Why Ken Ham’s scientific defense of young-earth creationism just doesn’t make any sense

Ken Ham speaks during the Feb. 4 debate with Bill Nye (AP photo by Matt Stone).

Editor’s note: This weekend, we are bringing you a two-part series by Tyler Francke, exploring in greater depth the young-earth creationist perspective as presented by Ken Ham during his recent “debate” with Bill Nye. We are continuing our coverage on the matter not because we believe this single debate has any real significance on its own, but rather because many of Ham’s statements that night are at the core of the young-earth view his very large organization promotes, and therefore, are indicative of opinions to which large swaths of the evangelical community give their expressed or implicit assent.

Though Ken Ham is the ostensible focal point of these pieces, the real target are the ideas he represents — which are by no means held by him alone. Today, we look at the logical failings of his view; tomorrow, his misrepresentation of the Christian faith.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” In a time when it seems all too fashionable for Christians to be stereotyped as mindless sheep, this verse helps me remember the rich intellectual tradition our faith has.

But sometimes, I can see all too clearly where those “stereotypes” come from, and — in those instances — I can’t say I blame any atheist who walks away thinking that Christians are dunces who have no idea how to think. One of those times was just this past week, as I sat listening to Ken Ham unroll some of the most childish, mind-bendingly illogical arguments imaginable, in defense of the very faith that we both uphold.

I will address only two of them in this piece, because I believe they are his main ones (other than his appeals to scripture), and because they were both refuted within the span of the debate — not just by Bill Nye but by Ham himself.

Ham’s overall argument, that his particular interpretation of the book of Genesis is scientifically viable, seemed to boil down to two points:

1. You cannot use science to determine what happened in the distant past.
2. Young-earthers have been shut out of the scientific process by secularists.

Ham’s thinking on the first appears to be as follows: He loves science! He thinks it’s great! Science has given us wonderful medicine and technology, and it’s shown us the earth is not flat. It’s just that, when you use science to analyze the evidence of the distant past — or anything else that wasn’t directly observed and can’t be re-created — it stops working immediately.

This, according to Ham, is the flaw of science. It is incredibly powerful in the present, but completely useless in examining the past.

That’s nonsense, of course. We can use geological and biological evidence to reconstruct the past as surely as a CSI team can use forensic evidence to investigate a crime. But it “sounds” good.

Where Ham got a little too greedy — and in the process, unraveled his entire argument — was closer to the end of the debate. You see, in a very narrow way, he’s right: We cannot prove the age of the earth. That is to say, we can’t know — for sure — that the rate of the decay of radioactive materials is the same as it has always been. It “could” have decayed a hundred, even a thousand, times faster before we started measuring it. We can’t say — beyond any doubt whatsoever — that light always has and always will travel at a constant speed. We do not have celestial traffic cops personally clocking every photon in existence to ensure they “keep it under 670,616,630 mph.”

We trust that these findings are reliable because of Occam’s razor (it just makes more sense that the rate of decay we see now is similar to what it was in the past, rather than millions of times slower) and because — as far as we can tell — the behavior of the fundamental laws of nature is constant and predictable. We’ve never found anything that would indicate otherwise.

So, all Ham has to do to be consistent in his views is deny that the laws of nature can be trusted. This would cripple the practice of scientific inquiry, obviously, but his claim that “historical science” is impossible does that anyway. Here’s the thing, though: He does not deny that the laws of nature can be trusted. In fact, he says just the opposite, arguing that all scientists are “like creationists,” having to “borrow” from the Christian worldview, because without God there is no reason to suppose that nature would operate according to fixed and rational laws.

But he can’t have it both ways. If we can’t do “historical science,” then we can’t do any other kind of science, because it all relies on the same assumptions of consistency, rationality and uniformity.

So, ultimately, Ham is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He says the only way we can do science is because God created a law-governed, rational universe, and then turns around and says we can’t trust the evidence of the past, because God could have ignored the laws that govern the universe when he was designing and creating the universe, and besides, the laws of nature may have been operating completely at random before we started paying attention to them.

Make sense? Of course it doesn’t. It’s a convoluted mess, but it’s what Ken Ham thinks we should all teach our children.

Now, the conspiracy theory thing. Let me say that I understand the need for this argument. If there’s no real evidence for the ancient age of the earth and evolution — as Ham and many other young-earthers claim — then how else can they explain the fact that 99.9 percent of all experts in the relevant fields accept the ancient age of the earth and evolution? It could only be because of some vast conspiracy in which atheist scientists ruthlessly punish anyone who dares contradict their presuppositions.

Unfortunately, reality just does not mesh with this idea, and this was clear before the debate even began. Plain and simple: If there really were a massive, worldwide conspiracy by mainstream scientists to shut out the young-earth faction, Bill Nye would not have agreed to the debate. Period.

