#HamonNye, Round Three: The Final (?) Retconning

A few weeks ago, we published a series of comics by to the ever-talented David MacMillan, which took us on a journey through the as-of-yet-only-hypothetical(-and-please-Lord-let-it-stay-that-way) second round of the infamous “debate” between Ken Ham and Bill Nye in 2014.

Now, in, um…honor ā€” I guess? ā€” of ol’ Hambone’s latest achievement, we present yet another round. Enjoy.

On evolution and atheism


On evolution and the Holocaust


On “compromisers”


On the image of God


On repeatability


On dating trees (Uh…no, not like that)


On ash layers


On “design”


On genetics




Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • Chris

    The tree dating thing is a tricky one, according to Wikipedia, the only trees older than 6000 are “clonal trees” which are a network and do not have enough rings to count that far, as the individual trees live ~130 years. I think I read the dates for the networks are estimated based on radiometric dating, which, of course, YEC dismisses.

    And I could be way off base and/or reading that wrong, but I haven’t found anyone able to count rings older than the supposed age of the earth. Do you have a link to it?

    • David

      I did a bit of clever maneuvering here. Yes, the ages of the oldest *living* trees are only known by radiocarbon dating; the oldest single-trunk trees with countable rings are around 5,000 years old (which is already too old for the Flood, but not quite 6K). It should be noted that while very old trees CAN skip rings in droughts, they cannot under any circumstances grow “extra” rings as Ham suggests in my cartoon.

      However, tree rings aren’t all identical; they record weather, climate, and environmental patterns. When you have a forest stand with many trees of the same species, some living and some fallen, you can match the patterns to see how old the fallen trees are. For example, if a living tree and a fallen tree each have 4,000 rings, but the pattern at R+500 in the living tree matches the pattern at R+3500 in the fallen tree, then you know that the fallen tree is 3,000 years older than the living tree, making it 7,000 years old. Using dozens of trees in the same stand, you can construct a chronology — called a “dendrochronology” — stretching back as far as 12,000 years or more. I’ve attached a (mockup) graphic as an example of how it works.

      Notably, because the rings themselves now have absolute ages attached to them, you can use them to “test” radiocarbon dating and show that it does, in fact, reflect accurate ages.

      So it’s a BIT more complicated than “just count the rings”, but that’s the principle of the thing.

      • David

        Creationists HAVE attempted to respond to dendrochronology, but their few arguments have been spectacularly weak. Basically the claim is that *maybe* localized climate patterns could take place in repeated cycles, but not always get caught by every tree every time. E.g., in the example above, the pattern SHOULD appear at both R+500 and R+3500 for both trees, but it is missing (due to unknown factors) at one point in one and the other point in another, producing a false alignment.

        They have been unable to uncover any evidence of these “cyclic” climate patterns, and there is no way that this could work across an entire tree stand.

        • Matthew Funke

          If you wouldn’t mind addressing it in some future cartoons, my favorite issue that creationists can’t seem to come up with good answers for is biogeography. How did the koalas get to Australia after the flood? How did the marsupial mammals get over there while leaving all their placental counterparts behind? How can “evolutionists” reliably predict where transitional fossils like Tiktaalik can be found? And so on. Just a thought… it’s your thing, after all, and I’m just happy it’s there at all. šŸ™‚

      • Matthew Funke

        But that’s part of the nasty trick. If you can show that there’s any amount of complexity beyond simple counting, creationists will insist that that’s enough room for their notion of events to be true.

        They’ll point to the fact that any timekeeping method has a certain amount of imprecision and use it to argue for a complete lack of any precision. Thus, error bars that might cause something to be dated to a billion years plus or minus a couple million could, to their minds, be just as likely to be just a few thousand years old.

        I haven’t come up with a good way to explain to them just how wacky this idea is. It’s like pretending that your wristwatch is just as likely to be one second off as it is to be one year off.

  • Paul Bruggink

    This might be the best of the three. Great work, David!!

  • Anath-Turin

    Thanks, man. I thought I was alone on this. My students at school would call me an “evolutionist” for thinking such things.

    ~ Uriah Blacke of Quora

  • Dylan Cook

    Let’s see how Hammy over here reacts to my LITTLE friend here.

  • Julian

    What does he mean by calling Paul a compromiser?

    • Matthew Funke

      If one accepts Ken Ham’s point in the cartoon that the only people who think the days of creation were not 24 hours in length are those who are “compromisers” — i.e., people who twist Scripture to suit their own personal preferences — then Paul the apostle must be lumped in with those who are “compromisers”. I’m not sure what the original comic strip author was thinking, but one can see the truth of his statements by considering Hebrews 4, for example. (A fair number of Biblical scholars attribute the authorship of Hebrews to Paul.)

      • julian waldner

        I’m not sure if I understand the connection there. Is it because Paul seems to be saying we are still in the 7th day, thus the days arn’t 24 hours?
        Thanks for the clarification.

        • Matthew Funke

          Yeah, essentially, you’ve got it. Followers of Christ are ordered to enter God’s rest — specifically, the rest of His seventh day of creation. That’s not really possible to follow if the creation account took only one calendrical week at the start of history.

          I’m sure that there’s more than one way to understand that passage, but it seems particularly hard to defend some kind of metaphorical interpretation in the name of sticking to a “literal” interpretation of Scripture. (Sorry about the scare quotes around “literal”, there, but the interpretation some Christians like to call literal isn’t.)