What Ken Ham Didn’t Say #hamonnye

Lots of people are discussing what Ken Ham said in the debate. But I want to highlight what Ken Ham didn’t say.

He didn’t say some of the things that you most regularly hear from young-earth creationists, such as “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

I am pretty sure he knew that if he had said something like that, Nye would have exposed the truth to an audience of his fans, a truth that everyone who has studied biology knows, except for young-earth creationists: evolution doesn’t claim that we evolved from monkeys!

I hope that young-earth creationists will notice what Ham didn’t say, which claims that they think are clever and decisive are in fact so weak or ludicrous that Ham didn’t dare mention them.

As for the point that Ham has borrowed from the Intelligent Design folks, regarding “information,” I wonder if the best approach isn’t to simply point out that, unless they have some evidence for how the Creator/Designer/God introduced information into biological systems, then that claim is fully compatible with the overwhelming evidence for evolution. It might suggest that God is ultimately responsible for evolution, whether at its beginning or throughout its course or both. It doesn’t say anything about how the information was introduced, and so has no bearing on evolution. It is a red herring.

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  • Matthew Funke
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I wonder if they will make the list longer in light of the debate.

      • Matthew Funke

        Hey, if they *shorten* it to “Don’t claim that ‘real’ science or verifiable fact actually agrees with creationism”, I’d be happier *and* the list would be more accurate.

  • hkameya

    I suggest Michael Dowd’s book “Thank God for Evolution.” It’s a “unified field theory” that marries science and religion. Highly rated by Amazon reviewers!

  • stuart32

    Here’s another variation on the question of “if we evolved from monkeys why…”
    Suppose that the dinosaurs had not gone extinct (and ignore the fact that we wouldn’t be here to talk about it if they hadn’t). The inevitable question would arise: if birds evolved from dinosaurs why are there still dinosaurs? In this case the dinosaurs saved us the trouble by conveniently going extinct. Although this spares us one awkward question it creates another: because birds evolved from dinosaurs they actually are dinosaurs. So the dinosaurs didn’t become extinct. Most of them went extinct but one branch of them – the birds – has survived to the present day. It has been suggested that the rest of the dinosaurs should be referred to as non-avian dinosaurs, in order to distinguish them from birds.

    Another problem is that in the case of the dinosaur extinction, evolution seems to fit the pattern that most people expect of it. It was the “goal” of the dinosaurs to evolve into birds and once they had achieved this it was time for them to depart from the stage. So if the rest of the dinosaurs had not gone extinct it would be a problem in need of explaining. This is, of course, a misconception. It was not the goal of the dinosaurs to give rise to birds any more than it was the goal of monkeys to give rise to us.

    Some people seem to think that if we admit the role that chance plays in evolution this will give comfort to creationists. This might be true but there is no point in denying the role of chance. There was nothing inevitable about the fact that dinosaurs would give rise to birds or that once birds had evolved they would survive and the rest of the dinosaur go extinct.

    • http://joannevalentinesimson.wordpress.com/ ValPas

      Evolution has no goal! What a strange notion. It’s like saying water has a “goal” when it forms a snowflake.

      • stuart32

        It is indeed a strange notion, but, as I’m sure you are aware, the language of purpose is very difficult to avoid in biology. It is very convenient to say that the purpose of the heart is to pump blood. If you were asked what the purpose of the heart is you would probably feel rather awkward saying that it doesn’t have one.

        The fact that the heart pumps blood is due to a process that has occurred over many millions of years, in which certain genes were selected (of course, they weren’t really “selected”, but let’s not make it too difficult) because they had the effect of building a series of arrangements of tissue, which increasingly resembled the heart. In each step in the series the genes that produced that particular arrangement of tissue were more likely to spread through the gene pool than those genes that produced different arrangements of tissue. This is because the animals with those arrangements of tissue were more likely to survive and reproduce.

        What is true of the heart is, of course, true of the brain. The brain is simply a particular arrangement of tissue that is the latest in a series of arrangements in which the owners of those arrangement were more likely to survive and reproduce. It is convenient to say that the purpose of the brain is to think and plan, but, in fact, the brain is really just whatever arrangement of tissue is likely to cause its owner to survive and reproduce.

  • Grotoff

    It should be pointed that, yes, we do in fact come from monkeys. Old World Monkeys and Apes share a common ancestor. What else would you call it except a monkey? Sure, humans don’t descend from marmosets and it’s probably too confusing to try to point out the distinctions. But it’s not completely wrong to say that we come from monkeys. We also come from fish.

    • stuart32

      Good point. The only time it is worthwhile to object is when someone thinks we evolved from chimpanzees. Confusion arises because when we say that we evolved from monkeys, the point we are trying to make is how much we have changed from our ancestors. Other old world monkeys have been evolving for the same length of time but, superficially at least, haven’t changed nearly as much. So we can give an idea of how much we have changed by comparing ourselves with those old monkeys that more closely resemble our common ancestor.