Checking reason at the door: Ken Ham and the fear of contradictory evidence

bill-nye-dominated-his-debate-against-creationist-ken-hamWhen scientist Bill Nye debated Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis on creationism and evolution, both men were asked what it would take to change their stances. The answers could not be more different: Nye answered, “Evidence,” while Ham curtly responded, “Nothing.”

In other words, no amount of contradictory evidence would move Ham to accept any creation narrative other than what the book of Genesis presents – and that account is to be taken literally.

Like many people who come to faith in adulthood, my scientific knowledge of the earth was more or less grounded: I certainly don’t understand how everything works, but I understand and accept evolution. Why? Evidence. And because my draw to Christianity had to do with grandiose ideas of ultimate redemption and a personal savior, I saw no need to scrutinize Genesis first to see if I could make my scientific knowledge fit before embracing the Christian label.

Quite honestly, I’m thankful that it happened this way: science first, theology second. I know a few atheists whose journey out of faith began when confronted with the evidence for evolution, and finding that evidence in favor of literal six-day creation came up short. The scientist starts with a hypothesis, and adjusts the hypothesis based on contradictory evidence. People like Ken Ham do the exact opposite: if it contradicts the Bible, they throw it out, no further investigation necessary. This does not seem like intellectual integrity. Furthermore, if the only way to keep your beliefs is to make sure they are never challenged, ever, you have a problem.

If you couldn’t guess it already, I’m not a part of the “God said it; I believe it; that settles it” crowd. I like knowing reasons for things. I like not looking like a moron if someone asks me why I believe what I do. But if I’m completely honest, I have to explain that Christianity won me over on emotional appeals rather than physical ones. And my ability to keep my faith rests more on whether a man who claimed to be the Messiah died and rose from the grave than anything else. Does evolution really mean there’s no way that Jesus rose from the dead? (If it helps sway your opinion, Timothy Keller, theologian and author of The Reason for God, argues exactly that)

To me, that grave being empty after three days is a bigger crux than how the world began, thousands of years before any of the prophecies were written. That is what I take on faith – no one has ever proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the resurrection did not happen. But we do have a plethora of evidence for evolution, and it’s a bit insulting that people like Ham insist we must check reason at the door before we can claim Christianity.

If you have ever had to pit reason against faith, I’m curious to hear your stories.


9 thoughts on “Checking reason at the door: Ken Ham and the fear of contradictory evidence

  1. Pingback: Top ten most popular posts in 2015 | Sarahbeth Caplin

  2. Hi Beth
    “If you have ever had to pit reason against faith, I’m curious to hear your stories” :Being a lesbian with a partner and being orthodox at the same time (ongoing).

    Anyways :

    1).Bow ties are cool .

    2). The ironic thing is that science concedes that there was a specific point where the multi verse was created. Previously the accepted idea in science was that the universe had always existed, the idea of a creation being too theistic(certainly the view of Fred Hoyle).

    3). I’ve often thought Christians could do with reading Jewish midrash, which develops and drills deeper , reads into or reads out of stuff like the creation stories. What,I wonder, would Christians make of this one, Genesis Rabbah, 8:5 :

    “When the Holy One, blessed be He, came to create Adam(humanity) , the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, ‘Let him be created,’ whilst others urged, ‘let him not be created.’ Thus it is written, Love and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace combated each other (Ps. 85:11). Love said, ‘Let him be created, because he will dispense acts of love;’ Truth said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood;’ Righteousness said, ‘Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds;’ Peace said, ‘Let him not be created, because he is full of strife.’ What did the Holy One do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground.”


  3. I’m still feeling lucky as heck that I was Christian before the big culture war against science began (I deconverted around 1994). My church (UPC) was technically Young-Earth Creationist, but I maintained a solid understanding of science and accepted science entirely even while technically being a Creationist and a Biblical literalist. I didn’t have a real problem with evolution or cosmology. I did have a problem with other verses though–like all the inconsistencies in the various Resurrection Day accounts. I once chirped blithely at an atheist friend while we were walking, “Oh it’s just like the Blind Men and the Elephant! They’re all correct, just talking about different times from different points of view!” And he just stopped cold and stared at me like How in the world can you possibly say something so crazy? It was really the first time I can remember being challenged like that, and obviously it was memorable. It’d never occurred to me till then that not everybody was okay with that level of hand-waving and rationalizing, and I began very slowly to see these excuses in a much greater context.

