Defending the Christian Faith in Today’s Worldview – Ken Ham

This lecture was kind of all over the place. It had more of the technical details I’m interested in than the others, but it also had a lot of trying to convince Christians that creationism is important. Because he was bouncing all over, and I couldn’t keep up with my notes, this post is going to be difficult to follow.

Ken started this lecture off by showing us their new advertisement in Times Square:

Does that mean I met the real Jesus at the Holy Land Experience too? I’m glad I got his autograph! The fact that Noah was animatronic is missing from the Bible, but it does explain how he managed to live 950 years.

Then Ken started ranting about how “historical science” is different than “observational science”:

“It doesn’t matter is found, the evolutionists will always have an answer. Always. You know why? Because no matter what you find you modify your model to fit the find.”

Contrary to Ken’s assertions, this isn’t just true of “historical science”. It’s true of science in general. Scientists observed that Mercury’s orbit didn’t quite match that predicted by Newton’s equations, and Einstein’s general relativity replaced Newton’s universal gravitation. Scientists observed that electrons seem to be more free to move around than protons, and the Rutherford model of the atom replaced the Bohr model. And my husband has observed that the expression of the gene that regulates his protein doesn’t fit in the current model. And he is desperately trying to figure out how the model needs to be revised to account for these observations. None of that is “historical science”. It’s just science. The models are refined as you observe new evidence.

When we find new observations that don’t fit into the current model, we come up with a new model that explains the difference. Then we create a hypothesis based on the new model that predicts something different (that has not yet been observed) from the existing model. Then we test it to see if that prediction is true.

There’s only one way you can be sure to understand all about history and how it all happened and what it’s all about. There’s only one way. You can use someone who’s always been there, who knows everything, who doesn’t tell a lie, who reveals for us the key evidence that we need to know to give us that story. Does anyone know anyone like that?

There’s only one other possibility. Man has to figure it all out.

No, I don’t know anyone like that. I don’t think anyone like that exists. Fortunately, I do know that man has done a very good job of figuring things out.

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the structure of the atom. It doesn’t tell us anything about electricity. It doesn’t tell us that illness is often caused by germs, and that we can prevent it with hygiene and drugs to kill those germs. Man had to figure all of that out. And we did a very good job of it. Why are the same techniques so inadequate for figuring out what happened in the past?

Also, why is the Bible so useless at figuring out the present? Where are all of the scientists saying “I was just reading the Bible the other day and I came up with this great invention”? If we had  looked to the Bible and noted that seizures are caused by daemons, would we have treatments? We observed people with epilepsy. We built new and better equipment to observe what was going on better. And we developed treatments that allow them to live normal lives. Even for defeating daemons man seems to win out over the Bible.

Next he got back into why Christians shouldn’t believe in evolution:

“There are Christians that say you know, God could have used the big bang. Well it’s not a matter of what God could have done, its a matter of what God said he did.”

I kept this quote just to emphasize the difference between AIG and the intelligent design theorists. AIG doesn’t believe in God because evolution is impossible. They believe evolution did not happen because God said so. The two ideologies are contradictory and incompatible.

Back to the Bill Nye debate:

“One of the statements Bill Nye made was that you would expect out of order fossils. Well here’s the thing. According to evolutionists you find fossils in a particular order. Why are there no out of order fossils? Because they often find fossils out of order, so then they just say the range has increased so they are no longer out of order!”

Well Ken, I’m touring the Bergess Shale this summer. If I find a fossilized bunny rabbit I will be convinced. If we “often” find fossils out of order, then I expect I shouldn’t have much trouble finding a clear example if I travel the world looking for one over the next two years.

But of course you don’t actually mean “often”. You mean that there are a handful of examples, so unconvincing that you don’t even want to list them, of anomalies in the fossil record that were plausibly explained by extending the range organism. You do not mean that someone discovered a precambrian cow. Presuming cattle outnumbered dinosaurs before the flood, shouldn’t we at least have a few Jurassic cattle?

Then he bounced back to the irrationality of atheism:

From the perspective of someone who’s an atheist, when they die they cease to exist. When people like you die they cease to exist. If they cease to exist, and the people around us today cease to exist, why do they bother to do anything? Why bother fighting creationism? What does it ultimately matter? Yeah they can say it matters because of the here and now and all the rest of it, but so what? Eventually you won’t even know! And you won’t even know you existed! They know. The knowledge of God is written on their hearts. They have a conscience! They know! Otherwise they wouldn’t bother.

Ken, how do you like it when people say the only reason you believe in the Bible is that you’re a homophobic misogynistic bigot? No reasonable person could believe that crap, you just like the excuse to beat your wife and children. You must believe the earth goes around the sun because it says so in the Bible! You think slavery and genocide must be good because they are in the Bible. And my imaginary friend says you don’t even exist!

Could you consider for a moment that other people’s beliefs might also be more complex and nuanced than some absurd caricature? Stop telling me what I must believe.

Having thus defeated the atheists, he moved on to other religions.

“There are people that say, you know, why not other books? Why not the Qur’an or why not…you know there are books written about Budda and Hindus have books and they have their sacred writings. Tell me one other book that does this. This book, the Bible, claims to be, over 3000 times, the word of God, who has always been there. And it reveals to us a very specific history. What other book gives us the origin of space, the origin of time, the origin of matter (God created the heavens and the Earth), the origin of water, the origin of the earth, the origin of dry land, the origin of plants, the origin of sea creatures, of sun, the moon, stars, the origin of sea creatures, the origin of life, the origin of land creatures, the origin of man, the origin of women, the origin of marriage, the origin of clothing, the origin of death, the origin of cultures, the origin of language the origin basis of understanding fossils, the flood of Noah’s day. What other book does that?”

