Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ham Fisted Pathological "Science"

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The fundamentalist ministry Answers in Genesis is a gold mine for those who, like myself, have an interest in fundamentalist thought forms*.  Fundamentalists will sometimes use the cliche "Different world view, different interpretation of the facts" to justify their belief that the cosmos is  only 6000 years old. In someways I agree with this cliche, but what I don't accept is that their world view is an unambiguous function of an authoritative "plain" Bible reading. For inside the embattled, marginalized, paranoiac, laughing-stock fundamentalist communities, we find fundamentalists joining the data dots of evidence in such a perverse fashion that it undermines the integrity of the signals we receive from both the Bible and the world in which it is embedded. See here and here for example**

The following post has recently appeared on the blog of AiG theme park supremo, Ken Ham. In this post Ham provides us with the main reason why, in my opinion, he can be identified as an anti-science influence; this is down to his habitual division of science into observational science and historical science. I have, of course, criticized this abuse of the word "science" by Ham several times before on this blog, but the passage below is such an excellent specimen of Ham's misconceptions that it must be exhibited. We remember that he is passing this particular abuse of science on to those who have little aptitude or willingness to delve into the nature of science. Moreover, we can't rely on any of Ham's tame scholars like Danny Faulkner to correct him; they have found a social-standing niche inside fundamentalist communities and therefore unless they are prepared to restart their careers we can't expect much from them. In this connection let's also not forget that fundamentalist astrophysicist, Jason Lisle, produced his perverse cosmology under the auspices of AiG. 

I reproduce Ham's article below for inspection; I've underlined the parts of the passage relevant to this post. I've also linked to the many articles I've written on the subject of Ham's anti-science. 

Exposing Ken Ham’s Faulty Belief About Science
By Ken Ham on December 30, 2016
What is science? Well, there’s a lot of misuse of the word by secularists and the popular media. The word itself simply means “knowledge” and refers to the process by which we use the scientific method to learn more about the natural world around us.

Now, secularists often misuse the word science when they use it to refer to their molecules-to-man evolution belief, and then also misapply it to refer to technology, which is operational science (observation and repeatable testing). There’s a big difference between knowledge about the past (origins beliefs) and knowledge for building technology! You can’t observe, test, or repeat the past, so historical (or origins) science isn’t the same thing as observational science that can be directly observed, tested, and repeated in the present.

Faulty Claims
The media also misuse the word science to claim that creationists are against science. We aren’t against science—AiG loves science, and we have staff with PhDs in various science fields! What the media really mean is that they accept secular beliefs—which they’ve labeled science—and reject creation beliefs. Since we don’t agree with their secular beliefs, they believe we must be against science.
But we aren’t against science. We’re against an evolutionary, naturalistic interpretation of the evidence that contradicts God’s Word.
Secularists need to admit their faulty beliefs. But they don’t want to acknowledge they have any beliefs! They believe life somehow arose by natural processes, and they also believe in an unobservable process of molecules-to-man evolution. Secularists have a religion. They have beliefs about how the universe and life arose, and these beliefs affect how they interpret evidence in the present.
Creationists are more than willing to distinguish between beliefs about origins and observable science that builds our technology. But secularists refuse to admit what are obviously beliefs—they just keep claiming their beliefs are “science.” They make these claims to attempt to brainwash people into believing that molecules-to-man evolution can be proven—which it is most definitely can’t!
You can learn more in “Two kinds of Science”  (See