Sure, many scientists thought it was a bad idea for Nye to do what he did, and for good reason. But he did it anyway, and he wasn’t outed as a traitor by all Science-dom or targeted for assassination by secularists, desperate to maintain their conspiracy.

That alone makes Ham’s conspiracy theory seem pretty weak. But the far more powerful evidence against it occurred during the debate, when Nye repeatedly asked, called, invited, begged and pleaded for anyone — kids, adults, Christians, non-Christians, anyone — to join as equal partners in the pursuit of knowledge and the scientific process. Want to change his mind? Easy, he said. Just show him one piece of evidence that falsifies the ancient age of the earth. Want to disprove evolution? Simple enough. Just show us a single fossil in rock layers where the theory of evolution says it cannot be, just a single human tooth or modern plant in the Devonian age, and the whole thing falls apart.

“You would be a hero!” Nye told the audience.

His position was unmistakable, and it wasn’t, “Just accept what I say because I’m smart and I have evidence.” It was, “Everyone, and children especially: Do science. Please. And if the evidence shows us that we’re wrong, so be it.”

This should go without saying, but a community that not only shares its data and findings freely but invites — even celebrates — those who can present evidence that challenges the reigning paradigm does not exactly look to me like the second coming of SPECTRE.

And thus, the second pillar of Ham’s argument went tumbling to the ground before his eyes.

I opened this article with a Bible verse. My implication was that Ham failed to meet this teaching of scripture, but I admit, this isn’t wasn’t entirely fair. Whether a person’s thinking qualifies as “childish” is a subjective question. I feel Ham’s thinking is childish; his supporters may be just as inclined to think that mine is.

But there are objective ways to measure arguments. One of them would be that an argument presented at a debate is not completely contradicted by another argument presented by the same person. Another standard I might propose is that an argument presented at a debate not be refuted by the very fact that the debate is happening.

By these standards — and I think, by any objective standards one might propose — Ham’s arguments, and his thinking, fail miserably.

Tyler Francke

  • Nancy R.

    Yes, point 1. I was incredulous that this was the best that Ham had to offer – isn’t he supposed to be a skilled apologist? Either God’s creation is reliable and trustworthy or it is not. To imply that it is not suggests an unreliable and capricious Creator. And Ham kept explaining that we couldn’t make sense of the past, because we weren’t there, and that the answer to all questions could be found in – well, “there’s this book.” His inconsistency and apparent lack of intellectual curiosity do not reflect well on his views, nor should they be a model for fellow Christians.

    • I agree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nancy!

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    One way to think of it is that ALL science in “historical science” this is because something happens and some time later we observe the change, there is some time between the thing happening and its being observed/detected in some way. If you break the link it is FATAL to science being able to be done, as all bets are off and your claim is that we live in a magical universe with science not being possible.

    • My thinking exactly. If it’s impossible to do historical science then it’s impossible to do any science, since they both rely on the same assumptions of consistency and rationality.

    • Agreed, and I thought Nye explained that well.

  • but where you there?

    • Shoot, I wasn’t. I just watched the debate on the live stream. So I can’t know that he actually said what I think he said. And even if I had been there, I can’t trust that anything I think was said is true unless I find validation of it somewhere in the Bible…

      • Ah, but you are forgetting Genesis Chapter 3 verses 25-30. “25 and as God watched Adam and Eve leave the Garden, Adam said to eve 26 “God will give to us both a descendant named after tasty tasty pig meat who will defend the truth of all that has happened here 27 and one day he will debate the devil’s servant known as science guy 28 and throughly defeat him to usher in the age of true understanding. 30 Oh, and Joshua Feuerstein will also do things.

        • You must be using the YECV translation of the Bible (Young-Earth Creationist’s Version). They revoked my copy a long time ago 🙂

          • Ah, I was wondering why my bible had Ken Ham’s face on the front.

  • ashleyhr

    Perhaps the likes of Ham have been shut out of the scientific process because they wish to REDUCE the scope of scientific investigations. As well as a consequence of the fact that – as we now better understand – they don’t seem to have a viable scientific model of (claimed recent) origins, and only ONE of the SIX Ham Bible inspired creation ‘predictions’ appeared to be any sort of meaningful prediction at all (that the discovered complexity of life might point to creative intelligence).

    • No kidding. If someone like Ham were in charge of scientific inquiry we would never have progressed outside the Dark Ages. What motivation does he have for seeking new knowledge? His only goal is to deny new knowledge unless it fits in with his preconceived notions. If Ham were in charge of scientific inquiry, it would go nowhere, because he already thinks we know everything that we need to know.