Well, the Qur’an has all of those stories with slightly different details, so obviously that one. And pretty much every religion has some kind of creation story. Those are the common questions that religion was created to address. So as far as religious texts go, almost all of them.

 It gives such a specific history if it was true what would you expect to find? You would expect to find that there was only one race. Well guess what the human genome project found in 2006? There’s only one race. If it was true that God created the animals after their kind what would you expect? Each kind of animal would only produce it’s own kind. Guess what? Dogs only produce dogs. Cats only produce cats. Elephants only produce elephants. If this was true, that there was a global flood, you’d expect to find millions of dead things buried by rock laid down by water all over the earth. What do you find? That’s exactly what you find. And if the tower of Babel really happened then as they split up they would have taken accounts of the flood and creation, and they would have changed them, but ours would have been similar to the Bible The Jews borrowed their stories from the Babylonians, but they are the original. You have gods, not just one God, but gods, fighting and procreating and you have man being fought over by these gods and all sorts of issues, like with the flood, and they have all sorts of things about gods cutting each other in half, and gods that die. I mean if you have a look at which one sounds like the original. One Babylonian account has the boat a cube shaped seven stories high, that wouldn’t survive the flood very well!

You think the Noah story is so much more plausible than all other flood myths that we can obviously tell which one is true? I’m going to hold off on discussing which boat shape would be more likely to hold up to the flood until I finish my analysis of Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study and Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood, but I certainly don’t think it’s obvious that Noah’s boat was better. In addition, here’s a short list of things that make the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh more plausible than the one in the Old Testament:

  1. Team of workmen built the boat, not a family of 8.
  2. Flood not necessarily global.
  3. The flood lasted only 6 days and 6 nights.

That’s 359 days less food and poop to deal with, as well as less need to exercise the animals.

Furthermore, having a bunch of gods disagree over whether the flood was a good idea makes a lot more sense than a single omniscient God that floods the earth and then regrets it after.

I start with God’s word. Bill Nye starts with man’s word.

Actually Bill Nye starts with observations of how the world works today. You start with man’s word, transmitted orally for centuries by illiterate nomads, written on scrolls, copied by people with an agenda, translated…

Science is the state of knowledge. So when they say science is in conflict with the Bible they are saying knowledge is in conflict with the Bible. Who’s knowledge? Is it false knowledge, is it true knowledge? What do they mean?

I don’t even know where to start with that.

What they’re saying is, we look at the earth and all the processes going on today, and we use that to understand the past. But how do you know that that’s always the way it’s been? When I said to Bill Nye it hasn’t always been the same because there was a global flood, he accused me of saying the laws of nature changed. The laws of nature don’t change. The events in the past have been different than the present.

I’m not sure why Ken objects to this. By definition a miracle involves suspension of the laws of nature. Does Ken claim that the 1st law of thermodynamics held while God caused the flood? That’s a lot of energy to balance. How could radioactive decay rates change without changing any laws of nature? How did God create the universe matter without violating conservation of matter? If the flood didn’t require the suspension of some laws of nature, what’s stopping it from happening again tomorrow?

My understanding was that God has temporarily changed the laws of nature, at least in the past, and those events are called miracles. If he’s saying that the laws of nature held as they are through those events I’m not sure what he means.

He used the same “creation orchard” picture from the Bill Nye debate:

“Creation orchard” picture I recognized from the Bill Nye debate.

Note that we start with a single branch, presumably representing one uniform kind with no variation at creation. The lines spread out fairly gradually into various species as we move toward the flood. The flood is about 2/3 of the way into the diagram, so it’s actually pretty close to scale. The flood narrows it down to a single kind again, but they immediately spread out to the width they had before the flood.

This seems really odd to me. Why do they take so long to spread out in the beginning, when God told them to “be fruitful and increase in number”? But post flood, when God gives them a new, very powerful predator, is when they really thrive! And if anything wouldn’t genetic variability have been lost in the flood? Remember, we can’t create any new information. So if anything they should spread out slower and to a smaller overall width.

Then the dinosaurs go extinct, which if the diagram is to scale is around 1000BC. But most of their “proof” of dinosaurs coexisting with humans is from late Roman to the middle ages. Why wouldn’t they want to show the dinosaurs being alive for over 2/3 of the history of the universe? Do they think people might find it harder to believe if they showed that?

Even more interesting is the apes. Notice the huge number of species of ape that appear immediately after the flood and then disappear just as suddenly. Even before the dinosaurs. This presumably represents all of the extinct homonids that they don’t consider human.

But the variation into species is caused by natural selection narrowing down the perfect gene pool to the genes that are best suited for a particular environment. So all of that variation should be apes adapting to their environments. Why would they adapt to the environment and then immediately go extinct? If the environment just wasn’t suited for apes, then all of the apes would die. None of them would reproduce, and there would be no selective pressure to branch out into species. Speciation implies that not only did some survive, but that a consistent set of genes was advantageous to survival.

If the diagram is approximately to scale, the post-flood time frame for these species is about 500 years. That’s only 20 generations for most apes. They went from generic ape kind to Australopithecus to extinction in 20 generations?

