Enjoying a good debate, I confess that I was drawn to spend a couple hours listening to the back-and-forth on creationism vs. evolution between Bill Nye, a creditable scientist, and Ken Ham, who is decidedly not one, though he claims to know some and helpfully included all the ones he knows in his slideshow.
To sum it up, Ken Ham believes what the Bible says, hard-core and literally — like, all manner of stuff that we know of was created in a seven-day work week a few thousand years ago. In fact, all life on earth actually dates back to the day after every single acre of Earth was inundated about 4,500 years ago. Those time periods were calculated by running the life spans of guys in the Bible — as reported in the Bible. Evidence to anything contrary, from any other historical source or actual observation, he does not believe. Tree rings showing individual trees over 6,000 years old? Fossils of creatures that no longer exist? The fact that all that flooding created one Grand Canyon? Ignored.
Alas, early on, there actually was a concession to evolution. It was a little hard to follow exactly, because Ham had to use a concept new to me of “kinds,” stating that some “kinds” of animals were indeed on Noah’s boat, but not all that we know today. So, for example a couple of dogs were on the ship, and after the flood, they then divided into the many species and breeds of dogs seen today. But that does not mean that dogs evolved from wolves before that, oh, no.
I thought that acknowledgment of mutations into new life forms would end the show, but I was waaaay wrong. While Bill Nye went a bit overboard for his audience talking about a range of scientific discoveries — from microscopic to infinite — that contradict the “young earth” notion, as it is called, Ham provided repeated bits from the Bible that prove that the Bible is true.
Troubling is the foundational notion that humans cannot believe in something that they did not witness, such as the beginning of the earth, I guess. Yet, the story of creation, and one would suppose that hot story about the virgin who becomes pregnant, though that never seems to happen in modern times, are completely true, to Ham.
When Nye’s answer to a question was a truthful “we don’t know,” Ham’s answer was that a book has already been written about that – it’s called the Bible.
I loved that Nye referred to the creationists’ source many times the “American-English translation of the Bible,” a subtle reinforcement of the provincialism and narrowness of the documents selected a few hundred years ago, translated well after that, as the primary Judeo-Christian authority. (I know, I know – plenty of religious people use the Bible in more sensible ways.)
And by the way, the Bible also apparently frowns upon gay marriage, Ham finds, and a lot of other stuff that isn’t actually in my copy. How about four wives per husband? Ham explains this with a dismissive hand wave, saying that some parts of the Bible are merely poetry or stories about actual people, and some of them did bad things. I’ve read the part he’s talking about, and that’s not what it says. I like to ask adamant Bible-clutchers whether they eat the pork and lobster forbidden in Genesis, and that usually brings about the same kind of quivering and ‘splainin’ about how Jesus came along later and specifically said that bacon was cool.
I understand that there is real evidence that only about two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution (the believers skew toward the more educated). This may explain the disbelief in human-source global warming, or the holding that a fertilized cell is a full-faith-and-credit human being.
I would not want to chat it up with Ham or his likes – too frustrating for me. I might only envy the simplicity of his tasks on moving day, when instead of spending hours or days sorting through hundreds of beloved books, he would only have to tuck the one volume under his arm.