You Weren’t There

Donald Prothero has written a useful article about radiometric dating and young-earth creationist lies and distortions about the subject. The article includes this meme image:



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  • Ian

    This comes up from time to time, and seems to be presented in this “ah-ha got you!” way, but it strikes me as the most naive counter-argument possible. Because Ham’s “you weren’t there” is *specifically intended* to be a claim that because God *was* there at the creation, and has declared through his word how it was done, that God’s account is therefore trustworthy.

    You weren’t there isn’t an declaration that first hand experience is needed, but that trust worthy eye-witness accounts are preferable to scientific inference.

    So “you weren’t there either” is the weakest possible come back to Ham, because it just sets up his entire argument. It shows a great deal of ignorance about his claims and his M.O., I think.

    • I think that it works if one is prepared to consistently respond to Ham’s follow-up claims the same way. When he says he wasn’t there but God was there, you have to ask “How do you know – were you there?” And when he says the Bible is divinely inspired, you have to ask “How do you know – were you there?” And you have to keep it up in the hope that eventually the inanity of it will become apparent to him.

      • Ian

        But wouldn’t he just say “God told me so, and God is trustworthy.”

        If you think of the person you trust most in the world, who you could depend on to be honest. If they told you that they had been somewhere at some particular time, you’d believe them. So much more God, who cannot lie, cannot forget, and who is Truth.

        If you go back with “how do you know, where you there?” you’re in a silly non-sequitir, surely.

        As for “The bible is divinely inspired… how do you know, were you there?” are you really sure *anyone* will hear that and think that you’re the sane one? Seems like an obvious non-sequitir again.

        I’m sure there are points in Ham’s theology where he’s making presumptions based on inferred data rather than claims of eyewitness evidence. But even then, it doesn’t work to say “were you there” if there is no alternative claim to eyewitness evidence. I doubt Ham would claim that one can’t infer anything from evidence. It seems to me his claim is that if you have human inference, versus infallible divine eyewitness, the inference is more suspect. You’re not going to make him see the error of that with “were you there?”

        • But how does he know that he has infallible divine eyewitness testimony? He is inferring from present data, even if he doesn’t admit it.

          But at any rate, I thought the point was to illustrate by reciprocation that “Were you there?” is a silly question the repeated asking of which will not persuade anyone of anything.

          • Ian

            I thought the point was to get someone to say “no, were you?” so he could say “no, but I know who was, and this is what he says happened…”

          • That is Ham’s aim, but my point is that even his claim that the Bible reflects divine revelation and eyewitness testimony can be responded to with the question “How do you know, were you there?” And so by reciprocating in kind, perhaps Ham could be made to see that such questions do more harm to conservative Christianity than to science.

            But now I am wondering whether Jesus’ teaching about not repaying evil for evil applies to this… 🙂

          • Ian

            Wouldn’t Ham answer in the same way: because he has a trustworthy source that tells him? The Holy Spirit living in him, God himself, leading him to an authentic understanding of scripture?

            Does he really claim that one can infer the infallibility of scripture from observation and human reason alone?

            I suspect he might use inference type arguments here and there, but I’d be surprised if he thought they were either necessary or sufficient to accept the bible as the literal Word of God.

          • Anyone can easily respond in the same way, can they not? And so it seems to me that Ham’s approach leads to complete relativism and subjectivism, rather than the establishment of absolute truth that he claims it does.

          • Ian

            Right, and that’s the fundamental problem with supernatural appeals. Because you have no objective standard, no way to decide who is right or not, it becomes a matter of who has the biggest group of followers, the strongest gatekeepers, the most widespread indoctrination.

            Which in turn explains a lot about evangelicalism, I think.

            You’ve pointed out before that a similar thing happens with morality. By insisting on an ‘absolute’ morality grounded in the will of God, evangelicals are actually arguing for an entirely relative morality.

  • Tim

    Is it just me, or does Ken Ham look like a Were-Wolf in that picture?