So why did they draw the extinctions so soon then? Remember, if it is to scale we are talking about 1500BC. And a lot of these fossils were found in the area of Egypt. We are well into the written history of Egypt by this time. Why is there no mention of them? And the flood to now is only 160 ape generations, so it doesn’t get a lot more practical anyway.

When they find a fossil they say it’s a transitional form. If evolution is still going on point to a living animal that is a transitional form. Shouldn’t we see something?

At this point it became very clear that Ken Ham really doesn’t understand evolution. This is not universally true of YECs. I’m really not sure why no one within his organization has pointed out how ridiculous this makes him sound.

When you look for a transitional form, you are trying to explain how a particular feature evolved. You look for older species that do not yet fully have the feature you are examining, but are part way there. Like a fish that does not yet have legs, but maybe has fins that could partially support it’s weight and were used to crawl around the bottom of the pond.

You can’t look for a transitional form for a feature that has not yet developed. There probably are a lot of transitional forms existing today. But until we invent a time machine we’re not going to know what features develop a few million years down the road.

We do have the transitional forms for some of the smaller evolution events we have been able to observe. For example in the e. coli long term evolution experiment we have frozen samples of transitional forms between the bacteria that could not metabolize citrate and the bacteria that could. But Ken Ham doesn’t accept that anything we can demonstrate is evolution, so of course he’s not going to accept these as transitional forms.

We have millions of people, billions of people been brainwashed in a fairy tale. Because they love darkness rather than light.

I honestly can’t believe he said that, not me.

If you go out into the secular world. If you go to the secular museums here in Alberta, if you go to the public schools, if you go to the professors at the Universities, and then you go to the museums in England, for example, or Bolivia, or to the teachers in those countries all around the world, those secular teachers, or in Russia, or in China, it doesn’t matter where you go, here’s what you notice. Or the television programs, the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, PBS, whatever it is, here’s what you notice. The secular world has the same one, basic message. And they’re in union. They agree. Little differences, but it’s in the school textbooks. School textbooks in Canada are the same as the ones in America, are the same as Germany. What do they say?

Life arose from natural processes. There was a big bang billions of years ago. And they’ve all got much the same dates. You know, about 14 billion years ago. And how the earth and life arose and one type of animal changed into another and ape-like creatures into people. Isn’t that the message? Isn’t it the same the world over?

Now, you go to the church. And you ask the average church goer, the average Christian believer, pastor, deacon, Christian College professor, Bible College professor, Seminary professor in our world today so what do you believe about evolution?

Well, I’m not really sure.

Well could be, but I don’t know.

Well I believe Genesis is just figurative.

Well I believe Adam was real, but he was just an ape-like creature.

I’m not really sure.

I think millions of years fit between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. There’s a gap.

Well I dunno.

Well I think the days were millions of years long.

Well I think there’s a gap between each day of millions of years.

Well I think there was a global flood.

Well I think there was a local flood.

Well I’m not really sure.

Well I believe in the theistic evolution.

Well I believe in progressive creation.

Well I believe in the gap theory.

Well I like the framework hypothesis.

Well I think the day-gap-day-gap theory.

Well I believe in days revelation theory.

But anyway trust in Jesus!

 

 

Do you know why we all these different views and none of them work?They are all attempts to introduce man’s ideas of millions of years somehow into the Bible!

Or perhaps because they are all attempts to reconcile some ancient illiterate nomad’s ideas with reality.

Then he recounted his encounter with a woman who “called herself an atheist” that visited the Creation Museum:

Atheist: See we are real scientists. We start with evidence, and we are prepared to change our theories. You aren’t prepared to change. We are. We will change if new evidence comes along.

Ken Ham: You’re an atheist.

Atheist: That’s right.

Ken Ham: You don’t believe in God.

Atheist: That’s right.

Ken Ham: The Bible’s not true.

Atheist: That’s right.

Ken Ham: You’re not prepared to even consider the account of creation and the flood in the Bible?

Atheist: No, not at all. (So why was she at the Creation Museum?)

Ken Ham: Are you prepared to change any of that?

<Applause and cheers>

He didn’t actually give her response. I’m not sure what it was. I know mine would have been yes. It would take some very convincing evidence. Perhaps even extraordinary evidence. But yes, I am prepared to change my beliefs. I just need someone to give me a good reason.

You see no matter what evidence she finds she’s already decided there is no God, the Bible is not true. And that is why no matter what they find, they’ll always have a story. They’ll always change their beliefs. They’ll change their ideas. Why? Because you’re talking about the past, and therefore they can continually change.

The Bible never changes. God’s word never changes.

 

Hold on. You were just accusing her of being unwilling to change, and now she’s too willing to change? How does that work?

How can they change their starting point? They can’t. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
If it’s only God that can change them what’s the point of your ministry?

Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus. The first thing he says is “take away the stone.” Couldn’t he have with a thought removed the stone? Couldn’t he have made it disappear? But he didn’t. What humans can do he got humans to do. I don’t understand why God works this way, but all through the scriptures you see it. 

So if I care about human suffering even though I don’t believe there is an ultimate purpose, I’m obviously lying. I lie because I’m addicted to sins, which I generally don’t actually commit. But that’s because I know in my heart that they are wrong. So I’m lying to myself and condemning myself to eternal torment so that I can justify a lifestyle that I don’t actually live.

But you devote your life to changing people’s minds that you believe you cannot change. To convince them to believe in a book that says their minds cannot be changed. And that makes sense, for reasons even you admit you don’t understand.