  • ashleyhr

    Message as just sent to AiG via their website:

    Far-fetched claims about creationist ‘predictions’, by David DeWitt.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/02/08/creation-model-make-predictions

    “In the historic debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, Nye insisted repeatedly that the creation model was not scientific and that it did not make predictions. This was in spite of the several creationist predictions that Ken Ham had outlined in his opening statement. Though many more could have been given, this sampling should have sufficed.”

    What nonsense.

    At one hour and 58 minutes (when he finally sort of answered the specific question that was asked) Ham asserted that he had made ‘predictions’ earlier in the debate eg that there should be one human race today because the Bible indicates one race or that there should be ‘kinds’ of life today because Genesis 1 refers to kinds. What drivel. The Bible predicted NOTHING with respect to the (single) human race at the time it was written nor with respect to ‘kinds’ of living creatures then or now – it simply referred to the blindingly obvious that could be observed at the time ie people all appear to be the same and distinct from other animals, and other forms of life vary considerably and there are ‘kinds’ of birds or sea creatures and so forth.

    Ham first referred to intelligence, ‘kinds’, the flood, the human ‘race’, a ‘young’ universe and the tower of Babel during his main presentation – beginning at around 37 minutes. And – although I did not jot this down in my notes because the point made no sense to me – Ham in effect claimed that his creation model ‘based’ on the Bible made various ‘predictions’ that can be tested by ‘observational’ science (ONLY by ‘observational’ science not the other kind that Ham rejects).

    – that we should find evidence confirming that an intelligence produced life (I agree that mainstream science cannot disprove that the complexity of life was the result of ‘intelligent design’ though that does not rule out evolution of the said life from ‘simpler’ forms);

    – that we should find evidence today confirming reproduction ‘after their kind’ (well what else could possibly happen – and evolutionary theory does NOT say that a dinosaur gave birth overnight to a bird; he also cited a 2014 scientific paper pointing to a single origin for dogs – which of course humans bred from wolves by ARTIFICIAL selection ie domestic dogs are NOT part of whatever God created on ‘day six’ according to ‘kinds’);

    – that we should find evidence today ‘confirming’ Noah’s global flood (apparently the fact that there is a fossil record – who would have thought it, not the writer of Genesis though – is this ‘confirmation’);

    – that we should find evidence confirming ‘one race’ of humans (well we find one race TODAY as in biblical times quelle surprise – but also fossils of OTHER hominids which lived much earlier on, so that ‘prediction’ fails at least with respect to what we have discovered about the PAST);

    – that we should find evidence ‘confirming’ the tower of Babel (the evidence being that – hold the front page – in biblical times and indeed today different languages are spoken by humanity);

    – that we should find evidence of a ‘young’ universe (but we DON’T).

    Thus, in order, these ‘predictions’ are:

    – questionable;

    – not a prediction at all;

    – a failure since how could there NOT be a fossil record;

    – mostly not a prediction at all (unless you are predicting using the Bible that the single extant human species when it was written would not change in the next few thousand years) and partly a failed prediction (with respect to certain fossils we have found which date to pre-biblical times);

    – a failure (or if the prediction is that there will be many languages that is not a prediction but merely an observation);

    – an utter failure.

    Bill Nye ASKED for predictions from Ham because he understandably did not believe he had received ANY. As at least one person commenting on your Facebook page points out. And your foolish colleague Roger retorts: “one example of prediction that Bill gave was Tiktaalik, something that happened in the past. Ken’s examples were no different. Since the Bible is true, we would expect our study of genetics to confirm that”. ONE of Ken’s six ‘predictions’ actually was a prediction. The rest were either FAILED predictions or not predictions AT ALL. Pathetic.

    DeWitt is largely making excuses and offering diversionary tactics – days after Ham’s INEVITABLE failure to offer meaningful ‘creation model’ predictions (because his creation is simply NOT a viable model of origins for a modern scientific era).

    Though he is honest about the self-imposed, unnecessary and unscientific CONSTRAINTS that ‘creation scientists’ work under when formulating hypotheses. His refusal to accept a prevailing evolutionary view of Neanderthals (which was later overturned as more data became available) is not so much a ‘prediction’ as a lucky guess (that Neanderthals were more genetically similar to us than previously thought) and simply shows that science is never perfect and there is always more to learn before theories can be confirmed. Besides neither our species nor Neanderthals are/were descended from a literal Adam and Eve since no such ‘first couple’ really existed. So any ‘prediction’ by DeWitt is largely falsified by genetics and history.

    And did DeWitt specifically predict that our species interbred with Neanderthals? Probably not since I suspect he insists they were ‘fully human’ anyway. http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/d_dewitt.asp

  • Darach Conneely

    Scientists can observe decay rates in the past. Distant supernovae produce radioactive isotopes and astronomers can watch the emission spectra from the decay of different isotopes. Emission from a radioactive isotope will form a peak as it is being produced and then used up. When the daughter isotope is radioactive too, it will have its own peak. The length of time between parent and daughter peaks tell you the decay rate. Scientists have also worked out uranium decay rates from a natural nuclear reactor in Oklo central Africa which was active in the precambrian, 2 billion years ago.

