Do you remember Harold Camping? If not, here’s a quick refresher course (there will be a quiz later, so pay attention).
Camping was the author, preacher and radio talk show host who infamously foretold that the Rapture would happen on May 21, 2011. When it did not, Camping amended his prediction to say that it would actually occur on Oct. 21 of the same year, commensurate with the End of Days.
When that didn’t happen either, Camping — whose Judgment Day misjudgments had briefly heaped worldwide notoriety upon him — quietly retired from the ministry he’d founded and retreated from the public eye.
Camping’s bold assertions drew the (entirely deserved) scorn and derision of secular and free-thought groups, while no shortage of more mainstream Christians joined them in their mockery, as we seem to be so often inclined to do.
It probably goes without saying, but I, too, thought Camping’s predictions were a pile of seven-headed leopard-bear-lion-beast dung. I was baffled by the convoluted logic of trusting vague, deeply veiled supposed meanings of arbitrarily chosen Old Testament prophecies over the clear and explicit teachings of Christ, and I was bothered by how easily the antics of Camping and his followers allowed atheist groups to ridicule the entire Christian faith.
But on reflection, I have far more sympathy for the man now than I did then. In fact, I think if I had to choose between being a disciple of Ken Ham or Harold Camping, I’d pick Camping every time.
Why? Because, though Camping’s beliefs were completely irrational and unbiblical, at least he was sincere in his irrational, unbiblical beliefs. His company, Family Radio, spent more than $100 MILLION on a global advertising campaign promoting the May 21 prediction.
Camping wrote books and pamphlets and gave countless media interviews. He put himself out on a limb in almost unthinkable ways. Sure, it ended up being the worst mistake of his life, one that destroyed his reputation and brought shame and humiliation upon his family and friends, but hey — he believed in something, and he was willing to risk it all for his belief. There’s a tragic authenticity in that.
I’m not saying he is afraid of expressing what he believes, but any schlub can do that. What I’m talking about is putting yourself out there in such a way that the beliefs you claim are all-important can be publicly and demonstrably vindicated, or proven false.
That’s what Camping did, but I don’t see it in Ken Ham.
Now, you might be wondering what Ham and AiG could do, specifically, that would satisfy me. Well, I’m glad you asked.
You see, AiG’s Creation Museum recently received a pretty noteworthy donation — noteworthy in that it is the first exhibit the organization has ever owned that would actually be of interest to real scientists: a half-complete Allosaurus skeleton, said to be appraised at $1 million.
In press releases and blog posts from AiG, Ham explained that he has long coveted just such an exhibit: “For decades I’ve walked through many leading secular museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and have seen their impressive dinosaur skeletons, but they were used for evolution. Now we have one of that class for our museum.”
True to form, AiG wasted no time sharing the news in advisories that closely tied the announcement of the donation to pleas for — you guessed it — more donations (the monetary kind, not the osteological kind). Apparently on the success of that campaign, the Creation Museum was able to open an impressive exhibit, reportedly valued at half-a-million bucks, with the new fossil (heh, “new fossil,” geddit?) as its centerpiece.
Ham and his staff claim the fossil “challenges evolutionary thinking” and that the dinosaur died about 4,300 years ago in the global flood. But they have not explained how it does any of this. They have merely assured their followers that it does, with the same heavy-handed bluster and shallow rhetoric that characterizes everything that they do.
And it is in this that we see clearly how — despite their most vociferous assertions to the contrary — Ken Ham and his fellow createvangelists are not scientists. If they were, this donation would be an enormous opportunity for them, a chance to finally demonstrate what they’ve claimed for years: that the evidence really points to a recent creation, only the mean scientific establishment lies and says it doesn’t (you know, because of the conspiracy and whatever).
No longer would they be “expelled” from the scientific process, prohibited from doing anything but waiting for the crumbs that fall from real scientists’ tables, celebrating the research if it lined up with their pre-existing beliefs and vilifying it if it didn’t.
No, they finally would have the means by which they could prove to the world that they were right all along: That dinosaur bones contain the spongy internal structure and well-preserved soft tissue that could not possibly have endured millions of years. That radiometric dating is absurdly unreliable and gives ages that are all over the map for the same specimen. That dinosaur bones contain high levels of radiocarbon (carbon-14), which they should not if they really were millions of years old and had not been contaminated. That, under intense pressure, a bone can be fossilized just like their Allosaurus in a matter of a few months. And so on.
They would conduct their tests and experiments in the public eye, with full transparency, under the most stringent standards of peer review, because the more people who witness their long-awaited vindication, the better. Their research would be sought by the world’s top journals and would earn them the most prestigious of scientific awards. They would, at last, upend the evolutionary paradigm they have always claimed to find so reprehensible and so poorly supported by the evidence.
But they won’t do any of that. Because they are not really scientists, and because to participate in such a public vetting would open them up to the possibility of the opposite result: That, like Harold Camping before them, the beliefs they’ve staked their livelihoods on might be shown to be wrong, wrong, wrong.
Instead of sacrificing their latest windfall to the cause which they claim to be devoted to (disproving evolution and the ancient age of the earth), they have made it into a highly publicized exhibit that is clearly aimed at doing nothing other than getting more people to buy tickets to their flagging museum. Which shows pretty clearly where their priorities truly lie.
Say what you will about Harold Camping, but he didn’t get rich off of his crazy beliefs; instead, he lost everything in trying to be true to them. Without demonstrating any such willingness to be proven wrong (or right), Ken Ham nevertheless insists that his crazy beliefs are the only way to honor God and his word.