Evolution

The Gospel According to Young-Earth Creationist Ken Ham

Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate

Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate

There was a moment during last week’s “debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and young-earth creationist Ken Ham that I think was more telling than any other.

During the Q&A session, Ham was asked what seemed to me to be a very simple question: “Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to admit that the universe is older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur in six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and that Jesus was the son of God?”

What was most telling was not really what Ham said, as much as what he didn’t say, which was “Yes.”

In my mind, this question was a softball pitch. It couldn’t possibly be easier. And Ham was given two minutes to answer the thing? His response should have taken all of two seconds: “Yes.”

'Ham on Nye' Debate Doesn't Reflect Reality

Courtesy Answers in Genesis

Courtesy Answers in Genesis

Whenever I hear about someone else making a case for Young Earth Creationism in the name of Christianity, I’m embarrassed, once again, to associate myself with them. And people wonder why many of us prefer to identify as “Jesus followers” or “Spiritual but not Religious” rather than be lumped in with the Ken Hams of the world.

Duh.

The thing is, a healthy number of us who consider ourselves to be Christian embrace science. We think critically. We accept the likelihood that much we think we understand about the world, the universe, and about our faith can (and should) change as we learn new things. We understand that faith is more about questions than answers, and that the prime mover in our faith practice is to be more like Jesus in our own daily walk, rather than focusing so much on making others more like us.

The desire of a vocal minority (yes, that’s what I said, and I meant it) of Christians to cling to a notion that the entire universe is a few thousand years old, despite the clear physical evidence to the contrary, points less to a reasonable alternate view of the observable world. Rather, it points to a desperate attempt to maintain a dying voice in the cultural conversation.

When ‘Creationists’ Aren’t Really Creationists

First page of Genesis, AdStock RF / Shutterstock.com

First page of Genesis, AdStock RF / Shutterstock.com

If you perused some of the headlines coming out of Slate the past couple weeks, you’ll find that, not only are Texas schools teaching creationism , schools all over the country are teaching creationism , and — even as we speak — lawmakers in South Dakota and elsewhere are introducing legislation that will let their schools teach creationism.

Such news leads me to one of two conclusions: Either the proponents of teaching creationism — a viewpoint I thought it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987 — have been very busy lately, or what passes for “creationism” in the eyes of the mainstream media these days has become pretty fuzzy.

I lean toward the latter.

Look, I’m a writer and a journalist, too. I get it. I understand the desire for a sexy, emotionally heavy word that “seems” to describe the given topic and will — of course — generates millions of clicks from the churning, polarized body politic that powers the Interwebs.

But this willy-nilly misapplication of the terms “creationist” and “creationism” simply has got to stop, and here’s why.

Ham-on-Nye Debate Pits Atheists, Creationists

Promotion photo for the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Photo courtesy of http://www.answersingenesis.org/ Via RNS.

Bill Nye may be “The Science Guy,” but Ken Ham is the “Answers in Genesis” man, and a debate between the two over the origins of life has nonbelievers and Christians wringing their hands.

Nye, host of a beloved television science series, and Ham, president of a creationist apologetics ministry, will meet at the Creation Museum, where Ham is also the president, on Feb. 4. In what some wags are calling “the Ham-on-Nye debate,” they will weigh this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”

In truth, both sides answered that question long ago — Nye with Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. Yet many observers — both religious and nonreligious — say the debate is a very bad idea.

Views on Evolution Driven by Religion More Than Education

Processes of Human Evolution, by Religion graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

As evolution remains a contentious issue for many public schools, a new survey suggests that views on the question are driven by Americans’ religious affiliation more than their level of education.

Overall, six in 10 Americans say that humans have evolved over time, while one-third reject the idea of human evolution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The one-third of Americans who reject human evolution has remained mostly unchanged since a 2009 Pew survey.

About one in four American adults say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

While education matters, the new analysis suggests that religion appears to have more influence than level of education on evolution. The 21-point difference between college graduates and high school graduates who believe in evolution, for example, is less stark than the 49-point difference between mainline Protestants and evangelicals.

