Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ken Ham - Fraud or Fool?

It's always fun, if you have nothing better to do, than to go to a creationists site and play spot the fallacies. For example, this stunning example from Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis site.

Naturalism, Logic and Reality

Those arguing against creation may not even be conscious of their most basic presupposition, one which excludes God a priori, namely naturalism/materialism (everything came from matter, there is no supernatural, no prior creative intelligence)... The following two real-life examples highlight some problems with that assumption:
  1. A young man approached me at a seminar and stated, "Well, I still believe in the big bang, and that we arrived here by chance random processes. I don't believe in God." I answered him, "Well, then obviously your brain, and your thought processes, are also the product of randomness. So you don't know whether it evolved the right way, or even what right would mean in that context. Young man, you don’t know if you're making correct statements or even whether you're asking me the right questions."
The young man looked at me and blurted out, "What was that book you recommended?" He finally realized that his belief undercut its own foundations—such "reasoning" destroys the very basis for reason.
  1. On another occasion, a man came to me after a seminar and said, "Actually, I'm an atheist. Because I don't believe in God, I don't believe in absolutes, so I recognize that I can't even be sure of reality." I responded, "Then how do you know you're really here making this statement?" "Good point," he replied. "What point?" I asked. The man looked at me, smiled, and said, "Maybe I should go home." I stated, "Maybe it won't be there." "Good point," the man said. "What point?" I replied.
This man certainly got the message. If there is no God, ultimately, philosophically, how can one talk about reality? How can one even rationally believe that there is such a thing as truth, let alone decide what it is?


This glorious piece of Ham-fisted logic was Ken's attempt to show that people who use facts, reason and logic are making as many presuppositions as are creationists, and Ken is desperate to justify his use of presuppositions because, as he says earlier in his piece:

When the person you talk to on creation insists that you "leave the Bible out of it," they are really saying the deck should be stacked one way...

Evidence

Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence—the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars—the facts are all the same.

The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions. These are things that are assumed to be true, without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.

Past and Present

We all exist in the present—and the facts all exist in the present. When one is trying to understand how the evidence came about (Where did the animals come from? How did the fossil layers form? etc.), what we are actually trying to do is to connect the past to the present.

However, if we weren't there in the past to observe events, how can we know what happened so we can explain the present? It would be great to have a time machine so we could know for sure about past events.

Christians of course claim they do, in a sense, have a "time machine." They have a book called the Bible which claims to be the Word of God who has always been there, and has revealed to us the major events of the past about which we need to know.

On the basis of these events (Creation, Fall, Flood, Babel, etc.), we have a set of presuppositions to build a way of thinking which enables us to interpret the evidence of the present.

Ken Ham, Op. cit.

What Ham is obviously acutely aware of is that without the Bible, Christian creationists have nothing. Without the Bible, the 'deck' is indeed stacked in favour of science, reason and logic. So what he is desperate to establish here is that the Bible is at least as good as evidence, reason and logic. He is, of course, notorious for coaching children to spoil any scientific argument by asking, "Were you there?", as though seeing something for yourself is the only way to be reasonably sure of anything - that somehow the truth about the past can't safely be deduced from the evidence. Don't teach children to ask a scientist, "How do you know that?". That would never do; they might even learn something about the scientific method. No! Teach them to shut down the debate as soon as possible and feel smugly superior by 'trapping' a scientist with a question which can only have one (irelevent) answer.

Of course, Ham didn't need to be there when the claims in Genesis were happening. They are written down so we only need to presuppose the account is true and we have 'facts' at least as good as the facts the scientists have, and anyway Ken has some quotes from that same book that prove that not only are they at least as good as scientific facts, but are even better because it says they are in the book!

... the Bible states: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10); "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Ken Ham, Op. cit.

And finally, there is the second straw-man - that evolution has an aim; that the outcome can somehow be said to be right or wrong as though it's all about producing the human brain. There is no such goal for evolution; the products of evolution are what they are, neither right nor wrong, just different for each individual and for each species. Ken Ham is pandering to people whose sense of self-importance requires them to believe a magic god arose from nothing and created a Universe just so it could create them.