Created in the Image of God – Steve Ham

I was hoping for a talk about how humans differ from our closest relatives, but I was disappointed. It was another talk about why Creationism should be important to Christians. This one was all about ethics, and how there is no basis for morality if you don’t believe that there was a literal Adam 6000 years ago. We are all equally valuable to God and that’s why we should be treated equally. (Yes, the God with the chosen people)

If you believe that “Billions of years ago nothing became something and went bang” then there’s no reason to treat everyone equally, because we are all just a rearrangement of molecules. (Unequal rearrangements of molecules I guess?)

He had a bunch of “which is most valuable” slides, where he displayed 4 different people with different ages, races, disabilities, a 4 day embryo to newborn, etc, and asked which was most valuable. The audience chanted “they are all equal”. For some reason there was no Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis slide, even though I believe they are all created in the image of God now too.

mostvaluable

He then went on about abortion for a while. I was shocked at how few people recognized the name Kermit Gosnell. Then again 8:30 on a Saturday morning isn’t a great time for audience participation. It could be that no one bothered to raise their hands.

The best summary of his main thesis was this:

Our kids are getting a different geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology, and archeology than us. Why should we expect them to have the same ethics as us?

Which seemed odd to me, because if the only basis for morality is God, and God reveals his will to us, what do geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology and archeology have to do with anything? If those things affect morality, it’s almost as if morality isn’t coming from God at all.

They have been backing off on the “evolution is only a theory” line. Here was his new one:

Evolution is not even a theory. You need a provable or falsifiable hypothesis for there to be a theory and they don’t even have that. Therefore it is a religion, not a theory.

He did mention one thing God shared with us that he hasn’t shared with any other creature, self awareness. Which apparently comes down to us wearing clothes, which didn’t happen until Adam and Eve ate the fruit. So were we not self aware before sin? Why is the only concrete example of “God’s image”, the difference between us and the animals, something that we didn’t have in the Garden of Eden?

One interesting thing that I hadn’t heard before was that we were made in the image of God, but we don’t always bare the image of God. For example, Hitler wasn’t bearing God’s image, he was bearing the sinful image of Adam.

He ended with an advertisement for Answers Magazine, the World’s most popular creation based magazine. I’m a bit confused, because I’m pretty sure I heard the same advertisement for Creation Magazine just 5 months ago. Are they tied? And how many creation-based magazines are out there?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Dr. David Menton

The second talk was a biology talk by Dr. David Menton. The strategy is to give a really detailed talk about some organism or biological process, way more detail than any other public talk would. Make sure that the lecturer is the most knowledgeable person the audience will ever meet, so that when their friends say that no serious scientist believes in Creationism that is who they think of. Then interject periodically with some comment implying that a system this complex never could have evolved. (Dr. Menton’s favorite was “How’s dumb luck workin’ for ya?”)

He completely ignores that almost no scientist that actually studies these systems in detail has any trouble believing that they evolved, and knowing that they evolved in fact often enhances their understanding. We look at how the system differs between different species to gain an understanding of what is important to the function and what is not. If we want to examine a very similar system, we don’t think “God designed all of the species and the only reason we have similarities is that he had a tendency to reuse good designs” and start checking species at random. We take a closely related species.

I love these talks. They are in depth science talks on often fascinating subjects. And yes, they are as accurate as any secular talk on the same subject. They don’t just make stuff up. First of all, lying is a commandment, which they take very seriously. Secondly, they are aware that if they lie, and the audience goes out and looks for more information and discovers everything they were told is untrue, they are not going to win anyone over to their side. But more importantly, the presenters sincerely believe in Creationism. They are not fraudsters trying to sell you snake oil and run with your money. They are not trying to fool you, they are trying to show you what they honestly believe to be the truth. I have never looked for more information on a biology presentation at a creationist event and found the information to be incorrect. You simply don’t have to lie to make biology look incredibly complicated, especially to the uneducated public.

This particular talk was on embryology, and thus doubled as a prolife talk. The full presentation is available online. It doesn’t seem to have changed much, although he looks much younger in the video:
http://www.answersingenesis.org/media/video/ondemand/fearfully/fearfully-wonderfully-made

He starts out with that clear Biblical evidence that life begins at conception, Psalm 139:13:  “You knit me together in my mother’s womb”.

Now I generally try not to tell other people how they should read their holy books, and I obviously don’t think your holy book should have any effect on your political decisions anyway. But I really don’t get this one. Yarn is not a sock. And conception doesn’t actually take place in the womb. In fact I would be significantly more inclined to believe that life begins at conception ignoring the Bible than if I accepted it as an authority.

He goes through the process of fertilization, and actually defines the “moment of conception”, as a moment, rather than the usual “when the sperm meets the egg, and the DNA combines” implying that the “moment of conception” is actually about 36 hours long.

Dr. Menton defines the “moment of conception” to be at when the two pronuclei fuse. Unfortunately the human pronuclei don’t actually fuse, and the DNA doesn’t combine until after it replicates. I tried to pin him down on Sunday about exactly what stage of the process was critical but he didn’t seem that familiar with the details. (I doubt that you could find a retired secular anatomy professor that would be familiar with the details either, but he is giving a presentation on the topic).

Even if human pronuclei did fuse, his reason for choosing this point doesn’t make much sense to me:

“If we just keep our hands off at this point it will progress from this point”

That statement is true throughout the process of fertilization. In fact it is true from ejaculation. If nothing interferes, the process is continuous.

