Ken Ham: A Collection of Creationist Clichés

Because there hasn’t been much else going on, and because he’s a steady source of amusement, we’ve been posting a lot lately about 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.

We have another one today. As so often before, ol’ Hambo has found something to enrage him. We imagine that once again he’s red in the face, foaming at the mouth, and rolling around chewing the carpet. He just posted this on his blog: Is Religion “Harmful Superstition”?

This time he’s all worked up over an article in National Geographic about an interview with Jerry CoyneIn Age of Science, Is Religion ‘Harmful Superstition’? It’s sub-titled “God is not only dead, author avers. He never lived. Not to mention the deaths of kids treated with faith instead of science-based medicine.”

But we’re not going to deal with what Coyne said. Instead, we’ll give you some of the familiar responses from Hambo to which we’ve been long accustomed. They’re funny enough on their own, regardless of the context. We added a bit of bold font for emphasis. Here we go:

Now, we’ve written about Coyne before. He’s a very outspoken critic of creation and promoter of evolution. Actually, I’ve pointed out that he seems to understand how absolutely incompatible evolution and biblical Christianity are more than most Christians!

Uh huh. Not only are scientists wrong (except for the creation scientists who work for Hambo), but so are most Christians. It’s difficult to know which group Hambo dislikes more — advocates of science or those denominations mentioned in the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution, including those who signed the The Clergy Letter Project, a strong, pro-evolution statement signed by over 13,000 Christian clergymen. They’re all wrong, and no one understands this better than Hambo. He tells us:

So Coyne thinks that religion is superstition because it’s “unfounded and irrational.” But what Coyne would refuse to admit is that atheism is a religion. It’s a set of beliefs through which atheists view and interpret the world, and they hold to this worldview with ardor and blind faith — despite the inconsistencies and irrationality of the religion! So, then by Coyne’s own definition, his religion of atheism is nothing more than superstition!

Ooooooooooh — it’s a religion. It must be bad! Let’s read on:

And his religion contains irrational beliefs — it goes against the laws of nature, the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, and observational science, which confirms that the naturalistic explanation for the origin of life is impossible!

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Science is crazy! Only creationism makes sense. Hambo continues:

You see [hee hee], atheism’s worldview is completely unfounded and irrational. For example, according to atheistic ideas about the origin of the universe, everything came about by naturalistic, material processes. But if everything is the result of material processes, how did completely immaterial laws of nature and logic come about? Where do they come from?

Yeah, who wrote all those laws of nature? Here’s more:

And if our universe truly is the result of random processes, then why do these laws work consistently everywhere throughout the universe? And why do they work the same today as they did yesterday? In a naturalistic worldview, there is no answer to these questions!

But they don’t work consistently — not according to Hambo. As has been pointed out before, he thinks the laws of nature can change according to divine will, which is why the creation tale in Genesis — although impossible according to natural law — nevertheless makes perfect sense to Hambo. Moving along:

So, it’s not Christianity that is “harmful superstition” — it’s atheism! And atheism is harming him and those who read his [Coyne’s] books and listen to his talks.

How are they harmed? Hambo explains:

You see [hee hee], as an atheist, Coyne believes that when he’s dead, that’s it, he’s dead. But that’s not what’s going to happen when he dies.

Ooooooooooh — what’s going to happen? Hambo tells us:

He will spend eternity somewhere, either separated from God in hell or with God for eternity in heaven. His religion is harming him now as he lives in rebellion against his Creator, and it will harm him for eternity if he and other atheists and unbelievers like him do not repent [etc., etc.].

Powerful stuff! Take heed, dear reader. Hambo knows what he’s talking about. How does he know? As he said so often during his debate with Bill Nye, he’s got a book. Can’t argue with that!

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28 responses to “Ken Ham: A Collection of Creationist Clichés

  1. waldteufel

    What we see here is Hambo, who knows that he is losing the culture war, desperately flailing about with blather he prays will help keep the droolers shuffling through his creationist side show.
    Now that AiG has so much invested in their nascent monument to godly world-wide genocide, Hambo is growing more desperate by the day.
    Who among the rational would pay to see a pretend wooden boat modeled after a goofy never existent barge?
    Education and rational thinking are Hambo’s enemies.

