Posts Tagged ‘answers in genesis’

Debate on Evolution –v- Creationism: The Science Guy Bill Nye –v- Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis. Is it too late for Nye to back out?

19/01/2014

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American television’s “The Science Guy”, Bill Nye, is scheduled to debate Evolution versus Creationism Ken Ham, the head of the World’s largest Young Earth Creationist organisation, Answers In Genesis, on Evolution versus Creationism at Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky in the US of A on 4 February 2014.  A few years ago, in March 2008, I had the ordeal of sitting through one of Ham’s lectures at the University of Liverpool and recounted the experience just over a year later on Ophelia Benson’s Butterflies & Wheels website:

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.

(…)

The truly sinister side to Ham’s theology is that he believes in the cruel Old Testament God (so brilliantly summarised by Richard Dawkins at the beginning of Chapter 2 of The God Delusion) which became apparent in his explanation as to why God allows so much pain and suffering.  Forget theodicy, none of Richard Swinburne’s logical gymnastics for this guy, the reason why there is so much evil in the World is because God is angry with us all.

No, God does not allow evil for its eventual good to the human race.  No, we shouldn’t all have faith and hope for a better future.  Instead, we are all paying for the original sin of Adam and Eve eating that damn apple.  We all instinctively reject God and have been paying for it ever since. We are lucky even to be here in the first place since we are not worthy of our very existence. The only way of saving our miserable souls is to accept good old JC into our hearts. Cue slide of Hitler and Auschwitz victims: this was OUR fault!

Even as I copy and paste those words, I can still summon the rage that I felt in that lecture theatre all those years ago.  Naturally, my heart sank at the news of Bill Nye’s debate against Ham.  Richard Dawkins has stated categorically that he refuses to debate against Creationists as it would give the lay-public the erroneous impression that the scientific fact of evolution was in doubt and there was an issue worth debating.  It would be like a respectable 20th Century historian such Martin Gilbert or Ian Kershaw sharing a platform with David Irving to discuss in earnest whether the Holocaust happened to the nature and extent described by the victims, perpetrators and rescuers, or at all:

Some time in the 1980s when I was on a visit to the United States, a television station wanted to stage a debate between me and a prominent creationist called, I think, Duane P Gish.  I telephoned Stephen Gould for advice.  He was friendly and decisive: “Don’t do it.”  The point is not, he said, whether or not you would ‘win’ the debate.  Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to.  For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all.  They need the publicity.  We don’t.  To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist.  “There must be something in creationism, or Dr So-and-So would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms.”  Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs.  But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.

The creationists’ tactic – which, for that matter, runs right across the religious apologetic board – is to duck their responsibility to provide any evidence for their claims and do their worst to discredit atheist scientists personally so their flock has a (wholly arbitrary) reason to discount their opinion and not worry about what they have said against religious faith.  I seriously think that “Ad Hominem” and “Dirty Debating Tactics” are taught as core modules on theology and apologetics courses the World over, from Sunday school to Christian universities.

Dawkins was the victim of covert creationist propaganda in when 1997 he unwittingly allowed an Australian creationist film crew into his Oxford home.  The interviewer’s question, “Can you give an example of a genetic mutation, or an evolutionary process, which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?” was a question that only a creationist would ask.  Dawkins tumbled to the fact that they were creationists, paused to think about how to deal with the situation and then asked them to stop filming.  He eventually continued with the interview after they pleaded with him on the basis that they had come from the other side of the World.

When the tape was published, Dawkins eventually discovered that the creationists had spliced the tape together to make it look like his was stumped by their question, asked them to stop filming while he considered his answer and then ducked the question and answered a completely different question.  Dawkins gave his own account of the interview and why he paused and asked them to stop filming within the pages of A Devil’s Chaplin.  Australian writer for The Skeptic, Barry Williams, published this exposé of the episode after Dawkins contacted the magazine to investigate the incident in a bid to protect his professional reputation.

The evolution side have been pretty unanimous in their condemnation of the Nye/Ham debate.  American biologist, blogger and author of Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne, has commented on the debate here and here (the second post contains this useful interview with Nye on CNN giving his reasons for taking part in the debate) predicting that “it might not end well.”

Dan Arel writing on Richard Dawkins Foundation has summed up the situation rather well:

I honestly think it would be fantastic to see Nye destroy Ham, but will that do any good?  Suddenly a little known figure outside of his circles, Ham will be thrust into the spotlight, reaching impressionable youths around the world, and as great as it would be to see him taken down, the risks of him winning are greater.

The American people are not going to dissect Nye’s credentials to accept such a debate and if he goes down, he will take down a lot of hard work in science with him.  If the American people, who are already weary of science and already disown the idea of evolution as quickly as possible, see who in their minds is a top scientist lose to a creationist, we will have taken steps backwards in time.

