Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ken Ham on BioLogos and Proper Interpretation of the Scripture

I have resisted posting on this, after reading Darrel's response to it but, after reflection, I think it needs some response. Ken Ham has a twenty minute “sermon” on the problems with BioLogos. Remember, this is the same Ken Ham who got into hotwater a few months back and got uninvited to a home school conference because of his caustic and uncharitable remarks about BioLogos at the time. Here is the video:

A few thoughts:
  • He shows a clip of Darrel talking about the age of the earth and what he would tell new students about how to integrate that information. Darrel states that he would refer the new student to some important books on geology and biology that would help them understand the evidence, to which Ham responds
    “By the way, I have a book I would refer them to.”
    That is snide. It assumes that anything that Darrel would provide in terms of resources would be worthless.
  • Concerning the evidence for age of the universe and the earth, Ham states:
    This is not science, this is man's historical science, his beliefs about the past and he is going to tell us to let go of the Bible and what it says? See, belief in billions of years is science to them. It is not science, it is belief.
  • This idea that we cannot know our past (a variant of his "were you there?" statement) presents some cognitively dissonant problems. What if Mr. Ham walks into his breakfast room in the morning and finds a half-eaten bowl of cereal? By his own admission, he will never be able to determine what happened the night before because it would involve the use of historical science. While this is probably an overstatement of what Ham actually thinks, he never makes it clear that there is a problem here—that the same logical processes that one uses to reconstruct a murder investigation or an archaeological site are the same to reconstruct the prehistory of this planet. He never addresses this contradiction because to do so would reveal the logical error of his thought process.
  • He states, about BioLogos (for whom I write) that they are starting to
    infiltrate the church. In fact, they are now producing a homeschool curriculum to get home schoolers not to believe Genesis.
    Maybe what they are trying to do is get kids to think intelligently about Genesis and avoid the one-dimensional reading of the scripture that Mr. Ham promotes.
  • Later, he argues, in response to Francis Collins' comment that the Bible is not a textbook, that it is exactly that. He states:
    The Bible is not a textbook like a physics textbook, but it is a textbook of science because it is historical science that's talking, it is God's history book. That's the point. But when he says textbook of science, see they confuse these terms for people and that's what you have to understand, the difference between observational science and historical science. Where he finds the conflict, it is not because of the observational science, it is because of the historical science.
    It is not clear that Ham even knows the definition of historical science. It appears that he is saying that there is historical science that is biblically-based (the bible) and historical science that isn't (scientific reconstruction).
  • About the whole kerfuffle surrounding the Great Home School Uninvite, he states:
    “When I found out what Peter Enns believed, and that he was selling his curriculum at the home school conference, I had to, in fact, we had already told the organizers that I can't speak unless I say something about him, not him personally, but his beliefs and I did and something happened that we still don't know what happened behind the scenes but I was eliminated.He wasn't eliminated. He was allowed to continue to speak." "And he was allowed to speak at a home school conference but they didn't want me there teaching about a literal Genesis.”
    This simply isn't so and Ham knows it. He was uninvited because of his "ungodly" and "mean-spirited" statements about some other speakers (Enns) and the convention. The organizers also wrote: "We believe that what Ken has said and done is un-Christian and sinful," That is pretty clear. Judging from the way that Nathan Ham, Ken Ham's son, responded, it was smack on the money too.
  • In the early part of the video, he disapprovingly quotes Bruce Waltke, who also had a dust-up last year regarding evolution. Waltke states:
    “I think that if the data is overwhelming in favor, in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world.”
    Ironically, Ham doesn't see that this is exactly what he is doing in this video—taking his followers down an isolated road in which they are a slave to one, narrow view of scripture to the exclusion of any other and in which all who do not accept this view can only be seen as enemies.
This response is stronger than that of Darrel Falk's and my inclination is to call Ham arrogant, pompous, misguided and divisive, all of which he is. But we need to pray for those he is trying to reach. He is not a scientist and his approach is to tap into the emotions that this subject brings out. Man's science appears to be at odds with his interpretation of the scripture, but he carries the idea of man's fallenness and limited understanding in only one direction. It never occurs to him that Pete Enns has come to a different understanding of the scriptures through prayer and a desire to learn about the cultural and literary context of the book that he and Ken Ham hold so dear. It only occurs to him that if Pete Enns and Darrel Falk don't understand the scriptures the way he does, then they must not be in the spirit. If Ham's behavior and statements look “cultish” to people like Bruce Waltke, someone who has spent their entire professional life studying the scriptures, what must they look like to non-Christians?


