The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins agree with each other, but they are both wrong

Ken Ham is an Evangelical Christian and is perhaps the world’s most prominent anti-evolutionist and advocate of young-Earth creationism.

Richard Dawkins, author of the best-selling book The God Delusion, is perhaps the world’s most prominent proselytizer for atheism.

The two men are worlds apart on a number of important issues, but they seem to be in complete agreement about one thing: The Bible and evolution—and the accompanying belief that Earth is billions are years old—are completely incompatible with each other. Ham writes:

Last month, famous atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Howard Condor on Revelation TV in the UK. Parts of the interview are disappointing regarding how the interviewer made some of his arguments. However, there was one section of the interview that is really worth publicizing.

At one stage, the interviewer asked, “So, was there a defining moment where you made a decision that you didn’t believe in God?”

Richard Dawkins replied, “Yes . . . I suppose, I switched from Christian theism to some sort of deism about the age of fourteen or fifteen. And then switched to atheism about the age of sixteen—fifteen, sixteen.”

Howard Condor then asks, “And was there a particular point, or something you read, or an experience you had that said, ‘Yes this is it, God does not exist’?”

Now note carefully the following statement by Richard Dawkins:

Oh well, by far the most important was understanding evolution. I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they are deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, and I think I realized that about the age of sixteen.

[from Atheist Richard Dawkins: Evangelical Christians Have Really Sort of Got it Right by Ken Ham]

Dawkins is convinced that evolution made the world safe for atheism. Ken Ham is convinced that evolution completely undermines Christianity. They agree with each other on this point, but they are both wrong!

The young-Earth creationist case against biological evolution is based primarily on two Biblical ideas. The first is a weakly-supported interpretation, and the other is simply an over-reading of the text.

  1. The weak interpretation is the idea that there was no animal death before Adam and Eve fell into sin. The truth of the matter is that none of the passages usually cited in support of this position (Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15) actually say anything about animals starting to die as a result of Adam’s sin. They all tie human death to sin, but that is all. To the young-Earth creationists, evolution could not have occurred before Adam because evolution requires death. But if death did occur before Adam (I’ve developed the case for this in my post Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective) then this part of the Biblical argument against biological evolution crumbles.
  2. The second creationist argument against evolution is based on the verses in Genesis 1 where plants and animals are created to reproduce after their “kinds.” The Bible does not define “kinds” for us, but there is no reason to limit this definition to the modern scientific concept of “species.” The Bible does not say that there can be no variation within populations of the kinds, nor does it say that gene frequencies cannot change from generation to generation, or that mutations cannot occur that will lead to new traits. In fact, if there is a limit to biological change within the kinds, the Bible is silent on the matter. We should be silent too, at least as far as our Biblical exegesis goes. In any case, the young-Earth creationists undermine their argument by advocating hyper-rapid speciation after the flood at a rate that would make most evolutionary biologists blush.

I could take this a step further by saying there are statements in Genesis 1 that imply some sort of process over time. Consider the following two verses:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 ESV)

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:20-21 ESV)

In both of these passages, God gives a command that initiates a process: “Let the earth sprout vegetation,” “Let the waters swarm with swarms.” In both of these cases, it does not in any way diminish God’s creative power to use a process rather than a fiat creation from nothing.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Bible actually advocates some sort of biological evolution, but the case for God using processes in creation is certainly at least as strong, if not stronger, than the case for the idea that species cannot change over time.

I am not arguing here whether or not biological evolution is true. I happen to believe it is at least mostly true, but my expertise lies elsewhere (I have had a few undergraduate and graduate courses in paleontology and paleoecology). What I am arguing is that both Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins are wrong on this matter. The Bible doesn’t say anything one way or another about whether biological evolution can occur. Because of this, Richard Dawkins (and atheists in general) cannot use evolution as a basis for rejecting God and Christianity. If they wish to continue to reject Christianity they will have to find some other reason. One can be a scientist and be a thoroughly-convinced Christian. One can also be a Christian and accept an old Earth and biological evolution. An example of this would be the great defender of the faith C.S. Lewis.

Grace and Peace

April 27, 2011 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. It is also commonly argued that since biological evolution is a random process driven by environmental factors, it is therefore incompatible with the concept of a purposeful creator. This argument is also wrong. It relies on an erroneous assumption that randomness entails lack of purpose. The motions of air molecules in my lungs are (from a strictly mathematical point of view) uncorrelated, random variables which make it possible for me to breathe. From my point of view, respiration is hardly purposeless! At work, I write MonteCarlo computer simulations that use a pseudo-random number generator because it turns out that random processes are sometimes the best (or at least easiest) way to accomplish a calculation for which I have a definite purpose. Surely God’s purposes, which are much higher than mine, might have some use for random processes.

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    Comment by Charles Kankelborg | April 27, 2011

  2. I agree with you that evolution cannot disprove a deity or all versions of christianity. However, it does disprove special creation. that means that the sects of christianity(and other religions) that assert special creation are disproven. Would you agree?

    how do you respond to the idea that a world population of 2 (or 8), would be such an extreme population bottleneck, that a species could not survive. (i think this is genetics, not evolution, though?)

