Answers in Genesis and the Flat Earth

We were shocked to see the title of this new post: Is the Earth Flat?. It appears at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia.

At last, we thought, they’re going full-throttle for scriptural literalism. As everyone knows, the bible is a flat Earth book from start to finish — see The Earth Is Flat!, in which we provide dozens of scripture quotes from both the Old Testament and the New. So we eagerly started reading AIG’s new article.

It was written by Danny Faulkner. Here’s AIG’s biographical information about him. They say he taught physics and astronomy until he joined AIG. His undergraduate degree is from Bob Jones University. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis. He begins by saying:

Many people will probably wonder why it is necessary to write an article defending a round earth. Or, more specifically, an earth that is spherical. You see, the earth could be both round and flat, if it were disk shaped.

[*Groan*] We know the difference between round and spherical. Then he talks about “cultural mythology that, until the time of Christopher Columbus five centuries ago, nearly everyone thought the earth was flat.” We all know that’s nonsense. In Klinghoffer: “We’re Not Flat-Earthers”, we wrote:

It’s true that both the Old Testament and the New have an ark-load of scriptural references that unmistakably describe a flat earth — we gave several examples in The Earth Is Flat!, but as we’ve previously posted, at least since the time of Aristotle, educated people knew the world was a sphere. And a generation after Aristotle, in the third century BC (well before the time of the New Testament), Eratosthenes computed the earth’s size.

In spite of the clear words of the bible, because the earth’s shape and size were known by educated people, no European before Columbus was foolhardy enough to try to sail West to reach the Orient. They didn’t know about North and South America, which divided the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so the ocean was assumed to be too vast for their ships to cross. But Columbus somehow had the size of the world figured wrong, and his backers, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, didn’t know any better. … Anyway, Columbus wasn’t trying to contradict any flat-Earth beliefs.

So what is Danny trying to say? He spends a few paragraphs describing how difficult it is for people to give coherent reasons for believing the Earth isn’t flat. Danny and your Curmudgeon have obviously lived a different lives, because we’ve never encountered anyone with that problem. You can click over to AIG to read his paragraphs about people he’s met who can’t justify the spherical shape of the Earth, but we’ll skip that material.

Then he talks about how the ancients knew the shape of the Earth, and he mentions Aristotle and Eratosthenes. He also gives us Aristotle’s argument about the shape of the Earth’s shadow on the Moon during lunar eclipses. Very nice, but everyone knows that stuff. What Danny doesn’t do is talk about what’s in the bible. Then he says:

In the late nineteenth century, two atheistic skeptics, Andrew Dickson White and John Draper, created the conflict thesis that Christianity held back the progress of science. One of their major arguments was that throughout the Middle Ages the church had taught that the earth was flat. In creating this myth, Draper and White suggested that the church could redeem itself for this supposed error on the earth’s shape by getting in on the ground floor of Darwinism. This ploy was very successful in that much of the church capitulated on evolution. It also falsely altered history. It is this false version of history that most people have learned.

We’re not familiar with those names. Wikipedia’s entry on Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918) says:

In 1869 White gave a lecture on “The Battle-Fields of Science”, arguing that history showed the negative outcomes resulting from any attempt on the part of religion to interfere with the progress of science.


The final result was the two-volume A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), in which he asserted the conflict thesis. Initially less popular than John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874), White’s book became an extremely influential text on the relationship between religion and science. … White’s conflict thesis has been widely discredited among contemporary historians of science. The warfare depiction remains a popular view among critics of religion and the general public.

Okay, maybe we’ve learned something. After giving the impression that he’s discredited the flat Earth myth by mentioning those “two atheistic skeptics,” Danny continues:

During the previous six months I had been asked about the flat earth several times. …. All of this suggested that there must be some sort of movement out there within Christianity promoting the flat earth. This immediately raised two questions: who are the people responsible for this recent interest in a flat earth, and what is their motivation?

