Pharyngula

…and that’s exactly why he is a slimy ass-pimple, a child-abusing freak.

Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

“Boys and girls,” Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, “you put your hand up and you say, ‘Excuse me, were you there?’ Can you remember that?”

2300 children. 2300 young minds poisoned. Nothing new, I know, and I should just get used to it.

But I can’t.

And here’s how Ken Ham gets away with spreading anti-intellectual idiocy.

The children roared their assent.

“Sometimes people will answer, ‘No, but you weren’t there either,’ ” Ham told them. “Then you say, ‘No, I wasn’t, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.’ ” He waved his Bible in the air.

“Who’s the only one who’s always been there?” Ham asked.

“God!” the boys and girls shouted.

“Who’s the only one who knows everything?”

“God!”

“So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?”

The children answered with a thundering: “God!”

“God.” Once again, I’m going to give good, liberal progressive Christians the vapors and point out that there is the destroyer, the idea that ruins young minds and corrupts education: god. Ham has god on the brain, and he exploits other people who have god on the brain to give him millions of dollars so he can run around the country and put god on the brain of the next generation.

I know. Many of you support science, and you carefully set aside your religious biases when assessing ideas about the world—you’ve managed to find means to cope with this infectious lie. That doesn’t change the ugly fact that it is a lie, a crippling corruption, and that many people don’t even try to sequester their superstitions and cultivate their rational side.

When I hear Christians make excuses for their religion, it’s like hearing smallpox survivors praising their scars. “It didn’t kill me, and these poxy marks add character to my face! Those deadly cases have nothing to do with my own delightful disease.”

So we do nothing. We let the infection simmer along, encouraging our children to get exposed to it, praising it, howling in anger at those who dare to say the obvious and point out that it’s a poison, a mind-killer, vacuous noise and evil nonsense. We let the absurdity flourish.

We know exactly where the vileness grows, in the cesspool of religion, yet we veer away from confronting the source, draining the contagion, eliminating the vector of ignorance.

We encourage it to thrive and it leads to well-meaning parents pressuring their impressionable kids into gulping down the ignorance-laced koolaid.

Emily Maynard, 12, was also delighted with Ham’s presentation. Home-schooled and voraciously curious, she had recently read an encyclopedia for fun — and caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. “They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that’s how it could happen,” she said.

Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham’s mantra: “The Bible is the history book of the universe.”

I’m so sorry, Emily.

Ben Watson wasn’t quite as confident. His father, a pastor in Staten Island, N.Y., had let him skip a day of second grade to attend. Ben went to public school, the Rev. Dave Watson explained, “and I thought it would be good for him to get a different perspective” for an upcoming project on Tyrannosaurus rex.

“You going to put in your report that dinosaurs are millions of years old?” Watson, 46, asked his son.

“No…. ” Ben said. He hesitated. “But that’s what my book says…. “

“It’s a lot to think about,” his dad reassured him. “We’ll do more research.”

I’m sorry, Ben.

We let you all down.

Comments

  1. #1 RavenT
    February 11, 2006

    “I think ‘freethinkers’ applies to anyone who doesn’t submit to a religious authority, including both secular humanists such as myself, or objectivist nuts like my friend.”

    I dunno, a lot of the Ayn Rand worship and the insistence that “the market can do no wrong” in the face of evidence to the contrary, doesn’t strike me as any different than submission to any other religious authority.

  2. #2 Max Udargo
    February 11, 2006

    Does anybody know historical statistics on the popularity of evolution versus the Biblical account? Has it been changing?

    My point certainly isn’t that fundamentalists like this Ham guy shouldn’t be challenged when the opportunity arises (as in the way Pattanowski describes), but we can’t do anything about churches inviting these guys to speak to children. They have the right to do that, and we can’t stop them. I’m only suggesting we take solace in knowing these guys and the churches that feed them aren’t going to have as profound an impact as they think they’re having. I guess my point was that the article isn’t as depressing as it appears at first blush, unless we give these guys more credit than they’re due, and children less credit than they’re due.

  3. #3 Dixon
    February 12, 2006

    Oh the joys of brainwashing children.

    I’ve long thought that if you want to reject science in such a whole hearted way. Then stop using it’s products. If you want to live by the bible (or any other religious text) then do so. But I don’t see any mention of antibiotics in there. Watch those life expectancies fall…

  4. #4 Timothy Chase
    February 15, 2006

    Paul W. wrote:

    Timothy, I think we’ve kinda lost focus here, and our comments are getting way too long—which may be my fault for saying too many things about too many things that lead to long discussions.

    I agree that the posts have gotten a little long. I am not sure to what extent people will be able to take the time to fully follow the arguments.

    So at this point, I am going to brief. First, I am going to quickly address at least temporarily a few of the points in your most recent post. Second, I am going to give three clues to resolving a problem I posed near the end of my most recent post. Then third, I am going to briefly indicate the direction (namely, “dialogue,” which was important in schools of both Plato and Aristotle) that I would take as opposed to “militancy” on the issue of religion, although honestly the direction I am suggesting is much wider than simply the issue of religion itself.

