Blogger: Ken Ham and I are like “two peas in a pod”

December 24, 2021 • 1:30 pm

Well, I’ll be: of all the characters whom I’m compared to, the young-earth creationist Ken Ham is the one I find the most unlikely.  But Joel Edmund Anderson, who presents himself as a Sophisticated Theologian®, sees profound similarities between Ham and me. Well, yes, we both have two arms, two legs, and presumably a Y chromosome.  Yet Anderson sees another similarity—and there is one, though Anderson characterizes it wrongly.  First, a bit about Anderson from his Linked In site.

Although I current am a high school teacher, I hope to eventually teach Biblical Studies at the college level. In addition to my masters degree from Regent College, I also have an MA in Old Testament from Trinity Western University, as well as a PhD in Old Testament from the University of Pretoria. I would also like to get more articles and books published.

According to Anderson’s blog, Resurrecting Orthodoxy, Ham and I are in fact like “two peas in a pod.” Click on the screenshot to see the 2018 post that someone called to my attention. But the arguments that Anderson makes are still around in 2021; I’ll talk about a more recent version of this argument against the “war between science and religion” next week.  The narrative that there’s no incompatibility between science and religion, and that they’re not in opposition to one another, continues.  In Faith Versus Fact I describe what I mean by “the war between science and religion”, and apparently Anderson either didn’t read that book, did read it and didn’t understand it, or read it and understood it but deliberately mischaracterizes my views.

Ham, “creator” of the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum in Kentucky, was on a roll three years ago tweeting about me. I don’t have the tweets but Anderson repeats them:

. . . . for the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on a recent article Coyne wrote, entitled, “Yes, There is a War Between Science and Religion.” It came to my attention because Ken Ham tweeted about it three different times the other day. Ham’s tweets were as follows:

    • “Jerry Coyne (emeritus professor) is an atheist, & so such an article as this is totally expected from one who is against God & totally committed to his religion of atheism. Interestingly he sees Christians who compromise as inconsistent–which they are”
    • “There’s no war between observational science & creation, such science confirms Genesis account. But there’s a spiritual war between Christianity & blind faith religion of atheism & the belief in evolution which is contradicted by observational science”
    • “This scientist arbitrarily defines religion as involving the supernatural, declares atheism is not religion, arbitrarily declares evolution science & fact, so he can then falsely declare creation is at war with science! It’s how secularists work”

So Anderson’s point is that Ham and I are alike because we see a war between science and religion. In Ham’s case, the war is between evolution and creationism, and he sees creationism as “science” because it’s “observational science”, and views evolution as a religion, because it’s based on faith and the “religion” of atheism. In other words, Ham sees a war between the Bible and atheistic modern science.

My own view, which I’ll summarize in one sentence (read Faith Versus Fact if you want the whole megillah) is this: science and religion both claim that they involve “ways of knowing about the universe”, but while the methods of science really do enable us to understand the universe, the “ways of knowing” of religion (faith, authority, scripture, revelation, etc.) are not reliable guides to truth. If they were, all religions would converge on the same truth claims, which is palpably untrue.

Note that I do not claim that religion is the same thing as science, for it includes things like morality and worship and divinity. The Bible is not a “textbook of science.” But all religions do make firm claims about what’s true, and these truth claims, insofar as they’re not based on actual evidence, contravene the methods of science. That’s why science converges on what we think is real (and use to make correct predictions), while religions haven’t converged one iota. (Compare the truth claims of Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, cargo cults, and so on.) Nor do I claim that religion has always been opposed to science, is always in conflict with science, that religionists can’t accept modern science, or all all scientists are or must be atheists.

End of my views.  Now here’s what Anderson has to say:

Like Coyne, Ken Ham also sees the creation/evolution debate as being a war. Ham doesn’t see it as a war between science and religion, though. Ham simply throws in his made-up distinction between “observational science” and “historical science,” claims “observational science” confirms the creation account in Genesis, and then equates the scientific theory of evolution with “blind faith religion of atheism,” and claims the “war” isn’t between science and religion, but rather atheism and Christianity.  But make no mistake, both Ham and Coyne agree: evolution is atheism, and evolutionary science is at war with the Christian faith.