  2. But what Coyne would refuse to admit is that atheism is a religion.

    I refuse to admit it as well. How can not having a religion be religion? More importantly, in religious studies we consider a religion to be a belief and reverence for the transcendent.

    That transcendence can involve a deity or deities (and usually does in most religions) but various east Asian religious traditions, for example, can be non-theistic, that is, having no belief in gods at all. So, it is indeed possible for atheists in various east Asian, non-theistic religions to be atheists with a religion. Yet I doubt that they were the kinds of people that Ken Ham had in mind.

    This discussion does make clear that more precise descriptive terminology would be helpful. Equivocation fallacies arise regularly whenever the words “atheism” and “atheists” are used. At least some use the terms “hard atheist” for those who declare “God does not exist.” versus the “soft atheist” who says “I lack compelling evidence for me to affirm the existence of God.”

    Yet, one thing is for sure: Ken Ham can’t play the “Atheism is a religion” and “Atheism asserts that the natural world is all there is” at the same time. After all, if a religion is focused on the transcendent and atheism denies the transcendent by insisting that the natural world is all there is, then those are contradictory claims.

    In actual fact, Ken Ham likes to say things like “Atheism is a religion” and “Evolution is a religion” because even Ken Ham believes that to call something a religion is to insult it.

    This also explains why Ken Ham recasts his religion as “creation science”. Ham knows that science has much more prestige with the general public than does his religion. So he tries to play a switch: pretending that he represents science and his opponents represent religion!

    Ken Ham is inept in both science and religious studies–but he does know how to spin propaganda.

  3. Wait a minute! “The laws of the universe work consistently everywhere!?” I thought we couldn’t trust the laws of the universe, remember Kenny, “those are assumptions,” it’s why you say we can’t trust radiometric dating. You can’t have it both ways, it is either consistent and we can trust what it says, or it’s assumption and it’s meaningless to the god debate.

    Just gotta love that good old YEC consistency.

  4. Rando says: “You can’t have it both ways”

    You gotta have faith.

  5. Dave Luckett

    I love how Ham imputes to Coyne a definition of “religion” that he never made and of which he would certainly not approve, then imputes the religion thus defined to him, then says that by this definition, Coyne’s religion, which he doesn’t have, is superstition!

    Truly, the creationist mind is like an onion. Layer after layer of lies.

  6. Doctor Stochastic

    I suppose if atheism were a religion, not collecting stamps would be a hobby. Bald isn’t a hair color.

  7. Dave Luckett

    Oh, Ham hates atheists, but in an academic and non-spittle-flecked way. They’re actually very useful to him, and he knows it, because he can present them as his real opponents. If he can get his flock to think that you have to be an atheist to accept evolution, he’s won. Like it or not, reasonable or not, for the demographic Ham is pitching to, “atheists” are up there with “communists” and “homosexuals” as an out-group. All he has to do is to get them to think that if you accept evolution, you’re one of “those people”. Or keep them thinking that.

    So Ham really loves it when atheists proclaim that evolution argues against the existence of god. That’s exactly his best selling point, and they’re making it for him. Even Ken’s shrivelled heart must feel a little gratitude.

    On the other hand, he has to be respectful to Christian denominations that either don’t abjure evolution or actually embrace it. That’s because he knows he’d have real trouble persuading even his demographic that Methodists and Presbyterians and quite a few Baptists and what-all are children of the devil. So, mostly, he has to ignore them – in fact, proceed as if they didn’t exist. If he has to acknowledge them, it has to be politely, non specifically. That’s what he was doing with his “biblical Christianity” bit.

    But he really hates them worse than he hates atheists. Atheists are going to hell, but they’re helpful to him on the way there. “Liberal” Christians are also going to hell, but they’re a real problem for him.

    Oh, and before he or anyone else pops up to say that Ham and his fellow fundies don’t hate anyone, they’re just concerned for their immortal souls: Ham thinks that eternal torment is the proper reward for being an atheist. He says so, right there above. He also thinks – although he won’t say it unless he’s really put on the spot – that those he thinks are heretics will get that treatment, too.