  • Dave Layzell

    Thank you! As an Atheist I don’t have any problem with anyones personal belief in their God, but Ken Ham and his Anti-science cohorts Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron need to be stopped from promoting thier anti-evolution agenda. It’s immensely damaging to the thinking of children, and I strongly feel it’s up to (mainstream, sensible) Christians to challenge them on this, as they simply will not listen to Atheists.

    • While I agree with you, we Christians also hit a brick wall…because they fundamentally reject the idea that a true Christian can “believe” in evolution. We’re not Christians to them either!

  • rmwilliamsjr

    ham completely neglects several hundred years where the church defended slavery based on the hametic verses which at heart denied the unity of the human race. it appears that theology only advances by forgetting those foolish arguments from the past……theology can and does argue almost anything from the same text.

    • Mr. Ham neglects/ignores lots of things. The many, many, many, many various interpretations that other devout Christians have had over the years regarding the scripture he says is so “clear” is just one of them.

  • Steven Rivard

    There is actually scientific evidence posted in secular science journals that the atmosphere has changed in the past, and is currently changing now. It’s not rocket science to look at things like major volcanic eruptions throughout history; the ice age; asteroids that hit earth in the past; nuclear bombs; and conclude that our atmosphere has not always been consistent. And if you actually read the Bible, and believe that it’s the Word of God… It flat out tells you that there was a world wide flood that would surely have a major impact on the atmosphere.

    • Scientific evidence that the atmosphere has changed and does change = Proof there was a worldwide flood.

      OK, I’m convinced. That’s some #YEClogic if I ever saw any.

      • Steven Rivard

        I think you have things twisted; and it’s actually YOU that needs a lesson in logic. I challenge you to answer each of the following questions logically, honestly, and specifically.

        1.) Is it logical to call yourself a Christian when you flat out accuse Jesus of lying in the bible when he says:

        ” But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37–39; cf. Luke 17:26–27).

        2.) Even if you don’t believe in the flood, and put that aside for a minute… Is it actually logical to accept the carbon dating assumption that the Earth’s atmosphere has remained consistent throughout history?
        – Is it not common sense that scientifically accepted events throughout history like… major volcanic eruptions; astroids; the ice age; enormous forrest fires that spread for thousands of miles; and devastating bomb testing would change the Earth’s atmosphere at different points throughout history?

        3.) Is it logical for someone who claims to be Christian, to put more faith in scientists (Who have made mistake after mistake after mistake in their assumptions throughout history) over the Word of God?

        If you have humility to take a step back for a moment, and pray to God for the answers you seek… I highly doubt that…

        A.) You would say Jesus testimony about Noah and the flood is false;

        B.) You would think that carbon dating is accurate when based on a false assumption that the Earths atmosphere has always been consistent;

        C.) You would put more faith in human theories than the Word of God.

        If you still think my logic is wrong; then how about addressing my evidence with specific proof to the contrary instead of fluffing off my whole last post because of YOUR misunderstanding of what I actually said?

        I already assume that your response to this post will be vague, immature, inacurrate, and unsupported…. I dare you to prove me wrong.

        .

        • Matthew Funke

          1.) Is it logical to call yourself a Christian when you flat out accuse Jesus of lying in the bible when he says:

          It’s interesting how quickly you jump from someone calling Ken Ham a liar to concluding that they are also calling Jesus a liar.

          There are several different positions one could take to claim the former, but not the latter. For example:

          * Ken Ham lies in saying that the geological evidence supports a global flood. It doesn’t. But then, Jesus never made such a claim.

          * Some opine that, especially if you go back to the original languages, the Noahic flood makes a lot more sense as a story of a local flood that still managed to wipe out all humans except Noah and his family — which is consistent with what Jesus relates. If this is what you believe, you could affirm what Jesus says and deny what Ken Ham says.

          * Jesus never indicates that He thought the story of Noah was literally true. A person warning of a potential meteor strike, for example, could say, “When this thing hits, it could wipe out a city like the aliens did in Independence Day — and catch us every bit as much off-guard, with our celebrations and ceremonies and business activities all being suddenly and violently wiped out.” This person would not be implying with these words that she thought that Independence Day is literally true.

          I’m sure there are many others.

          Is it actually logical to accept the carbon dating assumption that the Earth’s atmosphere has remained consistent throughout history?