    1. I must say that I read both sides of this debate and I must disagree with your conclusion. I have not found Mr. Ham to be mean spirited or ungodly in his assertions about Biologos.
      However, the main comment I wanted to make was about your example of the bowl of cereal on the table. You stated that Mr. Ham would not be able to determine what had happened the night before if he came into the room and found a 'half-eaten bowl of cereal'. Lets examine this quickly. For the bowl of cereal to be 'half-eaten' you would have to know several things which aren't immediately apparent, and some which are not possibly knowable. First, you need to know the initial condition of the bowl of cereal (otherwise, it could be a quarter eaten, or mostly eaten, or even not eaten but merely half full). If you assume it began as a full bowl, that is an assumption. You require some method of determining its initial state before you can determine what fraction remains. Secondly, you have to determine what happened to the 'missing' portion. Was it eaten? Did the culprit decide they had too much and return it to the bowl or dispose of it in the garburator? Your example actually exemplifies some of what Mr. Hamm discusses, while you clearly meant for it to discredit and ridicule him.
      As a scientist who has watched this debate for over 30 years, I can tell you that I have had my doubts over a literal Genesis, based on some new discovery for evolution. EVERY TIME I have seen the discovery discounted or reinterpreted. Never has scripture wavered. Scripture is more consistent with the observed universe than the patchwork quilt of conflicting stories the big picture of evolution presents. Each sub-specialty has their own spin on evolution, but when you put them together, they conflict. I'd encourage you to take a big step backwards and see how this occurs between disciplines. For instance, compare , which measured the background radiation of the universe (with the assumption that we could see the boundary of the universe in all directions, and basically had earth at its center) with which discredits COBE by saying we aren't seeing the edge of the universe. This is just one simple example I have found.

    2. That was not my conclusion, that was Great Home School Conventions' conclusion. I simply agreed with it. The point about the bowl of cereal is that even in our limited experiences, there is such a thing as uniformitarianism. The bowl of cereal analogy was, of course, simplistic. I left out all of those details but the point remains—it is reconstruction of a past event. That is the sort of thing that Ken Ham doesn't think is possible or that is part of our “historical science.”

      You state that you have been a scientist for over thirty years and have seen discoveries of evolution overturned. Can you give me examples? I have studied the same record for thirty years and have never seen that. In fact, the evolutionary record gets better every year. Science is not perfect, nor can it ever be. It is our understanding of the world that God has created. Having said that, we can know quite a bit of how the universe around us works.

      To quote recent earth creationist Todd Wood:

      Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power.

    3. Hello Rod,

      Reading your comment brought lots of questions to my mind, but in the interest of keeping things tidy I'll just ask two:

      1. You seem skeptical about our ability to know things through "historical science," and this appears to extend to things as straightforward as inferring what happened to a bowl of cereal. By what justification, then, can one have confidence in the Bible?

      2. You note that "never has scripture wavered." But is that really a sign of accuracy? The revered texts of every major religion have remained the same for the last thousand years (or more, depending on the religion in question), but I'm guessing you don't find that compelling evidence in favor of Islam, Hinduism, etc. You're right that scientific models are subject to change as we accumulate more data. But notice that, as that data has continued to accumulate over the last century and longer, none of it has pointed toward an ex nihilo creation 6,000 - 15,000 years ago.

    4. A new book on the alignment of science and religion on such issues as the age of the universe, the age of the earth, the cambrian explosion and many other key events has just been published to answer many of the issues raised here see

    5. Anonymous7:38 PM

      "that the same logical processes that one uses to reconstruct a murder investigation or an archaeological site are the same to reconstruct the prehistory of this planet." May I comment that logical scientific processes were used to convict Lindy Chamberlain of murder, with the result that she unjustly spent a long time in prison. Does that inspire us to trust fallible human scientists unwaveringly???

      1. Does it inspire us to trust fallible human scribs who wrote down there beliefs thousands of years ago with little or no knowledge of our world ?

    6. Jordan10:19 PM

      I often wonder what YECs do when their keys go missing. Do they look around while turning in a circle for 2 minutes and then assume that the keys were miraculously whisked away? Or do they try in earnest, using naturalistic assumptions and logic, to search out keys, knowing that this approach tends to produce the best results?

    7. Anonymous said:

      May I comment that logical scientific processes were used to convict Lindy Chamberlain of murder, with the result that she unjustly spent a long time in prison. Does that inspire us to trust fallible human scientists unwaveringly???

      There's no doubt about it: scientific knowledge is not infallible. But our record of convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent wouldn't be any better if we simply insisted that "historical science" leaves us radically ignorant; or if we tried to look up the answer in a book.

    8. The alternative to that is, if we come across a murder scene, to throw up our hands and say “Gosh, another murder. Too bad we will never know what happened here.” What do you think would happen to the crime rate?

      AMW is right. It is the exception to the rule that is being mentioned here. Yes, there are miscarriages of justice, but the vast majority of criminal cases end up justly.

      Every so often, we misinterpret something in the rock record but most of the time, our interpretations are supported by other lines of evidence.

    9. Jim,

      I didn't have a chance to watch the Ham video until just this morning. But I have to say, that all of the attention BioLogos is getting from AiG is really encouraging to me.

      It's not pleasant to have a spat with fellow Christians. But the fact that AiG is confronting BioLogos means they see it as an organization with real potential to influence the Christian debate on origins. 10 years ago theistic evolutionists were a haphazard bunch with no real organization. Today they are making AiG nervous.

    10. AMW, that is true. I hadn't thought of it in those terms but they do certainly see it as a threat. I have been extraordinarily blessed to be part of the BioLogos effort and fortunate to be writing for them.

