Creation Science Book Review
Book Review (Part 2): Science vs. Religion (Departments)—which is
more 'compromised' according to Ken Ham?
Jonathan Baker, M.S. Geology
In the first post, I examined how Ken Ham and Greg Hall used a
methodology similar to KJV Onlyists when interpreting poll results
in their book
. By arbitrarily defining their own views on
creation as the singular, biblical worldview, they managed to
transform a poll about personal beliefs into a test
summarized the results thusly (p. 35):
"Overall, we found that only 24 percent of the 312 people
surveyed answered every question correctly...and these are the
Nobody can blame the authors for believing themselves to be in the
right, but this attitude shifted the book from an academic
discussion about Christian education into a pontifical monologue
that precluded critical reflection.
Now, I want to consider how the authors compared the science and
religion departments from each institution. As an introductory
exercise, ask yourself how you might expect the heads of the science
and religion departments to answer the same set of questions
regarding biblical authority, literalism, and views on
creation/Earth history. In which department would you expect to find
more biblical literalists? Old-Earth creationists? Inerrantists?
Let's take a look.
As it turns out, the two departments were on the same page with
regard to biblical authority, and a vast majority affirmed the
inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of scripture. A slightly
higher (but not statistically significant) percentage of Religion
professors affirmed these three doctrines, to which Ken responded
(p. 52, emphasis added):
"As you can see, the responses are fairly close, with the
religion departments claiming a slightly higher view of
Scripture than the science departments."
I am slightly bothered by the use of the comparative term "higher"
in this context. More often than not, it is used pejoratively to
speak of those who question modern
definitions of inerrancy.
The more I have studied the history of this doctrine, the more I
have come to think its use is
—in other words, a method of protecting
scripture from modernism and liberalism rather than a
scripture-derived doctrine. The result is a number of odd
discussions about how many times Jesus cursed the fig tree and
cleansed the temple (e.g.
) or which calendar the gospel writers used to chronicle the
passion week. In the end, readers miss the grand points of the
gospel narratives and only push other believers into liberalism.
Regardless of how you feel about the doctrine of inerrancy, Ken's
treatment of this section is consistent with my hypothesis
concerning his agenda.
How old is the Earth?
When asked specific questions on the historicity of Genesis 1–9, a
higher percentage of respondents from the science
sided with Ken Ham. A whopping 78% of respondents from the religion
departments considered themselves 'Old-Earth' Christians, compared
to only 35% in the science department! Not surprisingly, Ken finds a
moment to rejoice (p. 54):
"It turns out that the science department is much more biblical
in their beliefs than the religion department!...The religion
chairs and the Bible departments are choosing to be influenced
by worldly philosophy rather than what the Bible clearly teaches
concerning historical science and the facts of observational
science that confirm the biblical record."
I suppose that's one way to put it. We might also consider,
however, the fact that a vast majority of Christian scientists
reject young-Earth creationism for lack
evidence. If you are a professor of biblical studies with a
literature background, how might you weigh the spurious evidence
of radioactive carbon in diamonds and excess helium in
zircons—especially when Christian scientists that work in
radiocarbon and material science labs have exhaustively
of RATE team studies? When faced with a factual
decision on matters outside of our own expertise, we typically
defer credibility to expert witnesses, and young-Earth
creationists have neither the numbers nor the evidence on their
side. Ken further speculates:
"This isn’t surprising, considering most of them attended
seminaries that adhere to compromise views such as the
“documentary hypothesis,” a theory that denies that Moses wrote
a cohesive historical account of history in the first five books
of the Bible."
To my knowledge, Ken did not poll respondents on their view of
the documentary hypothesis (DH), but I am willing to speculate
along with him that a higher percentage of religion professors
accept it. The reason is that they deal directly with the
textual and historical evidence on which it is based. But I
highly doubt that acceptance of this theory is responsible for
the divergence in opinion on the age of the Earth. Christian
proponents of the DH do not reject the inspiration of scripture,
for example, and nearly 90% of Ken's respondents affirmed the
inerrancy of scripture.
The Pentateuchal authorship and date of composition is
irrelevant, therefore, to whether one accepts the Genesis
account as historical. If you already accept the narratives as
divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant, does it really
matter when the text was written down or by whom? Even if the
Flood narrative originated as an eyewitness account (I believe
it did), the final Pentateuchal version has added theological
imagery and structure. Besides, it is possible to deny that an
eyewitness account is 100% accurate. Ken's hypothesis does
little, in my opinion, to explain these results.
A better explanation for the departmental dichotomy can be found
in their respective literary views of scripture. In the religion
department, 73% of respondents believed the creation account is
"literally true", but only 57% believe this was done in "six
literal 24-hour days". As previously noted, Ken believes this is
inconsistent and that respondents are simply confused and
contradicting themselves. But in reality, these questions reveal
that professors of religion have a better appreciation for the
term "literal" than does Mr. Ham.
