Tuesday, April 29, 2014

(Not a comics) Review: Ken Ham's Creationism-for-kids book, Dinosaurs of Eden

See anything wrong with this picture?

If your answer is "No," you can probably stop reading this post now. More likely than not, you are Ken Ham, "young Earth Creationism" advocate, president of the Answers In Genesis apologetics ministry that operates The Creation Museum in Kentucky, and author of many books, including the kids book Dinosaurs of Eden, in which the above image appeared. You  therefore won't agree with, or even be mildly interested in, any of the words in the post below.

If you answer was, "Wait a minute! That looks like a Sunday school version of the Noah's Ark story from the Book of Genesis, but what the fuck are dinosaurs doing there?!", then I'd like to introduce you to maybe the craziest book I've read in my entire life, the aforementioned Dinosaurs of Eden (Master Books; 2001).
It's illustrated by artists Earl and Bonnie Snellenberger, witout whom it wouldn't be quite as funny, because while it's one thing to hear someone writing matter-of-factly in prose about the co-existence of human beings and dinosaurs in times as recently as within the last millennium or so, it's quite another to see drawings of men and women from Bible times or the Middle Ages standing side-by-side with dinosaurs, drawn in a style that is meant to be representational.

Now Ham's entire argument regarding the co-existence of human and dinosaur, and his related Creationist theories, depends entirely on pretty circular logic. We know that every single word in the Bible is true, he argues, because God himself was its ultimate author and God does not lie. How do we know those things? Because it says so in the Bible.

What it does not say in the Bible, anywhere at all, is anything at all about dinosaurs, a cryptic passage in the somehwat troublesome book of Job aside (more on Behemoth and Leviathan, the dinosaur candidates from Job, later).

Now, as I've mentioned before, I grew up and was educated as a Christian—a post-Vatican II Catholic, which I suppose isn't even really and truly Christian in the eyes of certain fundamentalist sects or dominations of the broader Christian faith. I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit; I think the Jesus of the Gospels is a great example of how to live one's life that, an example that if more people followed, we'd likely have a happier and better world. I think Jesus gave some pretty great advice, and compelling challenges to everyone who heard him on how to better themselves and their world (Particularly in the Book of Matthew; the Jesus of Matthew is my favorite of the two-to-four different Jesuses that appear in the Gospels). And I think the Bible is a foundational document in Western culture that is full of awesome stories and pretty much everyone should have at least some passing familiarity with. I just want to get all that out there up front. (Although Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, "But when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you," when discussing public vs. private professions of faith in Matthew 6: 5-7...another thing I like about Matthew, actually).

Now I have a lot of trouble and sturggle alot with Christianity and its practice today, in main part because in the public sphere of America, Christianity has become synonymous with the faith of the sort of trumpet-blowers Jesus dissed in the above lines from Matthew, and of all sorts of other a-holes. In America, Christianity has become a faith of bedroom policing, in which birth-control, abortion and who has sex with whom and in what ways has become the number one concern, a bizarre blending of cherry-picked Old Testament passages and early Christian community letters being given priority over the actual words of the guy who Christianity is named after. The new pope is changing that, trying to restore the focus on helping the poor as the main concern of the Catholic church, and that's awesome.

I say all of this just because I want to point out that I've spent my entire life pretty much surrounded by Christians (albeit Christians of a particular sect), and I've never personally met anyone who objected to major tenents of evolution or geology or biology, who found Creatonism (i.e. that God created everything) and Darwinism were somehow incompatible, believed that man and dinosaur co-existed (the possibility of surviving relic species like Mokele-mbembe aside), or that the world was only 6,000 years old.

Since childhood—so, first grade at least, when we started learning about dinosaurs in school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in science class, just a few periods before Religion class—I've not had any problem at all reconciling evolution with the Bible. I've never, nor have any of my teachers between first grade and my last year at a Catholic college, ever had any trouble wrapping our minds around, or explaining the fact that the process of evolution can have an omnipotent, omniscient author we'll call God as the author behind it. Popularly understood science essentially "stops" at what happened before the Big Bang, and what exactly sparked life. Again, an omnipotent, immortal, all-knowing intelligence with no beginning or end, completely divorced from the human understanding of time, could not only be those things, but it seems kind of small-minded to think God couldn't plan out a path of life that involved billions of years of cosmic goings-on and evolution through various forms of life. It actually kind of sounds insulting to God to say something like that the universe and origins of life as science understand them is just too big for God to handle.