          No, of course not. But then, carbon dating doesn’t assume that; it’s fairly trivial to find places where readings have been corrected for known differences in local C14 levels. But even given that, carbon dating isn’t used to determine much of the Earth’s past. Carbon-14’s short half-life means that it’s quite limited in the things it can measure, especially when we’re talking about geologic time (your reference to “throughout history” can be taken several different ways). Thankfully, there are other tools for that — and they don’t depend on atmospheric composition at all.

          Is it logical for someone who claims to be Christian, to put more faith in scientists (Who have made mistake after mistake after mistake in their assumptions throughout history) over the Word of God?

          To be fair, preachers and theologians “have made mistake after mistake after mistake” in their understanding of things, too — even when they base their positions on their understanding of the Bible.

          For example, the Bible is pretty clear that the Earth doesn’t move. Christians defended the text against scientists and their observations based on a plain reading of Scripture. Most modern Bible scholars will tell you that those passages are alluding to something deeper than scientific fact and are using poetic imagery to do so. Our understanding has changed in light of evidence.

          So, when it comes to people like Ken Ham, we doubt that he has the right interpretation — because the evidence indicates that he’s wrong. If you have an interpretation, and the facts disagree, and the book is true, then you have the wrong interpretation. Don’t confuse a flawed human understanding of Scripture with “the Word of God”.

          If you still think my logic is wrong; then how about addressing my evidence with specific proof to the contrary

          You didn’t present any evidence. You presented an argument, which isn’t nearly the same thing. And since you’re the one making the claim, the onus of proof is on you. That’s how logic works.

          I already assume that your response to this post will be vague, immature, inacurrate, and unsupported…. I dare you to prove me wrong.

          Come forward with evidence that the degree and type of past atmospheric change is consistent with a global flood, and we’ll talk. Until then, it’s not so much an attempt to prove you wrong as pointing out that you have completely failed to demonstrate that your assertion is true.

      • Steven Rivard

        Oh…. And there are a few more things I’d like for you to address (Please dont ignore my other questions).

        4.) If your opinion regarding the Bible is right… How would you advise me and/or new participants to the Christian faith to interpret the Bible as a whole correctly? …Where is the line in the sand that you draw? …What should I interpret as real vs. myth, or truth vs. falsehood in regards to the Bible?
        – Did Jesus really die for our sins, defeat death, and give us a chance at eternal life? …Or is that just an exaggeration according to a ‘Christian’ like you?
        – Did Jesus really perform so many amazing miracles? …Or was that just a lie like the worldwide flood that Jesus referred to in His teachings according to a ‘Christian’ like you?
        – There are so many old testament prophesies that talk about the coming messiah that were not only fulfilled by Jesus, but also specifically referred to by Jesus during his many teachings… Was Jesus also incorrect about them as well according to a ‘Christian’ like you?

        “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

        If mankind hasn’t been able to be in the physical presence of God the Father since the time of Adam and Eve, then how can we “seek Him?” I believe that the key to seeking a personal relationship with God is through His Word. Jesus is the Word of God and specifically testifies to the accuracy of the old Testament. I don’t really think it’s logical to arbitrarily pick and choose what YOU think is accurate in the Bible according to opinion and theories. If that were the case, then how could the Bible or Christian faith be taken seriously by anyone if it’s littered with inconsistencies and falsehoods (According to you) with no way to tell fact from fiction without being subjective?

        Why would God place so much importance in believing in Him, if the Bible was a minefield of half-truths and inconsistencies according to you?

        • Matthew Funke

          If you’ll pardon my jumping in again, since this is a public forum and all:

          If your opinion regarding the Bible is right… How would you advise me and/or new participants to the Christian faith to interpret the Bible as a whole correctly? …Where is the line in the sand that you draw? …What should I interpret as real vs. myth, or truth vs. falsehood in regards to the Bible?

          First, acknowledge that God did not give man the Bible in a vacuum. He gave the Bible to a creature that lives in a universe that can be examined. Therefore, if we are tempted to take a particular part as explaining some kind of natural principle or phenomenon, we would do well to test our knowledge against the way the universe actually behaves and appears, lest we come away with the wrong understanding. This should clarify where our understanding can stop with natural claims (should we be tempted to do so), and where we cannot simply understand things on a superficial level.

          By contrast, we cannot test supernatural claims empirically. This is where faith comes in. Our ability to listen, comprehend, and contemplate is limited and error-prone; nevertheless, we hope that God will guide us in our understanding, allow us to show one another grace where legitimate differences appear, and generally guide us toward truth as He promised to do (John 16:13).

          Ultimately, though, it is not to anyone’s particular hermeneutic that you are responsible (Romans 14); my concern that they “get it right” is tempered by the fact that they do not belong to me, spiritually. We do the best we can, especially since some of the things it communicates are beyond human ability to understand or encapsulate.