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    Comment by Boz | April 28, 2011

  3. “He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”

    C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 6

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    Comment by Tim Helble | April 28, 2011

  4. Quote – “In both of these passages, God gives a command that initiates a process: “Let the earth sprout vegetation,” “Let the waters swarm with swarms.” In both of these cases, it does not in any way diminish God’s creative power to use a process rather than a fiat creation from nothing.”

    Exodus 31:17 “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth”

    This is meant in love, I don’t mean to be disrespectful… But I believe the word God has given us instead of the words of the men in this world. God says in the Bible that He created the earth in six days. (Gen 1, Ex 31) Why should I not believe Him?
    And yes, I believe it does diminish God’s creative power to say he used evolution or even the normal time it takes to grow plants and produce swarms of animals, He created the earth in six days, He created the plants in one day, He created the swarms of the sea in one day, not millions of years or any other time periods you want to put in there. I do not listen to any man (Dawkins, Ham or You) only the word of God, and I believe what He has told me in the Bible. And I love the work Ken Ham and AIG has does for the glory of God! Both he and Dawkins are right the Bible and evolution are completely incompatible with each other.
    With deep love, in Christ.

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    Comment by Lorelle | April 28, 2011

  5. Lorelle:

    Thanks for your comment and for going the extra mile to emphasize that your statement is meant in love.

    My argument was primarily about biological evolution, not the age of the Earth. My intent was to show that the Bible doesn’t place a limit on biological change.

    In regards to Genesis 1 and the other portions of the Bible that refer to six days of creation, I take the Scriptures very seriously as well; I just don’t think that Answers in Genesis or other young-Earthers have the final or best understanding on these passages. Consider the verse you quoted:

    “…in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Ex 31:17 ESV

    I’ll make three observations about this:

    1. “Six days” in this passage means whatever it means in Genesis 1. If it doesn’t mean “six literal 24-hour days” in Genesis 1, then it doesn’t mean “six literal 24-hour days” in Exodus 31. Augustine (over 1000 years before Darwin) argued that these cannot be literal days, because there was no sun before the fourth day. There are other arguments based on the text that cast doubt on the standard YEC interpretation of these passages.
    2. If you take the “days” in Ex 31:17 as literal days, then shouldn’t you also take God’s resting and refreshing literally as well? Did God need a rest or refreshing? Of course not. He rested because he was done, not because he was tired. Our rest is analogous to God’s rest, but it is not the same thing. Likewise, there is no reason to assume that God’s time is the same as our time.
    3. The days of creation not only set the pattern for a weekly sabbath, but also for the sabbatical year. The pattern is what is most important.

    You may not agree with my line of reasoning (which I have laid out only briefly); that’s OK. But what I hope you can see is that I have presented a completely Biblical argument for interpreting the days of Genesis 1 as something other than literal, consecutive 24-hour days.

    Grace and Peace

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    Comment by geochristian | April 28, 2011

  6. I recently came across the following quote by St Basil that sheds some light on the way the Early Church looked at Genesis 1:

    Such is also the character of eternity, to revolve
    upon itself and to end nowhere. If then the beginning of time is
    called “one day” rather than “the first day,” it is because Scripture
    wishes to establish its relationship with eternity. It was, in
    reality, fit and natural to call “one” the day whose character is to be
    one wholly separated and isolated from all the others. If Scripture
    speaks to us of many ages, saying everywhere, “age of age, and ages of
    ages,” we do not see it enumerate them as first, second, and third. It
    follows that we are hereby shown not so much limits, ends and
    succession of ages, as distinctions between various states and modes of
    action. “The day of the Lord,” Scripture says, “is great and very
    terrible,” [1454] and elsewhere “Woe unto you that desire the day of
    the Lord: to what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness
    and not light.” [1455] A day of darkness for those who are worthy of
    darkness. No; this day without evening, without succession and without
    end is not unknown to Scripture, and it is the day that the Psalmist
    calls the eighth day, because it is outside this time of weeks. [1456]
    Thus whether you call it day, or whether you call it eternity, you
    express the same idea. Give this state the name of day; there are not
    several, but only one. If you call it eternity still it is unique and
    not manifold. Thus it is in order that you may carry your thoughts
    forward towards a future life, that Scripture marks by the word “one”
    the day which is the type of eternity, the first fruits of days, the
    contemporary of light, the holy Lord’s day honoured by the Resurrection
    of our Lord. And the evening and the morning were one day.”

