More creationism in the UK

This time it’s the scary Ken Ham, head of the Biblical literalist organization Answers in Genesis.  (Ham is also the founder of the hildariously stupid Creation Museum in Kentucky, where you can have your toddler photographed on top of Triceratops wearing a saddle [see below].) Over at Butterflies and Wheels (a superb rationalist blog), Ed Turner recounts a talk that Ham gave at Liverpool University (why was he invited if there’s almost no pro-creationist sentiment in the UK?).  Excerpts:

It was an appalling experience for an atheist to sit through. My blood boiled, my teeth gnashed and my choice as a non-believer was very much confirmed. It wasn’t just the scientific ignorance that this man was peddling; he was also selling something far more sinister: right-wing religious bigotry of a distinctly Falwell variety.

In a nutshell, Ham’s line is that the Bible is the unalterable, infallible, unquestionable, literal Word of God. Everything in the Bible happened exactly as it is described, ifs, not buts, no metaphors, no allegories. Seven days means seven days, not a Hebrew term for a long period of time. People must choose between the Bible and human reason. Clearly Ham is a devotee of Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, who recommended that tearing out your eyes of reason was a prerequisite to being a Christian.

Where scientific evidence and the Bible conflict, the Bible is always to be preferred and evidence must be massaged in order to fit it. According to Ham, we all start with “presuppositions”. Atheist scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Eugenie Scott start on the presupposition that God does not exist and the Bible is wrong; creationist scientists such as Kurt Wise start with the presupposition that God does exist and the Bible is correct. The differing conclusions result purely from differing interpretations of the same evidence.

This position was demonstrated with a highly amusing video clip showing two scientists unearthing a dinosaur fossil in the desert. “Bob says that this fossil was formed after the corpse was covered in sediment from a rising river hundreds of millions of years ago. I on the other hand say it was covered by Noah’s Flood approximately 4,300 years ago, like it says in the Bible. You see, we have different perspectives on exactly the same piece of evidence.” . . .

It soon became clear, however, that Ham is not simply preaching good ol’ fashioned back-to-basics holiness; he is also touting religious xenophobia and intolerance of the kind that should be handled with the aid of a peg over one’s nose and a very long pair of tongs.

“There’s no such thing as neutrality. If you’re not pro-Jesus, you’re anti-Jesus” Ham told his flock. So the other four billion people who are not Christians presently residing on the plant are completely wrong, evil and must be opposed to the last? We have tribalism to add to the man’s list of faith-based misdemeanours?

Gay marriage and abortion were repeatedly flagged up in Ham’s PowerPoint slides as personifying what’s wrong with our society. Ham is also out to control the minds of today’s youth. His tables and graphs of statistics showed that many young people abandon the faith in which they were raised by their parents because they are asking too many questions…

That’s right; free thought and free enquiry is a very bad thing indeed. We obviously haven’t brainwashed the little tykes enough. They are getting ideas of their own and want to lead their own lives. This is clearly the fault of teachers and the education system and needs to be changed right now. . .

The final nail in the evening’s coffin was that the audience were lapping it up like rabid dogs. They wanted it all to be true. I heard one audience member say to another before the talk started that they had come to “get educated”. Being the centre of a divine design, despite the designer treating them like his plaything and caking them in his own excrement, was better than being at the centre of nothing. The solipsism of the theistic mind knows no bounds; the desire to remain a slave burns ever brighter; we have to be responsible for it all somehow.

This is in Britain, remember?  Again I repeat, while lecturing on the Queen Mary 2 to many Brits about evolution, I was repeatedly told that creationism was “not a problem” in the UK.

Fundamentalists of all stripes, including many Muslims, want to avoid at all costs their children being exposed to free inquiry that might counteract their religious brainwashing.   Madrasas teach only the Koran, and in some places Muslim women are denied schooling or attacked with acid if they try to go to school.  And this is what much of the homeschooling movement is about:  teach your kids only what you believe. (Our correspondent on this website is a notable and welcome exception.)  Another example:  as P. Z. Myer reports over at Pharyngula, James Corbett, a high-school teacher in California was found guilty in federal court for simply telling students the truth about creationism:

“Corbett states an unequivocal belief that Creationism is ‘superstitious nonsense,'” U.S. District Court Judge James Selna said in a 37-page ruling released from his Santa Ana courtroom. “The court cannot discern a legitimate secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context.”

The legitimate secular purpose was, of course, to help students distinguish between science and non-science.  If Corbett told his students that homeopathy was medical nonsense, he wouldn’t be in trouble. The secular purpose of this statement is precisely the same.

triceratoos

Fun at Kentucky’s Creation Museum

11 Comments

  1. Matthew Cobb
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    My bet is that Ham was invited to Liverpool by/with the agreement of Stephen Taylor (“B.Sc, ACGI, MEng PhD, C.Eng, FIEE”), a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, who is giving an anti-Darwin talk at the local Baptist church in Chorlton, where I live. He is also He is also a hard-line and active religious fundamentalist associated with the Answers in Genesis. This latter info, and much more on the horrors of UK creationism can be found here:
    http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/WhoIsWho

    • edthemanicstreetpreacher
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Matthew, you are almost certainly correct that Ham was invited to speak at Liverpool Uni by Dr Steve Taylor in the Electronics Department. I’ve met Dr Taylor myself. He’s in the Staff Christian Fellowship and had a hand in organising my live debate against Damaris apologist, Peter S. Williams, which took place on 19 Feb 2009.