No, evolution is a science, atheism a disbelief based on the absence of evidence. Science is atheistic in practice, for we do not use gods or the concept of miracles in our research. We don’t rule them out a priori—we’ve just found that dragging gods into science doesn’t help us understand anything.  Evolutionary science is at war only with those Christians who deny evolution (or other scientific findings) and accept either an ex nihilo creation or the intervention of God in evolution.

Anderson:

Now, sadly, it is true that many people have abandoned their faith because they think evolution has disproven the Bible. In that respect, both Coyne and Ham are correct. But let’s be clear, the reason why evolution has led to a loss of faith of many people is that people like Coyne and Ham are mischaracterizing what science is and what the Christian faith is. Ham is actually correct in one of his tweets: Coyne essentially is hijacking the scientific theory of evolution and smuggling in his atheism into—later in his article, he claims, “science is practiced as an atheistic discipline.” Yes, it is “atheistic” in the sense that is simply studies natural processes, but to call it an “atheistic discipline” as Coyne does is to falsely equate the scientific theory of evolution with the philosophical worldview of atheism.

To the point, when atheists like Coyne and YECists like Ham are telling people that if you accept evolution then you must reject belief in God and accept atheism, then a whole lot of them are going to reject their faith because they are being told they have to.     

I wish! Yes, I’ve met people who abandoned their faith because they were literalist Christians, and when they saw the evidence that the Genesis stories weren’t true, the whole edifice of their faith toppled. But I don’t tell people what to do. I either teach them evolution and let the results fall where they may, or I explain to them why I, Jerry Coyne, see science and religion as incompatible. People can ponder my arguments and make their own decisions. I don’t believe I’ve ever told anyone that they have to reject their faith if they accept evolution.

Just a bit more. Anderson touts himself as having a “correct” understanding of religion versus the “cartoonish” versions held by Ken Ham (and about 40% of Americans with him!)  When I say that evolution is incompatible with creationism, I mean just that: it’s incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible. Anderson, however, being a Sophisticated Theologian®, somehow knows that much of (but not all of) the Bible was written as metaphor.  Clearly Augustine, Aquinas, and many other church fathers didn’t understand Scripture properly either, for they always defended literalism—sometimes with a metaphorical veneer. Anderson:

And both Coyne and Ham lump the creation account in Genesis 1 in as being the same kind of writing as found in the Gospels. They see no difference between the genre of Genesis 1 and the genre of the Gospels. This failure of basic reading competency views anyone who acknowledges the difference in genre as trying to pull a fast one. Call it accomodationism [sic] or compromise, both Coyne and Ham think you are deceptive and dishonest if you simply acknowledge that the Bible is not written in one monolithic genre. Both men might think that failure to read Genesis 1 a literal history automatically means you have to reject the account of Jesus’ resurrection, but competent readers of Scripture know better.

In other words, Anderson knows that Genesis was metaphorical, but the Resurrection really happened. But we have no more evidence for the latter than for the former: they’re both assertions in a book that’s almost wholly fictional. Anderson is a Picker and Chooser, presumably anointed by God to know that sometimes God was speaking metaphorically, and at other times literally; and Anderson can tell us which is which. Piffle!

I could go on for hours, but we have celebrating to do, albeit many are celebrating the birth of a fictional being. I want to proffer one more bit of Anderson and let you have the laughs:

  • (5) Coyne (like Ham) misinterprets Hebrews 11:1 (“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”) as referring to believing things about the origins of the natural world without evidence.