What seems to be beyond this man's comprehension is that time isn't the overriding category marker which justifies him dichotomizing and lobotomizing science in this fashion: What makes some objects less amenable to science than other objects is not down to this simple minded dichotomy but a much more general, graded and subtle phenomenon; namely epistemic distance. Take for example an object like a socio-economic system; such a system is a present-tense-continuous object and one might therefore think its study doesn't classify as "historical science". But that hardly makes it readily observable: its logical complexity and epistemic inaccessibility makes it difficult to data-sample this object with any level of comprehensiveness. One might also argue similarly about string theory. In both cases epistemic distance, brought about by complexity and/or inaccessibility is a factor which has an important bearing on our ability to know with certainty. Moreover, this complexity and inaccessibility forces the study of such objects to become a study of history in that documentary records compiled over long spaces of time (i.e. historical documents) are very relevant to the construction of theoretical narratives which attempt to make sense of these objects.  In many ways some simple historical questions like where I went on holiday last year are far more observable and evidence based than complex human social systems and strings. Because all data about the objects we study arrives at out senses as signals after some kind of journey - that is, we never "see" the object-in-itself - then the thoroughgoing skepticism and nihilism of postmodernism is liable to render our world as completely unknowable. But for those of us who trust in the epistemic integrity of the cosmic signals, the slow scientific reconstruction of our world piece by piece becomes possible. The irony, as we have seen so often in this blog, is that fundamentalism undermines this cosmic integrity!

Ham frequently uses the cliche  "...observable science that builds our technology". Complex pieces of machinery, when tested, often have erratic unrepeatable problems and therefore locating those problems  very much depends on the records of machine testers,  or test-bed outputs (like in flight recorders). That is,  vital historical data helps build our technology! 

However, I won't consider this subject any further here as I have already given the matter undue attention in the following posts on fundamentalist anti-science:


Because fundamentalists by definition believe that "plain" Bible readings provides them with an epistemic short cut to certainty they are correspondingly presumptuous and condemning in their treatment of both atheists and Christians who disagree with them. Fundamentalists are quite sure that their antagonists hide guilty consciences and are therefore deserving of the utmost censor and judgement.  I've come to the opinion that fundamentalism favours personality types of a suspicious and sometimes quasi paranoiac frame mind and also those who readily engage in either side of dominance relations. See my blog post here where we find moderate and reasonable evangelical Hank Hanegraaff taking exception to Ken Ham's censorious tone. (See here for examples of that tone - search for "Ham")

A good model, I believe, for evangelical Christians to follow are the epistemic attitudes and methods of an establishment scientist like Denis Alexander who gives us his theological views in his book Evolution or Creation: Do we have to choose?. Alexander, far from claiming that his interpretations are the final answers sanctioned by divine authority tenders his views as "models" for consideration, study and argument. Now that's what I call good epistemological practice, a practice which contrasts against the spiritual threats and intimidation used by some fundamentalists to bully through their position in order to reach a beyond doubt status, thus giving them license for heresy hunting.

Sometimes fundamentalist ministries like AiG will complain that established scientists don't give all due attention to their "scientific papers" and therefore can't comment on YEC theories. But in my view it is wholly wrong to put the "science" of the Kent Hovinds, the Ken Hams, the John Mackays, the Christian Flat Earthers, the Christian Geocentrists and the Christian conspiracy theorists like Tim LaHaye in the same category as the work of established epistemic institutions.. To be frank most fundamentalist "science" classifies as quack epistemology and unless one is engaged in a specialist study of fundamentalism it is time ill spent for professionals to study exhaustively fundamentalist "science" as if it is real science.

* That interest primarily stems from my own Christian faith. When the views of Christian fundamentalist were pushed in my direction, such as is found in "The Genesis Flood" I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of quality in their thought. I felt betrayed. At first my faith was at stake and so was the intellectual integrity of God's world of which the Bible is a thoroughly integrated part. Hence fundamentalism, with its corrosive effect on faith, became a deep concern of mine.

** Examples of the fundamentalist world view corrupting the Biblical message can be seen in Christian Flat Earthism, Geocentrism and "The Sun is not a star" ideas. In all these cases the Bible simply records the point view of the primitives of the day who, of course, did not have a modern cosmological perspective and who reported the approximations of their time. It is therefore no surprise if the Bible has little or nothing to say about a cosmology involving a spherical Earth revolving around a nuclear powered star.  Much of fundamentalism, I would hazard, has its motivations in anti-establishment disaffection. For example consider this likely fundamentalist client who doesn't believe light has a travel time; he clearly has no trust whatever in established science.  

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