As for Genesis, the concern of Ham (and I'll get to funny pictures of dinosaurs and man in a little bit I swear), is rather bewildering to me. He says earth was created in seven days, and those were day-days, 24 hours, and not, metaphorical days, the way the creation story is generally understood, in which "day" can mean an eon or an age or an indeterminate amount of time. Again, I've never had any intellectual difficulty, nor did any of my teachers, in reading the creation stories of Genesis as myth and metaphor, pointing to the truth through non-literal, poetic imagery.

In fact, you know the first place I encountered myth and metaphorical language? Jesus. The man who put the Christ in Christianity was infamous for speaking in parables, a word used repeatedly in the Bible to refer to the various anecdotes and symbol-laden stories that Jesus told his followers. He wasn't necessarily trying to be obtuse, but there was a degree of coding to Jesus' use of parable, simile, metaphor and story. Certain truths were delivered that way so that those wise enough or open enough to receiving that knowledge would, while those too close-minded to do so would not. Many of the Bible passages that Ham himself brings up throughout the pages of Dinosaurs of Eden include similies and metaphors, and yet he seems unwilling to extend the Word of God as spoken in the Book of Genesis, dictated by God himself (Ham believes) the same level of latitude extended to the words of Jesus, who is but God in one of his forms (as Ham himself presumably believes).

And there's a pretty big problem with that, when it comes to something like arguing over exactly how many hours or minutes the word "day" might refer to in the first of Genesis' two creations stories (Yeah, there are two of 'em, and the second contradicts the order of creation set forth in the first; the Bible makes it all of a page or two before the whole literalist reading runs into trouble). What, after all, is a "day?" Well, it's 24 hours, and we arrived at that time because that's how long it takes the Earth to complete a single rotation as it revolves around the sun.

Even those who thought the world was flat, long before it was universally agreed upon that the the earth itself was slowly rotating, and that it was orbiting the sun (rather than vice versa), a day was measured in the same way. A day was the sun coming up and going down, a night was the time in between those two events, and it didn't matter that the reason was that the world was round and in constant motion (Allegedly; I have not seen it myself from outerspace, nor have I circumnavigated the world, but I'm willing to take Everyone Else's word on it); the amount of time that elapsed was the same.

But, as Ham explains, on the first "day" God created time, space, Earth and light, and it's not until the fourth day that God created the sun, moon and stars. How does a day exist before the creation of time, or, to read Ham's reading more generously, during the creation of time? Where did the 24-hour period come from before there was even a sun or a moon or stars by which to mark a day?

Ham explains:
By the way, some people think that the six days of Creation were not ordinary days as we know them, but were long periods of time. This is wrong. The Hebrew word for "day" (yom) always means an ordinary day when used with the words "evening" or "morning," or used with a number. When you read Genesis chapter 1, you will see that the word "day" is used with "evening," "morning," and number for each of the six days. This means they must have been ORDINARY days as we know them. They were not long periods of millions of years.
He therefore makes a linguistic argument, based on a human language, that a 24-hour day existed before time...but we're still four "days" before the creation of human beings, and a long, long way from the creation of historical languages like Hebrew (The Tower of Babel story is in Genesis 11, and set a long time—hundreds of years, I guess—after the first creation story...even if you're reading the Bible literally).

I'll give Ham this, though, he does seem to have an answer for everything, which means this book may actually be able to influence the thinking of children who happen to encounter it without an adult around to explain that everything they read in non-fiction books is necessarily non-fiction.
Take teeth, for example. Ham's basic argument boils down to "It says so in the Bible," and therefore, a lot of the science of dinosaurs has to be rewritten. For example, not only were they created about 6,000 years ago (Ham measures the lifespan of the Earth by the adding up the lifespans in the geneaology of Genesis 5: 3-11). He reasons dinosaur and man co-existed because dinosaurs are land animals, and land animals, along with man, were said to have been created on the sixth day ("Do you know what this means?" Ham writes. "We can say, 100 percent absolutely for sure, that people lived with dinosaurs!"*). And all dinosaurs must have been vegetarians, even those with jaws and teeth like Tyrannosaurus Rex, because God told Adam and Eve and the land animals that they were to eat only plants, in Genesis 1: 29-31, "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so").
So why does T Rex have a huge maw filled with a small armory of bone swords, and powerful jaws that seem capable of crushing a lot more than coconut shells? Ham points to bears, some of which "are almost totally vegetarian," and giant pandas and marine iguanas. "You see, just because an animal has sharp teeth doesn't mean it's a meat eater," he writes. "It just means it has sharp teeth!"