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    Comment by The Singular Observer | April 29, 2011

  7. It seems to me that the real point of agreement between Messrs Ham and Dawkins (if there is one) is that that both believe that if you do not accept the opening chapters of Genesis as an historical narrative of events that took place in time and space and exactly as described then you cannot accept any other part of the Bible (including the Christ event) without being entirely inconsistent in your worldview.
    Prof Dawkins accepts evolution and therefore rejects the Bible. Mr Ham accepts the Bible and because of this rejects evolution.
    They are both wrong because what they do is reduce the Bible and God to something we can pin down in language such as “true” or “false” – as if we had any real concept of either of these things. Ken Ham often demonstrates a profound ignorance of scientific enquiry while Richard Dawkins continually shows that he knows nothing of theology.
    Or perhaps they are both feigning ignorance. The professor writes of “talking snakes and magic trees” while AIG constantly tries to convince us that dogs don’t turn into cats and there are no such things as “dats” or “cogs” or even “cags” and “dots”. Evolution doesn’t believe this either and the Bible is not a tale of magic apples. They are setting up false extremes and asking us to choose one or other as if no other option exists. It’s sometimes called the fallacy of the false dichotomy.
    I would have quoted C S Lewis but Tim Helble beat me to it.

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    Comment by Sapphire | April 29, 2011

  8. Seeing God in creation seems for many, to be like the old adage “is the glass half empty or half full.”

    Richard Dawkins appears to see nature, as just a display of complex mechanisms and nothing else.
    In his book The Blind Watchmaker, he eloquently describes a portion of these mechanisms, as they relate to evolutionary biology. I can come away from the same text thinking wow, God has so many amazing ways to do things and Dawkins has the complete opposite conclusion and with absolutest zeal.

    Ken Ham has arrived at an interpretation of the bible, that is absolutest in nature and this interpretation has a long tradition behind it. “Interpretation” is a vexing issue in Christianity and is, in a large part, at the route, of this whole discussion. We all have our own unique and limited insight and intellect for deciphering this world, sharing our perspectives, respectively, can I believe be helpful.

    One “red letter” verse that came to mind, in relation to this ongoing discussion: Matthew 10:30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. This speaks to me as, God, knowing every detail and mechanism in his universe.

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    Comment by Ormonde | April 29, 2011

  9. Hi Kevin,

    I don’t understand where “God created the heaven and earth in six days” is over-reading the text, but ” Jesus rising from the dead on the third day” isn’t. What is the difference?
    Neither one of these historical events are taking place today. Why do you reject one and believe the other? Just asking.

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    Comment by Jay C. | April 30, 2011

  10. Jay:

    I said that going from “reproduce after their own kinds” to “evolution cannot happen” is an over-reading of the text. I did not say that the YEC literal consecutive 24-hour day interpretation is an over-reading of the text.

    In the evolution of Equus from Hyracotherium (Eohippus), each generation was a reproduction after its own kind. Over a number of generations, the species changed, but that doesn’t negate the fact that horses produce horses in the next generation and not crocodiles.

    I will stick with my position: The Bible does not place a limit on biological change, so the question of whether or not there are limits is a scientific question, not a theological one.

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    Comment by geochristian | April 30, 2011

  11. Jay:

    I don’t reject Genesis 1 just as I don’t reject Jesus’ resurrection on the third day.

    Christians debate the meaning of the days in Genesis 1 without disagreeing on the core meanings of the text: creation from nothing, the goodness of creation, man created in God’s image, etc.

    I also know Christians who disagree about how “three days and three nights” in the Gospels relates to Jesus being crucified on Friday and rising from the dead on Sunday, with some advocating that the crucifixion was really on Thursday. Again, there is a disagreement about the nature of “days,” but no disagreement about the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    So, I don’t “reject one and believe the other,” but believe in both God’s creation of the universe and the resurrection of Christ.

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    Comment by geochristian | April 30, 2011

  12. The findings of science would actually seem to support the account in Genesis more than most people seem to realize: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNaVRARsrgg

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    Comment by Loretta | May 4, 2011

  13. I do not mean to offend anyone, I am just an atheist, and I try not to be a dick. It is just that all of Ken Hams arguments stem from the axiom of the bible being literal truth. If you take that out of the equation, whether you are an atheist or from another religion, then Ken Hams arguments fall to pieces.
    I have no problem with people being religious or having faith, but Ken Hams religion is detrimental to humanity. If something contradicts science, then both things should be analysed equally, but I doubt, in the case of evolution, that over one hundred and fifty years of science is wrong.
    If the god of any religion existed, then surely science would confirm this.
    I am sorry if I have offended anyone, that was not my intention.

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    Comment by Death Jester | September 20, 2011

  14. Death:

    Ken Ham’s problem isn’t that he believes the Bible, but that he over-reads the Bible. He makes it say things that it doesn’t say. His young-Earth creationism isn’t necessary biblically, and it doesn’t work scientifically, and because of this I believe that young-Earth creationism puts up an unnecessary barrier to belief to people like yourself.

    I’m not sure what you are looking for for “scientific” confirmation of the existence of God. The very existence of the universe with its laws is in need of an explanation, but you cannot put it into a couple of boxes, one labeled “with a god” and the other labeled “without god” and see what happens.

    Thanks for visiting, and for bending over backwards to not offend.

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    Comment by geochristian | September 22, 2011


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