    It really, really isn’t possible to say that about anyone unless you hate them. Not disapprove of their attitudes. Not intellectually dismiss their ideas. Not even think that they are guilty. Hate them. Hate them infinitely, viscerally, with a red raging loathing that passes all comprehension, all bounds, all reason.

    And that’s what Ken Ham does.

  8. For the umpteenth time in my many years on this planet, I have just put down Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. What a guy! It’s long been a fantasy of mine to find Paine’s essence floating in the ether, hand him a pen and paper, and turn him loose on Hambo’s “museum”.

  9. Not only are scientists wrong … but so are most Christians. It’s difficult to know which group Hambo dislikes more

    Back in the day on, we always said that the hard core creationists hated theistic evolutionists far more than evolutionary scientists or atheists for much of the same reasons Professor Tertius gives above. Tell a conservative Christian that evolutionary science is the same as atheism and they will recoil in horror. When Coyne and others seem to confirm that view they are making Ham’s case for him. The theistic evolutionists make his job much harder. They offer a way, especially for students, to look at the evidence without “becoming atheists” and once a reasonably bright person starts to look at the evidence, Ham has largely lost his case.

  10. Mary L. Mand

    Wonder if Dr. Coyne knows about this yet? I enjoy his site. (I enjoy this one, too!)

  11. I’ve heard this before that Hell is “separation from God”, but if God is everywhere how is that possible?

  12. Troy asked: I’ve heard this before that Hell is “separation from God”, but if God is everywhere how is that possible?

    That is a question often asked by Muslims students when they study in the USA and live around Christians for the first time because it relates to a major difference between Islam and Christianity in terms of their concepts of God/Allah. It is easily answered: “separation from God” refers to relationship, communication, and contact–not geography.

    We have this same concept in family law in the U.S. A couple can go to court and become legally separated. Yet, they sometimes continue to live in the same house. The separation isn’t geographical. It is a legal separation where finances are separated and a list of former “relationship ties” (which vary by state) end or begin the process of being ended.

    Obviously, a lot of details surround the issue in systematic theology textbooks but that deals with the generalities.

  13. But if everything is the result of material processes, how did completely immaterial laws of nature and logic come about? Where do they come from?

    Ham’s conflation of natural laws with logic is yet further evidence that Ham knows very little about either. However, just as a thought experiment, assume that logic is an independent natural force of some sort. In that case, we can make some preliminary rules about logic itself.

    For example, based on observation, it is apparent that the quantity of logic contained in any single mind is inversely proportional to the quantity of superstitious belief also held in the same mind. This rule is confirmed in the case of Ham, and most likely holds true in other cases as well.

  14. They offer a way, especially for students, to look at the evidence without “becoming atheists” and once a reasonably bright person starts to look at the evidence, Ham has largely lost his case.

    Hard-core fundamentalism and adamant advocates like Ken Ham have been around for so long now (about a century) such that it is easy for many in the U.S.A. to assume that Christianity has always been that way. In actual fact, Fundamentalism was a kind of extreme reaction and worrisome “leap to the far right” in reaction to fears that trends in western Christianity had shifted dangerously to the left.

    Because Fundamentalism has been so vocal (and “extreme” in various ways), it is a huge surprise for many students to learn that many American Christians of the 1800s were very impressed by Charles Darwin’s science (which they considered an amazing explanation of how God diversified life on earth) and by his humanitarian efforts as “the oppressed Africans greatest friend.” (While Ken Ham rails against Darwin’s imagined dastardly racism and responsibility for Hitler’s Holocaust, he will never mention that Darwin and family were by far the most generous financial sponsors of scripture-filled anti-slavery tracts published and distributed by Abolitionist ministers in the U.S.)

    American evangelicals consider Princeton academic Dr. Benjamin Warfield a great hero of the faith due to his championing the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy. So it is a huge shock when they learn that their revered theologian (think 1887 to 1921 as his heyday)–who some even call “the father of American Evangelicalism”–was a very vocal fan of Darwin and The Theory of Evolution.

    Yes, we can see from the comments posted on this page that Ham’s well-deserved infamy has been helped along by his long history of contradictory claims and for the many important facts he avoids mentioning to his followers.