Now what about Noah and his ark during the Great Deluge, an event that, by the way, Ham says happened only 4,500 years ago (!!!!). Factor in about 2,000 years between now and the time of Christ and, good God, the Deluge predates Jesus by only 2500 years?

Now I, in my ignorance of Creationism, always assumed that Creationists believed that man and dinosaur were created at the beginning of time together, and the mass extinction that killed off all of the dinosaurs was the Great Deluge that killed off just about everything during the time of Noah. After all, there couldn't have been any dinosaurs on the ark. It already strains the credulity of the most credulous to believe that not only was there room on an ark whose dimensions we're given—300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, or 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high**—was big enough to contain not only every species of animal alive today (which could be as high as 8 million, many of which remain undiscovered), but every species of animal that ever was, including all of the many species of dinosaurs, of which it is estimated there were 700 different species, many of which, as you may be well aware, were quite large.

I thought the Flood was used by Creationists as both an explanation for the lack of dinosaurs alive today and and explanation for the abundant fossil record of dinosaurs, as water, sediment and sudden flooding are all factors in ideal fossil creation.

Well, I was wrong in my supposition as to what Creationists believed happened to the dinosaurs (But not the bit about fossils; Ham does believe a lot of the fossilized dinosaurs found are those that died in the flood; I'm not sure how this would explain layers of fossils from different time periods, as there should be human and dinosaur fossils intermingled in large masses if this was the case). According to Ham, there were dinosaurs on the ark. He arrived at that belief the same way he arrives at all the beliefs in this book: The Bible quotes God as telling Noah "And of every living thing of flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee." Since dinosaurs were animals, then they were on the ark.

How did they all fit? Well, Ham says only some of the dinosaurs were very large, and those may have been older dinosaurs. Rather, Noah probably took teenage or baby dinosaurs with him on the ark, which would have saved a lot of space. Ham further argues that there probably weren't actually that many different kinds of dinosaurs; he doesn't really say why the people who study dinosaurs are so off base, but he second guesses them thushly: "Although scientists have made up over 600 names for dinosaurs, there were probably less than 50 actual KINDS of dinosaurs. Many of the names are given to just a piece of bone, or a skeleton that looks like another dinosaur but it's a different size, aor it's found in a different country." Scientists are dumb, basically.

It's when we get out of the flood narrative and start to consider what happened to the dinosaurs that Ham's theories go from sounding crazy to sounding insane.
Why settle for camels and donkeys when you could have dinosaurs pull your wagons? Those ghostly children, by the way, are time travelers visiting the past, a conceit Ham uses throughout the book.
Despite dying out within recorded history—i.e. the last 4,500 years—there's no recorded history of what happened to these large, bizarre and endlessly fascinating animals. It's like human beings didn't much notice them during their time together, certainly not enough to mention them very often, or note what happened to them.

Ham simply states that they died out, in the same way that animals are always dying out:
Because of sin, the Curse***, and the Flood, we now have such things as famines, droughts, floods, fire, diseases, people killing animals, and animals killing each other. In other words, the same reasons taht animals become extinct today, are the SAME reasons taht dinosaurs died out. And it wasn't millions of years ago; it was probably just hundreds of years ago. There is no mystery whatsover.
Hundreds of years ago! Sooooo, somewhere between 1814 (200 years ago) and 1114 (900 years ago) then...?

