Their Old Kentucky Home: Ken Ham, Al Mohler and Big Bone Lick

Ken Ham is not treated as a respected scholar by “mainstream” evangelicals. He’s viewed as a fringe character who’s mainly interested in selling a product.

Al Mohler, on the other hand, is regarded as a respected academic and scholar — a seminary president! — and someone that serious people must regard with seriousness.

The two men live and work about 100 miles apart in Kentucky, but when it comes to young-Earth creationism, there’s no space between them at all. It’s odd that science-aversion, reality-denial and wacky exegesis makes Ken Ham a comic figure, while the very same science-aversion, reality-denial and wacky exegesis is hailed as evidence of Al Mohler’s pious devotion to the “authority of the scriptures.”

Young-Earth creationism isn’t plausible anywhere, but it’s a particularly hard sell where these guys live. Kentucky isn’t just home to the Creation Museum and to the Mohlerized Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, it’s also home to places like Big Bone Lick State Park, sometimes called the birthplace of American paleontology. That where we found things like this:

This is older than 7,000 years.

Big Bone Lick — just 82 miles from Al Mohler’s office and less than 20 miles from Ken Ham’s museum — is the final resting place of an extraordinary number of well-preserved Pleistocene megafauna. These were the huge animals that lumbered across North America from about 2.5 million years ago until the last of them went extinct about 12,000 years ago. Mastodons, mammoths and giant sloths lived in Kentucky for millions of years, then died out thousands of years before young-Earth creationists say the universe was created.

Kentucky’s official state fossil — that’s a thing, apparently — is the brachiopod. Those are tiny little sea creatures whose fossil remains can be found all over Kentucky because way, way back — 550 to 250 million years ago — what’s now Kentucky was the bottom of a warm, shallow sea something like the Gulf of Mexico. That also explains why miner Jay Wright found the ferocious jawbone of a prehistoric shark in the ceiling of a Kentucky coal mine. It’s about 300 million years old. That means it was swimming around Kentucky about 300 million years prior to when Ken Ham and Al Mohler say God created the heavens and the Earth. (Well, you know, 300 million minus 6,000 years older, but once you get back to 300 million years ago, 6,000 years seems more like a rounding error.)

Kentucky is also home to things like the Kentucky River Palisades — a series of gorges and limestone cliffs lining the river for about 100 miles or so. They’re really something to see, both for their stunning natural beauty and for the way they vividly illustrate Kentucky’s very long and layered geologic history. The clearly visible layers of sedimentary rock are like a giant billboard advertising how vastly ancient the region truly is.

All of these things account for the difference in reputation between Ken Ham and Al Mohler.

Ham is seen as ridiculous because he has, very publicly, attempted to account for all of these things. The megafauna remains in Big Bone Lick, Ken Ham says, were creatures killed in Noah’s flood in 2348 B.C. And what about all those brachiopod fossils that scientists insist are hundreds of millions of years old? Those are all from Noah’s flood in 2348 too, Ham says. And the 300-million-year-old shark remains? Noah’s flood. And the sedimentary layers of the Kentucky River Palisades? Noah’s flood. 2348 B.C.

This is just goofy. Ham’s repeated appeals to the magical effects of Noah’s magical flood are part of why he’s an object of scorn and ridicule. He tries to play the martyr — claiming that his critics are just impious god-haters who don’t believe in the Bible. But the problem with this flood nonsense isn’t primarily that he believes the story of Noah is historical. The problem with Ken Ham’s flood nonsense is that floods do not work this way.

Ham’s attempts to reconcile his theory of a 6,000-year-old universe with the exuberantly ancient world that surrounds him fail utterly. When he clings to those failures, then, he comes across not just as ignorant, but as stubbornly ignorant and proud of it. That makes him a punchline.

Mohler has avoided becoming a similar punchline by expediently not attempting to reconcile his theory of a 6,000-year-old universe with the obviously ancient world that surrounds him. That seems unfair — unfair to Ken Ham, I mean.

Sure, Ham may be a spectacular failure at it, but unlike Mohler, he’s at least tried to defend their indefensible theory of a young universe. Mohler doesn’t even bother trying. He just keeps repeating his insistence that you’re in jeopardy of Hell if you don’t reject reality in favor of demonstrably false ideas.

