Tonight’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor featured a discussion of the brand new creation museum outside Cincinnati. Guest host John Kasich was sitting in for Bill O’Reilly. Representing darkness and ignorance was creationist impresario Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis. On the side of sunshine and puppies was Case Western physics professor Lawrence Krauss. Here’s how it went down:
KASICH: In the back of the book segment tonight, the twenty-seven million dollar creation museum opens today in Kentucky. The museum is designed to convince visitors that the Biblical story of life on Earth is scientifically verifiable. But some people think it does more harm than good. Joining us now from Cincinnati Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, that’s the group that built the museum, and in New York, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a professor at Case Western Reserve University and an advisory board member of the group “Campaign to Defend the Constitution,” which opposes the museum.
All right, Mr. Ham, let’s start with you. I understand you had a big turnout today. What are you trying to accomplish with this museum?
HAM: Well, John, we certainly did have a big turnout, we had over 4000 people there. What we’re trying to accomplish is this: you know, through this nation whole generations of young people are being taught in the public schools there’s no God, life evolved by natural processes, they’re really just animals in the fight for survival, and that very much determines their morality, how they view themselves, their purpose and meaning in life, and so on. And what we wanted to do, was to give them information that’s been censored from the culture, information that helps them understand that mainstream science, I mean we have PhD scientists that work at our ministry, who recieved their PhD’s from secular universities —
KASICH: Right —
HAM: There are many other PhD scientists, to show them that we can use the science of genetics, biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, to confirm the Bible’s history. And if the Bible’s history is true then Christian morality based on that history is true. If there’s a God who owns you, then he sets the rules we have a basis for good for bad for right for wrong —
KASICH: All right, all right Mr. Ham. Doctor tell us, what’s your objection? Here’s a guy trying his best to bring some science itno this. Where do you object?
KRAUSS: Well he’s not bringing science into it, that’s the problem. It’s the semblance of science, but it really isn’t science. In fact, the way science works is we kind of ask questions about the universe, and nature gives us the answers. We don’t know the answers in advance. That’s a key part of science. And what this museum does, is it will confuse kids about what is science and what isn’t science. And Mr. Ham already said it too, it also gives them a really bad message that somehow science is anti-religion. That just trying to understand the world, we’re encouraging kids to be atheists and that’s nonsense. It’s unfortunate for kids, and it’s also unfortunate for science, especially in this country where right now we do a really bad job of teaching science and if we want to be competitive in the 21st century we have to a better job.
KASICH: Doctor, what would you say about the argument that God created the spark, that started life in the universe, and secondly, at some point God created the conscience, the soul, created the human being, you know put the special stuff into the human being that’s sort of a reflection of God. Would you accept that in concert with evolution?
KRAUSS: Well, in principle, yes, I mean the point is those are not scientific questions. Science just deals with things you can falsify, things you can measure —
KRAUSS: I would agree that it’s certainly plausible, that science doesn’t disprove the fact that there potentially is purpose to the universe, but whether or not I believe that, or Mr. Ham believes it, evolution happened, and the Earth is four and a half billion years old. It isn’t six thousand years old.
KASICH: All right, Mr. Ham, what about the argument here that evolution is consistent with the fact that God created, God sparked life early on, God then made man special, different from animals. Why is it not acceptable that evolution and creationism can be compatible?
HAM: Well, there are many in the church that would say that evolution and creation are compatible. But evolution and a literal Genesis are not compatible. Because a literal Genesis —
KASICH: But maybe a literal Genesis is not the deal here. I mean, if you put the man standing next to a dinosaur, I mean why can’t we say that both works. That God made this great thing happen, but at the same time, you know, evolution, is not a bad thing?
HAM: Well, it’s not the God of the Bible that made it happen, because he doesn’t say that. If you read the Bible, for instance, Jesus in the New Testament —
KASICH: I do read the Bible —
KRAUSS: I think it’s worth jumping in here, there are literally millions of people who are people of faith who understand that science tells us how old the world is. And they don’t have to feel like they’re atheists because they don’t buy this nonsense.
KASICH: No, but there are a heck of a lot of scientists that say, that discount God, and that’s the problem —
KRAUSS: I agree. We need less of that —
HAM: I’d like to answer if I could —
KASICH: We’re out of time guys, I think reasonable guys like you can get together and agree there is a certain mystery in life, a certain mystery in life, no one has the answer. But I think the museum is a very interesting thing, Mr. Ham, and I’ll bet you’re going to get a lot of visitors. Thank you both for being with us.
So there you have it. I don’t have a whole lot to say. I think Krauss acquitted himself rather well, especially considering that it is virtually impossible to discuss this topic coherently in the rapid-fire format of a cable news chat show.
Krauss’ final statement came in the midst of a lot of crosstalk, so I’m not sure if I got his words exactly right. I definitely got the sentiment right, however, and this is the only place where I would criticize his performance. The correct answer to Kasich’s statement was to say that some scientists are atheists and some are theists but that these are questions that are outside of science. Different people draw different metaphysical conclusions from the findings of science.
An even better answer would to be say that it’s not a “problem” when people of diverse religious views express their opinions. Here we have Kasich presenting the standard bit of religious arrogance that having someone like Richrd Dawkins (presumably whom Kasich had in mind) express his opinion is an inherently bad thing, and that he should really be quiet. Sadly, Krauss is right there agreeing with him.
I was a little disappointed that O’Reilly had the night off. In the past he has firmly aligned himself with the ID side and he likes to stick it to pointy-heads like Dawkins or Krauss. On the other hand, I doubt highly that he would want to throw in with a fanatic like Ham. O’Reilly tends to prefer, bland, nonspecific statement about God. It would have been interesting to see how he threads this particular needle.
Kasich, at least, allowed his guests to complete a sentence here and there. It is not really surprising that he would take the theistic evolution position. As readers of this blog know, in my view in terms of intellectual credibility theistic evolution is only a very marginal improvement over Ham’s literalism. It is, nonetheless, the default position of people trying to maintain the illusion that science and religion are compatible.
As for Ham, I’ve never seen him look worse. When he is preaching to his followers he is slick and eloquent. I’ve seen him speak publicly on several occasions, and while I despise everything he says and everything he stands for, I always find myself getting wrapped up in his presentation.
But away from his element he looked nervous and uneasy. After his initial statement he played almost no role in the conversation, and he seemed taken aback by the hostility with which Kasich informed him that he reads the Bible.
So, all in all, things went well. Kudos to Krauss for doing the good guys proud. I just wish he’d stop dumping on Dawkins…