Furthermore, Dr. Menton only talks about twinning at the two cell stage in his presentation. Most human twins actually divide at the early blastocyst stage, and some even later. If the pronuclei meeting is what determines when a new human organism begins, when does the twin begin?

This was followed by an interesting quote:

“How do you know if someone is a sinner? You ask yourself ‘can they die?’  Because in Genesis it says death came into the world through sin.”

Therefore I concluded that Jesus was a sinner! And Satan was not! Good to know.

He also emphasized that Jesus went through all of these stages. But I’m curious about the first steps. Was there a God sperm? Did the Holy Spirit implant a male pronuclei directly into the egg? Does God have DNA? Is there a diploid 46-chromosome God genome from which the 23-chromosomes that went to Jesus was taken? How exactly did that process work?

Then he talked about Plan B, the morning after pill. He read the FDA statement that says it works up to 3 days and cannot stop a pregnancy that has already begun. He then said that this was a government lie, look it up on Web MD. (Always trust Web MD for medical advice over the FDA.)

His explanation was that sperm can get to a fallopian tube in 30 minutes, so how could the pill work to prevent fertilization after 3 days?

This confused me. After that entire in depth discussion of early embryology I don’t see how he couldn’t understand that the issue is more complicated. I think the actual problem here, which I noted repeatedly in Dr. Menton’s presentations, is that he doesn’t have a good understanding of probability. Things were either possible or impossible, there was no unlikely.

Yes, the fastest sperm could get to a fallopian tube is 30 minutes. Although capacitation, which he clearly understands because he mentions it in his presentation, generally takes a couple of hours. So realistically the earliest conception could possibly occur is a couple of hours after sex. If you have unprotected sex immediately after ovulating and the sperm race up there and undergo capacitation as fast as possible, Plan B will not work. That is why Plan B is not 100% effective. However most of the time sperm don’t travel at maximum speed, and then in the fallopian tube up to 3 days for an egg to show up. So Plan B can prevent most pregnancies by preventing ovulation, and it can work up to 3 days after sex, although it is less effective the longer you wait. We have pretty good evidence that this is the main way that Plan B prevents pregnancy.

Now the problem is that if you actually believe that a zygote is a person, and you believe that a woman taking an action to prevent that person from attaching to her for life support is murder (even though you could not compel her to donate blood to her newborn infant to save its life), then you don’t care if that is not the main way Plan B prevents pregnancy. You want to know if it ever prevents implantation. And the answer to that is way too complicated to discuss here.

Next he got into the details of the placenta, and showed some slides of placental tissue in uterine tissue. (I’m having trouble with language here. I can’t remember what language Dr. Menton actually used. My husband uses words like “invading”, which sounds terrible. But he is studying oncology, and his interest in the placenta is in how closely it resembles cancer. So when the cancer is described as invading, and the placental tissue is doing the same thing, you use the same words.)

He then stated that he would give the evolutionists everything else if they would just explain how transferrin could have evolved! Because transferrin is necessary to transfer iron across the placental barrier, and without it the fetus could not get iron and would die. So this incredibly complex molecule would have to appear, fully functioning, in a single generation in order for the species to survive.

Transferrin (in receptor)

The answer, of course, is that transferrin did not evolve to transfer iron across the placental barrier. Transferrin evolved long before placental mammals. It is used to regulate iron levels in biological fluids, and is present in pretty much everything with blood. If the protein was designed specifically to transport iron across the placental membrane, you would expect to only see it in placental mammals. In fact it is present across phyla, including in egg laying organisms like fruit flies and fish. And we have examples of less complex versions of transferrin-like proteins which are used for iron uptake from the environment in species like roundworms

The structure of transferrin does not have to be exact for it to bind to iron, in fact the structure varies slightly even within humans. And it varies even more between different organisms, and is more different for more distantly related organisms than for closely related ones. But if you put human transferrin into a fruitfly, it still works. This seems like a rather odd design choice to me. If the similarities between the species are largely explained by God reusing his good designs, why would he make a slightly different iron binding protein for each species when using the same one would have worked? I suppose if none are better than the others then the differences could just be corruptions of the original perfect transferrin design caused by random mutation due to sin. But if they were all originally the same 6000 years ago, why don’t the differences between the kinds vary randomly? Why did human transferrin and mouse transferrin drift in generally the same direction, while fruit flies and fish took a different turn?

Overall the presentation was interesting and almost overwhelmingly detailed (and my husband studies pre-implantation embryology)! But whenever he was making a point he switched to drastic oversimplification. Still, I found it very enjoyable, and I have to support bringing science to an audience that would not otherwise have gone to a science lecture.

Is Genesis Relevant in 2014?

The first talk was about why the age of the Earth matters to Christians. If accepting Jesus into your heart is all that’s required to be saved, why would they waste time arguing about details like Genesis? The great thing about these talks is that I fully agree with the creationists.
He started out talking about how many people are leaving the church, especially in Europe. The only thing Ken and I disagree on here is whether this is a bad thing or not. I really want to visit this church converted into a rock wall:

Church transformed into climbing gym

He also talked about Christianity not being allowed in public schools:

“You can talk about the Muslim god and have the Koran on your desk and that’s fine but the Bible is banned.”

I fully agree with Ken that this would be wrong if it happened. However, I would really like Ken to show me one teacher talking about a Muslim God in a USA school and getting away with it. The Christian majority in most American schools kicks up enough of a stink about a Muslim teacher just wearing a hijab to make the national news. Anyone actually discussing religion in class, where the law would be on the side of the Christian majority, would not last long.

