How Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis could prove that they’re right (and why they won’t do it)

The would-be soothsayer Harold Camping got a bad rap, but was he really worse than Ken Ham?

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.

As far as I can tell, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and professional fundraiser, does not possess the same courage of conviction for his own irrational, unbiblical beliefs.

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.

Tyler Francke is the founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached here.

  • Dylan

    (Sigh) Ken Ham, leave. People like you make people very averse to accepting the Gospel and Yeshua. Your bad science and bad theology is annoying.

    • He’s not going anywhere as long as fame and fortune (of some measure, anyway) is his to claim.

      • Dylan

        Sadly you are all too right.

  • Will

    As any actual analysis of that fossil would show, Ken Ham is wrong. Does he himself know this deep down, or is he delusional enough to think himself so obviously right that such a test is therefore an unnecessary effort and expense?

  • Dana Tweedy

    I find it odd that Ham claims that the fossil Allosaurus “proves” evolution false because the creature was buried rapidly, apparently due to Noah’s Flood. Ham doesn’t seem to think that there is any other way a dinosaur sized animal could be buried rapidly. A recent tragedy near my home showed such an assumption is unwarranted. A few months ago, a mudslide happened on a hillside a east of my town. Three men were suddenly swept away, buried under as much as 250 feet of mud and debris. This tragic event did not require a global flood, yet it happened, just like mudslides, flash floods, and ashfalls have been happening for millions of years.

    • Tomasina Serveaux

      And look at what happened to the people of Pompeii! No floods involved there at all, just millions of tons of volcanic ash and rubble. Avalanches in mountainous regions can bury schools, grazing cattle, even whole towns in a matter of moments. Animals crossing a river during migration can be swept away and buried under sediment. I do not know why anyone takes Ken seriously anymore. I guess God only wants the very, very stupid in heaven with him because they are easier to control. 😮

  • Rick Hartzog

    I think Ken Ham knows what the evidence is. I think he knows the Earth is much older than 6,000 years, too. But the main point he is trying to make is, IF the Earth is more than 6,000 years old, then the Bible is false. I’m sure he’s trying to reach as many people as possible with that message.

    • The question is, is he deluded or a deliberate charlatan? Not sure which is worse.

      • Mr. Gordons

        You neglect that possibility that he is right and you are wrong. You used bifurcation. This site and these comments frequently use poisoning the well.

  • Alan Christensen

    Participate in a public vetting? Ham doesn’t even allow comments on his blog!

    • Good point!

      • Alan Christensen

        Of course, considering the general quality of comments I read on the Internet (this site being an exception), I can’t say I entirely blame him.

        • When you visit Ken Ham’s Facebook page, you see his true motive. He allows any comment from people who agree with him, regardless of how sophomoric, typo-laden, defamatory, poorly reasoned or just plain false it may be, and bans anyone who disagrees with him, ESPECIALLY if they make good points, regardless of how polite they are. It’s censorship, plain and simple.

          Which is fine — he is not constitutionally bound to protect the freedom of speech. I just wish the people who support him would see and recognize what he does.

          • ashleyhr

            Debating with THIS blogger is good clean fun as I and a couple of others are fiunding (I refer to the 155 posts and counting under his preceding blog at the Worldview Warriors site):
            http://worldviewwarriors.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/young-earth-creation-history-or-myth.html (Note: also contains comments by ‘Cowboy’ Bob Sorensen.)
            (I do not hold back – and nor does Mr Wolcott.)

            Am I going completely off-topic? I trust not – since in his new blog post Wolcott mentions Mr Ham.

            The final paragraph suggests that despite shiny museums and state of the art websites with topical articles on them, YECs or Biblical Creationists are stuck in a time warp and think that other Christians should join them there. Wolcott writes today:

            “The reality is, Genesis is historical narrative… It records history. And it is this history that forms the roots of everything Christians believe… It was treated as history by every author of the Bible who referenced it, including Luke, Peter and Paul. Jesus himself did too. If they treated Genesis has history, so should we.”

            The problem is that the human Jesus (Christians say he was fully human as well as fully divine) showed no sign of knowing anything about the scientific history of planet Earth. Why would he not regard Genesis as historical?

            Yesterday Wolcott accused me, falsely, of ‘misquoting’ him. Should he see this he will see that I am simply abbreviating his comments and not in any way ‘misquoting’ them.