    Ken Ham serves as a reminder that pathological dishonesty is more than just telling lies. It also includes leaving out vital information which one’s audience has a right to expect.

  15. I dunno: a “Collection” doesn’t sound quite right here for this particular ‘baramin’ of bull-puckey.

    Maybe better: A Cornucopia of Creationist Clichés?

  16. …it is apparent that the quantity of logic contained in any single mind is inversely proportional to the quantity of superstitious belief also held in the same mind.

    That’s a fascinating observation to consider. In fact, several years ago I began compiling data on people who tended towards conspiracy theory thinking or some other. I saw many examples which fit your observation quite well. Yet, on the other hand, I also found surprising exceptions: people well known for their intellectual accomplishments and analytical skills but also known for promoting some junk science fad, popular myth, or bizarre claim. I eventually concluded that cognitive dissonance is a human foible that is not a all monopolized by any one group. It was far more universal that I might have at first imagined.

  17. When I looked for peer-reviewed scholarship on these topics, I found a lot of questionable methodologies and even more questionable definitions of very slippery words like “superstition”. Some time ago on this webpage I mentioned a Skeptical Inquirer editorial (??) which had referred to a Scientific American article of long ago dealing with a large-scale academic study which sought to measure “superstitious thinking” of various categories of people including age group, religion, socioeconomics, and education. My foggy memories associate Isaac Asimov as commenting on the original study and then Martin Gardner writing about Asimov’s observations years later. (Yet, I could also have my facts mixed up, so I make no guarantees.)

    If I recall correctly, after the controversial study was published, both Asimov and Gardner lamented that atheists had tended to score among the highest on the “superstition index developed by the scientists. Reacting to those surprising results, both commented on popular but inaccurate stereotypes which tended to assume that the typical atheist was a well-educated intellectual immune to cognitive dissonance. Both cited evidence that American atheists are just as diverse as any other people group but that the general public bases their presuppositions about atheists on those which get the most attention from the media (e.g., Dawkins, Harris, Krauss, et al.)

    Even so, I thought the list of superstitious phenomena polled in the survey were far from complete and also not necessarily “superstitious behaviors” per se. For example, while most of us would consider a daily reading of newspaper horoscopes a possible indication of superstitious thinking, some people tell me that they read them because they are humorous or because they contain harmless reminders to do important things like value one’s friends and take time to relax and be gracious towards others. Moreover, is water-witching a belief in magical powers or does it use not yet understood electrical inductance properties which allow the human nervous system to detect some low-frequency wave patterns in wet soil? Moreover, some would assert that all religious practices are superstitious by definition–because that which is transcendent is by definition “beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.” [That’s a typical dictionary definition.]

    I mention all of this in hopes of eventually finding the article I recall (probably from before the Internet and perhaps even the ARPANET.) Yet, whatever the findings and flaws of such a study, I do think that “superstitiousness” is very difficult to define and pin down–and developing a sound survey methodology even harder. Some would consider nearly every belief not based on scientific empiricism a superstition. Others might consider such thinking myopic Scientism.

    Obviously, we all hold beliefs (i.e., assumptions and opinions) that we can’t necessarily support with compelling evidence. (Carl Sagan explained in interviews after the premiere of his movie, Contact, that a Christian friend had convinced him of that fact which led to the protagonist’s dilemma in his screenplay.) So where is the boundary line between that which can’t necessarily be “proven” and that which is superstition?

  18. Bible & Science Forum: Professor Tertius:
    At least some use the terms ‘hard atheist’ for those who declare ‘God does not exist.’ versus the ‘soft atheist’ who says ‘I lack compelling evidence for me to affirm the existence of God.’

    Wouldn’t a “soft atheist” properly be called an “agnostic”?

    Personally, I agree with those who declare that theism and atheism are equally irrational — we have no evidence either way. Now, that is not to say that there are no rational reasons for a society to promote the concept of a higher power — kings used it to justify their power; we use it today to control the behavior of others (to curb their ids, as it were). But for an individual to actually accept a belief either way is, well, not based on logic.

