Ken Ham vs. the Aims of Universities

Ken Ham vs. the Aims of Universities March 12, 2013

Ken Ham, the infamous charlatan, has posted a blog post in which he offers the selective protestation at “intolerance” typical of young-earth creationists, in response to a blog post of mine. Hopefully no one will be fooled by his pretending that he thinks all ideas deserve a hearing or equal time. Ham is not eager to see fringe nonsense like Jesus-mythicism getting equal time in universities. Nor does he think that those institutions which adopt an anti-evolutionist stance should let actual scientists combat his organization’s misinformation. His selective appeal to one’s sense of fair play will backfire if readers are paying attention. Fair play is only fair when it is applied to all fairly, and that is clearly not Ham’s interest.

But the irony is even stronger. Ham claims about me that “Of course, part of his intolerance is that he doesn’t even want students, faculty or staff to hear the things Dr. Mortenson will present because they may expose the utter bankruptcy of the anti-biblical position held by McGrath.” That’s laughable. The last time Mortenson came to campus, it became clear to the audience that, even though he was making claims about what words in the Biblical text mean, he does not know enough of the Biblical languages to recognize them. Someone I know who took one semester of Greek more than a decade ago could do so. And so this is not merely a case of being rusty. It is a case of Ken Ham’s people claiming to know things that they don’t, setting themselves up as authorities when they have only ignorance and ideologically-driven skewing of the facts to offer.

Universities are not “supposed to be a place for the free exchange of ideas” in the sense that we ensure equal time for Holocaust-deniers and flat-earthers. They are places for free exchange of ideas that are committed to honest treatment of evidence. If young-earth creationists could accept those terms, they would be welcome. But to accept those terms would mean abandoning their young-earth creationist stance, which is at odds with all the relevant evidence, whether geological, genetic, paleontological, astronomical, or Biblical.

Let me state it clearly to Terry Mortenson, Ken Ham, and anyone else in Answers in Genesis: Protesting against your twisting of the Bible and your refusal to accept the Bible as it is and to accept that it says what it says is not “anti-biblical.” It is the precise opposite. As a scholar and a Christian I am convinced that the Bible ultimately needs no defense. But those who might be duped by your lies, because they do not know either the Bible or science well enough to see through the misinformation and misconstruals you consistently offer, do need to be defended. Standing against false teachers and defending the weak and gullible from wicked influences is hardly “anti-biblical.”

Promoting knowledge, promoting understanding, promoting intelligent discussion between different views when the evidence is inconclusive – those are part of the mission of a university. So too is indicating when views are incompatible with the evidence, and when arguments are deceptive and attempt to mislead. But as has been clear throughout, I have never said, either previously or in the present case, that even charlatans like those at Answers in Genesis should be prevented from coming to campus. I suggested that those concerned with truth, with upholding the Christian faith and upholding the mission of the university, ought not to have extended the invitation in the first place. There is no obligation for anyone to invite people to come and misrepresent the truth. If the invitation remains in place, I will respect that, although I will be greatly disappointed to learn that I have colleagues who consider it appropriate to invite someone whose organization pretends to uphold the ideals of a university when it is in their interest to do so, and the rest of the time denigrates the people who do actual scientific and Biblical research at universities, including the Christians.

You are welcome to comment below, since I uphold the ethos of a university, and welcome discussion that seeks to get at the truth. If you visit Ken Ham’s blog, you will see that comments are not allowed. And if you comment on his Facebook page and express a view that he does not like, your comment will disappear. So please do not be taken in by his claim to want open discussion of ideas. That is just yet another dishonest tactic he uses selectively, to try to get his pseudoscientific and pseudobiblical ideas into places where they clearly do not deserve to be promoted.

Of course, if Ham would open a booth that let a mainstream biologist and a mainstream biblical scholar present their views at his Creation Museum, his appeal to open discussion of ideas would sound like much less of a joke…

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