His explanation for why his religion was right when there are hundreds of religions in the world was interesting.

There are only two religions in the world. Go back to Genesis 3: “Trust God or you become God.”

So his religion says that your religion doesn’t exist. It also says that I am God, so you should trust me. I’m definitely not going to argue with that.

Next he got into why evolution is the cause of all this horrible Christian persecution.

He says that the first attack on the word of God: “Did God really say…” He refers to these as Genesis 3 attacks. And they have infiltrated the Christian church with evolution. And if there was no literal Adam or if there was death before Adam then Adam’s sin couldn’t be the source of death. Therefore Jesus sacrificing himself to himself to make up for Adam’s sin just doesn’t make any sense.

I’m not arguing there. Nothing about that story makes any sense whether Adam was real or not.

Then he had an imaginary conversation with a theistic evolutionist:

Ken Ham: Do you believe Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead?

Theistic Evolutionist: Yes

KH: How do you know? You weren’t there.

TE: Because the Bible says so.

KH: But Richard Dawkins says men can’t rise from the dead. Should we take what Richard Dawkins said and reinterpret the Bible?

TE: Oh no, we can’t do that. He’s an atheist.

KH: Well why do many Christians take what he says about origins and reinterpret Genesis?

Do you believe in the virgin birth?

TE: Yes

KH: Well how do you know?

TE: Because the Bible says.

KH: Well Lawrence Krauss says you can’t have a virgin birth. So should we reinterpret that?

TE: No. You can’t take an atheist’s views like that and reinterpret the Bible.

Why do you believe Jesus walked on water? The Bible says.

Why do you believe he fed thousands? Because the Bible says.

Why do you believe the Isrealites crossed the Jordon river and the Red Sea? The Bible says.
Why do you believe a man was swallowed by a fish lived inside for 3 days then came out and preached to a city? The Bible says.

Why do you believe the Isrealites wandered in the desert for 40 years and their shoes didn’t wear out and their clothes didn’t wear out, the opposite of what happens to me? Because the Bible says.

All very good questions.

“Evolution makes nonsense of the Bible!”

Reality makes nonsense out of the Bible.

“It’s an issue of authority. Who is the authority? God or me? I challenge you to show me from scripture alone where you get the idea of millions of years of evolution. From scripture alone where you get the idea man evolved from ape like creatures. From scripture alone where you get the idea of a Big Bang, that has the sun coming before the earth and the earth is a hot molten blob but the Bible says the earth was first covered with water.”

I agree that the Bible is completely irrelevant to that entire discussion.

He ended by lamenting that people will pay to go to the Noah movie, which is 2 hours and 25 minutes, but people complain about 25 minute sermons. He had a good rant about the new Noah movie and how unbiblical it was, which was full of spoilers (thanks a lot Ken!). I can’t imagine that his “accurate” version of Noah, which involves 8 people shoveling food and poop for 16 hours a day for a year would be a huge Blockbuster success even if it was only 25 minutes long.

Ken Ham’s Books

Because I was alone and I’ve learned the hard way to never start a conversation as an atheist at a Christian conference, I had a lot of time to flip through the books and DVDs for sale. I’ve read so much of this stuff that I didn’t think anything would surprise me, but I was taken aback by the bluntness, particularly of the books for really young children. Do they really need to cover murder, incest and the apocalypse in preschool? There are no secular history books entitled “H is for Holocaust” and “P is for Plague”.

Here are some excerpts from some of my favourites:

A is for Adam


A is for Adam God made him from dust
He wasn’t a monkey, he looked just like us
Some scientists don’t think it was so
But God was there, so he ought to knowG is for ghastly, for what happened next
Let’s go to the Bible and look at the text
In Genesis chapter 3 and verse 1
Eve met the serpent but she didn’t runGod said: “That’s enough, the world I will judge”
Then he sent a great flood which made lots of sludgeLong before Moses when people were few,
Brothers and sisters could marry, that’s true!

 

 

I thought the true story of Adam and Eve was in the Bible…but apparently you need to pay Ken Ham $15.99 to get the true story.
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
-Proverbs 30: 5-6

N is for Noah


People outside the ark would have died
Too late, they realised that God had not lied

 

noahbook

Yes, those are drowning people in a book designed for 3 year olds.

Dead lamb

Sorry for the blurry picture. That is the cutest cartoon lamb lying dead in a pool of blood, on the “O is for Offering” page.

My Creation Bible


This one has nice thick cardboard pages for the really little kids.
God is infinite but what does that mean?
No one is bigger and he’s always been
The Bible begins with a simple fact
God’s always existed and that is thatThe ark door was open, it was still not too late
As Noah warned people that drowning’s their fate
But no one else entered before the great flood
So God shut the door with a terrible thudIf the flood really happened what would we see
Billions of dead things is what there would be
The fossils remind us that God judges sin
But provided an ark for all who’d go in
Noah’s family of eight is all that survived
So the human race could now be revived
Their family grew large but it didn’t take long
the people again did something so wrong


A is for answers from God’s Holy Book;
Just open the pages and take a good look.
God created the earth in space it did hang
Creations first day without a Big BangH is for hungry it’s how we describe
A big dinosaur with his mouth open wide
Adam wasn’t scared to watch dinosaurs eat
Because all the creatures ate plants and not meatY is for years, how long could it be
Since god made the world for you and for me
Probably only 6000 or so
Say many good scientists; they ought to know

 

Rescuing our Kids from the Lie

Parents need to know what they can do to help rescue their kids from: the Evil One, secularists, the culture, churches that don’t teach apologetics, churches that compromise God’s Word, the “fluff-and-stuff” curricula of many Sunday schools, compromising Christian colleges, etc. This powerful presentation challenges Christians to help launch a new Reformation. Share it with your family, your friends, and your Sunday school leaders. Discover why Ken is convinced that like America, the church is under judgment, as well. Two-thirds of our children are now rejecting the faith of their parents. You can help rescue them from the faith-shattering deceptions of the Evil One!