If dinosaurs co-existed with man in historical times, where's, like, any sign of 'em at all? Ham mentions one, a petroglyph in Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah made by Native Americans that somewhat resembles a suropod, or at least a very fat snake; others exist (like the image of the Sirrush that appears on a Babylonian gate alongside real animals like a lion and an ox, or this vaguely Stegosaurus-like image from a Cambodian temple). But even taking into account references to dragons in the historical record, which Ham does, there aren't really very many mentions of dinosaurs or dinosaur-like animals, relative to the very many other animals they supposedly shared our very, very young world with, from horses to eagles to oxen to dogs to turtles.
Dinosaurs don't appear in art or fiction or science (or what passed for science) as often as, um, all the other "real" animals...and quite a few fantasy animals. Think of all the human animal hybrids and other chimeral creatures of Classical Myth, civilizaitons we'd have to radically re-date to fit into the 4,500-year timeline of Ham. And even if we give Ham dragons as stand-ins for dinosaurs in the whole history of human culture—all 4,500 years of it—that doesn't explain the relative lack of mention of dinosaurs anywhere, and why dinosaurs existing alongside human beings should have more validity than other creatures that appear in legend and myth.

But there should be more than fossils, a few puzzling bits of ancient art and some vague stories of reptilian monsters (many of whom also had six limbs, talked, horded gold and, oh yeah, were able to fucking breathe fire). There should be specimens. Life drawings. Oral stories. Dinosaurs should appear on cave art in similar numbers to other exticnt animals like the megafauna. If they survived until just hundreds of years ago, well, no historians or naturalists who lived during that time saw fit to write about them in their bestiaries, their diaries, their works of science and history. Dinosaurs referred to as anything other than dragons—if we're going to go ahead and give Ham dragons as a code word for dinosaur in human history, even though we probably shouldn't—don't start to appear until they're discovered (or, I suppose, a Creationist would say re-discovered, in the 1800s).

I'm tempted to say that the fact that dinosaurs and human beings cohabitated until the first millennium, some 1,000 years after the death of Christ, strains credulity, but there is no credulity in this argument, which includes at least some out and out falsehoods, as when Ham imagines a scientist explaining the death of the dinosaurs thusly, "Dinosaurs! What happened to them? We don't know! We haven't really got a clue. It's a mystery! They died out millions of years ago!" In addition to claiming that scientists have never formulated any theories for the extinction of the dinosaurs or mustered evidence to support those theories, Ham claims there have never been any transitional forms discovered, which is also untrue).

So, who cares?

That's the question, really.

Just as I'm often confused by Christians who devote themeselves with fervor to the pro-life/pro-choice debate or working to deny rights to gays and lesbians (neither issue of which Jesus had anything to say about at all) rather than all of their energy on helping the poor, up to and including selling all their own possessions (which Jesus couldn't shut up about), I don't understand the zeal some Christians devoted to defending Creationism. What particular species of animals were around during what particular time period doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things...not unless you have a faith so fragile that if a single thing you believe is said to be un-true, it somehow unravels the entire thing (And how someone with a fundamentalist, every-word-is-true understanding of the Bible can make it as far as the second chapter of the first book and reconcile those contradictory narratives, but not be able to accept hat maybe there's some metaphor and poetry in there somewhere, well, I can't fathom that. How do you get to Jesus saying he was the lamb of God then and not thin, "Wait, he was God, man and lamb...all at once?! That is miraculous!").

Personally, I suspect it all has something to do with dinosaurs being awesome, and therefore a good preaching tool. I read this book, after all, and I wouldn't mind visiting that crazy Creationist Museum, simply because dinosaurs are awesome, and I am fascinated by them. The book certainly seems to recognize that fact, and use it as a sort of outreach tool to children. As Dinosaurs of Eden reaches its climax, dinosaurs are forgotten for quite a while (relative to the rest of the book), as apocalyptic literature (including Revelation, which does mention dragons, but Ham doesn't say if that means a dragon-dragon, or a T-Rex or what), which he attributes to John, to discuss the importance of being saved and being a faithful Christian in order to avoid damnation. Before ultimately bringing things back to dinosaurs with the closing lines, "Do you think God will ever make dinosaurs again so we will see them in the new Earth? I hope so, don't you?").
The time-traveling Future Children visit a peaceable kingdom-style new world, where predators and prey live together in peace. I don't know, are the jaguar and wolf affectionally licking the baby donkey and lamb, or are they tasting them? And that lion sure doesn't seem all that happy about having a mouth full of grass, does she?

