This time it’s the scary Ken Ham, head of the Biblical literalist organization Answers in Genesis. (Ham is also the founder of the hildariously stupid Creation Museum in Kentucky, where you can have your toddler photographed on top of Triceratops wearing a saddle [see below].) Over at Butterflies and Wheels (a superb rationalist blog), Ed Turner recounts a talk that Ham gave at Liverpool University (why was he invited if there’s almost no pro-creationist sentiment in the UK?). Excerpts:
It was an appalling experience for an atheist to sit through. My blood boiled, my teeth gnashed and my choice as a non-believer was very much confirmed. It wasn’t just the scientific ignorance that this man was peddling; he was also selling something far more sinister: right-wing religious bigotry of a distinctly Falwell variety.
In a nutshell, Ham’s line is that the Bible is the unalterable, infallible, unquestionable, literal Word of God. Everything in the Bible happened exactly as it is described, ifs, not buts, no metaphors, no allegories. Seven days means seven days, not a Hebrew term for a long period of time. People must choose between the Bible and human reason. Clearly Ham is a devotee of Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, who recommended that tearing out your eyes of reason was a prerequisite to being a Christian.
Where scientific evidence and the Bible conflict, the Bible is always to be preferred and evidence must be massaged in order to fit it. According to Ham, we all start with “presuppositions”. Atheist scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Eugenie Scott start on the presupposition that God does not exist and the Bible is wrong; creationist scientists such as Kurt Wise start with the presupposition that God does exist and the Bible is correct. The differing conclusions result purely from differing interpretations of the same evidence.
This position was demonstrated with a highly amusing video clip showing two scientists unearthing a dinosaur fossil in the desert. “Bob says that this fossil was formed after the corpse was covered in sediment from a rising river hundreds of millions of years ago. I on the other hand say it was covered by Noah’s Flood approximately 4,300 years ago, like it says in the Bible. You see, we have different perspectives on exactly the same piece of evidence.” . . .
It soon became clear, however, that Ham is not simply preaching good ol’ fashioned back-to-basics holiness; he is also touting religious xenophobia and intolerance of the kind that should be handled with the aid of a peg over one’s nose and a very long pair of tongs.
“There’s no such thing as neutrality. If you’re not pro-Jesus, you’re anti-Jesus” Ham told his flock. So the other four billion people who are not Christians presently residing on the plant are completely wrong, evil and must be opposed to the last? We have tribalism to add to the man’s list of faith-based misdemeanours?
Gay marriage and abortion were repeatedly flagged up in Ham’s PowerPoint slides as personifying what’s wrong with our society. Ham is also out to control the minds of today’s youth. His tables and graphs of statistics showed that many young people abandon the faith in which they were raised by their parents because they are asking too many questions…
That’s right; free thought and free enquiry is a very bad thing indeed. We obviously haven’t brainwashed the little tykes enough. They are getting ideas of their own and want to lead their own lives. This is clearly the fault of teachers and the education system and needs to be changed right now. . .
The final nail in the evening’s coffin was that the audience were lapping it up like rabid dogs. They wanted it all to be true. I heard one audience member say to another before the talk started that they had come to “get educated”. Being the centre of a divine design, despite the designer treating them like his plaything and caking them in his own excrement, was better than being at the centre of nothing. The solipsism of the theistic mind knows no bounds; the desire to remain a slave burns ever brighter; we have to be responsible for it all somehow.
This is in Britain, remember? Again I repeat, while lecturing on the Queen Mary 2 to many Brits about evolution, I was repeatedly told that creationism was “not a problem” in the UK.
Fundamentalists of all stripes, including many Muslims, want to avoid at all costs their children being exposed to free inquiry that might counteract their religious brainwashing. Madrasas teach only the Koran, and in some places Muslim women are denied schooling or attacked with acid if they try to go to school. And this is what much of the homeschooling movement is about: teach your kids only what you believe. (Our correspondent on this website is a notable and welcome exception.) Another example: as P. Z. Myer reports over at Pharyngula, James Corbett, a high-school teacher in California was found guilty in federal court for simply telling students the truth about creationism:
“Corbett states an unequivocal belief that Creationism is ‘superstitious nonsense,'” U.S. District Court Judge James Selna said in a 37-page ruling released from his Santa Ana courtroom. “The court cannot discern a legitimate secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context.”
The legitimate secular purpose was, of course, to help students distinguish between science and non-science. If Corbett told his students that homeopathy was medical nonsense, he wouldn’t be in trouble. The secular purpose of this statement is precisely the same.
Fun at Kentucky’s Creation Museum