          • ashleyhr

            PS I decided to mention this to Mr Wolcott – as there’s little else I have to say now I’ve read the 12 new comments in the relevant thread since last night:

            https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4582953863643137208&postID=6659582233666016049&page=1&token=1405700091178
            http://worldviewwarriors.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/issues-with-old-earth-creation-theistic.html

          • Mr. Gordons

            Hello is all right. Ashley Haworth-Roberts has been on a crusade of hatred and blames others for his actions. I have yet to read anything of consequence that he has written.

          • ashleyhr

            Mr Gordons is a hate-filled troll. See his contribution here (second link) on 19 July:

            http://worldviewwarriors.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/issues-with-old-earth-creation-theistic.html
            https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4582953863643137208&postID=6659582233666016049
            “People like him should be forcibly confined or eliminated for the sake of survivability.”

            Yes – he means me! The person who posts nothing of any ‘consequence’.

            All I’ve seen from Alexander Gordons is rudeness, untruths and trolling behaviour.

          • Thanks, Ashley. Mr. Gordons, Ashley has been a friend of our site for some time, and we have certainly not found his contributions to be of no consequence. On the contrary, he has provided information about a number of online YEC proponent/trolls, of which we had not been aware, and his comments have always been shown to be very accurate.

            If you plan on spending more time in these comment threads, Mr. Gordons, I would appreciate it if you would try and refrain from advocating for anyone’s “elimination.”

          • Mr. Gordons

            I have not advocated for his elimination here. He attacked me on Facebook and then blocked me. Then he complains about censorship. His dishonesty has been documented. Your support of his crusade of hate is interesting.

          • I have not advocated for his elimination here.

            No, you haven’t. You did it elsewhere. That’s why I asked you not to do it here. In my experience with createvangelists, they cry “hate” and “discrimination” whenever they are incapable of confronting the evidence and basic logic that disproves their ridiculous views. It’s very annoying, so I’d appreciate it if you also refrained from doing that here.

          • ashleyhr

            Gordons attacked ME on my facebook page (and on Bob Sorensen’s TQEP page). I rightly banned him, after a warning as far as I recall (three of the people who hang around at TQEP all separately attacked me on my page and all three were banned in succession). His behaviour was disgusting and reprehensible (whether or not he is YEC). Full details are HERE:
            http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=3477&start=30

            Gordons’ trolling and hateful behaviour has been truthfully documented and he does not like it.

          • You don’t have to defend yourself to me. It sounds like you two have some beef that should either be worked out between the two of you, or being that this is the Internet, you should simply go your separate ways.

          • Same tired old three-four empty rhetorical points and shallow emotional pleas that YECs have been submitting as their only “evidence” for the past 50 years.

          • “(Christians say he was fully human as well as fully divine)”
            I do not think that quote makes any sense or is believed by any christian.

    • Tomasina Serveaux

      Quite a lot of creationists on YouTube have either disabled comments on their videos, or they delete any comments that don’t cater to their massive egos. If you disagree with them, you are liable to have your comment removed and they’ll even block you. This proves that they KNOW their ideas are a load of pig slop, but they are too scared or too proud to come out and admit it.

      • Pride or not, it’s dishonest and unbecoming of the God they claim to serve and believe in.

  • Scott @ GodsBreathNet

    Apply this to secular museums too. Prove that soft tissue can exist for millions of years. Test for radiocarbon. All I could think about when reading this article is, “This is a double standard, and the other side has the money to critically test their assertions”.

    • Apply this to secular museums too.

      Evolution has been tested, for more than a century, and has never been disproven. Comparatively speaking, that is an overwhelmingly successful theory.

      Prove that soft tissue can exist for millions of years.

      That has been proven. Dinosaur bones that are millions of years old have been found to contain pliable tissues.

      “This is a double standard, and the other side has the money to critically test their assertions”.

      Yeah, because Ken Ham, AiG and the dozens of other such outfits have displayed absolutely no ability to successfully raise millions for the cause of young-earth creationism.