      Taylor’s a nice guy, but he takes a hard-line on the Bible. I’m not a biologist, but he showed me his PowerPoint slides and even I could pick holes in them. A fellow-committee member at Liverpool Humanist Group, who is doing a Ph.D. in biological science, had this to say about Dr Taylor’s presentation:

      I’m on to evolution with Dr Taylor now and he has shown me a powerpoint presentation that reads like a list of those “creationist claims”. I just sent him a list of links to the Talk Origins archive for each of the fallacious claims he made. He hasn’t responded yet… It’s a shame because he was well up on his bible but he’s made a complete a few massive mistakes in his discussion of evolution…

      (…)

      I don’t understand how someone so intelligent could take such spoon-fed drivel from questionable organisations like Answers in Genesis and regurgitate it when even AiG distances itself from some arguments now! The presentation was the biggest pile of cr*p I’ve ever seen! I laughed out loud before I became absolutely furious! The idea of him peddling that kind of blatant propaganda and outright dishonesty in front of scientifically and philosophically illiterate people makes me despair!

  2. Posted May 3, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    If he had said it was “scientific nonsense,” there would have been no problem. In fact, another statement that he made about creationism “It’s not science. Scientifically, it’s nonsense.” was found by the court not to violate the Establishment clause of the Constitution. The statement that was found to have no legitimate secular purpose was that creationism was “religious, superstitious nonsense.” That is a statement of disapproval of a particular religious belief and, like it or not, a government official is not allowed to do that under the First Amendment.

  3. MelM
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The prohibition against religion in the public schools is a two edged sword. These schools can’t teach a rather huge and important fact: “religion is lunatic nonsense”. We therefore lose the ability to directly combat religion among young people via the public schools.

    In my view, the deeper problem is irrationalism and I’d like to see a real push for “reason ed” in the schools. Religion needs and perpetuates a culture of unreason. Strong “reason ed” would take care of many toxic intellectual habits but I suspect that it wouldn’t take too long before religious school board members figured out that their pious prattle is going to be subject to the principles of reason, right along with deceptive ads and political spin. And, there’s no way to teach that faith is an absurdly invalid way of knowing without the believers catching on and pulling it from the curriculum. “Reason ed” in the public schools would likely be too weak to do much good; however, I think it’s worth a try.

  4. MelM
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a chilling video of a talk between Dr Michael Shermer and Dr Georgia Purdom–a “research scientist” at the Creation Museum. Ungoddamnbelievable!

  5. KimV
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    As an atheist parent of a homeschooled daughter I must object to the prevalent notion that all homeschooling is bad. Let’s not put all families who choose to give their kids a far broader education than the public school system provides in the same basket as those who purposely limit their children’s world view to a religious one. Perhaps a modifier such as “faith-based homeschooling” would be a better way to make that distinction. My daughter and her young atheist homeschooled and unschooled friends are the future of the rational movement, after all.

    • MelM
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. It isn’t pointed out often enough that homeschooling is not an exclusively religious practice.

      We need to keep home and private schooling as free from state power as we can. Kids minds are not state property and should not be subject to the political corruption that’s inherent in such power over thought. When the wall of separation comes down, home and private schooling will be the last to be forcefully “Christianized” and may end up as the only way to provide a good education.

  6. Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I saw Ken (Scam) Ham in Glasgow a while back. He was at a local fundie church (not an educational establishment). His message was that the bible has to be true. Then he went on a hate rant about Darwinism = homoseuality = satan = the destruction of society. I was sickened by the his crap and the clearly audible voices of approval from the audience.

    His distortion of facts and misuse of evidence annoyed me – as did his use of Mt St helens to lie about water borne sedimentary strata. I was sitting next to the minister. I think he was surprised by my occasional involantary ejaculations of “aye right” and “bollocks!”.

    On the good side however, he spoke in an area with a catchment population of over a million and aoly about 200 turned up. He later claimed on his blog that people bought a lot less of his rubbish than he expected.

  7. Leigh Jackson
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Ham’s visit to the UK didn’t register on the radar – which is not to say that there is no Creationist constituency over here. Simply that evolution is far less of an issue in the UK because we are a far more secular society than the US.

    Melanie Phillips – who is far from being a secularist – appears to have switched camps. She supported the teaching of YEC in Tony Blair’s faith schools, just a few years ago, but is now speaking in praise of ID and disparaging YEC. Religious opportunism appears to be her game.

    It should be noted that Creationism in British schools has lost its most powerful friend with the departure of Tony Blair – similar to the US and Bush.

    Evangelical churches and faith schools are expanding in the UK as traditional churches decline, and of course we have a significant Islamic quota.

    Creationism as a deliberate attack on evolutionary science can therefore be expected to become a more serious problem over time in the UK.

  8. Leigh Jackson
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Jesus H. Christ. As I was penning my last post Phillips was putting up another blog. This time she gives it the full Monty.
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/

  9. edthemanicstreetpreacher
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    A million “thank yous” for quoting my piece, Jerry! I’m still a rookie to this whole blogging game and it’s an amazing feeling when I have my own words quoted back to me.

    http://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/


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