As for why I care?

I just like dinosaurs. I like the idea of them living with man, even if I don't believe it ever happened. I like the Bible. This stuff fascinates me, even if it also scares me. If Ham was just one cooky guy with a cooky belief, that would be one thing, but he's hardly the only man in America who believes some of these cooky things, and there are movements to have Creationism of this sort, often rebranded as "Intelligent Design" which, frankly, is even crazier****, taught in schools.

One thing I've never really been able to get my head around is the fact that I was taught evolution only—no Creationism, no "Intelligent Design," no "teaching of the controversy"—in Catholic schools in the last two decades of the 20th century, while public school children in the second decade of the 21st century are being taught Creationism, or "Intelligent Design," in their science classes.

As Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." I always thought that had something to do with the separation of church and state, the division of spheres of influence that comes with living in a pluralistic society with people who may have different views and ways than your own. But then, I assumed it was Jesus speaking in metaphor. If he was being literal, then I guess he just meant to pay your taxes, first century Palestinian Jews!

*********************

As for dinosaurs in the Bible, there aren't really any. The most popularly referred to passage is the one that discusses "behemoth," Job 40: 15-24. The creature is mentioned as a way of dissuading Job from questioning or challenging God, as only God was powerful enough to create and tame creatures like Behemoth and Leviathan.

The passages Ham quotes are from the King James translation, and the describe the creature thusly: "Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly, and he moveth his tail like a cedar...His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron...He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him with their shadow...Behold, he drinketh up a river."

What animal is being discussed? Presuming it is a real animal and not a symbolic animal or a fantastic fabulation, it's been one of the more popular Biblican guessing games: The elephant, the hippopotamus, some sort of water buffalo or ox, and even the crocodile are popular guesses, although each has its drawbacks. Creationists point to a sauropod, which would have been big and powerful, ate grass and which, most crucially, had a tail that is indeed like that of a cedar, whereas the elephant and hippo have tiny little tails (unless, "like a cedar" refers to the bushiness of the animals' tails at their ends, like a cedar trees leaves growing at the very top of a long, smooth, straight trunk, rather than the size of them).

Ham suggests a Brachiosaurus.

I would like to pause here to note all of the metaphorical language in the passage, only parts of which I've quoted: "as an ox," "like a cedar," "as strong pieces of brass," "like bars of iron." And there's some deliberate hyperbole, as surely no creature, no matter how big, drinks up an entire river, can "draw up Jordan into his mouth." Here is rather unequivocal poetic language, not to be taken literally. There's just something special about Genesis, though, that means it has to be taken literally.

And Leviathan? Ham doesn't discuss it at the same length as Behemoth. So let's turn to the Bible I have at hand. Leviathan is described in the same manner as Behemoth, his powers hyped up as a way of describing the power of God, who can make and tame such beasts, in Job 41: 1-34: "I will not fail to speak of his limbs, his strength and his graceful form. Who can strip off his outer coat? Who would approach him witha bridle? WHo dares open the doors of his mouth, ringed with his fearsome teeth? His back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between them...Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from his nostrils as from a boiling pot over a fire of reeds."

For a while, it seems like maybe Leviathan is some sort of giant crocodile, but eventually he becomes a sort of super-dragon...if he's meant to be some sea-going reptile from the time of the dinosaurs, he's a so far undiscovered, heavily armored one, that can breathe fire. And maybe even shoot eyebeams! ("His eyes are like the rays of dawn.")

Again, a lot of metaphorical language in there.

Ham also mentions a few passages he thinks may refer to creatures like Peleisosaurus or Kronosaurus: Isaiah 27:1, "and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea," and Psalm 74:13, "thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters." He also quotes a clipping of one he thinks could refer to some form of flying reptile, Isaiah 30: 6, "fiery flying serpent" (That's one of the verses author Jonathan David Whitcomb discussed in his book Searching For Ropen: Living Pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, which I discussed at some length in this post; pterosaurs as we think we know them can't be described as "fiery," but Ropen, which are said to give off light and/or sparks at night, could be).

And that's pretty much it for dinosaurs in the Bible.