    11. Anonymous1:55 PM

      The discussion about historical science reminded me of this:

      What is your take on that article?

    12. The writer of the parable, if he means it to represent an understanding of the natural world and our understanding of how to gauge time in it, does not understand it very well. For one thing, unlike another candle lying around, there is no alternate Grand Canyon that is more or less used than the one that we have and God didn't create a “used” earth (unless the writer is arguing Last Thursdayism and it does not appear that he is.) If Manuel had written “I am lighting a candle and it is the only one that I have and it was complete when I lit it,” you would have a better analogy. Aside from this, though, if we are to understand the text of the note to represent the “literal” reading of scripture, then there are also problems. Genesis 1:6-7 reads:

      “And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. ”

      This led Jews of the day to think that there was literally water above the ground, in the sky. After all, it was blue.

      Given what we know of the natural world, this is roughly equivalent to the note reading: “I have lit a candle but you cannot really believe what your eyes are telling you about how long it has been burning. Furthermore, since the numbers ‘2:30’ have symbolic meaning, that is not necessarily the time I am coming back. But it is an indication that I am coming back at some point. See you then.” At least that is my take on the article.

    13. Anonymous9:38 AM

      "Given what we know of the natural world, this is roughly equivalent to the note reading: “I have lit a candle but you cannot really believe what your eyes are telling you about how long it has been burning."

      Oh brother. Your eyes don't tell you anything. They can only tell you that a candle is burning now. They can't tell you how long it was burning or how big the candle ws originally. These are assumptions you must make - your interpretation of the data.

      The point was well stated by the first commenter. To know how long it has been burning, you would have to know how tall it was in the beginning and whether there were any factors that sped up or slowed down the burning speed. Not knowing this, assuming there were no eyewitnesses or video cameras, etc., unverifiable assumptions must be made. However, the Bible sometimes gives us the necessary information to make accurate assumptions - ie how old the earth is, how to interpret the fossil record(the clear record of Scripture is that a global flood occurred and this would drastically affect how we interpret the fossil record), where human languages came from, etc. If we didn't know these things, we would likely end up assuming that "all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished."
      II Pt. 3:4,6

      But we would be wrong because we have ignored the biblical record of the flood. Ignoring the recorded history of the Bible, the account of eyewitnesses, will not help us to do historical science accurately.

      If you are under the impression that one must make interpretations of nature based only on philosophical naturalism, a global flood cannot even be considered.


      1. There is no evidence anywhere that the entire earth was flooded , floods leave evidence and there is no evidence that the world flooded other then the bible stating it did . The bible plagerises this story's from ancient fables and story's .and a flood would not inturpret the fossil record other then the aging a record that their was a flood. YOUR GOD IS A SICK , MURDERING , JEALOUS FOOL according to your bible . Wait you worship the same God as the suicide bomb strapped islams and the same God that 6 million Jews worships all the way to the gas chamber. Millions of native Americans died before any bible got to america , are they in hell? Imagine where the world would be if we looked at the bible to anwser our questions of science , nowhere

    14. Peter was using the same frame of reference that Paul was using. Both believe literally that there was water above the earth and that hell was under their feet. We know that both of those assumptions are incorrect. You write: “But we would be wrong because we have ignored the biblical record of the flood. Ignoring the recorded history of the Bible, the account of eyewitnesses, will not help us to do historical science accurately.”

      As professional geologist Carol Hill writes: No geologic evidence whatsoever exists for a universal flood, flood geology, or the canopy theory. Modern geologists, hydrologists, paleontologists, and geophysicists know exactly how the different types of sedimentary rock form, how fossils form and what they represent, and how fast the continents are moving apart (their rates can be measured by satellite) They also know how flood deposits form and the geomorphic consequences of flooding.

      There is quite a bit that we can know. We aren't ignoring the evidence for the flood. There ain't any. Is it just possible that our interpretation of the flood story is incorrect and that it is local?

    15. Anonymous8:32 AM

      Ironically, Ken Ham is doing a great job for the atheist movement. Just by listening to Ken Ham, more people will view Christianity as anti intellectual and something to laugh about.

      plus the way he speaks/thinks and treats other ppl (in debates) is the epitome of why the majority of young ppl turn away from Christianity. The more he speaks in public, the better it is for the atheist movement. Because, ppl like Ken Ham can be used by the atheists to show how arrogant, ridiculous and self-righteous religion is.

      That's why atheists like Bill Mahr interviewed Ken Ham instead of ppl like John Lennox (in his documentary "Religulous")...

      He is doing a great disservice to Christianity

      Yet none of the Christian leaders strongly oppose Ken Ham at all...despite the damage he is doing to Christianity...

    16. I always ponder why there is no Young Earth Atheists, then I come to reality, Science, only those with a religious/fundamental interpretation can hold them back. I love Mr Ham saying its mans fault of dating the universe and earth. But what about Bishop Ussher, Could he not have made a mistake? After all Hebrew Yom doesn't only hold to a 24 hour earthly day definition.