Answers in Genesis wants to have its cake and eat it too

I noticed a few short articles in the July-September 2012 issue of Answers in Genesis that I found interesting (page 13). Here is an excerpt from one called Hoosier Hopes Dashed:

Though Answers magazine has never advocated forcing public school instructors to teach creation, at a minimum teachers should have the freedom to present significant problems with evolution. Such academic freedom would serve the best interests of all scientific research and teach students to think analytically, rather than accepting popular views uncritically.

And this from Academic Freedom Not OK in the UK:

Once again, evolution activists have succeeded in muffling challenges to their worldview. Just as disturbing, these activists are preventing students from exercising their critical thinking skills to differentiate between observations and hypotheses so that they can judge for themselves which model of origins is more reasonable.

When I read these excerpts, I just had to laugh. Why? Because when Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham and Georgia Purdham responded to some of my critiques of their ministry a couple months ago, they said something very different – something that didn’t seem to have much at all to do with “academic freedom” or letting people see the evidence judge for themselves between creation and evolution.

I explained in my Why I Am An Atheist that I had been taught Answers in Genesis’ version of creationism and had thought it was true – after all, I’d never actually been exposed to evolution outside of the straw man versions of evolution explained by creationist organizations and textbooks. As I explained, when I went to college I was exposed to the actual science behind evolution and heard the theory actually explained, rather than interpreted through creationist texts. It was at this point that I held up creation and evolution side by side and sought to examine and compare them analytically and critically, just as the excerpts above seem to endorse. After months of thought, argument, and study, I found that the evidence lay on the side of evolution, and against creation. And so, valuing honesty, I changed my views on that subject, and after several years of spiritual journeying ended up an atheist.

Answers in Genesis’ Georgia Purdham and Ken Ham both responded to my Why I Am An Atheist post. But rather than either congratulating me on critically examining both sides of the issue and judging for myself rather than any views uncritically or arguing that I’d missed some evidence and showing me where I’d gone wrong in my study of science – which, given the above quotes, is what you would think they would do – they instead appealed to the authority of the Bible.

Libby seems to have things backwards. It’s not that “we know the Bible is true because young earth creationism is true,” but rather because the Bible is true we can believe what God said in Genesis about the time frame in which He created.

This reminds me of a statement in Answers in Genesis’ statement of faith:

By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

Answers in Genesis seems to want to have its cake and eat it too. It claims to be in favor of students approaching both creation and evolution analytically and using critical thinking to determine for themselves which is most sound, but when one of its own young people does so and comes to a different conclusion the organization is quick to jettison its argument from evidence and argue that we can know creationism is true because the Bible says so. Furthermore, Answers in Genesis is quick to appeal to argue for teaching both sides in public schools, but it does no such thing for its captive audience in Christian schools and homeschools, who are taught creationism and only exposed to a straw man version of evolution in order to pillory it.

So what is it? Are we to believe creationism because of critical thinking and unbiased analysis, or because the Bible says its true? Are we to teach both creation and evolution so that students can “judge for themselves,” or are we to teach children that creationism is categorically true and evolution is a joke?

Answers in Genesis is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. When it tries to trot creationism into the classroom – whether it be Indiana or the UK – it speaks of academic freedom and analytically examination and critical thinking and people judging for themselves between differing hypotheses. But when it comes to its own audience, it appeals to the Bible first and foremost.

Which is it? Sometimes Answers in Genesis appeals to science and scientific thinking, and other times it appeals to the Bible and faith. The name of the organization makes it clear where its real priorities lay, but when speaking to a wider audience Answers in Genesis downplays the Bible and faith and appeals to science and scientific thinking. This strikes me as incredibly deceptive. Which is ironic for an organization taking its name from a book that condemns lying. And it’s also maddening.

The truth is, Answers in Genesis seems to think it can have its cake and eat it too.

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