*********************

Dinosaurs of Eden does not answer the sea life question of how the fresh water and salt walter fish and other water-going creatures survived the Flood. Unless there was some kind of perfect, Baby Bear "just right" mixing of salt water and fresh water, there should have been a mass extinction of one entire set of fish and marine animals. I'm assuming it would have been all the fresh water animals, as there's more salt water than fresh water on Earth, but I don't know, as the Flood also involved so much rain and water bursting from the ground that I couldn't guess as to the salt content.

Hey, I wonder if Ham and company address that on their website, AnswersInGenesis.org...Hey, they do!

That's...not that convincing. Creationists believe in natural selection...they just think it only takes an extremely short time to work, then, and it isn't part of evolution, which doesn't exist...?

********************

Something else Deluge-related I was thinking about while watching the recent Noah movie (And reading the graphic novel) and was reminded of during this book. If you believe in the Bible literally, and have a "young Earth" understanding of the Bible, in which all of humanity descended from the handful of survivors of the Deluge just 4,500 years ago, then where do races come from?

How did just eight people from the Middle East, most of whom were from the same family, a) produce 7 billion people in just 4,500 years, and b) produce all the various races in that short time?

In the movie, it was just six white people—Noah, his wife, his three sons and Emma Watson—that were responsible for repopulating the Earth.

AnswersInGenesis.com discusses this too, but it is a long and boring discussion. Apparently, there is really only one race, the differences in appearance come down to...I don't know. But definitely not evolution! Or hundreds of thousands of years of people in isolated parts of the world breeding with one another and thus passing on similar traits to their children with less variation than if all people everywhere were constantly breeding regardless of where the were born!



*Because, he goes on to say, "The reason we can be so sure is that God, who doesn't tell a lie, told us in His Word that land animals and Adam and Eve were made on the sixth day of Creation!" That's followed by a "Bible memory verse," which appears at the bottom of most of the pages of the book, this one from Numbers 23:19: "God is not a man, that he should lie."

**Ham's book cites the dimensions as 437 feet long, 73 feet high and 44 feet high. I'm going by what the Bible in my hands, the New International Version, published in 1988 by Zondervan Bible Publishers, says. Ham is using the King James version, which is why many of the above quotes sound like things Thor might say in a Marvel comic. The New International Versions uses feet in the text, and relegate the cubit measurements to the footnotes, where they also site the metric measurements: "about 140 meters long, 23 meters wide and 13.5 meters high."

***"The Curse" refers to the state of affairs after Adam and Eve at the forbidden fruit, and bad things started happening on Earth—death, disease, etc. After the Deluge, God made a covenant with Noah allowing him to eat animals. After this point, carnivores stopped eating vegetables and starting eating herbivores. I'm not sure why, if this is true—and it's not—herbivores remained herbivores, rather than also becoming carnivores or omnivores, but hey, God moves in mysterious ways, right?

****The difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design? Well, the former would posit God as responsible for creating Earth and all life on it, where as the latter, in an attempt to seem at least pseudo-secular, would suggest an unnamed intelligence. So, if not God, space aliens, I guess...?

9 comments:

jheaton said...

Great post, Caleb.

culturewarreporters.com said...

I love that you reviewed this book, if only because I am a Christian who read a similar book while I was still a kid.

Funnily enough, while I was home schooled I was reading so many dinosaur books that I pieced it together that evolution and God's creating the world weren't mutually exclusive. "Why couldn't God just will the primordial soup into being?" I thought, and that was that.

Having Ken Ham debate Bill Nye was . . . something I have mixed feelings about. He was probably the worst representative of logical Christianity they could've chosen, but at the same time this led to many of my friends publicly distancing themselves from him and his teachings, and I believe many others did as well.

My two concluding thoughts are that yes, the whole world would be a better place if we were more like Jesus [a multitude of church congregations included] and that I also totally want to check out that wacky Creationist Museum.

mordicai said...

I can vouch for the existence of the fundamentalist lunatics who think this is true, because I was raised by them. Not only do they think T-Rex & humans were buddies, & that Triceratops was "nature's bulldozer" & predator teeth are for cracking fruit pits, but they don't even believe in the historical records of dog breeding. Obvious lies from the pit!

& you know, all the usual witch-hunt moral panic stuff; secular music will possess you, Dungeons & Dragons is actual Satanic how-to, wearing black is the sign of witchcraft, the whole nine years. I have a bunch of these books still, given to me to try to brainwash me at a young age.

