Monday, May 29, 2017

The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham (Book Review #16 of 2017)

The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham
I read Ham's The Lie and (atheist) Michael Ruse's book Can a Darwinian be a Christian? consecutively. While brushing against the same topics, The Lie is a much shorter read, requires no understanding of biology or philosophy, has more pictures, and contains fewer citations. Between the two, I listened to Amir Aczel's Why Science Does Not Disprove God. All three authors disagree with the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins in different ways. The latter two don't give people like Ham much thought, or mention. For a list of other books I've reviewed on creation, evolution, and the like see the bottom of this post.

The Lie was published in 1987, written before Answers in Genesis became a known entity. Ham speaks mostly of his experience in Australia speaking at churches and schools. 20 percent of the book is Ham relaying letters and anecdotes from Christians who have been encouraged by his work. That self-validating tendency certainly detracts from the book. Ham never really engages with any arguments either in favor of or against Darwinian evolution, any textual criticisms of Genesis, etc. That lends itself to the criticism of Ruse that proponents like Ham "are not fully utilizing their mental faculties." Despite the lack of philosophy in the book, Ham does make some basic points about Darwinism and science that Ruse never really addresses:

"All the evidence a scientist has exists only in the present" (p. 16). Scientists are interpreting, and re-interpreting, what the past looked like based on how they find it. The author uses the example of fossil clusters. Scientists (or maybe museum curators) will tell a story about the animals living and dying together. Ham likes to ask students to justify these explanations based on evidence. Did these animals really interact together, did they look like the scientists have re-constructed their skeletons, including the many pieces they didn't find but guessed about, and did they really die together? Or could the strata have mixed over time? (Dinosaurs from differing eras being found in the "wrong" strata have been an issue for explanation since Darwin's The Origin of Species.) Like Azcel and Ruse, Ham is arguing for epistemological humility-- science cannot prove everything and not everything is knowable. "Neither creation nor evolution can be proven scientifically" (p. 15). "(C)reationists and evolutionists all have the same facts. Therefore, what we are really talking about are different interpretations of these same facts" (p. 16).

Ken Ham would answer Michael Ruse's question of whether a Darwinian can be a Christian with a qualified "yes," because Christianity doesn't ultimately hinge on what one believes about how we were created. It depends on belief in Jesus being God's son, dying for our sins, and being resurrected (p. 40):
"I am not saying that if you believe in evolution you are not a Christian. There are many Christians who, for varying reasons (whether it be out of ignorance of what evolution teaches, pride, or a liberal view of the Scriptures), believe in evolution. Those who do believe in evolution are being inconsistent and, in reality, are destroying the foundations of the gospel message. Therefore, I would plead with them to seriously consider the evidence against the position they hold."

What separates Ham is his choice to be certain that the biblical account of creation is literal and true. Others may not admit that they begin with the assumption that this account is metaphorical and/or false, and some other explanation is true. The author's point is that everyone begins with assumptions regardless of whether he admits it, and rarely thinks to question the paradigm he operates in (Ruse does not admit any of his own assumptions). The logical conclusions of these assumptions cause some problems that expose the adherent's cognitive biases and other dilemmas (p. 22):

"If you are not a Christian, consider these questions: Are you married? Why? Why not just live with someone without bothering to marry? Do you believe marriage is one man for one woman for life? Why not six wives? Or six husbands? What happens if your son comes home and says, 'Dad, I am going to marry Bill tomorrow.'

Would you say, 'You can't do that, son! It's just not done!'"

To the author, the earliest basis for marriage we have comes from Scripture and is found in diverse cultures, along with universal concepts such as clothing, justice, good, evil, etc. If it was simply about biological reproduction and survival, then certainly we should relax any laws or mores accordingly. He notes that anthropologists now search for other explanations for marriage and clothing and he simply finds the Genesis explanation of these the simplest and best starting point.

If an atheist like Ruse holds to a position of "right" and "wrong" on any ultimately moral issue, what is it based on? Ham carries this line of thought further, noting that plenty of atheistic evolutionists have applied theories of "social Darwinism" in methods the rest of the world needs to call evil but lacks a basis for without agreement on what morality is (p.41):
"Sir Arthur Keith, the well-known evolutionist, explains how Hitler was only being consistent in what he did to the Jews—he was applying the principles of Darwinian evolution. In Evolution and Ethics, he said: 'To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied vigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation, we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy...Such conduct is highly immoral as measured by every scale of ethics, yet Germany justifies it; it is consonant with tribal or evolutionary morality. Germany has reverted to the tribal past, and is demonstrating to the world, in their naked ferocity, the methods of evolution.'”