Both men are horrible biblical exegetes, as seen in their understanding of Hebrews 11:1. Both view it as defining faith as nothing more than blind belief about the past creation of the natural world. On AiG’s website, one can find an article entitled “Blind Faith” that says this: “So faith, as commended in God’s Word, is being sure about something that wasn’t witnessed firsthand (including creation), or that cannot be seen now, or that is yet to be revealed. By this definition, all faith is blind! If we can see something, then faith is no longer operative.”

Well, not quite. To the point, the “substance (or assurance) of things hoped for” and “the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen” has nothing to do with looking back and believing things about the creation of the material universe. Rather, the faith of Hebrews 11:1 is forward-looking to the fulfillment of the saving work of Christ and the new creation. Faith is being certain that what had begun in Christ and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit will be completed in the New Heaven and New Earth. The faith that Hebrews 11:1 is talking about is the faith that sees the evidence of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in part, and that looks forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s work in the future. It is being certain of the outcome because we have been given, and now witness, a foretaste of that future reality. Contrary to what AiG (and Coyne) belief, the Christian faith is not blind, and Hebrews 11:1 isn’t about “blindly believing” that Genesis 1 is telling us exactly how God actually created the world.

Yes, Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”—but it is not a scientific statement. It is saying something fairly simple: God created the universe and there is more to reality than just the material world.

No unevidenced claims in those paragraphs!

Ummm. . . .if you look at Hebrews 11, it’s not something forward looking, and it says almost nothing about Jesus, even though it’s in the New Testament. In fact, most of it tells people how faith was used in the Old Testament. What Anderson is doing here is exegesis: interpreting the Bible, and in a way that suits his beliefs. I would assert that the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 is accurate.

I’ll pass over Anderson’s claim that “Coyne says that religion is science”, as it’s a lie. I say that religion makes truth claims, but they aren’t asserted after using the methods of science.

End of story: I’m off to rest and have some bubbly. Happy holidays, and send in your cats!

Ken Ham and his life-sized Ark

________________________________________________________________________

 

Here’s Hebrews 11:1-8 (King James Version) being backward looking; you can read the rest of the chapter here.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

28 thoughts on “Blogger: Ken Ham and I are like “two peas in a pod”

  1. “Although I current am a high school teacher …”

    I hope he am not an English teacher, as he knows not adjective from adverb.

  2. I’m sure Anderson doesn’t sleep very well at night due to his back hurting from bending over backwards all the time to fabricate that nonsense.

  3. Thanks for this! Always interesting to read such analyses. Other than it would be tedious and wouldn’t accomplish anything, it would be entertaining to hear you debate or discuss someone like this.

    I saw a meme this morning, a picture of a bespectacled Ken Ham with this quote of his: “The eye is a perfect design by a perfect creator.” Followed by, “Says the guy wearing glasses.”

  4. Aahh, here we go again with someone alleging all that “imperfect” understanding of scripture, while he, the writer (mostly always a he), will offer us all the PERFECT understanding.

    As I’ve said before, I will take Christianity seriously when 95% of all Christians everywhere agree with EACH OTHER about what the truth is.

    L

    1. “…(mostly always a he)…”

      Really? Playing the “sex” card? ROTFL

      The vast majority of Christians DO agree on the essentials of the Christian faith. The truth of that statement should be evident to anyone who has knowledge of the history of Christian thought from the original apostles forward. Of course, there has always and will always be disagreements but your insinuation that only some 5% of Christians agree with each other is, at best, a ridiculous and unsupportable assertion.

  5. These Sophisticated Theologians are one-trick ponies; it’s the same argument over and over and over again.

    I read as much of Anderson’s piece at Resurrecting Orthodoxy as I could, until my mind’s ear began to ache.

  6. Thanks for the picture of Ken Ham and his life-size ark. I long wondered how the ark could have had room for Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus, let alone two of each, but now, thanks to Ken Ham, I know.

  7. I love that Ken Ham regards the bible as literally true, and that Anderson considers the gospels pretty reliable (I hope this is a fair description). Let’s, therefore, celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, when a powerful, clearly male, superbeing caused the pregnancy of a teenage (if that) girl, without her consent and perhaps against her will. Truly inspiring for all of mankind.