    That being said, if I absolutely HAD to choose one way or the other, atheism makes more sense. There are many, many reasons why our ancestors would have invented religion, but I don’t see many compelling arguments for society to invent atheism. If, after searching all these years, we have found no compelling evidence for the existence of God, there probably isn’t a God.

  19. Note to Prof. T.:

    I wrote the above after just reading your first post on this thread. My apologies if you answered it in a later post. I didn’t have the time just now to read the entire thread.

  20. Third Prof is sure: “Ken Ham can’t play ….. at the same time.”
    Of course Ol’ Hambo can. ‘Cuz god.

    Rando joins Third Prof: “You can’t have it both ways”
    Same answer, for the same reason.
    DaveL provides the psychological background.

    JP observes: “When Coyne and others seem to confirm that view they are making Ham’s case for him.”
    I’m willing to admit that JAC displays some (fundie) religious characteristics indeed.

    RSG limits himself: “I agree with those who declare that theism and atheism are equally irrational — we have no evidence either way.”
    There is no evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence either. Still I doubt if you call that hypothesis irrational.
    Other example: there is no evidence for asquarecirclism. Still you think it rational to maintain there are no square circles, I may presume, because the concept is incoherent. Some atheists – like me, but you might prefer Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science – maintain that the god concept (defined as an immaterial entity) is incoherent. It was HP who turned me into a “hard atheist”, to use Third Prof’s terminology. I’d be curious, especially if you reject it, if you after reading that book would maintain that atheism is irrational.
    So it looks like you disagree with yourself.

  21. Retiredsciguy asked “Wouldn’t a “soft atheist” properly be called an “agnostic”?

    It depends upon who one asks. It’s yet another area of terminological confusion.

    Some insist that a soft atheist simply lacks any beliefs in deities while an agnostic claims it is impossible for anyone to know whether or not deities exist. (And some prefer weak/strong atheism to soft/hard atheism, and a few smart-alek undergrads used vulgar medical terminology inspired by a famous Bob Dole pharmaceutical advertisement.)

    Ken Ham appears to use the terms similarly to the average American in casual conversation: He treats atheism as a confident declaration that there is no God while usually considering agnosticism as not knowing whether or not God exists

    Due to such terminological confusions, textbooks employ a wide variety of 2D and even 3D graphical representations and illustrations. My vision-assistance software makes it difficult and tedious to make these URLs clickable so I will simply list some of the addresses in raw form:

    Four quadrants of belief/non-belief.

    {WordPress wouldn’t display that .png file but my browser did fine on its own.}

    Some define the terms along “a belief continuum“of a sort.

    If you like finding your entertainment in megadoses of such representations, Google these three keywords in a single search: agnosticism atheism chart

    If you like your entertainment more edgy, you might even enjoy the Periodic Table of Atheists & Antitheists at:

    Or you might prefer this cartoon graphic of the classic illustration:

    Whatever one’s preferred definitions of these terms, it would be wonderful if they could somehow be standardized. Yet, I know of no easy way to do so.

  22. @Bible & Science Forum: Professor Tertius:

    I’m curious to know if the Scientific American study on superstition considered religious belief to be superstition. If it did not, that might explain why self-professed atheists came in high on the superstitious belief spectrum — the religious people’s capacity for superstitious belief was completely taken up with religious belief, but would not have been counted. Moreover, most Christian sects consider superstition to be the work of the devil, and would not admit to it.

    If you find the article and comments, I’d like to know.

  23. Professor Tertius, the number of links in your last comment is what caused it to be snared by the spam filter. Sorry for the delay.

  24. Yes, S.C., I assumed the auto-filter…and there was very little delay. Thank you.

  25. Oh, and before he or anyone else pops up to say that Ham and his fellow fundies don’t hate anyone, they’re just concerned for their immortal souls….It really, really isn’t possible to say that about anyone unless you hate them.

    Obviously, hundreds of millions of people strongly disagree with that opinion–and I’m not just referring to Christians of the three major historical traditions. I used to include a question about that viewpoint in a Christianity & Western Civilization course. After reading a lot of student papers on that topic and even arranging some classroom debates, I found that for a great many students–including the international as well as American students–their personal experiences with Christians appeared to have helped decide the issue for them more than the Biblical prooftexts and the course reading list.