Another missing link in the train of thought might be found in
how respondents view the biblical genealogies. Are they meant to
help us back calculate dates for primeval events (like the flood
and creation) or were they a later addition meant to add more
than just biographical information to the stories? Students of
the Bible from each department may approach this question
differently, depending on how they normally treat numerical
data. The same goes for understanding the days of creation. It
is possible to affirm that God created in "six literal days"
without attaching "24 hours" to those days and placing them at
the head of Ussher's chronology.
When asked whether they thought faculty from the religion and
science departments shared the same view on the age of
the Earth, 81.5% of religion professors said "Yes" compared to
only 36.5% from the sciences. What does this mean? Is there a
miscommunication? Ken comments, "The religion department thinks
everyone has the same view, but the science department tends to
know better." I think Ken oversimplifies the matter, however,
and actually overlooks the answer when discussing old vs. young
earth views between the departments (p. 56):
"...what I am finding is that most Christian parents and
students...expect that...it would be science professors who
would be more likely to lean toward evolution/millions of years
and that religion professors would be more likely to lean toward
a literal creation."
That's exactly right, and it seems everyone had the same
presumption. If you recall, 78% of religion professors called
themselves 'Old-Earth' Christians—about the same number
that believe the science department is on the same page.
Conversely, 57% of science professors deem themselves
"Young-Earth" Christians—about the same number that believe the
religion department is on the same page.
Ken's poll thus confirmed what the general perception has always
been: 'millions of years' is a personal tenant of scientists,
but people that teach the Bible for a living invariably believe
in a young Earth. Of course, the poll also exposed this
dichotomy as a myth—most professors in biblical studies do not
believe in a young-Earth or a literalistic approach to Genesis.
Ken's refusal to learn from his own test
Although Ken claims not to have been surprised by the results
from each department, he does seem bothered that most professors
of biblical studies don't share his take on the Bible. So why
don't faculty in the religion department adopt his hermeneutic?
I think it is because his approach depends on a simplistic view
of scripture that refuses to engage in literary, cultural, or
historical critical studies—not what you would expect from
Ph.D.'s in literature, language, and history. Ironically, Ken
blames it on their ignorance of science (p. 56):
"Can the religion department explain the existence of coal
deposits and how they were formed? Can they explain the actual
structure of the fossil record? Can they explain the assumptions
behind radiometric dating methods? No, they can’t."
Judging by the articles offered at Answers in Genesis, neither
can you, Mr. Ham. Ultimately, the physical evidence for
'creation science' only makes sense within a non-scientific,
young-Earth paradigm, where the conclusion is known from the
outset. It seems most folks in the religion department recognize
the flawed methodology of young-Earth creationism, and prefer to
appeal to people who actually conduct scientific research. This
frustrates Ken further, as he tells us (p. 56, emphasis added):
"When I engage liberals from the religion departments...most of
them repeat the familiar mantra: “Science has proven that
evolution/ millions of years is true.” But when I ask them for
specifics, they often don’t have much of a clue, as they are
depending on some other authority. If I ask them why they
believe in an old earth, they invariably answer, “Because of
radiocarbon dating.” But any scientist should know that the
radiocarbon dating method can’t be used for something that is
supposedly millions of years old."
True, but it can show us how many thousands of objects
are older than Noah's flood (trees, sediments, caves, etc.) and
the Garden of Eden. It also shows that marine and lake sediments
have been accumulating continuously—without catastrophic
interruption—for the past 10, 20, or even 50 thousand years.
I suspect Ken might answer with a story about the pre-Flood
biomass and post-Flood volcanics diluting the carbon cycle; or a
pre-Flood atmosphere that blocked out radiation, or any number
of hypotheses contrary to the facts—as long as it protects his
reading of scripture. But in the end, the radiocarbon method
stands as solid evidence against the young-Earth paradigm, and
these professors are justified in citing it. Ken cannot explain,
for example, the agreement of radiocarbon dating with U-Th
disequilibrium dating (which is unrelated to the factors above),
or with tree ring, ice core, and varve counts; or how Native
American campfires could date to ~11,000 years ago when they
must have burnt long after the Flood.
When asked whether they consider themselves a ‘young-earth or
old-earth Christian’, more than twice the respondents from the
religion department answered ‘old-earth’ than in the science
department. Ken found this result "intriguing and very
disturbing.” Ironically, Ham’s approach to science is rooted in
a dogmatic dependence on his literalistic reading of Genesis—a
reading rejected by the vast majority of professors of religion,
according to his own poll. But Ken is too nearsighted to see
what this means, and so he hides behind yet another defense
mechanism to explain the unexpected result: “The science
department tends to know better.”
Continue reading Part 3
This article was originally posted by Jonathan Baker on his blog,
Questioning Answers in Genesis