  8. > [Regarding the assertion that] science is at war with the Christian faith

    This is precisely why I hammer in all of the other religions and beliefs in the supernatural. I am not going to privilege Christianity, monotheism, or theism in general by claiming that science is at war with them. Science is at war with belief in the supernatural, the idea that things do not necessarily obey physical, natural laws. Christianity, Hinduism, Angelology, Leprechauns… the list goes on. Not all supernatural beliefs have gods, but all supernatural beliefs claim their is something above (Latin:super-) the natural, materialistic world. That is why I do not consider myself an atheist (or an anangelist, or an anti-leprechaunist), but a naturalist.

    This is why ‘science’ used to be called ‘natural philosophy‘ until recently.

    1. And another one: Lumpers and Splitters.
      https://xkcd.com/2518/

      I lump rejection of the supernatural together into a naturalistic category. I’m not saying that I am not an atheist; it is only a fraction of my naturalism. It is more defensible when interacting with supernaturalists.

  9. Hebrews 1 is not just “backward looking;” it specifically is looking back to the Book of Genesis. All four men referred to (Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham) are figures in Genesis. Clearly the author of Hebrews is one more person who took the Book of Genesis literally.

    There is an old saying: “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” Creationism is the tribute that religion pays to science. After all, even die-hard creationists such as Ham don’t argue that science is irrelevant; if they did, they wouldn’t care if their beliefs were supported by science or not. (Scientists don’t care if their world view is supported by the Bible or not.) Instead, the creationists want their beliefs to have the Imprimatur of science. In a way, it’s a compliment.

  10. Hey! Just thought I’d leave a comment, I usually don’t, as I’m more of an observer than a speaker, but this time I have to because I am a former Christian who de-converted because I was taught when I was a child that evolution is incompatible with my beliefs. I was raised young-earth creationist, homeschooled. I learned about evolution when I grew up, and that raised serious challenges to my beliefs. In the end, I rejected any hint of theism. So all I’m saying is, it is possible to change someone’s mind about the existence of gods because of them learning the facts about evolution.

    – Andrew, Canadian

  11. Anderson, however, being a Sophisticated Theologian®, somehow knows that much of (but not all of) the Bible was written as metaphor.

    Doesn’t matter, as the more important incompatibility is that of method. After all, even scientists disagree amongst themselves about hypotheses about earth history or how to interpret data: is it MOND or a cosmological constant? Did life arise in deep sea vents or clays? But they all share a method for resolving these disputes, and even if the entire OT is taken as metaphor, Anderson still has to grapple with (and doesn’t grapple with) the incompatibility in method, like…

    It is being certain of the outcome because we have been given, and now witness, a foretaste of that future reality….

    …and there you go. Science says this is not knowing, that you have no warrant for that certainty or for holding your belief (i.e. hypothesis) in that stated future.

  12. I really struggle to understand why it is apparently that difficult to get fairly simple ideas across.

    Joel Edmund Anderson heard hundreds, or thousands, of assertions he didn’t believe. What did he believe about those? Well, nothing. He forgot them probably a minute later, if the other person wasn’t insisting and bringing them up all the time.

    Suppose his neighbour was telling an incredible story over and over again. I guess Dr. Anderson would come to know the story quite well, as he’s heard it many times, yet also still doesn’t believe it actually happened. Is this such difficult to get, Dr. Anderson? He both knows it, yet in his mind, reality as it really is happened, does not feature these events. This should be simple to understand. Sometimes the other versions is plausible. You have checked the fridge and there was no milk left, but your significant other insists there is still milk in the fridge. It can’t be both true, but it doesn’t require different laws of nature (well, maybe, but not from our vantage point).