But then having performed these mental gymnastics whilst keeping the circular arguments spinning endless round like plates on poles, just to get round the problem of not having any scientific evidence and so the terrible feeling of inadequacy this gives creationists, Ken sets out to give examples of how he triumphed over two pseudo-rational young men - why are they almost invariably young men? But even Ham, who has obviously worked hard to come up with the workaround, can only come up with what must rate as some of the worst anecdotes in the creationist lexicon. And, since this has been up now for approaching 15 years, we have to assume Ham has either not spotted the logical fallacies and dishonesty in them, or he sees them well enough but just hopes his readers will be too stupid to spot them.

Remember, Ken is here trying to establish with the logic he despises that the Bible is at least as good as scientific evidence.

Let's take the first one:

The 'young man' said, "Well, I still believe in the big bang, and that we arrived here by chance random processes. I don't believe in God."

Here Ham sets up the fallacy that the Big Bang has something to do with evolution, and builds a straw-man parody of evolution all in one go. The TOE doesn't have anything to do with the Big Bang and the BB is not, and has never been, part of the TOE. It makes not one iota of difference to the TOE how the Universe and the solar system were formed. Evolution is about how a population of replicators changes slowly over time because a selective environment 'favours' some variants over others. If this is what the 'young man' said, he had already swallowed the creationist lie about what evolution is and what the TOE explains.

Evolution is not a purely random process either. Replicators vary within very narrow limits but the direction of change in the population is given direction (i.e. it is not random) by the selective nature of their environment. So, they tend to produce forms good at replicating, which means being good at surviving long enough to replicate. Hence, natural selection give non-randomness to the process.

Ken Ham could have corrected the 'young man' at that point because Ken Ham knows full well what evolution by natural selection means, having been told repeatedly, but he tacitly agrees with the straw-man. Of course he does! That's what he created it for. Ken wants his readers to think that's what evolution is and spends a great deal of effort telling them that's what evolution is.

Strange how this 'young man' Atheist is quoting Ken's straw-man, eh?

But then it gets worse.

Ken says, "Well, then obviously your brain, and your thought processes, are also the product of randomness". Ah! so that's why Ham wants his readers to believe his straw man. Ken is now going to feed that lie into another one - that if evolution is random the brain must be, and so anything you think must also be random, and therefore unreliable.

Try this little experiment for yourself: Pick up a random sample of gravel, or leaves, or soil - whatever is to hand, now throw it randomly into the air. According to Ham logic whatever you throw randomly into the air should travel in random directions. Observe, that it doesn't; it stops travelling upwards and starts travelling downwards as gravity gives it direction. It all ends up on the ground!

Given the direction imposed on evolution by natural selection, why on Earth would we expect a randomly assembled brain generating random thoughts, and not a biochemical machine fit for helping us survive and replicate by performing an essential function? Maybe Ken imagines each species evolves it structures anew instead of inheriting them from their ancestors and modifying them by an evolutionary process.

So, a straw-man creates a lie which feeds into another lie so the conclusion is the one Ham requires - the 'young-man' doesn't know what he's talking about and evidence, reason and logic can't be relied upon. Only there is no evidence, there is just a straw-man parody; there is no reason there is just a non-sequitur and there is no logic because the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise which is false anyway.

So, does Ham really not know or understand any of this, in other words, is he an ignorant fool, or does he know full well what he's doing here and seeking to fool his readers, in other words, is he a fraud?

Now for his second anecdote:

Another 'young man', "Because I don't believe in God, I don't believe in absolutes, so I recognize that I can't even be sure of reality."

There is no refutation of Darwinian evolution in existence. If a refutation ever were to come about, it would come from a scientist, and not an idiot.

Richard Dawkins
Leaving aside why a 'young man' would walk up to Ham and say something so absurd and yet so convenient for Ham's requirements in his search for an excuse for believing the Bible is as good as, or better than, scientific evidence, what has belief in the Christian god to do with belief in absolutes? Why not the Muslim god, or any random Hindu or Shinto god, or invisible Moon frogs or pink unicorns?

