Ken Ham to speak at Oklahoma university after all; university president defends free speech

As NewsOK (Oklahoma) reports, and as verified by creationist Ken Ham on his Answers in Genesis (AiG) website, Ham’s invitation to speak at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), previously withdrawn by the student government, has now been reinstated. (See my posts about this here and here, where I defend his right to speak on campus.)  It looks as if the President of UCO, Don Betz, decided to overturn the ban, and issued this statement:

This is a good arrangement given what’s happened: Ham will speak, there’s a presentation before his talk about the nature of the First Amendment and the courts’ interpretation of it, and later a panel discussion about speech on campus that will surely include dissenting voices. What Betz doesn’t say, but is reported in both NewsOK and AiG, is that another AiG flak will also speak at his event: Dr. Georgia Purdom, who will talk on “Genetics and the Bible.” (Oy!) Here’s some of Purdom’s scientific “work”:

Overall, we have a good outcome, though, unfortunately, the students’ attempt to deplatform Ham gave him a chance to beef about censorship—which is what it was—and about the persecution of Christians. It also made the University look bad and censorious. None of this would have happened had, as I asked, they “let the bigoted creationist speak.”

Of course I think Ham is a Liar for Jesus, is damaging scientific understanding of evolution, and helps brainwash children; I’m also completely at odds with his religious views about gays, abortion, and so on. He’s the embodiment of willful ignorance and superstition. But the students should still get a chance to hear him.

And now Ham has signed the contract, so it’s on. In the end, he gained a lot of positive publicity that he wouldn’t have gotten had UCO put its house in order.


  1. Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I hope both of the 1A talks are good and well attended. I hope some other schools follow suit.

  2. Jake Sevins
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    People criticized Nye for debating (and thereby giving publicity to) Ham. But I don’t see any problem with debating these guys… better than letting them run around unrebutted.

    I wish Milo or Ben Shapiro would debate someone sharp on the left… never seems to happen.

  3. GBJames
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This is a good outcome IMO. There will be education about both freedom of expression and how stupid creationism is.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The more this guy gets out into the open air the more ridiculous is his message. He needs all the protection the founders chose to provide. Today this should be known and not require argument. The much more important argument today is what FDR called an “economic bill of rights.” True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. We are still a long way from understanding this today.

  5. glen1davidson
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    A fine outcome for free speech, a less good one for science education.

    I’m glad that what was withdrawn has been reinstated, but they could have done something better in the first place. Like gotten a better speaker, someone who could discuss science in a Q & A session.

    Glen Davidson

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Absolutely the right outcome, of course, though seeing it done for Ken Ham’s benefit is one of those good news/bad news situations, like watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your brandnew Cadillac.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Nah…the Caddy was insured, so I took the money and bought a ‘yota, with money left over for a motorcycle trip to Norway, so that’s a win-win. (Actually, my MiL was awesome, but point taken nonetheless.)

  7. BJ
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    This is an excellent outcome. Ham’s talk has been reinstated and the school has actually expanded the event to include a diverse roster of speakers on various subjects. The statement by the school’s president is encouraging. I wonder what made Mr. Betz change course.

  8. Posted February 16, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    A small victory for free speech in America.

  9. Brujo Feo
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    “Dr. Georgia Purdom holds a PhD in molecular genetics from The Ohio State University. She formerly served as an assistant and associate professor of biology at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University.”

    What the HELL is going on a Ohio State? Of course, perhaps the brain tumor happened AFTER she defended her dissertation…

    • colnago80
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Hey, Kurt Wise, who is equally as brainwashed as Purdom, has a PhD from Harvard and was a student of Stephen Jay Gould.

    • Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      She has only been on five actual science research papers, the last one in 2002.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      You can always tell a Buckeye … you just can’t tell ’em much.

    • clarkia
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Interesting interview with her here:

      • rickflick
        Posted February 16, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Poor Shermer. He is completely helpless interviewing this woman. She’s unable to even consider any idea that did not come directly from the bible. He can’t trip her up or find her in a contradiction simply because she does not accept rational thought as a process of learning and discovery. The answer is already know. Any other answer is just wrong. Period. End of discussion.

  10. phoffman56
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    “ invitation to speak by Mr. Ken Ham…”

    Superb use of language by a learned university president (PhD), since I now know that Ham invited himself. Did he not?

    “Ham … helps brainwash children…”

    Are many students there beyond the mental stage yet of being children?

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      “Ham…helps brainwash children…”

      PCC(E) isn’t referring to the students here. He’s referring to Ham’s creationist museum and Ark experience, where children are encouraged to learn a bunch of lies.

      • phoffman56
        Posted February 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, yes, I think I realized it’s quite young ones that Jerry was mostly referring to. But a bit of sarcasm about 20 year-olds people so ignorant as to invite Ham to speak at a so-called university seemed not too harsh.

  11. Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I have much doubts if these cases (about people invited to participate in debates, or in special events at schools) really are cases of “free speech”; when an institution invites someone to talk or debate, it was not simply “letting him talk”, it is giving him a kind of “special right”, so to say, in the sense that not everybody is invited to talk at these events, and there is always a decision to invite some people and not others.

    Note that my comment is only about events organized by the schools, departments, etc.; not about events organized by groups of students (and I don’t know what type is this case).

