cultural force even in America – three generations after it happened in the rest of the Western world. There will be ever more young people who are not afraid to tell Ham that he is peddling fairy-tales and call his entire wordview F—ING INSANE.

    “Where Miley Cyrus is now in her thinking is where our culture is heading.”

    He knows it. He is worried.

    And from his perspective, he should be.

  17. “I pray even Miley Cyrus might come to the Ark Encounter one day and have an encounter with Noah’s Ark, an encounter with God’s Word…”

    It’s not Noah’s Ark, though, is it. It’s Ken Ham’s Ark. And Ken Ham’s Ark is the wrong place for an encounter with God’s Word because nothing about the Ark is in any way based on what the Bible actually says.

  18. A few articles back I commented that even Ol’ Hambo would find it hard to beat IDiot Klunklepooper, who in the highly accurate words of Mega contradicted himself and still lost. But nobody here can deny Ol’ Hambo gives his very best shot!

  19. Ed says “Ham, himself, is a new and different individual than any of his predecessors… does he think that is because of supernatural intervention as opposed to the natural process followed by his parents?”

    Ham would probably argue that his individual uniqueness is due to having a God-given soul.

    As to the reconciling of the dichotomy of a creator versus a laws of nature universe, the problem isn’t that God would be capable of creating a Universe in which evolution can happen. It’s that Creationists believe the Bible is 100% literally true, which means Genesis is the inerrant and literal depiction of how the Universe was created.

  20. Ol Hambaloney sounds a wee bit like a Discoveroid in parts of his latest rant.
    I wonder when and where he writes these rants. Does he go into an office,
    with a secretary and a view of the Ark Park’s skeletal frame envisioned in his mind while he basically pukes another rant onto his computer screen?
    Or perhaps he does it before bedtime, maybe on the commode, snickering gleefully about the unsaved devil worshipping scientists he’s helping God identify so they can be cast into the lake of fire.
    Or, just maybe, he texts this into his phone while driving ever so slowly in his “church” extended van, (white of course) emblazoned with his cute tax free logo that points the way to everlasting life and a psyche free of guilt?
    Imagine! You can be as big a flaming <s/H(&# as you care to be because God forgives you! its perfect for a psychopathic con artist.
    Life is good..

  21. @GregS
    The difficulty that I see is that (1) one is arguing from the premise that the laws of nature are finely tuned to the existence of life (2) one is also arguing from the premise that life is violating a law of nature.
    From (1), one is inferring that the laws must be designed. From (2), one is inferring that life must be designed.
    Examples of laws proposed in (2) would be: The Law of Biogenesis, The Conservation of Information, The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Are they finely tuned laws of nature?