Does Ham imagine the Ancient Greeks, Persians, Indians and Chinese and the people who discovered agriculture and built the first cities in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt and China, sat around bemoaning the fact that no-one had invented the Christian god yet so they couldn't be certain of anything? Belief in gods has nothing to do with belief in absolutes. The entire scientific method depends on not believing in absolutes. No scientific progress would ever have been made if people had been certain of everything.

But Ham is selling the notion of certainty and how good it is. It doesn't matter whether what you believe is actually right or wrong. What matters is that you are certain. And Ken is selling this notion to people who already believe in the god he is pushing and see no inconsistency in not believing in other gods for no other reason than that there is no evidence at all for them. Ham wants people to feel good because they 'know the truth' with absolute certainty and the truth is what Ken Ham tells them the truth is.

And of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with establishing by some logical reasoning that one particular book can be regarded as better than scientific evidence and reason but no other book can be, no matter that it makes the same claims to be the word of a god than Ham's favourite one.

Ken then tries to reinforce his nonsense by making this mythical 'young-man' not only strangely meek and compliant for someone who has had the confidence to walk up to him and make that absurd statement in the first place, but also too stupid to see through the fallacy of the false dichotomy Ham is employing. The choice is not between an absurd level of uncertainty or belief in the Christian god and absolute certainty. The choice people face in normal life is between degrees of uncertainty ranging from as near certain as makes no different to as near impossible as makes no difference.

And one thing is pretty certain, and is the reason you are able to read this, science, with it's belief in evidence, reason and logic, has produced all the things we now take for granted in modern, urbanised, civilised society while religion has produced not one single material gain for anyone other than people like Ken Ham who buy the products of science with the money they get from selling doubt of science and the notion that ignorant superstition can somehow trump science, logic and reason.

I'll ask again, is Ken Ham so big a fool that he can't see the fallacies and dishonesty in his arguments or is he fully aware of them and selling them for money none-the-less?

Is Ken Ham a fool of a fraud?



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6 comments :

  1. It's Ken Ham'n'eggs a fool or a fraud? I'd call him a genius at making money out of his dupes. What amazes me though is that there are people so desperate to not believe in evolution that they're frantic to give the likes of him or Ray Discomfort their money. They could just read up the science for free.

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  2. Rosa: You ask this question: Is Ken Ham a fool of a fraud?

    Here's my answer: I believe he is both a fool AND a fraud. Genuine true believers use their brains as if they were children. They are guided by emotions (like children are), not by logic. For a true believer life is full of magic and supernatural episodes.

    Emotions pave the way for associative thinking, i.e. if a thought, or belief, makes you feel good, then this thought/belief is seen as the right one, the true one.

    A key verse in the Bible regarding magical thinking is Psalm 139:16: "but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do."

    So that's the way God works. He has decided and planned our lives in every detail.

    To believe such bullshit, you have to believe in magical thinking. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking .

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    Replies
    1. "Emotions pave the way for associative thinking, i.e. if a thought, or belief, makes you feel good, then this thought/belief is seen as the right one, the true one."
      That is a ridiculous statement with so many flaws when applied to believers - sorry. While this may be true in some instances of psychology, it does not mean it can be applied to all people who choose to believe in God. You think you know why we all believe in God but it goes much further than it making us feel good, because sometimes that is NOT true, and at times it can be very hard.

      Emotions can actually make it very easy to give up our beliefs, so again your use of this statement is flawed. Think of someone who has lost a loved one and blames God for their loss, and decides to turn away. This is an action steered by emotion is it not? Think of someone who is is upset about not having a great life and wonders why they are so hard up - they then decide God must not exist. Once again steered by emotion.

      Therefore many non-believers also use emotion to not believe.

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    2. >While this may be true in some instances of psychology, it does not mean it can be applied to all people who choose to believe in God. >

      People who believe in God have a different psychology?