    What does it mean, the story is incredible? I guess this also needs to be spelled out. The neighbour told a story about how he saw, with his own eyes, a deer literally flying away to escape a pack of wolves. Suppose the neighbour shows an illustration of the deer in an animal book, and he has pictures of wolves he photographed another time, clearly showing that these wolves really exist, too. Would this be enough to make Dr. Anderson believe it? Of course not. The dubious parts are not whether wolves or deer exist, but how a deer could fly away. Such would violate everything we know about physics, aerodynamics, evolution, and so on. It’s therefore just not enough to point at something that seems magnificent, mysterious, unexplained and so on and exclaim “God Did It”. You need to bring evidence for the specific thing! The evidence must show the flying deer.

    Further, making such assertions like “then I saw the deer jump up and fly over the trees” is not merely a story that can be accepted as true, as astonishing it is, and then put aside as inconsequential. It has far-reaching consequences and would radically change nature, reality, everything as we know it. If this was true, it would be earth-shattering for every physicist and up. There are now mechanisms that somehow allowed a deer to overcome gravity. Biologists would be in uproar, too, as they’d scramble to find the evolutionary or biological origin of this ability. The deer’s body must have something. How does the deer do it, and why, apparently, not every deer?

    This tiny story that allegedly happened in some forest would have massive consequences. If true, our reality would be very different, and as a consequence, knowledge would be different to reflect that, and science would have find out about it. But first, there would be a “war” as reality cannot be both at the same time, with flying deer (alternative physics, biology etc) and without. On top of the big chain of causality are people, where one side must be wrong, and along with it, a whole version of reality would become fictional.

    And this is why such a story would clash with science. It would clash with everything we know this far, and it could not be simply ignored with this really idiotic “non-overlapping magisteria” idea. Okay, now how about supernatural people who can wish entire universes into existence, and then go through motions like arranging reality such that they/one aspect of them was born on winter solstice, and crucified and reborn on summer solstice — it‘s just preposterous.

    1. Correction: I meant Vernal Equinox. God arranged the entire historical timeline such that he (or one third of his) would be born on Winter Solstice, common symbology of change, and then he pushed electrons in Roman brains around just so he would be crucified and reborn on Vernal Equinox, i.e. spring, symbolic for a fresh start and new beginnings — coinciding with his own intended symbology. With all his allknowing powers and foresight, he kind of overlooked that his mysterious ways would lead to thousands of religious schisms, sects and denominations in Christianity alone, including YECs like Ken Ham versus Sophisticated Theologians like Dr. Anderson, and about a million of other versions.

  13. “blind faith religion of atheism”

    I LOVE when religious people attempt this put-down. It shows that they do on some level understand the problem with religious belief.

  14. Our host and Ken Ham? Really. HAHAHHAHA Gimme a break. JAC is like the Anti-Ham!
    Rarely am I ashamed by my fellow Australians but Ken Ham and Mel Gibson make me cringe and want to tell people I was born in New Zealand. Ham is The Worst.

    D. Anderson (no relation)
    NYC

  15. Ok, that ^^^ omitted some text, forget italics this time!
    —————
    Jerry, I strongly disagree with…

    “No, evolution is a science, atheism a disbelief based on the absence of
    evidence.”

    The definition of atheism doesn’t include a basis for it, it is just ‘someone that disbelieves’. There are many reasons why a person may be atheist, obviously lack of evidence being one, but that’s independent of the definition of it.

  16. Suspect that this is more about, as HL Mencken would have put it, denouncing the divine of a rival sect as a quack than tarring jac.

  17. It’s irrelevant if any Christian thinks that Genesis is metaphorical, the point is that Jesus would surely have believed Genesis to be true, which from a Christian point of view they must also accept it to be true.

    1. Genesis IS true and Jesus did believe so. Unlike Jesue, however, Jesus actually understood Genesis and that the creation story (indeed, the first 11 chapters) are not a science or technical manual of how God created.

      1. Okay, Armentrout, I’m going to have to let you go to other websites that believe the malarkey you’re purveying here. Genesis is NOT true, evolution is (the title of this site).

        How you can believe such fairy tales in the face of refuting facts mystifies me.

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