Maybe those are people who read the bible? Danny goes on at great length describing and discrediting various flat Earth claims. We’ll skip that because it’s not worth bothering about. Then, in his conclusion section, he says:

Are these people who believe in a flat earth for real? It’s hard to say. They could be well-intentioned but seriously misguided people. Or they could be attempting to discredit the Bible and Christianity. If the latter, their approach probably is “If you think that the Bible is literally true, then I’ll show you just how literally true that the Bible is!” But this is a false dichotomy.

Really? Why is that? Danny says:

We here at Answers in Genesis don’t say that the Bible is literally true. Rather, we understand that the Bible is true because it is inspired by God. As such, it is authoritative on all matters and is reliable.

Did you understand that distinction, dear reader? We didn’t. Anyway, given Danny’s belief that the bible “is authoritative on all matters,” then why doesn’t AIG insist that the Earth is flat? Here’s Danny’s reasoning:

The Bible contains imagery and poetry. However, those passages are easy to identify. When it comes down to the sorts of questions that matter here (such as “Did God create the world?”), the Bible must be read and understood historically and grammatically. That is, historical narrative does not lead to symbolic interpretation. Hence, the creation account is literally true.

Then what about all the flat Earth passages? Danny never addresses any of them. Instead, he ducks the issue entirely and finishes with this:

At least some of the people behind this upsurge in the flat earth movement may be lampooning the creation movement. As such, they clearly are no friends of the church; rather, they oppose Christ and His kingdom. I recommend that Christians be very discerning about their teachings.

That was entirely unsatisfactory. Danny never comes to grips with any of the numerous flat Earth statements in the bible. He can’t, because if he confronted them and said they were wrong, then AIG’s entire argument for young Earth creationism would collapse. There’s no way to get around it. If the bible is correct about Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, and all the rest, then it must also be true that the Earth is flat. Nevertheless, the Earth isn’t flat. Danny knows this. But he can’t face the consequences.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Answers in Genesis and the Flat Earth

  1. michaelfugate

    Are these people who believe in a flat 6000 year old earth for real?

  2. Slippery little sob, that Danny Boy. It’s the old ‘trust me’ routine – “We know the difference among imagery, poetry and literal historical truth, so just listen up and don’t worry about thinking about it. We have done that for you.”

  3. Christine Janis

    It seems like the entire “flat earth” business is undergoing a revival.

    See, for example, the ongoing discussion here

  4. There are a lot of people who mix up the idea of a flat Earth and the Earth being fixed at the center of the universe. There are people who are promoting Geocentrism in the name of the Bible – and they are serious about that. (I know that there are some Flat Earth societies, but I’m not convinced that they are serious. As far as evidence against the Flat Earth, I wouldn’t be surprised that many people couldn’t come up with a good argument. I know that many people can’t give a good argument for heliocentrism.)

  5. More of the ‘we make this crap up as we go along school of religion. For our next topic we will revisit the number of angels on a pinhead.

  6. He says “…The Bible contains imagery and poetry. However, those passages are easy to identify….” And I agree 100% that the buyBull is 100% imagery and poetry. With no useful facts.

  7. I came upon an interesting quote the other day: “The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe”.

  8. waldteufel

    Hambo is old enough to remember the advice given by “Deep Throat” to the investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate scandal: “Follow the money.”
    One wonders if he has passed this bit of wisdom on to his barnyard of pet “scientists” one day recently.
    To wit: “Round up our drooling donors who are dumb enough to believe that scripture literally, repeatedly, and therefore correctly teaches that the earth is flat. Teach those benighted souls to disbelieve those clear teachings while at the same time accepting the equally biblical yet scientifically absurd notions of a six day creation six thousand years ago. At all costs, avoid the words ‘cognitive dissonance.’ ”

    After all,it’s not the clear words in the bible that one should believe. One should only believe what the great and wise Hambo says those words mean.

  9. michaelfugate

    The Bible contains imagery and poetry. However, those passages are easy to identify.

    This is Axe’s and Klinghoffer’s intuition in action.