    Experiences with Christian family members often came up. In classroom discussions whenever someone balked and said, “It is impossible to truly believe that someone is headed for Divine judgment and not to hate them.”, it wasn’t just the Christian students who objected. More than a few self-described atheists would object with comments like: “You must not know many Christians. My grandmother was the kindest, most loving person I ever knew and she had no hatred for anybody. She was very much Christian fundamentalist and believed everything in her Scofield Bible. You don’t know what was possible for her.”

    The illustration I probably heard and read most often from my students when dealing with the sociology of justice, vengeance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and hatred was “Lots of people believe that a first-degree murderer should be subject to capital punishment–but that doesn’t mean that they foment hatred towards every murderer. An opinion about someone’s judicial fate does not necessarily automatically equate to a particular emotional conclusion.” Some of the most interesting essays on these topics came from Desmond Tuto in post-Apartheid South Africa and Rwandans involved in post-genocide governance as well as various Christian theology classics. (And yes, traditional Christian theology does indeed link all of those topics under the justice category.)

    The last two decades have seen more and more casual (and reckless?) uses of the words “hate” and “hatred”. For example, state referendums on same-sex marriage have been fought using claims like “To oppose same-sex marriage is to hate gay couples.” Is it? Some of the individuals probably do and some individuals probably don’t. (I have gay friends in long-term relationships who strongly oppose same-sex marriage. So does that mean that they hate themselves?) People sometimes comes to the same conclusion but by very different routes. Opinions are decided by various means, sometimes for simple reasons, sometimes for complex reasons. Especially when I don’t know them well, I hope I usually give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Determining who is motivated by hatred and who simply disagrees with someone else is not something I spend much time on, but surely considerable caution and humility is in order when presuming to know what is going on inside the brain of another. Yes, sometimes the actions and words of particular individuals overpower all doubt, yet generalizing to an entire and diverse people group based on the conduct and claims of a few can easily lead to wild stereotyping–and even bigotry.

  26. RetireSciGuy asked: I’m curious to know if the Scientific American study on superstition considered religious belief to be superstition.

    My recollection is that that was one of the biggest frustrations of readers of the article. It was not clear how the list of “superstitious phenomena” was determined–but it appeared that they simply brain-stormed as many classic examples as they could. As a result, the resulting list was all “fringe” beliefs: visiting fortune-tellers, not stepping on cracks in cement, avoiding black cats, fearing the number 13, etc. Perhaps they reasoned (rationalized?) that the study would entail less “statistical noise” if the only surveyed those issues which the majority of the population would agree as being “superstitious.”

    How should the word be defined and what should be used in the survey? After all, some would say that anybody who thinks that communism could produce a productive and free society are living in fantasy. Does that make them superstitious? And some would say that if 95% of a society engages in X, by that measure X is mainstream and entirely rational. (Indeed, psychologists and psychiatrists have used that approach for many years.)

    Perhaps the original study was more objective in simply measuring correlations. I don’t know. And as you know, a lot of published material prior to the rise of the Internet (and personal computing in general) can be harder to find without some serious effort at a university library or within a subscription-based database.

  27. mnbo: “There is no evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence either. Still I doubt if you call that hypothesis irrational.”

    You are correct — I would not call the hypothesis of extraterrestrial intelligence irrational. Here’s why: we know that intelligence exists in the universe — it’s right here on earth. Given the vastness of the universe, it’s perfectly rational to think there are other intelligences out there. At any rate, it is potentially determinate. We may one day have incontrovertible evidence of its existence. I don’t see how we will ever have proof of (or even strong evidence for) the existence or non-existence of God.

    Logic would tell us that all religions are simply human constructs. Can anyone point to evidence that says otherwise?

    mnbo: “So it looks like you disagree with yourself.”

    Yep. I’m told that I can be very disagreeable. 😉

  28. Dave Luckett

    Prof, I really don’t give a good goddam about what dear old Scofield Bible believing ladies say about their opinions. If they say that they don’t hate anyone, but are approve of some people being sent to Hell forever, they’re kidding themselves. Pick one. You can’t have both.