  • Paul Braterman

    Scott, you have been deceived. There is NO dinosaur soft tissue; only cartilage fragments stabilised by adsorption on bone. If you doubt me, go back to the original papers, not the gross misrepresentations in the creationist literature. Radiometric dating has been repeatedly and critically cross-validated (for a revew of this by a Christian with unimpeachable scientific credentials (he is PI on the latest Mars probe, for the LIBS system) see Wiens, R.C. (2002). Radiometric Dating – A Christian Perspective. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/wiens.html The extreme antiquity of the Earth was an outcome from, not an assumed input into, radiometric measurements and was established on its merits against initial skepticism. If there is a double standard, it is that scientists set out to find what is there, and creationists set out to find whatever can be tortured into fitting their preconceptions.

  • J_en_ai_marre

    If you want to know what kind of “scientist” Ken Ham is a good place to start is his talk on Ötzi, a frozen man discovered in the Alps on the border of Austria and Italy. (http://www.answersingenesis.org/…/hi-tech-stone-aged…)

    Ötzi has been subject to extensive tests (by various scientific organisations) on his body and the equipment found with him that show that he lived around 5,300 years ago. This is comfortably within the 6,000 years of human existence allowed by the Bible but uncomfortably nearly 1000 years before Noah’s flood which would have obliterated every trace of his existence. So Ken Ham provides his own version.

    Ken says that Ötzi lived only 3000 years ago without giving the evidence for this date and not mentioning the official scientific estimate. He goes on: “So how should christians view Ötzi ? Well he’s just another example that so-called stone-age men weren’t some kind of primitive early humans but were fully modern intelligent people. They lived after the flood which occurred about 4500 years ago and they used the materials around them. Yet again the Book of Genesis can shed a lot of light on such new discoveries. When you think about it, evolution has probably done more than anything in the past 100 years to undermine the Christian faith….”

    Well the stone age lasted millions of years and the earliest users of stone tools were certainly primitive. However, Ötzi belonged to the transitional Copper Age and, as a member of the species homo sapiens, any scientist would concur that he was a “fully modern intelligent” person. Ken is raising a strawman and trying to mislead people into thinking that Ötzi somehow confounds accepted science.

    So what does this tell us about Ken Ham? Is his date of 3000 years ago based on scientific analysis or has he just taken his presumed date of the flood and added 1500 years for good measure? Is he really ignorant of what modern science says about the stone age or is he just being dishonest and misrepresenting it?

    As one who has visited Ötzi three times at the museum in Bolzano and never ceases to be amazed by how sophisticated he was, I am really pissed off to have him misrepresented to further Ken’s agenda.

  • ashleyhr

    Where is the comment by Scott that Paul is responding to?

      • ashleyhr

        I can’t open the link. Could you be more specific?

        • ashleyhr

          I used right click and saw it: “Apply this to secular museums too. Prove that soft tissue can exist for millions of years. Test for radiocarbon. All I could think about when reading this article is, “This is a double standard, and the other side has the money to critically test their assertions”.

          He seems to be saying that the Creation Museum lacks sufficient funds. Maybe – but that does not seem to stop them putting up lots of billboards.

          • Answers in Genesis has no shortage of cash. They bring in upwards of $20 million a year, and would probably be able to bring in a lot more if they actually presented a research program that would directly challenge evolution. But, as I point out in the article, devising such a program would also open them up to the possibility that their claims would be publicly proven false. They would prefer to simply assert that they’re right, and the real scientists are wrong, without submitting to the work that would prove which one is correct.

  • Tomasina Serveaux

    Creationists NEVER do their own field work, lab work, cataloging of finds, or any other kind of scientific research and study. They prefer waiting until REAL scientists have done all of that hard work, and then they sit back and complain about all the reasons why they disagree with it. They are basically like the person who criticizes a movie they have never seen, or the armchair quarterback who never played football. Instead of presenting evidence FOR creationism (that is not based on the Bible), they try to present evidence AGAINST evolution. These are not the same things, and they will never be able to understand why.

    • Dylan

      Quite right. Also, I thank you for not saying all religious folk are creationists. It is much appreciated.

    • Exactly right.

      Instead of presenting evidence FOR creationism (that is not based on the Bible), they try to present evidence AGAINST evolution.

      It would be difficult to present evidence FOR creationism, since there is none.

  • Larry Bunce

    Re: Harold Camping — he could have been right about the Rapture. It is just that weho are left (including Camping) are not among the Elect.

    • Actually Harold Camping died last year. So maybe the Rapture happened Dec. 15, 2013, and it involved only him.

  • Richard

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  • Mic
  • Greg Carlet

    Agree completely!