Ham gives examples of others who have promoted racism via evolution, basically arguing that evolution itself is a racist theory whereas only the biblical account of Creation gives us a reason to respect and appreciate all races-- we're all made in God's image. Ruse would take issue with Ham's cherry-picking of Darwinists. Ruse's work acknowledges Hitler's rebuke of Christians for not acknowledging evolution and its mixed history with Marxism. But Ruse is quick to point out that there are bad-behaving Christians just as there are bad-behaving evolutionists, and one should not judge the bushel by a few bad apples. Besides, Ruse is correct to point out there is a wide spectrum of Darwinians. For Ham, however, they all lead from and to the same place:

"when man is viewed as an arbitrary by-product of Time + Matter + Chance, there is no logical reason for treating men or women as objects of dignity and respect, since in principle they are no different from the animals, trees, and rocks from which they supposedly came" (p. 42).

Ham's audience is really the Church and his ultimate intent and is to warn it against attacks on the Bible from within and without. If people are convinced Genesis is discredited, then they will have no basis for claiming morality or having dignity and respect for their fellow man and they also will misunderstand the Gospel. If you eliminate God from being in control, you eliminate miracles, the resurrection, and Christianity has no purpose (as the Apostle Paul tells you in 1 Corinthians). Critics of the Bible have the same problem as the scientists with the fossil deposits: they're interpreting the past based on the present, all current assumptions and biases included.

To a group who debated him on the issue of Genesis being purely metaphorical (p 56):
"I asked them how they determined what that theological picture was, on what basis did they decide what was the true theological picture, and how could they be sure that their approach to Scripture was the right one? From where did they obtain their authority to approach the Scripture this way? They said it was their study of history and theology over the years that enabled them to decide what was the correct way to approach Scripture and to determine what these symbolic pictures were. I then told them it sounded as though they simply held an opinion as to how to approach Scripture. How did they know it was the right opinion? This is where the conversation abruptly ended. These men want to tell God what He is saying rather than letting God tell them what the truth is. This is the position of many theological leaders."

"Those who believe that God used evolution must believe that the same processes God used in this supposed evolutionary 'creation' are going on today" (p. 65). This creates a dilemma because it still requires a supernatural inexplainable God who is active in the world and its processes, something which the theological leaders above would have a logical dilemma acknowledging.

To Ham, society's decay and the church's decline of influence comes because people have lost faith in the Bible. (He uses the word "infallible" to describe Scripture, which I noted may be a dated use of the term because most evangelicals today only use "inerrant," which is a much stricter meaning.)

Other tidbits of note: Ham holds to a tenseless theory of time, God created time along with the universe (p. 73). (Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, in contrast, argues for the plausibility of God existing with time for all time.) There is an Appendix that gives
"Twenty Reasons Why Genesis and Evolution Do Not Mix."

I grew up reading Ken Ham, hearing him speak, and watching his videos. The Ark Park is about 30 miles north of where I'm writing this. This book is the whole purpose of Answers in Genesis in a nutshell. There is little about the ark or the flood or Ham's various explanations of how events occurred. This book avoids any deep thinking on philosophy, puts forth few answers to various arguments put forth by Darwinists, and does not address details like "was arsenic and other poisonous elements present in soil before sin?" or "Was there weather before sin, and if so how did humans keep warm if they had no clothes and did not kill trees for firewood?" If you're looking for that, you'll find it lacking.

3 stars out of 5.

Other books that contributed to my understanding of this book:
Black Holes and Baby Universes (Stephen Hawking)
The Universe in a Nutshell (Hawking)
The Grand Design (Hawking)
The Hidden Reality (Brian Greene)
The Fabric of the Cosmos (Greene)
The Elegant Universe (Greene)
The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)
Letter to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris)
Arrival of the Fittest (Andreas Wagner)
Can a Darwinian be a Christian? (Michael Ruse)
The Trouble with Physics (Lee Smolin, arguments against the cult of string theory from a quantum loop gravity physicist.)
The Accidental Universe (Alan Lightman, physicist armchair philosopher who is critical of Dawkins but has his own logical fallacies.)
Randomness in Evolution (John Tyler Bonner, slime mold biologist who argues natural selection is far less important than randomness.)
First Life (David Deamer, mix of astrophysics and biology)
Why Science Does Not Disprove God (Amir Aczel)
I Don't Believe in Atheists (Chris Hedges, also debated Hitchens and Harris; familiar with Aczel's arguments.)
The Quest for Meaning (Great Courses lectures by Dr. Robert H. Kane based on his book The Significance of Free Will. A history of philosophy that also asks what "values" are and has a response to postmodernists who argue nothing has objective value.)
The Reason for God (Tim Keller)
Reasonable Faith (William Lane Craig)

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