      Does this apply to people who believe in any god or only those who believe in whichever god you are referring to?

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  3. @Unknown: Of course emotions and feelings can both strengthen and weaken a belief. That goes for all of us. But that doesn't automatically make my statement ridiculous.

    We have two information/stimulus processing systems in our brains. Let's call them IPS 1 and IPS 2. See for example this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_process_theory .

    IPS 1 is the child's unconscious, emotional, prelogical (some say non-logical), preverbal (some say non-verbal) intuitive, associative information processing system. Also known as magical and religious thinking; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking .

    IPS 2 is the mature brain's conscious, verbal, logical, analyzing, non-associative way of thinking. "The language of science" so to say.

    Look at this table:

    A. Characteristics of IPS 1 cognition:

    Unconscious reasoning; Implicit; Automatic; Low effort; Large capacity; Generalistic (= Details aren't important); Rapid; Default process; Associative; Contextualized; Domain specific; Evolutionarily old; Nonverbal; Includes recognition, perception, orientation; Modular cognition; Independent of working memory; Non-logical; Parallel.

    B. Characteristics of IPS 2 cognition:

    Conscious reasoning; Explicit; Controlled; High Effort; Small capacity; Specialistic (= Details are important); Slow; Inhibitory; Rule based; Abstract; Domain general; Evolutionarily recent; Linked to language; Includes rule following, comparisons, and weighing of options; Fluid intelligence; Limited by working memory capacity; Logical; Serial.

    When the brain matures, the IPS 2 is taking over more and more cognitive functions from IPS 1. But in some people this transition process seems to be disturbed. They get stuck in the IPS 1 system. They cling to IPS 1 thinking even in adulthood. Such individuals are often called woos or true believers. For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True-believer_syndrome and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer .

    BTW: Have you noiticed that dyslexia is very common among woos and true believers? Maybe this lack of verbal/reading skills is one important reason why so many true believers are dyslectic? For more aspects of that intriguing question; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_(psychology) .

    @Rosa: This blog article is about Ken Ham. Have you seen this article: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/ken-ham-calls-u-s-space-program-a-waste-since-the-bible-tells-us-that-alien-life-doesnt-exist-and-would-be-damned-anyway/ ?

    A quote from that article: Young-Earth creationist Ken Ham has said plenty of dumb things when it comes to evolution on our planet, but in a new post on his website, Around the World with Ken Ham, he’s extended his lunacy to studies of the solar system and Universe.

    Another quote: It gets worse, even by Ham-ian standards. There can’t be aliens—at least smart ones—because they’d be damned to Hell!

    And yet another quote: An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

    So to sum up: Ken Ham is apparently a person who got stuck in his IPS 1 thinking. I recommend Mr. Ham to donate his brain to neuroscience. He will not need a brain in his Heaven.

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  4. I just read this blog article written by Rosa Rubicondior (who apparentluy must have managed to use her IPS 2 system without problems): http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.se/2014/07/the-sacred-conclusion.html .

    Anyhow: In that article Rosa describes how an IPS 1 "thinker" reasons/argues.

    A scientifically educated person (like Rosa) says: Here are the facts. What conclusion can we draw from them?

    But the true believer using his or her IPS 1 cognitive system says: Look, here is the conclusion. What facts can we find to support it?

    And if the true believer can't find any facts/data to support his conclusion, then he makes up fake facts. Lying for non-believers is often seen as OK for a true believer using his IPS 1 cognitve system, at least if it's done in the name of God - and for God (i.e. to offer some "help" to God)

    In Islam this is even recommended; see: http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1186869/pg1 .

    A quote from that last article: Taqiyya and Kitman

    Muslim scholars teach that Muslims should generally be truthful to each other, unless the purpose of lying is to "smooth over differences."

    There are two forms of lying to non-believers that are permitted under certain circumstances, taqiyya and kitman.

    These circumstances are typically those that advance the cause Islam - in some cases by gaining the trust of non-believers in order to draw out their vulnerability and defeat them.

    ReplyDelete

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