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I have much doubts if these cases (about people invited to participate in debates, or in special events at schools) really are cases of “free speech”

      It is about free speech when invited speakers are disinvited because some groups simply don’t want certain viewpoints to be aired at a public university.

      Of course it’s worth asking who should be invited in the first place. The problem is that some viewpoints are just plain considered unacceptable to too many groups who are more than happy to shut up their opponents whenever possible.

      Glen Davidson

  12. glen1davidson
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Betz said UCO will present a discussion on the contemporary processes of scientific inquiry and evolution on March 6, along with a panel discussion on freedom of expression and freedom of speech “as appropriate to UCO as a teaching and learning institution.”

    More speech in response to poor speech.

    Do it right, and Ham may learn that free speech is not creationism’s friend. Unfortunately, his speech isn’t free.

    Glen Davidson

  13. Barney
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Have we sorted out where the money for this comes from, and whether the normal process for awarding such money was followed?

    • CJColucci
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Doesn’t look as if we have. It seems the President invited Ham, as part of the free speech teach-in, mooting those issues. How Ham got invited in the first place, and whether it was properly done, seems to have been left unexplored.

      • Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        That’s a shame, because getting that lost in the noise may make it for further procedural irregularities.

        • Barney
          Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          It was reported as being at the centre of the objections, so it seems strange that no one, especially here, is paying much attention to it now. The AP report:

          “University of Central Oklahoma student body President Stockton Duvall said Thursday that he stopped contract negotiations with Creation Museum founder Ken Ham after he was “bullied” during a meeting about the March 5 event.

          Information about Ham’s appearance was “leaked” before a contract was signed, Duvall said. Members of a group affiliated with UCO’s Women’s Research Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center opposed Ham’s appearance and questioned the planned expenditure of student funds to cover it.

          “It was the fact that it was two faculty and 10 students against one in that room,” Duvall said. “I feel that’s just one of those things where they chose to use that to their advantage.”

          But student Makenna Mittelstet said she and others met with Duvall to voice concerns about transparency in the negotiating process to their elected leader. She said some were “emotional” and bothered by Ham’s comments about women and LGBTQ people, but that no one was bullied.

          “Some of the center workers were concerned about their safety and the kind of reputation this is going to bring to our campus,” said Mittelstet, a junior. “But no bullying occurred at all. No one invoked violence on him. No one threatened him.”

          • Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            The Evergreen students claimed they didn’t bully Dr. Weinstein either. I believe Mittelstet as much as I believed them.

            • Barney
              Posted February 16, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

              Why believe one student over several? I presume that all of us here do agree that paying Ham is the worst sort of accommodationism, and so that is something that any sensible person would raise when then found out Ham was getting about a month’s salary for talking BS to the students.

              • Posted February 16, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

                “Why believe one student over several?”

                For the same reason I believe Dr. Weinstein over the students; credibility. This Mettelstet’s claim doesn’t pass the smell test; “She said some were “emotional” and bothered by Ham’s comments about women and LGBTQ people, but that no one was bullied.”

                (emphasis added in case the point is missed)

              • Barney
                Posted February 16, 2018 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Why would you think a student who wanted to pay Ken Ham $4,500 has any credibility? Especially when he whines he was ‘bullied’? He appears to be looking for a safe space, when he’s meant to be doing a job as ‘student president’.

  14. allison
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    How often does Mr Ham invite evolutionary biologists to speak at his church, the ‘Creation Museum’, and his Noah’s Ark replica?

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      More importantly, why does he think that his creationist nonsense should be taught at public expense?

      But of course the point is not that Ken Ham is the good guy or that he in particular is deserving of a platform. Free speech is protected as a public good, not as something Ham deserves oer se,

      Glen Davidson

      • glen1davidson
        Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        “per,” not “oer”

  15. nicky
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I think it is silly to invite Mr Ham in the first place. His ridiculous ideas have no place at an institution of learning, ie a university. As that Australian scientist said when invited to debate a creationist: That would look good on your CV, not so much on mine”.
    That being said, if he is invited, he is invited. Deplatforming is not just unconscionable, but rude too.
    It should rather be used as a honing exercise for debating creationists, methinks. Who knows, maybe there is a new little Hitch lurking among those students?

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    With due respect to the president, I’m not sure Ken Ham has any “new ideas”, and I regard him as overly self-promotional.

    • Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I think “new” refers to the students; many are unlikely to have ever heard Ham speak. It will be a vile, errant, and nonsensical speech but it will be a viewpoint some significant number of people hold and the students are unlikely to have heard it before. Thus it is “new”.

  17. Posted February 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The original talk, from Ham, was about Genesis and the state of culture. Now a decidedly different, extra wacko topic has been smuggled in.
    That was not the original deal.

  18. Zetopan
    Posted February 18, 2018 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    “That was not the original deal.”

    Anyone who has ever debated a creationist face to face would recognize that as being their standard operating procedure. I predict that Ham will play this up to the hilt, claiming that he has sufficient credibility to even “lecture” at a secular university, among his many other standard duplicities.

    The fatal flaw was the original invite, by an idiot student since this only helps Ham no matter what the actual outcome. Bill Nye has been unwittingly helping Ham in exactly the same way.

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