If the Earth is only 6,000 years old, then how does Mohler explain the far older remains found 80 miles from his office at Big Bone Lick? That’s simple, Mohler says. If you don’t believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old, then you don’t really believe in the Bible or in the God of the Bible, and therefore you’re probably going to Hell. But those bones are from the Pleistocene, which ended long before 6,000 years ago — is Mohler suggesting that we just pretend those bones and all the other evidence for the Pleistocene don’t exist? No, he says. He’s simply suggesting that Heaven is far nicer than Hell, so let’s just please stop talking about those old bones. But what about the brachiopod fossils scattered all over Mohler’s home state of Kentucky? We have to choose, he says. We have to choose between learning anything about those fossils and not going to Hell. What about the ancient history written into the very rocks of the Kentucky River Palisades? The rocks are lying. Don’t listen to them or else, you know … Hell.

Where Ken Ham offers ridiculous evidence and a ridiculous argument, Mohler doesn’t bother offering any evidence or argument at all. But I’m not sure how that makes him any less ridiculous.

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  • The_L1985

    That’s horrifyingly out-there.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Yeah, I think we can all take a wild stab at why Al Mohler doesn’t like to talk about Bone Lick, if you get the thrust of my comment…

  • Magic_Cracker

    Uranus has a unique axis?

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Yup. It rolls along on its side (that is, its axis is tilted ninety degrees compared to the other planets in the system. And poor little Pluto too, I think.) (Edit…sorry, nerdiness alert omitted.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It’s kind of ironic how they blithely accept that Maxwell’s Equations govern radio and optical communications and yet throw a strop when told the field equations wouldn’t work the way they do if c was varying.

  • LoneWolf343

    I’ll say. There’s never been a Final Fantasy past 7. Next he’ll be saying the Matrix or Highlander had sequels.

  • LoneWolf343

    Well, it wouldn’t poof into nothingness. It would poof into…something.

  • AnonymousSam

    Our thrust is to prick holes in the stiff front erected by Mohler’s theology–

  • AnonymousSam

    I think I’m the only person who just rolls their eyes at VII. Then again, I thought VI was pretty bad too. And V. In fact, I can tear apart IV, which is my favorite, for having the same problems as the rest of the games. :p

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Someone’s collected all the sayings; some are rather apt. :)

    “Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets done on time or within budget.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The Uranian system has a unique configuration among those of the planets because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its revolution about the
    Sun. Its north and south poles therefore lie where most other planets have their equators.

    And the REALLY fun part! :D is that Uranus’s satellites ALSO have funny orbits because they orbit with respect to Uranus’s equator.

  • Ross

    Yes. And it brings all the boys to the yard.

  • Loki1001

    It is tilted 90 degrees. It’s north and south poles are where our equator is. So the southern hemisphere, basically, gets a half year of total daylight, followed by a half year of total darkness.

  • Loki1001

    And they’re like, this planet’s better than your’s.

  • Albanaeon

    Well… yeah. Anybody want to live with 12000 ly of a quasar? How about all of them? How about galactic blackholes? Supernovas? Pulsars? Neutron stars? Heck how about the effects of have a universes’ with all the gravity/spacetime effects/etc. Basically in your backyard?

    Still, I’m not sure that its less ridiculous than the “we are linked to the rest of the universe by wormholes so everything is only 6000 ly away.” Yep, let’s turn the entire universe into a trillion trillion guns blasting away at us constantly. That’ll be wonderful…

  • Daniel

    Just when I thought I was out, you pull me back in.
    (This is not related to the proctology comments earlier.)

  • Cuniraya, Antichrist

    Well my big issue with the book is that Jane goes back to that asshole Rochester and nurses him back to health and he miraculously regains his sight. It’s bullshit. She should have gone off with that parson, and let Chris Brown burn in his house and live happily ever after. That’s why I like Wide Sargasso Sea so much more.

  • $7768756

    “People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy half a slug who must tighten his belt.”

    Some of them are a bit too libertarian for my taste, many of them have that 1960′s sexist flair to them, but compared to most other books of wisedom, they come off pretty durn well.