The risk versus reward in this scenario is not worth it. Nye is putting a lot at risk and he is not the man to do so.

Creationism is a worthless and uneducated position to hold in our modern society and Nye is about to treat it as an equal, debatable “controversy”.

I hope Nye proves us all wrong on the 4th of February.  But eternal-pessimist-glass-is-always-half-empty-atheist that I am, I am bracing myself for the worst.

Answers in Genesis: Creationist arguments not to use

28/05/2010

manicstreetpreacher presents the sole example of Young Earth Creationists talking sense.

Ken Ham, the head of global Young Earth Creationist racket, Answer in Genesis, is not my favourite person in the World and you can witness me lambast him in print and on the air.  However, perhaps he deserves some credit for the section of his website dedicated to forewarning his flock against certain arguments that are so patently false and discredited that their very use seriously harms the YEC case.  For example:

If humans evolved from apes, how come apes still exist?

In an evolutionary worldview, mankind did not evolve from apes but from an apelike ancestor, from which both humans and apes of today supposedly evolved.

There are no beneficial mutations:

Keep in mind that beneficial, information-gaining mutations are a necessary mechanism of molecules-to-man evolution, so focusing on any potential for this is essential for evolutionists.  What doesn’t seem to be often addressed is the vast amount of data to the contrary.  But even if there were a clearly beneficial mutation, this would by no means “prove” the mechanism for evolution (for one thing, beneficial, information-gaining mutations would have to be a regularly occurring phenomenon and would have to “build” on previous mutations so as not to be “undone” and to keep the evolution going “uphill”), nor negate the truth of God’s revelation of His Creation in Genesis.

Darwin recanted on his deathbed:

Beyond these denials, if the tale were true, why did Darwin’s wife Emma not rejoice in this?  She was always troubled by what she perceived as the godless nature of his views.  If he indeed repented, why did she not make this known? Also, if the story were credible, why did Lady Hope wait 33 years before relating it, and even then, relating it in a country across the ocean?

Given the weight of evidence, it must be concluded that Lady Hope’s story is unsupportable, even if she did actually visit Darwin.  He never became a Christian, and he never renounced evolution.  As much as we would like to believe that he died with a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it is much more likely that he didn’t.  It is unfortunate that the story continues to be promoted by many sincere people who use this in an effort to discredit evolution when many other great arguments exist, including the greatest: the Bible.

Old Testament stories have been confirmed by modern day archaeology:

There is little doubt that the genuine discovery of certain objects would be both exciting and a powerful witness to the truth of the biblical record.  However, we need to be careful not to become like some medieval pilgrims, keen to have relics to supplement (or supplant) the worship of the living God.  Christ actually taught that if people did not listen to ‘Moses and the prophets,’ then neither would something as spectacular as someone rising from the dead convince them (Luke 16).

No doubt such fanciful claims as discussed here will always be with us, made by those seeking either [sic] profit, fame, the fulfilment of some deep psychological needs, or any combination of these.  The ‘discoverers’ will often appear completely sincere, saying all the ‘right Christian things.’  Perhaps at some point they have even persuaded themselves.

The Bible does not say we should ‘believe all things,’ but rather that we should ‘prove all things’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Neither does it encourage a gullible approach toward those claiming the name of Christ.  Rather, it warns about wolves among the flock, and also teaches that the heart of man is deceitful and depraved (Jeremiah 17:9).

As in other areas, extraordinary claims carry an extraordinary burden of proof. There is already a huge amount of archaeological and other evidence consistent with the truth of the Bible.  Bible-believing experts exist in many fields, such as the archaeologist author of our article on Jericho (The walls of Jericho).  They are always glad to assess and publicise actual evidence of genuine finds (there have been many over the years) supporting the historicity of the Bible.

No new species have been produced:

All of these animals’ ancestors – horses, donkey, zebras, tigers, lions, whales, and dolphins – were created with genetic diversity.  Through time the processes of natural selection, mutation, and other mechanisms have altered that original information (decreased or degenerated) to give us even more variation within a kind.  Great variety can be observed in the offspring of animals of the same kind, just as the same cake recipe can be used to make many different cakes with various flavours and colours.  Hybrids have a portion of the same genetic information as their parents but combined in a unique way to give a very unique looking animal.  What an amazing diversity of life God has created for us to enjoy!

While it’s a pity that AiG don’t examine all of their claims in such an objective and sober light (then again, I supposed they’d be putting themselves out of business!), this is a breath of fresh air from an unexpected source.  However, I am still dismayed that I continue to encounter many of these arguments both online and in public debate.  What does it say about the “rationality” of religious faith when its adherents still use arguments that one of the most notorious fundamentalist organisations on the planet has consigned to the third circle of hell?