 

One of the most common questions Christians ask is how atheists can cope with loss, not being able to believe that their loved ones are in a better place. As though God is an all-encompassing solution to this problem. And yet there seems to be huge market for these books trying to explain loss to believers.

The Genius of Ancient Man

This one starts with a warning that what you are about to read is often associated with the occult and should be considered carefully with prayer and reference to scripture. It then lists things that other cultures stole from Christianity, like human sacrifice. “Satan has perverted the idea of human,sacrifice and caused the gruesome deaths of millions of people. But it is only in gods plan that human sacrifice actually has purpose and is truly the cause of worship.”

“Through application of science we can prove that the Bible’s account of creation is true”

The Answers Curriculum for Kids offers only one “problem with carbon dating”:

“Plants can tell the difference between carbon dioxide with carbon-12 and carbon dioxide with carbon -14. They don’t like the carbon-14 as much, so they don’t take in as much of it as we might expect.”

This is a bizarre choice. It is both their weakest argument and the one I think kids are most likely to see the problems with. Unless you think that the plant’s tastes changed over time, it’s obviously something that we can easily observe today and correct for.

“So the next time you read a headline like this or read something in your textbooks, you can know that they’re not telling the truth, and that God’s Word is the true history of the universe.”

I didn’t buy anything, but I went home with two books anyway. The first was “Begin” which is their $3 introduction book, which a local gentlemen insisted on purchasing for me. I told him I probably wouldn’t read it because it’s basically just an abbreviated Bible with a couple of notes. However Book Club is doing the New Testament next month, and it contains John, Romans and Revelation. So I might use it for that.

Begin

The second one was one of Steve Ham’s books. He offered Karen and I autographed copies. I will have to read that one in detail but I probably won’t find time until summer.

 

Ken Ham Conference – Overview

The AIG conference in Edmonton was sponsored by an anonymous donor who paid for Ken Ham, his brother Steve Ham, Dr. David Menton and two other staff members to fly to Edmonton for a 3 day conference.

brochure

The first two days and Sunday morning service were at West Meadows Baptist Church, with a full day Sunday at Meadowlands Baptist Church. I attended 10 of these sessions:

Fri, Apr 04
6 p.m. Ken Ham Is Genesis Relevant in 2014?
7:30 p.m. Dr. David Menton Fearfully & Wonderfully Made
Sat, Apr 05
8:30 a.m. Steve Ham Created in the Image of God
10 a.m. Ken Ham Defending the Christian Faith in Today’s World
11:30 a.m. Dr. David Menton The Hearing Ear & Seeing Eye
2 p.m. Ken Ham Genetics & the Origins of “Races”
3:30 p.m. Steve Ham Evolution: The Old, New Religion
6 p.m. Ken Ham Six Days & the Authority of Scripture
Sun, Apr 06
6 p.m. Ken Ham Evolution, Scoffers & the Last Days
7:30 p.m. Dr. David Menton Beauty Is Skin Deep

Two large tables were set up selling Answers in Genesis books and DVDs. Almost every one of them was written by Ken Ham himself or Ken Ham with coauthors. This was in contrast to the CMI conference, where there were many different authors available for sale. CMI had both local authors discussing Drumheller and the badlands, and bigger international authors on more general topics. At this conference I really felt it was the Ken Ham show. No one attending seemed particularly interested in discussing science or theology, everyone was just there to meet the celebrity. The majority of people lining up to interact with the speakers were waiting for pictures and autographs instead of questions.

I20140406_175602

There were also brochures for the Creation Museum, and every one of Ken Ham’s presentations started with an advertisement for it. They were also advertising for their “science and technology” camp for kids, and their upcoming National conference in California.

There was no registration and people wandered in and out at will, but estimate attendance was between 100 and 400 people throughout the weekend. About 100 attended for the whole weekend, with the rest coming for a couple of sessions and leaving. West Meadows could easily have handled double the peak attendance, while Meadowlands was basically filled to capacity.

The attendees were mostly families, many with young children. I recognized only 1 family from previous Edmonton creationist events. One other member of the Society of Edmonton Atheists (SEA) attended on Friday and a second one on Sunday. At the end of Saturday a Christian that was not a YEC showed up and attempted a very angry and uneducated debate with Ken Ham after the last session. I’m not sure if he actually attended any lectures as he seemed to have no understanding of what Ken Ham actually believes. But he also wasn’t actually listening to Ken Ham’s responses to his questions. Other than that as far as I know everyone present was a believer.

It must have been advertised in different circles than the other events I have attended. It was not mentioned in the Creation Science Association of Alberta or any other local newsletters I follow.

