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.
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.
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.
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.