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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ken Ham – Not Good Science. Not Good Faith.

The #hamonnye debate last night between Bill Nye, The Science Guy, and Young Earth Creationist, Ken Ham, went the way that most debates go.  Both sides argued their points with more or less finesse, both sides wandered off topic occasionally, both sides let loose with a few cheap shots. 

And what with the live tweeting and furious blogging that followed, I’m sure there’s very little to be said here that hasn’t already been said somewhere else.  But there were two statements made by Ken Ham that struck me as particularly incompatible; they are mutually exclusive.  These two statement made by the same presenter in the same debate cannot be held together at the same time, not logically or rationally.
Early on in the debate Ken Ham said “…kids aren’t being taught to think critically and correctly about the origins issue…” (36:45) and again, “I believe we’re teaching people to think critically and to think in right terms about science…we’re teaching them the right way to think…” (50:50)   Here Ham declares his belief that it’s important to teach people to think – not what to think, but how to think.  He wants them to be taught how to think critically.  That is to challenge, and to ask questions, to be open to new possibilities that might disrupt previously held understandings. 

But toward the end, he admitted that nothing could persuade him to change his mind (2:18:00) – there’s no evidence that he would accept that would cause him to change his believe in a young universe.  He can’t even imagine a hypothetical situation that would cause him to rethink his interpretation of the bible and the observations of science. 

This is not science.  Observational science (on which Ham spent much time in the debate) and the scientific method depend upon challenges to established ideas.  Science welcomes the questions.  Science says, ‘show me how I could be wrong.’  And when an idea is shown to be untenable, it is let go.  This is not always a smooth and painless happening, but science moves forward and grows.  Ham, however, has already determined that his particular (and peculiar) interpretation of the bible is the only true source of knowledge and nothing – NOTHING – can be allowed to dissuade him from it.  No observational evidence will be allowed to persuade him to reconsider.

This is not good science.  Neither is it good faith.

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