          Did Jesus really die for our sins, defeat death, and give us a chance at eternal life?

          This is not an empirical claim, and therefore is not relevant to the discussion of Ken Ham’s claims. (I believe He did, though I can’t demonstrate it. I can, however, demonstrate that Ken Ham’s claims are false.)

          Did Jesus really perform so many amazing miracles? …Or was that just a lie like the worldwide flood that Jesus referred to in His teachings according to a ‘Christian’ like you?

          Again, I believe He did, but have no evidence to examine. That said, if I did have evidence to examine, I suspect that it would be consistent with a miracle actually having happened. If I could examine the residue of certain water pots in Cana, they would show signs of having actually contained wine. Jesus actually did rise from the dead, and the tomb actually was empty, and would have appeared so to all scientific tests; it wouldn’t simply have been an illusion or something.

          Jesus never taught that the flood was global in extent.

          There are so many old testament prophesies that talk about the coming messiah that were not only fulfilled by Jesus, but also specifically referred to by Jesus during his many teachings… Was Jesus also incorrect about them as well according to a ‘Christian’ like you?

          I believe Jesus was correct. I do not think this means that I must believe that Ken Ham is correct.

          “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

          Yes. But faith is belief in that which cannot be demonstrated — that which lies beyond our ability to test or examine.

          Belief in that which directly contradicts our tests, observations, and discoveries is not faith. That’s denial.

          I don’t really think it’s logical to arbitrarily pick and choose what YOU think is accurate in the Bible according to opinion and theories.

          Nor do I — hence my emphasis on tests and evidence.

          Why would God place so much importance in believing in Him, if the Bible was a minefield of half-truths and inconsistencies according to you?

          First of all, we must be careful not to confuse belief in God with belief in the Bible. I believe that the Bible is an indispensable tool, and that God has used in uniquely and powerfully in His communication with mankind, but it is not divine. We believe in the God Who gave us the Bible, not in the Bible itself.

          Second, I believe that God intended for us to use our minds in our belief. We can believe in Him and believe the Bible without insisting that our belief has to contradict known fact.

          • Steven Rivard

            I guess where we differ is in what we tolerate as “known fact.”

            – I hear old earth supporters spew carbon dating as an accurate way to judge the age of the earth all the time; and pass it off as “known fact” when nothing can be further from the truth. Not only do they clearly admit themselves that its based on an assumption that the earth’s atmosphere has always been the same (Which has been proven wrong in secular science journals); but scientists have had to recalibrate the math for it about once every decade because of how many times it’s been proven wrong.

            – If you ask the average person about tree rings, they will say that each ring represents a year… But do you know that this has been also proven wrong by secular scientists many times? In fact, most trees that don’t die after 300 years survive by water conserving techniques that are proven to have multiple rings per year that specifically don’t go around the whole exterior of the tree for less surface area? But most people accept tree rings every year as “known fact” even though simple research says otherwise. Tree rings is one of the ways carbon dating is calibrated by the way.

            – Ice core samples are passed off as “known fact” for old earthers too. Do yourself a favour and research just how much deep and heavy 50 years of snow accumulation is, let alone a few thousand years. After you actually do that research and realize just how tiny those layers of snow are under all that height and weight… tell me how reasonable it is for scientist to claim they know the difference conclusively between a large snow storm that lasted a week 1000 years ago, and the accumulation of snow for a year 1000 years ago.

            Just because a smart group of people say something, doesn’t always mean they’re right. It wasn’t so long ago that scientists believed it was impossible for soft tissue to be inside the fossilized bones of dinosaurs, but it has been proven several times now.

          • Matthew Funke

            I hear old earth supporters spew carbon dating as an accurate way to judge the age of the earth all the time;

            Of the Earth? Well, perhaps; teachers and supporters can often screw up details. But go ahead: Name three scientists currently publishing in fields related to the topic who use carbon dating to determine the age of the Earth.

            There are a fair number of radiometric tools that are useful for that purpose, but carbon-dating isn’t one of them. It’s a reliable way to determine the age of organic matter up to several thousand years in the past, but the Earth is too old for that to work (not to mention a certain dearth of living material at the time of its formation, a problem I’m sure you can understand).

            Not only do they clearly admit themselves that its based on an assumption that the earth’s atmosphere has always been the same (Which has been proven wrong in secular science journals); but scientists have had to recalibrate the math for it about once every decade because of how many times it’s been proven wrong.

            Once per decade? That seems a bit much. I’d like a citation on that.

            But that’s part of the point. Your assertion demonstrates two things right off the bat: First, that scientists correct their errors when they find them; and second, that there are reliable ways of determining age that can be used to “calibrate” clocks like those used in carbon dating.

