Can You Find the Creationist Joke in this Picture?

Breaking news from Kentucky: Arch-creationist Ken Ham has found a photograph of his great-great-grandfather riding a dinosaur! Proof that humans and dinos lived together in the not-so-distant past? No, not really, but it is proof of a couple of other things about young-earth creationists.

ham on triceratops

Photographic evidence: Chester Cornelius Ham III in action…

First of all, it is proof that creationists like Ken Ham can take a joke. As Ham tweeted about the spoof,

Shhh…don’t tell the atheists this is satire as they’ll believe it’s true.

Second of all, it points out that the topic of people riding dinosaurs is still intensely sensitive among Ham’s type of radical creationist. As I’m teasing out in my new book about creationism, the idea of people on dinosaurs is touchy. As Ham is well aware, the idea of humans riding dinosaurs has long been used to ridicule Ham’s ideas.

For example, Charles P. Pierce opens his book Idiot America with a story of his trip to Ham’s Creation Museum. The first thing Pierce noticed was a statue of a dinosaur with a saddle, a display Pierce derided as “batshit crazy.”

So maybe it makes sense for Ken Ham to be defensive. Yes, there is a statue of a dinosaur with a saddle at his museum, Ham responded. But that was “just a fun part for kids,” not part of the real science on display.


Page 42.

I’d like to be fair to Ham, but his position on dinosaurs with saddles seems, at best, inconsistent. In his 2001 book Dinosaurs of Eden, for example, he includes pictures of dinosaurs carrying people and goods. Yet he insisted that he has never claimed that people rode dinosaurs. As he put it,

I don’t know where people get the idea that people rode dinosaurs. I mean, there’s no evidence in the Bible that that is so.

If we wanted to give Ham the benefit of every doubt, we might conclude that Ham has changed his opinions about dinosaurs and saddles since 2001. Yet in a 2016 book, Ham repeated his idea that dinosaurs would likely have been used for all sorts of purposes by humans. As he explained,

We see and hear [in the Bible] about all sorts of animals being tamed by man. . . . why not some of the dinosaurs? Who knows what they were doing? It seems to me we should at least allow the possibility that some could have been tamed to help with transportation, maybe even farming, hauling heavy loads (the strong ones!) and other things.

While I’d like to give Ken Ham credit for having a sense of humor and being able to poke fun at himself, I’ll admit I’m a little perplexed. Ham’s AIG organization insists that the real story about humans riding dinosaurs is the “head-scratchingly bizarre” fixation of atheists on the idea of dinosaurs wearing saddles. Such ideas, AIG sometimes suggests, are not really Ham’s ideas, but only fake news meant to “discredit and malign creationist groups.”

Yet Ham and AIG continue to promote the notion of people riding dinosaurs.

I’m stumped. Maybe the joke is on me.

Leave a comment


  1. I’m stumped.

    I tend to see Ken Ham as a carnie (Carnival operator). And a carnie earns his living by creating a make-believe world to entertain his customers.

    The real puzzle about Ken Ham, is “How can he possibly be a YEC?”

    Ham is Australian. And I, too, grew up in Australia so I know something about that place. It is common knowledge in Australia, that the Australian aborigines have been in Australia for a very long time. It is a matter of pride, for Australians, that their aboriginal population is so old.

    If you compare the dates, you see that the aborigines were there long before the time of Adam and Eve.

    So how can the Australian Ken Ham possibly believe that YEC story?

    • His parents taught him YEC.

      • Yes, that’s very likely the explanation.

      • Sure, I agree. But it only pushes the question back one level; it doesn’t get rid of the question. In all places there are BIG cultural chunks of knowledge that YEC schools and parents have to teach young people to consider false. In the USA (and many other places), for example, YEC teachers need to help young people understand why mainstream science insists on a fundamental bit of information that YECs need to learn how to disbelieve, namely, the age of the earth and universe.
        In Australia, as Neil pointed out, there is an additional bit of widely known information that YEC teachers need to disprove. If most Australians know, understand, and believe in the deep ancient roots of Aboriginal culture, then YEC parents like Ken Ham’s need to give young people some way to avoid “knowing” that chunk of information.
        To my mind, the question becomes this: How do Australian YEC parents contend with the widely held belief in the ancient, deep-time roots of Aboriginal culture?

      • I’m going to look at this from the point of view of an amateur cognitive scientist.

        We are deeply dependent on social conventions. I measure the height of my desk as 30 inches, and most people would take that to be a fact. But it is a fact that depends on our ordinary measuring conventions. We adopt social conventions, such as those measuring conventions, on a pragmatic basis. They work well for us.

        It seems that the YEC folk have managed to make consensus within their community be of such a high value, that it becomes a primary measure of the pragmatic value that is used to assess social conventions. And thus the YECs can be strongly committed to social conventions within their community, even while those conventions seem foolish to people outside that community.

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