    The big problem with Creationism and other such forms of willful ignorance is that if one’s faith rises and falls on it, then when one finally learns — or faces — the truth, then one has a serious decision to make. I don’t think it’s fair to force that showdown in Christians. Either they keep denying reality or they embrace reality at the cost of their faith, since their version of Christianity has defined the religion as believing nonsense so if one cannot believe nonsense then one cannot use the label anymore. It’s a really stupid showdown, but one that worked for a really long time. It isn’t anymore, though, not for millions of now-ex-Christians. For me, realizing that the Bible simply couldn’t be understood as literally true set me on a path that led me right out of the religion. I don’t regret that–but my objections to the religion now go way past something as childish as “OMG IT’S NOT LITERALLY TRUE.”


    • Hi captain Cassidy

      “It’s a really stupid showdown, but one that worked for a really long time”

      That’d be my outsiders take on the American culture wars all told….. I never quite grasp how America is this colossal mega power via almost any metric with a genial , intelligent and urbane show on the one hand but can be quite racist , parochial, country bumpkin esque at the same time. Like when I was last there you can’t buy alcoholic drinks at the local shops without suspicion even when one is 20 something, but you can buy guns (which are practically like a bazooka) ‘no questions asked’ or in one of my other experiences not get questioned by armed trigger happy police at the petrol station if you could potentially have ‘ fake’ British and Israeli passports(I volunteered in the IDF) because you are ‘latino looking ‘and driving an expensive sports car . Until I opened my mouth and they confirmed I was a Brit. Although one of them said I looked like Siva Dahveed ( Zivah David?) ‘ from ncis'(?).

      Liked by 1 person

      • That had to be simply bizarre and utterly stressful to experience. And you encapsulate the situation in this country very succinctly. There’s this crazymaking combination of sophistication and provincialism that permeates my culture, and totally mismatched priorities are just a symptom of the problem.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe the Bible account in Genesis because if God isn’t big enough to preserve His word and give us the accurate account of how we (and the earth) came to be, then maybe He isn’t big enough to handle my problems. If we’re all a cosmic accident (one theory of evolution) then there is no right or wrong, no absolute, because we have no value. If everything is accidental, then there is no purpose: it’s just an accident. Also, there are conflicting theories of evolution, so you have to decide which theory you are going to believe. Also, the processes of deciding the age of the earth are flawed (if creation is accurate) because God created full grown trees, shrubs, vegetables, fruit, animals, and people. The earth was created with age. So how old did God make it? Also, I have never seen order come out of an “accident.” So my conclusion, right or wrong, is that God created everything because there is order to every universe; because He is a deliberate God, and He has a plan and purpose for everything and everyone.
    However, God is big enough to let each of us come to our own conclusions. The question is: are we going to be surprised at what the truth is when we meet Him face to face? Time alone will tell.


    • The Bible wasn’t intended to be a science book. I think science does an accurate job of explaining how the world works, but Scripture explains the why. Creation vs evolution is not the crux of the gospel – regardless of how we got here, it doesn’t change our sin nature and need for redemption.


  5. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools until college, but there was never teaching about creationism one way or another. In college, though, I always felt a little out of place. With my religious friends, I sometimes felt like the outsider because I studied geology and wanted to study dinosaurs and paleontology in general and believed in the Big Bang and Evolution. But with my fellow Geology majors, it felt like I was surrounded by people who didn’t care for religion or belief. It felt like I was trying to walk a line that wasn’t there at times.


  6. Growing up in a SBC church, much of my high school youth group services were spent watching Kent Hovind Creation Seminar videos (the predecessor to Ken Ham’s ministry.) We were taught whatever we needed to know to to be able to stand up in class, raise our hand, and use Scripture to teach the truth – God’s truth to the teacher and all of our fellow students. On the day when the teacher announced that we would begin studying Evolution, I looked around and no one raised their hand, stood up, or voiced an objection. I reminded myself what I had told myself on day one from Church, “I have to learn this stuff (anti-evolution teachings) but I don’t have to believe in it.” I said the same thing in that classroom to myself, “I have to learn this stuff (evolution) but I don’t have to believe in it.” That’s the only thing that kept me from being upset that I was the tool that the church was using in a match of tug-of-war against their made-up enemies. To this day, I wish that I had been a little bit better in the sciences, but the mathematics portion of it was never my strong suit (though I took all the science classes my school offered even knowing that my grades wouldn’t be perfect because I was curious about everything from geology to astronomy and everything in between.) To this day, I separate the two, learning and belief and that helps me see what the church teaches for what it really is – and sometimes it’s not something that is worth believing in.


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