Ken Ham Is Right!

No, not about a young earth.  But Ken Ham, the obstreperous mastermind of Answers in Genesis, is right to complain about the language directed at him and his campaign.

I’ll say it again: I don’t agree with Ken Ham’s theology.  I don’t agree with his notion that a young earth is a central idea of Christian faith.  More important, I think Ham’s angry, combative tone drowns out much of the productive and respectful conversation that could go on about the issues of faith, science, creation, and evolution.

But Ham is right to complain recently about the ways his ministry has been attacked.  In his AiG blog, Ham pointed out the rhetorical excesses of some of his foes.  In a post on an Australian atheist blog, one Simon Doonar attacked Ham intemperately.  Here’s Doonar’s post in full:

“I hope that sometime in the future this kind of deliberate misleading of people and especially kids can be treated as a criminal breach of the law, and those who commit such breaches are excluded from society permanently.

“What these type of people are doing is damaging our species by inhibiting our ability to free our minds from superstition and the dream like notions of how we came to be and where we are going.

“And to think that this idiot believes that all the research and evidence which proves evolution can be simply brushed away by the simple answer of ‘where you there’. How can you possibly deal with this type of person, they are psychologically ill and like all dangers nut casers should be put somewhere to reduce the risk of them harming others.”

Doonar also included an angry frowny-face emoticon, but I’m not sure how to reproduce that here.

Now, I understand that such blog posts lend themselves to extravagant emotion.  But still, Doonar’s assertion that creationists should be rounded up and locked up terrifies me.  The notion that we need to criminalize ideas with which we disagree inches frighteningly close to lynch law.

If it were only one kooky Australian who had had a few too many Foster’s and allowed himself to do some angry blogging, we should perhaps pay no attention.  But Ham correctly points out that these sentiments, though usually expressed more calmly, haunt the edges of the creation/evolution debates.

For instance, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” recently implied that creationists should not be allowed to pass their ideas on to their children.  Less famous thinkers ask, apparently sincerely, if creationism equals “child abuse.”  Other hotheads call creationism “terrorism” and “child abuse.”

Again, I understand the Wild-West rules of the blogosphere.  People will say all kinds of stuff to get attention.  The more extreme, the more attention.  And I understand that Ken Ham loves this kind of extremism, since it allows him to play the misunderstood victim.

But as a historian, I get nervous when any group is talked about in these dehumanizing ways.  We don’t need to go all the way back to Quakers executed in colonial Boston to find examples of religious groups targeted for military-style attack due to allegations of “child abuse.”

Just a few years ago, the government raided the Yearning for Zion ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The raid was utterly illegal, utterly unconstitutional.  Yet it was approved and carried out due to accusations of child abuse, along with deeper cultural suspicions about the breakaway LDS sect.

Talking about creationists as child abusers and criminals does not help defang thinkers such as Ken Ham.  Ham thrives on such attack.  But it does reduce the possibility of constructive, respectful dialogue about creationism.