            After all, carbon-dating isn’t the only clock we have. We have many more, and ones that don’t depend on vagaries like atmospheric composition. It seems a bit odd that you’re picking on it for a task for which it is not used and cannot be reliable, though — somewhat like claiming that calendars can’t be reliable because they don’t work for timing hundred-meter dashes.

            If you ask the average person about tree rings, they will say that each ring represents a year… But do you know that this has been also proven wrong by secular scientists many times? In fact, most trees that don’t die after 300 years survive by water conserving techniques that are proven to have multiple rings per year that specifically don’t go around the whole exterior of the tree for less surface area?

            Thankfully, dendrochronologists (people who reconstruct the past from tree ring evidence) know this. They don’t just count rings. They also know how to read and account for seasonal variations of ring growth and malformation. They know how to determine the qualities of each ring, and how to determine whether or not other local trees mirror the same phenomenon (you might want to look up “skeleton plotting”). And while there are occasional rings that reflect more than one year, to insist that they would consistently be off every year, and to show absolutely no signs of water conservation or any other known phenomenon, seems to be appealing to an idea to be true in spite of available evidnece (by positing unknown causes with no evidence to support them specifically).

            What you seem to fail to understand, in this example and in your oddly misplaced claims about carbon dating, is how fiercely competitive science is. We depend on accurate aging answers because they allow us to reliably predict useful things (e.g., where the oil deposits happen to be). If a group were demonstrated to be consistently failing to age things properly, a competitive scientific organization could point this out, discredit the offending group, and rake in all the grant money and research opportunities with its more accurate predictions. What exactly would be the motivation for trying to warp the truth so ineptly that someone with the understanding of a fourth-grader could saliently argue against it?

            Do yourself a favour and research just how much deep and heavy 50 years of snow accumulation is, let alone a few thousand years.

            Done and done, long ago. What specific findings do you claim to be in error, and why?

            tell me how reasonable it is for scientist to claim they know the difference conclusively between a large snow storm that lasted a week 1000 years ago, and the accumulation of snow for a year 1000 years ago.

            Extremely reasonable, because a single snow storm doesn’t look anything like gradual accumulation in an ice core. Layers are caused by differences in temperature and irradiation, and these do not vary significantly over the course of a single snow storm. In addition, close inspection can show the difference between multiple layers put down in a single year and a layer that represents a year’s accumulation (measuring oxygen isotopes and comparing against known rates of evaporation is one way — it reveals how much evaporation there is in a single layer and where it is located; there’s also alkaline levels of different layers to compare, radiometric dating of gases trapped in the ice, comparison and contrast with ice cores from remote geographical locations, and on and on). In addition to that, ages can be cross-checked with nearby volcanic eruptions (volcanic ash is washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation, and leaves a marker). In addition to that, even if we assume that there’s some unknown factor we haven’t accounted for and we’re off by a factor of ten, it still doesn’t allow the ice cores to be young enough for the age of the Earth to fit the young-Earth creationist model.

            Just because a smart group of people say something, doesn’t always mean they’re right.

            That was never claimed. However, you have yet to demonstrate any specific evidence that your claims are uniquely consistent with.

            It wasn’t so long ago that scientists believed it was impossible for soft tissue to be inside the fossilized bones of dinosaurs, but it has been proven several times now.

            If you examine the reports closely, you’ll see that it’s not as simple as all that.

            First, the soft tissue wasn’t just discovered in place. The minerals were treated with weak acid over a period of weeks, whereupon collagen, actin, and tubulin were discovered — proteins which are known to have extremely long lives, especially when crosslinked (as these were). They were found in tiny pores, away from enzymes and other body chemicals that would have degraded them. And they were dehydrated, which makes them even more stable. You can read more about the stability of these proteins in “Soft Tissue Preservation in Terrestrial Mesozoic Vertebrates” by Mary Higby Schweitzer in Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences vol. 39, pp. 187-216; she breaks down more than 200 cases of soft tissue finds.

            We have to be careful how we qualify and describe these findings, too. In the “Blood from Stone” case (as Scientific American put it), for example — arguably the case that blew all of this wide open — compounds consistent with heme were found through spectroscopic analysis. It was a faint whisper of a possibility of a partial chunk of a biological molecule — but it was reported in the popular press as finding dinosaur blood cells. As the author of the paper made clear, these were just transformed remnants of dinosaur blood, at best:

            Clearly these structures are not functional cells. However, one possibility is that they represent diagenetic alteration of original blood remnants, such as complexes of hemoglobin breakdown products, a possibility supported by other data that demonstrate that organic components remain in these dinosaur tissues.

            Mary Higby Schweitzer, John R. Horner. Annales de Paleontologie, Volume 85, Issue 2, Pages 179-192.

