Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ken Ham believes that knowledge that is certain but incorrect is preferable to knowledge that is tentative and amendable in light of new information

At Dispatches from the Culture Wars a few days ago, Ed Brayton posted a criticism of an article that appeared in the Wing Nut Daily (WND) regarding a research article by Gavin J. Prideaux &al. that was cited in The Australian newspaper. The WND provided about four sentences describing the the information cited by the newspaper and called upon “expert in the field” (their term) and internationally-known Creationist loony Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, to analyze the research.

The original article, published in the January 2007 issue of the journal Geology, described research intended to address the question of how Australia’s large mammals responded to climatic fluctuations during the Pleistocene prior to the arrival of humans. Fossil evidence over about 500 thousand years calibrated by multiple methods of dating was examined. The local paleoclimatic record was based on an analysis published in 1998. Given the resilience of the fauna and the climatic conditions in place when the megafauna extinction occurred about 45,000 years ago, Prideaux and his coauthors concluded that climate change was not a primary factor. The authors suggest, but do not insist, that human impact was the important factor.

Ham dismissed the research in much the same way as Michael Behe who, when confronted with a stack of books and papers of published research on the evolution of immune system during cross-examination in the Intelligent-Design trial Kitzmiller v. Dover, said “not good enough.” Ham’s criticism did not actually address any of the issues discussed in the original article; it is apparent that he did not read that article, and he almost certainly did not read any of the supporting materials, including data and descriptions of methods used, that are available online from the Geological Society of America (publisher of Geology). It is also obvious that Ham did not bother to read any of the references cited in the article which provided evidence for the validity of the methods used. The discussion in The Australian was brief but accurate; it provided no details on methodology, as is to be expected in a newspaper report of a research article published in the scientific literature. It’s not clear if Ham even read the newspaper account—his criticism was so vague and dismissive.

I cannot recall any instances of Ken Ham contributing letters or articles to Geology, GSA Bulletin (the Geological Society of America’s other major journal), or any other reputable geological journal that critiqued methods and conclusions of geological publications; nor can I name any article written by Ham appearing in any such journal that might have contributed an analysis consistent with Ham’s views. That is hardly surprising, given that Ken Ham, far from being the expert he claims to be, takes his lessons in geology from the Bible, “starting from the first verse beginning: ‘In the beginning, God...’”—as noted by the Wing Nut Daily.

(As an aside, speaking of the WND, I notice they referred to the journal Geology as the magazine Geology—likely a conscious attempt to deprecate peer-reviewed scientific literature.)

Such behavior is typical of Creationists and we have long come to expect such disingenuous prattle from these truth-challenged individuals. To be fair, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish those who are bald-assed liars determined to deceive the scientifically illiterate from those who are sincere but thoroughly self-deceived. These people might not be stupid, but they are enormously ignorant of how information about the universe around us can be gathered, analyzed, and interpreted. Pig-headedly, Ham claims “such reports [as that of Prideaux &al.] never add substantively to the sum of knowledge,” according to the WND. What, never? Then how can we possibly learn? Oh, that’s right, Ham tells us:

The Bible—the “history book of the universe”—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things, and can be trusted to tell the truth in all areas it touches. Therefore, we are able to use it to help us make sense of this present world.”

But the keystone quote is remarkable for its condemnation of evolutionists for engaging

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

They are reinterpreting their ideas as they look at the evidence. The result is that there’s no real knowledge there.

Evidence? Wing nuts don’t need no stinkin’ evidence.


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