What Happens in Texas Doesn't Stay in Texas: The Battle Over Science Textbooks

Pile of textbooks, Skylines / Shutterstock.com

Pile of textbooks, Skylines / Shutterstock.com

Texas high school biology textbooks battles are once again in progress in Austin, with lines drawn between those who want textbook material based only on established mainstream science and those who are anti-science. As an evangelical Christian and a botany professor at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, I am all too familiar with the battle for scientific authenticity in our state’s textbooks.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) wields an enormous influence over which textbooks are adopted by school districts in Texas. And because the Texas market for public school textbooks is one of the country’s largest, publishers use the curriculum and content from Texas books in those they print for the rest of the nation. For this reason, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. This is why it is so important that we ensure that publishers produce books based on mainstream science.

Home Schooling Without God? Humanists Find a Way

Photo courtesy RNS.

KellyAnne Kitchin with her husband Daniel Kitchin III in their home. Photo courtesy RNS.

When KellyAnne Kitchin began home schooling her three sons three years ago, she had difficulty finding curriculum programs that fit her atheist and humanist beliefs.

So Kitchin, 33, cobbled together what she could. She left out one geography textbook’s description of the earth as God’s creation and another’s disdain for Darwin, and substituted her own point of view — that no supernatural powers guide human beings, who alone have the power to improve the world.

She also found many online forums for home-schoolers were unwelcoming. Some had statements faith members needed to agree to. On others she was made to feel unwelcome because of her lack of beliefs.

Christians: It's NOT a Sin to Change Your Beliefs

Change illustration, alphaspirit / Shutterstock.com

Change illustration, alphaspirit / Shutterstock.com

When denominations, churches, faith-based organizations, theologians, pastors, and Christian celebrities change their beliefs on homosexuality, abortion, immigration, and other political and social hot-button issues, they often face a vitriolic pushback from many Evangelicals. Obviously, many see their final stance — such as supporting marriage equality — as a sin, but more surprisingly, many of the vicious reactions attack the very idea of changing one’s beliefs — as if change itself is bad.

American Christianity has created a culture of theological permanence, where individuals are expected to learn a set of beliefs and latch onto them for the rest of their lives. Many of our first theological beliefs were probably taught to us in Sunday school, which was part of a church, which was represented by a denomination, which had its own parochial schools and Bible colleges.

Theoretically, Christians can go from preschool to seminary hearing the exact same religious doctrines. Theologies are often considered too “valuable,” “right,” and “holy” to change or question. Therefore, pastors debate instead of dialogue, professors preach instead of listen, schools propagate instead of discuss, and faith-based communities ultimately reject any form of honest questioning and doubt.

Indoctrination is preferred over critical thinking, certainty is favored over doubt, and we expect our leaders to offer black-and-white answers. A change of theology is viewed as weakness, poor exegesis, and a sign of insecurity. “If they change their views now, how can I believe anything they say in the future?” Christians often perceive change as a break in trust and a loss of identity.

God and Science

Photo: Universe,  © Alan Uster / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Universe, © Alan Uster / Shutterstock.com

I'm a member of an organization called the Planetary Society. If you haven't heard of us, we are a group of nerds who are deeply passionate about space exploration. We believe so deeply in the exploration of other worlds that we pay annual dues and organize fundraisers to pick up the slack left by governmental and commercial space programs. In addition to expansive efforts toward public education, we fund experimental approaches to space exploration and engineering. Spacecraft propelled by solar wind, or little robots that can move asteroids with laser beams are a couple of examples. Our CEO is Bill Nye. You may know him as "The Science Guy" from children's television.

Lately, Bill has been in the news cycle because of a video he made about creationism. In this video, Bill argues that the religions that teach stories of creation that oppose a contemporary scientific understanding are dangerous to public education. ... This puts me in an awkward position.

How Creationism Deconstructs Itself and Why Darwin’s Fish Might Be a Bully

Jesus Loves Darwin T-Shirt, Image via Cafe Press

Jesus Loves Darwin T-Shirt, Image via Cafe Press

There’s a lot at stake here. By trying to turn the Jewish poetry of the Genesis story into a scientific-historical text that would stand against evolution, Creationism, as an ideology, serves to diminish the account of human dignity established in the Creation story that might, in fact, represent a worthy alternative to Darwinism. Says [Marilynne] Robinson: “People who insist that the sacredness of Scripture depends on belief in creation in a literal six days seem never to insist on a literal reading of ‘to him who asks, give,’ or ‘sell what you have and give the money to the poor.’ In fact, their politics and economics align themselves quite precisely with those of their adversaries, who yearn to disburden themselves of the weak, and to unshackle the great creative forces of competition. The defenders of ‘religion’ have made religion seem foolish while rendering it mute in the face of a prolonged and highly effective assault on the poor.”

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