            You might notice that I’ve cited Dr. Schweitzer a few times here. She’s come out to point out how creationist groups have been wildly misrepresenting the findings of her and her colleagues, and to lament that they use these exaggerations and misrepresentations as a basis to attack her conservative Evangelical Christian faith. Consider her interview with the Smithsonian (“Dinosaur Shocker” by Helen Fields, May 2006):

            She describes herself as “a complete and total Christian.” On a shelf in her office is a plaque bearing an Old Testament verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

            […]

            She’s horrified that some Christians accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. “They treat you really bad,” she says. “They twist your words and they manipulate your data.”

            […]

            Science and religion represent two different ways of looking at the world; invoking the hand of God to explain natural phenomena breaks the rules of science. After all, she says, what God asks is faith, not evidence. “If you have all this evidence and proof positive that God exists, you don’t need faith. I think he kind of designed it so that we’d never be able to prove his existence. And I think that’s really cool.”

            … or with Biologos (“Not So Dry Bones: An interview with Mary Schweitzer” by Emily Ruppel, 21 July 2014):

            I do go to pretty conservative churches… I go to church because I want to learn and be held accountable. I want to learn more and more about what the Bible teaches… Everyone has to figure out what they need and why they go to church. The hunger in me which is fed in the churches I go to has to do with the fact that they preach right out of the Bible, and I need that. I guess I don’t go to church to hear political views and hear about how they need money — I go to hear about God.

            […]

            I think the thing that surprised me most about that class was that I had no idea, coming from a conservative Christian background, that scientists are not all trying to disprove God in whatever way they can. What we were not told growing up is that there’s a lot of very rigorous, hard science that allows us to interpret the lives of organisms we’ve never seen — and knowing this made me rethink a few things, because I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

            […]

            I think that parents need to tell their kids that there are a lot of REASONS scientists say what they do, and virtually NONE of those reasons are to disprove God’s existence. That doesn’t enter in. I’ve had lots of students come into my office in tears over the years, saying, “I don’t understand…”

            […]

            One thing that does bother me, though, is that young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it. Pastors and evangelists, who are in a position of leadership, are doubly responsible for checking facts and getting things right, but they have misquoted me and misrepresented the data. They’re looking at this research in terms of a false dichotomy [science versus faith] and that doesn’t do anybody any favors.

            […]

            One time I was visiting a church and the pastor got up and started preaching a sermon about people not being related to apes, and he started talking about this scientist in Montana who discovered red blood cells in dinosaur bones — he didn’t know I was in the audience — and it was my research he was talking about! Unfortunately, he got everything wrong. I just got up and left…

            […]

            It’s also hard because, being a Christian evolutionary biologist, I receive a lot of mail that is not fun — fellow Christians suspect my faith, and scientific colleagues suspect my science. But I have no agenda, except to produce data… I’ve gotten a lot of pretty cruel, harsh, judgmental emails over the years — and if you’re a Christian saying things like that, it’s no wonder my colleagues don’t want anything to do with faith. Christianity is about love, and these are not really loving responses to anything.

            […]

            I don’t feel that I’m discrediting God with the work I’m doing, I think I am honoring him with the abilities he’s given me…. The more I understand how things work, the bigger God gets. When he was just a magician pulling things out of a hat, that doesn’t even compare to how I see him now!

            Those are long excerpts, but I think there are a few things worth noting:

            * She used to believe that science promotes themes like evolution out of a desire to discredit Biblical faith.

            * She notes that students often react with shock when they realize that mainstream science is true and that what their parents and pastors told them about science is false.

            * Creationist teachers have misused her results.

            * She graciously negotiates differences of opinion. Creationists presented with her finds, however, often get personal and ugly.

            * Her faith has not been threatened by examining the evidence. On the contrary, it has deepened.

            The simple fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, we simply don’t know how fast proteins degrade under these conditions. We know it takes a long time, but don’t know with precision how long. The reliable clocks we do have — e.g., nuclear decomposition — have been measured over and over again, by competing research organizations, and have been found to be consistent with accepted ages for the fossils in which these elements have appeared.

            In other words, at the end of the day, so what? If it turns out that there were scientists who were wrong about recovering soft tissue, they were wrong. They correct their errors and move on. You’ll note that this isn’t the kind of thing to turn the science around 180 degrees and make creationism appear true, because it isn’t evidence for creationism. Creationists haven’t even bothered to produce any discoveries or experiments to demonstrate that the structures found cannot persist for as long as is claimed — something that would require some serious evidential backing, since it is known that protein degradation rates vary widely based on circumstances.

            In that vein (pun partially intended), do you have any evidence that specifically corroborates your claims (and isn’t just a denial of available evidence)? Vague hints of things you might have once heard about somewhere and exhortations to research things that you yourself clearly haven’t are potentially misleading and don’t demonstrate anything. Show me the evidence.