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

Awesome, Caleb, just awesome. Ken Ham is utterly insane and the more people point that out the more likely his influence in popular discourse about science will wane--of which there shouldn't even be any influence because his ideas are based in zero science.

Ever since that Creationist Museum was founded I have wanted to go if for no other reason than I would probably find it hilarious. I can't stand the idea of paying to attend it and supporting Ham in any form whatsoever though.

denis.tsui said...

Just wanted to thank you for posting this. Really well written and thought out.

Matt Brady said...

I also was raised in a fundamentalist church/Christian school, and they actually taught this kind of stuff in our science books, which kind of boggles my mind now that I know better.

If you want more examples of bizarre Christian ideas about dinosaur extinction, from what I recall, one theory (for the Christian definition of "theory", rather than the scientific one) is that the atmosphere on Earth was different before the flood, containing more water (this is what is meant by the "firmament" mentioned in the creation story), and it never actually rained before the flood (which is why nobody had ever seen a rainbow before that). After the flood, the climate changed and became drier, and dinosaurs could no longer survive, so that's why they went extinct. Insanity!

Also, the reason God couldn't have created the universe just before the Big Bang and let it play out is that evolution is antithetical to his philosophy, being based on death via natural selection, and death wasn't introduced into the world until Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. What, you think that stuff about the apple was a metaphor? You've gotta take all that shit literally, dammit! Metaphors are lies! Every single word in this ancient document must be taken at face value!

4f4fce42-d09f-11e3-93c3-000bcdcb471e said...

This is a really good review of the book, and I'd say it's actually important that you wrote it. While this book seems like a trifle, the fact is creationism is becoming more popular. While you can believe whatever you want, guys like Ham want to shape the discussion in a way that it governs policy. That policy also includes research grants for scientific work. Creationism is slowly poisoning science because it makes it hard for real scientists to be heard since they have to talk over the loud yelling of loons like Ham; people that don't know anything about biology and are proud of it.

SallyP said...

My mind is officially boggled.

So...so boggled.

Jer said...

Creationists believe in natural selection...they just think it only takes an extremely short time to work, then, and it isn't part of evolution, which doesn't exist...?

This actually goes back to something you mentioned earlier:

"Although scientists have made up over 600 names for dinosaurs, there were probably less than 50 actual KINDS of dinosaurs.

Ham means something VERY PARTICULAR with that word "KINDS" here. He's making that word do a boatload of work. Basically the idea is that there are certain "kinds" of animals and while something very similar to evolution via selection goes on to produce the variation we see today, all canines are of one kind, all felines are of one kind, all lizards are of a handful of kinds, all birds are of a handful of kinds, and so on.

The idea being that evolution via natural selection postulates change that happens over millions of years, which can't be right because of Ken Ham's particular reading of the bible that he calls a literal reading. But obviously Noah couldn't take two of every goddamn animal species into the ark because the Bible doesn't mention Noah's TARDIS technology either, and Ham's very personal reading of the Genesis narrative won't allow him to add that to the story.

The conundrum is solved by pretending to literally read the KJV of Genesis 6:20 where the translation reads "of fowls after their kind and cattle after their kind of every creeping thing on earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee...". By parsing that in the most lawyerly fashion possible you can come up with the ultimate No Prize - a reading that lets you fit all of the animals into the ark without the need for God to magically intervene! Instead of there being pairs of all of the animals, there are now just pairs of all of the different kinds of animals. And then species variation to allow all the different felines to appear and all of the different canines to appear and all of the different bovines to appear and all of the different ursines to appear (and so on) occur over the course of the next 4000 years.

Because, really, believing that is closer to a literal reading of the Bible than the idea that God could just miraculously just make it so that all of the animals could fit, isn't it? (I do not understand why these hyper-religious people refuse to fall back onto "it was a miracle!" as their explanation. It's unfalsifiable, and it's supported by the text at least as much as Ham's ridiculous "kinds" logic is. I can only assume it's because that would make it so obviously religious that you'd never be able to pretend it was science and smuggle it into public school classrooms to teach, but since I don't understand why they keep trying to do THAT either, I'm at an impasse.)