    But Faulkner is just flat-out wrong that Genesis is a historical narrative, and that it is not poetry and full of symbolism. Where is Prof. Tertius?

  10. Eric Lipps

    In spite of the clear words of the bible, because the earth’s shape and size were known by educated people, no European before Columbus was foolhardy enough to try to sail West to reach the Orient.

    Educated people. Aye, there’s the rub.

    In the Middle Ages and earlier, educated people were thin on the ground, and many of those were “educated” only in the sense that they could quote the holy books of their particular faiths. The great majority of the people did believe in a flat Earth.

    As for Columbus, it’s an open question whether he actually believed the Earth was smaller than the classical estimate or instead merely used the smaller figure as a selling point to gull the none too well-informed Ferdinand and Isabella into greater willingness to fund his expedition.

  11. “I recommend that Christians be very discerning about their teachings.”

    Now that’s rich.

  12. A good read is “Inventing the Flat Earth” by Jeffrey Burton Russell, which cleared up a lot of my misconceptions when I read it about 25 years ago. There’s some online information about the book, and it’s available at Amazon. Russell argues that few scholars for the last 2500 years believed in a flat earth, although a large fraction of the uneducated populace did. That includes the Bible’s writers.

    I believe I read that Columbus’ plans for getting to the Far East relied on sailing west on a spherical earth, except that he thought the earth was about 4000 miles in diameter.

  13. And as far as “we can tell when the Bible is not intended to be taken literally – it is obvious”: Nobody mentioned that the Bible was obviously not to be taken literally when it says that the Earth is motionless – until the rise of modern science. For 2000 years (about 500 BC to AD 1500, more or less) nobody thought that obvious.

  14. We here at Answers in Genesis don’t say that the Bible is literally true. Rather, we understand that the Bible is true because it is inspired by God. As such, it is authoritative on all matters and is reliable.

    It seems to me that there is a continuously shifting line between what is literally true and what is just “inspired.” Which, of course, inspires many questions. Was Lot’s wife really turned into a pillar of actual salt, or was that “inspired?” Was the most holy man in the world, Noah, really naked drunk in his tent, or was that “inspired?” The list is endless. The problem is, it is not always so easy to distinguish between history and just inspired story-telling in the bible.

    Never fear, Ham knows all the answers. After all, he is the holiest man in the world. I wonder if he also gets naked drunk at night after a long day at the office? After all, being the worlds most holy man is apparently a high pressure job.

  15. So he concedes, “We here at Answers in Genesis don’t say that the Bible is literally true.”

    I’ll have to keep this mind since creationists love quote mining so much.

  16. Dave Luckett

    Of course he meant to say “AiG don’t say that the WHOLE Bible is literally true”. Even the most extreme “scriptural literalists” will concede that Jesus’s parables, for example, are stories told to make a point. When he told the story of the Good Samaritan, for instance, Jesus wasn’t quoting from the Jericho police blotter.

    No, the WHOLE Bible is not literal fact. Just the bits AiG says are literal fact – such as the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

    Why do they say that that material – creation in six days, Adam and Eve, the Fall, Cain and Abel, the longevity of the Patriarchs, the Flood, the tower of Babel – must be read literally? You can read it as story, myth, allegory or fable without denying that God created the Universe, after all. There’s nothing whatsoever in the text to say that it must be read literally. Can’t God create a Universe in His own time, using the natural laws that He laid down? Why do these people prefer to limit and circumscribe the God they say is the Almighty?

    If there is anyone who has made a religion out of deifying their own minds, it is they.

  17. Ed Danny has a message for you. “TRVST ME”

  18. “All of this suggested that there must be some sort of movement out there within Christianity promoting the flat earth.”
    Had Dannyboy googled “flat earth” no doubt he would have found the Flat Earth Society. Most if not all of the members are christians, albeit a much nicer kind than Dannyboy and co. Enjoy:

  19. I think Danny Faulkner’s reasoning clearly follow the precepts of Douglas Axes’ “design intuition.”