There was a lot of talk about the Bill Nye debate (which was of course available for sale). Wandering through the crowds I think I heard the phrase “Bill, there is a book” at least a dozen times, and saw one T-shirt. Ken Ham himself is very proud of that line, with a detailed story of how he came up with it and plans to make T-shirts. I know a lot of atheists find that strange. That interaction really summed up the debate for both sides, and both sides think that their opponent’s response made them look ridiculous. But from a creationist perspective the fact that they do have all of the answers and that they never change is a good thing. I’m curious how the uncommitted people watching the debate felt about that line. Even within most denomination of Christianity the idea of taking the literal word of the Bible as scientific fact without regard to any evidence is seen as absurd. Unfortunately I can’t find anyone who wasn’t already committed to their position that bothered to watch the debate.

Also unlike the CMI conference there was no formal Q&A session. People could go up after and ask the presenter questions privately, but I didn’t get to hear what other people were asking. Most of the presentations had obviously been recited almost verbatim for years and are available in almost identical form online. The only exceptions were some discussion about the Bill Nye Debate and the recently released Noah movie.

The other big difference I noticed was that in the CMI conference Atheist and Humanist were used constantly, almost as curse words. Wieland actually slipped up and used the word “atheist” when he meant “rapist”. The message was all about protecting the kids from the humanists. In the AIG conference, it was all about protecting the kids from Satan. This could be because Ken Ham doesn’t believe that atheists actually exist and does believe in Satan, but neither does CMI. So I’m not sure why there was this difference. But it certainly made me feel a lot more welcome.

I recognized a couple of people there that knew I was an atheist, and by the middle of Saturday I noticed some staring and several families were noticeably avoiding me. (I always wear bright pink so I’m easy to identify) One man started a conversation. I was non-committal about my beliefs until he directly asked because I was alone and the word atheist sometimes causes violent reactions. He bought me the $3 Begin book, which is basically just a very abridged Bible with some notes added. Another man quickly dropped one of the $1,000,000 notes in front of me on the way out the door, but didn’t start a conversation.

milliondollarbill

On Sunday Steve Ham approached me if I had any questions. Unfortunately I have spent enough time reading creationist literature that if I haven’t already looked up the answer I haven’t thought of the question. The questions I do have are mostly related to the in depth creation science, and he seemed more interested with the theology stuff. The only theology question I had come up with I already asked Ken. He gave me a signed copy of his book “In God we Trust.”

Overall I found the conference somewhat disappointing. It was very much directed at the Christian layperson to try and convince them that Creationism is important. I didn’t find any “ark nerds” interested in science or logistics. The questions being asked to the presenters were all very basic, indicating that the audience wasn’t as familiar with Ken Ham’s platform as I expected. The lectures barely mentioned the topics I’m interested in. This made it a relatively boring conference for me.

Moment of Conception

Mad Scientist: I am going to commit the world’s earliest murder to get into the Evil Genius Book of World Records!

Biologist: Huh?

Mad Scientist: I hold here a petri dish containing a single human egg, an eye dropper containing a single capacitated human spermatozoon, and a bottle of ethanol. I’ve been reading this pro life website that says that life begins at the moment of conception, because it is the moment when a new, genetically distinct human being is formed, and there is really no other place during pregnancy to draw the line. I will now combine the egg and the sperm in the petri dish. Then I will zap the cell with this ray gun, destroying the cell and committing the world’s earliest murder!

mad_scientist

Biologist: Wait! The sperm has only made contact with the outer coating of the egg. If there was more than one sperm they would now be racing to dissolve the coating. Obviously the moment of conception cannot have occurred yet!

Mad Scientist: Well how long does that take?

Biologist: About 20 minutes.

Mad Scientist: I’m going for a coffee break.

coffee

Biologist: Wait! The sperm is physically inside the egg, but its DNA is still separate. Nothing about the DNA has changed. And the female DNA in the egg is still diploid. The half that will combine with the sperm hasn’t even separated yet. Errors in that process could still happen to determine whether the embryo has a chromosomal abnormality like Down’s Syndrome. How can that be the moment of conception?

Mad Scientist: Sigh. What happens now?

Biologist: The female DNA in the egg finishes splitting, and the DNA that will form the embryo becomes the female pronucleus. Then the DNA from the sperm will turn into the male pronucleus.

penetration copy

Mad Scientist: OK, but they are still separate. When will they meet?

Biologist: 12 to 24 hours.

Mad Scientist: Wake me up when this moment is over.

scientist_sleepy

Mad Scientist: OK, the pronuclei are close together. Now what?
together copy

Biologist: The envelopes of the two pronuclei dissolve…

Mad Scientist: Yes…

Biologist: And the chromosomes duplicate…
division copy

Mad Scientist: OK…

Biologist: And the cell splits into two cells.
twocell copy

Mad Scientist: When did the DNA combine?

Biologist: Soon.

Mad Scientist: WHAT? Why didn’t the DNA combine before it duplicated?

Biologist: Because it would just have to separate again in order to duplicate. Most mammals, including humans, skip that step, and don’t have diploid DNA until after the first cell division.

Mad Scientist: But obviously the Moment of Conception has to occur before there are two cells! The prolife website says that the process of development is controlled entirely by the embryo’s DNA. How can it be controlling development if it hasn’t even combined yet?

Biologist: It’s not. They are correct that no input from the mother is required for this process, which should be obvious because you are using a petri dish. But the first 2-3 divisions were preprogrammed by the mother’s DNA when the egg was formed. They are a chemical reaction that occurs independent of the DNA. They can be induced chemically without sperm at all.

Mad Scientist: But when was the moment of conception? It seemed like a continuous process!

Biologist: Yes. That’s why embryology textbooks refer to the “process of conception” not the “moment of conception.”