On Tuesday night (February 4, 2014) Bill Nye, the ‘Science Guy,’ and Ken Ham of the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis squared off in a debate meant to resolve the following question: Does Ken Ham’s Creation-based science contribute anything to scientific knowledge?
In answer to this formal debate question Ken Ham spent about half his time arguing for Christian faith while spending the other half of his time arguing a couple of other irrelevant points. For example, he considers it a revelation that Christian engineers can design satellites and MRI machines. One might just as well be amazed that Christian folk can make a grilled cheese sandwich.
Ken Ham did spend a few minutes attacking radiological dating methods but the attack seemed to me rather weak. He generally argued that all radiometric dating methods were flawed because of their “historical assumptions.” If I understand his argument correctly, Ham maintains that because we cannot directly observe the half-life of Rubidium—which is 50 billion years—we cannot actually know how Rubidium acted five thousand years ago. Of course, this completely ignores all that we know about natural radioactive decay and the mathematical rules it obeys.
Ken Ham’s historical science seems to take the above idea one step further. What Ham does here is divorce what we can observe and experiment on today from what we can infer and assume happened in the past. What happened scientifically in the past, Ham seems to be arguing, can never be proven, which is why we must rely on the revelations we get in Genesis about the origins of the universe and mankind. In other words, even if we observe for the next six thousand years the processes of geology, star formation, the expansion of the universe, etc., we would never be able to extrapolate from those observations what happened the previous six thousand years. Why? Because the Bible says so!
Even if we could show Darwinian evolution at work over the next six thousand years, it could not prove that all the species on this planet did not descend from the thousand-odd “kinds” that were herded into Noah’s ark some four thousand years ago. Also, even though modern geologists have found no evidence of a world-wide flood occurring four thousand years ago, there is no way that Noah’s story can ever be challenged.
This neologistic phrase, historical science, is not only absurd on its face but upon analysis contradicts Ham’s own views. His argument is that the Word of God tells us all we need to know about the distant past, that it is “impossible” for us to arrive naturally at a knowledge of the scientific past; after all, we did not witness that past ourselves. He says this but then talks about how the Creation Museum has built part of an ark to show how Noah could have done it. Apparently, in this case, the Word of God just isn’t good enough; they feel the need to prove it could have been done. However, by his own admission Noah’s shipwright techniques can never be proven since we didn’t see it happen. Clearly inference and assumption is only valid when you are arguing for things you already know to be true, like what you find in Genesis.
In short, Ken Ham’s “scientific” view requires that one first travel into the world of Christian faith, a step I would argue is nearly impossible for anyone in pursuit of a solely naturalistic explanation of the universe. This is not to say that some kind of weak Deism could not accompany a scientific view of the world; however, any attempt to reconcile the literal interpretation of any religion with the scientific view of our cosmos is doomed to failure. One or the other has to give, unless like Ken Ham one can devise a quixotic “scientific” view which rejects anything that threatens one’s religious faith.
In the end, Ken Ham could not name one thing that “Creation Science” has contributed or can contribute to the modern scientific endeavor. Instead he showed “Creation Science” to be what it really is: religion clothed in pseudo-scientific language. “Creation science” is nothing more than a movement to curtail what is seen as the growing marginalization of traditional Christian belief and morality, which admittedly has diminished for centuries under the illumination of modern science.
We are the fortunate heirs of a legacy made possible by the science-based liberal capitalist state. No, it is not perfect, but would we ever want to go backwards? I ask: who today would trade iPods and airplanes for the silliness of the Malleus Mallifecarum? Who would trade the freedoms we have today for The Inquisition? I cannot imagine even Ken Ham would make this trade, but that is what he ultimately suggests with his proposition that we return to a pre-nineteenth-century scientific view of the world.
 The Malleus Malifecarum was a German codex written sometime in the fifteenth century. It was purported to be the book when it came to identifying the nefarious works of the Devil, especially when it came to ferreting out who was practicing witchcraft. It was reportedly used extensively in Europe and America throughout the early modern period to persecute, and kill, those accused of making pacts with the Devil and then practicing the occult.