The biggest talk in religion this past week is the debate between scientist Bill Nye and Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham (left) about evolution. The thought processes of these two men can be summarized by their answer to just one question—could anything change their minds about their beliefs. Ham said that no one could ever convince him; Nye said that just one piece of evidence could change his position that the universe is evolving. The answers show that Ham started with his conclusion whereas Nye works on the evidence.
The debate demonstrates how useless a debate with creationists can be. Nye used his customary science: Neanderthal skulls that point directly to evolution; layer upon layer of rock formations, each millions of years apart; carbon dating and fossil records; even the impossibility of fitting 16 million species on a single ark made by eight humans with no power tools.
Ham justifies his narrow position by claiming that “we weren’t there, and we didn’t observe it.” Neither was he, so he relies on “the biblical account of origins”—what he calls observational science and historical science. Now is the observation, and the bible is the history. Ham calls radioactive dating “assumptions” and uses biblical genealogy to “prove” that this planet is 6,000 years old.
Despite Ham’s belief in his personal infallibility, his life-size “replica” of Noah’s Ark is hurting for cash with a current shortage of about $30 million. He may be able to deny evolution, natural selection, uranium-lead isotope dating, fossil records, and basic physics, but he can’t deny the financial ruin facing him.
Something else Ham surely won’t believe is a recent discovery by researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University) who used carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones. Their investigation shows that camels first came to Israel about the 9th century BCE. The Old Testament places camels in that region at the time of Abraham, considered by biblical scholars as the 20th century BCE.
Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, said through his associates:
“While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now. This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”
Several years ago, archaeologist William Dever said:
“We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.”
Ham’s belief is even too extreme for right-wing fundamentalists like Pat Robertson. The TV evangelist said, “There ain’t no way that’s possible…. To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible…. Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”
Robertson’s points were similar to those made by Nye: “Anyone who is in the oil business knows he’s drilling down, 2 miles, 3 miles underground, you’re coming into all these layers that were laid down by the dinosaurs. And we have skeletons of dinosaurs that go back like 65 million years. And to say that it all came around 6 thousand years ago is nonsense.”
Someone might want to point out to Robertson that he and his Christian network sell materials arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old and that the Bible says dinosaurs and humans lived together, a premise of Ham’s museum.
Nye’s goal in debating Ham was to protect children:
“I say that to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe that’s fine, but don’t have your kids do it because we need them, we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”
Parents in the United States are not allowed by law to starve their children’s bodies, but they are permitted to starve their minds.
Pundits in the U.S. were disgusted because Nye gave creationism credibility by debating Ham. On the other side of the pond, however, the audience of Britain’s Christian Today website reports that Nye won the debate: 92 percent of almost 50,000 responses found for “the science guy.”
At this time, adults are teaching these young people a literal version of the bible—at least when it suits the adults’ needs. For example, in their desire to maintain dominion over women, men cite 1 Corinthians 14, in which Paul tells the church of Corinth that women should be silent during the service. Fundamentalists use this verse to deny women the right to become pastor, even to pray aloud during services. Nye’s debate with Ham was not about religion; it was about politics. Ham takes the position that evolution leads to “lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc.”
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) presents this connection between religion and politics in his new memoir, Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!
“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice. The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”
Pearce refers to the New International Version book of Ephesians, which says wives should “submit to their husbands in everything.”
Evidently many fundamentalist women are not submitting to their husbands. Evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates, more so than people in the United States who claim no religion. This research was part of a study by the Council on Contemporary Families at Baylor University on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act to examine changes in the past half century for groups affected by the law.
- The number of people in the country who do not identify with any religious tradition has grown from three percent to 20 percent.
- Protestants as a share of the adult population has shrunk from 70 percent to 50 percent, primarily because of the decline of such denominations as Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians which have had their numbers cut in half.
- Evangelical populations rapidly grew until the early 1990s when the population began to decline.
- The percentage of Catholics has kept steady, but the ethnic composition has dramatically changed because of increasing Latino immigration.
- The number of people who affiliate with non-Judeo-Christian religions has doubled.
Another study found that all couples who live in predominantly conservative Protestant areas have higher divorce rates. Religiously conservative states Alabama and Arkansas have the second and third highest divorce rates in the U.S., while religiously liberal New Jersey and Massachusetts have two of the lowest. Atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rates of all.
While the GOP tries to woo people back as their followers, the extremist Republicans, like Pearce, are determined to drive them off. Susanne Atanus, an Illinois Republican trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky this year, puts God first. In so doing, she thinks that God controls the weather and put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth to punish people for LGBT rights and legalized abortions:
“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”
Mary Helen Sears, a candidate for a Michigan seat on the Republican National Committee, wants to have LGBT people “purged” from the GOP and believes that homosexuality is a “perversion” created by Satan. Her post on the Schoolcraft County GOP website is prefaced by a warning asking readers to “please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.” For good reason because Sears claims that homosexuals prey on children. Last month, former state GOP lawmaker Dave Agema was asked to step down from his position with the RNC “for the good of the party” because of his anti-gay comments.
Sears is, according to Macomb Daily columnist Chad Selweski, “if anything, to the right of RNC Committeeman Dave Agema on the political spectrum.” According to Sears, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.”
This is the party that wants to run the country.