    This post will be devoted to the first of these.

    First, addressing your points on religion.

    Paul W. wrote:

    In my view, Christianity cannot ever be thoroughly reformed and remain Christianity.

    I am of course aware of the fact that some liberal christian ministers are inclined towards agnosticism, and that many read the bible more as a literary work than as some sort of history. Personally, I am not sure how well this will work in the long-run.

    From my own perspective, as I see things, it may very well be the case that the future of christianity is in question, at least in the west, and perhaps eventually as such. This is difficult to say. (I understand, for example, that some psychologists have been recommending techniques and approaches inspired by buddhism, which has its more agnostic approaches, and find it to be in certain ways more conducive to psychological health.) But in any case, the future has yet to be created, and those involved in its creation will not belong to any one school, sect or religion.

    For the time being, the important thing is the conflict over evolution and creationism. If creationism loses only politically, fundamentalism may still become more entrenched culturally such that in the long-run it may become an even greater danger. However, to some extent, the political losses of creationism are resulting in cultural losses as well. In the short-term, our best allies in ensuring that these political losses translate into cultural losses will be the ministers who are inclined towards allegory, those who can show others how to view at least Genesis as allegory.

    If and when such allegorical interpretation becomes more entrenched in our culture, fundamentalism will be much less of a threat. Whether this ultimately means that christianity loses its coherence as a worldview is difficult to say. No doubt this will in part depend upon the quality of the minds which it is able to attract as its exponents. To some extent, it may be able to borrow from some of its own or related traditions, such as gnostic christianity, greek orthodox or rabbinic judaism, at least among protestant branches. Despite its conservative elements, catholicism may stand a better chance in the long-run due to its intellectual traditions. Alternatively, some form of renewal may result from the more conservative churches after they undergo some form of reformation, perhaps in part as a consequence of the political losses creationism is currently suffering and in part due to a continuing dialogue between liberal and conservative clergy. However, the more christian theologians try to borrow from eastern religions, the more likely christianity will entirely lose its coherence and ultimately cease to exist. In any case, the future has yet to be created, and those involved in its creation will not belong to any one school, sect or religion.

    Paul W:

    … there is no coherent conceptual core of Christianity that can be defended. There isn’t a sane theory there that people can converge to and defend. (As there is in science.)

    … On the other hand, I feel compelled to speak out and criticize what I see as the real problem: the beliefs that the Bible is more than a bag of myths and screeds, and that Jesus was more than a human being, or that either has something particularly important to do with morality.

    Religion isn’t science, and all religion is subject to splintering interpretations of one form or another, although at least with eastern religion, there tends to be more melding. In any case, the diversity of views within the christian or any religious community is one of its strengths, at least up to a point. The diversity of views is what makes the evolutionary adaptation of religion to changing cultural contexts possible. As for the miraculous elements in christianity, you will find miraculous elements in any religion, although at least in eastern religion, they are much more easily interpreted allegorically. An allegorical interpretation of Genesis would be an important step down this path.

    With respect to your friendship with the liberal ministers and your discussions with them on radio regarding issues of social justice, I certainly think this is of value. I might consider extending it to the issue of evolution vs. creationism so long as this does not in any way violate your own principles. I can also see that you appreciate the difficult position that they are in. Both reform and revolution have their problems. However, a “revolutionary” approach which “pulls no punches” is very likely to simply result in anxiety and the feeling of being attacked on the individual level, resulting in the so-called revolutionaries being broadly interpreted within the christian community as the enemy, and particularly at this time, to the extent that such revolutionaries acquire prominence, result in the swelling of the fundamentalist ranks.

    Finally, I do believe that more enlightened views are becoming more widely accepted within the christian community, at least outside of the more fundamentalist traditions. The following passage expresses in a fairly essentialized manner a view which already seems fairly prevalent, at least in a vague form:

    Comment #11641

    Many scientists (including a good number of evolutionists) are in fact religious — they simply do not let their religious views interfere with the quest for empirical knowledge. (For one example, see the “Science and Religion” interview with Kenneth R. Miller.) Properly, scientists will respect these beliefs of their religious colleagues, realizing they may very well provide those colleagues with the moral guidance which makes them better scientists. The importance of moral guidance, and, more specifically, the moral courage to deal with the ever-present possibility of failure in both the existential and cognitive realms, is not to be underestimated.

    In the existential realm, religion properly provides the individual with the moral courage to act despite the possibility of failure, where failure can sometimes mean the possibility of actual death, and the fear of failure itself can often be experienced as such. Likewise, the fear of being mistaken — where being mistaken may threaten our beliefs about who we are — is at times experienced as a threat much like death itself. Here, too, there is need for moral courage, although of a somewhat different kind. Properly, religion encourages in its own way the view that while recognizing one’s mistakes may be experienced prospectively as a form of death, the act itself brings a form of rebirth and self-transcendence, giving one the courage to revise one’s beliefs when confronted with new evidence.