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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ken Ham Video Edition, Part 'e'

[Note: I initially wrote this two months back, in the time since, AiG has released new videos. I have not yet reviewed them, but I cannot imagine they are any better than those I have already reviewed. Otherwise, this material is reasonably up to date..]

The two latest parts of Ken Ham's video series that have been released are focused on human races, and racism. He decides to define races in a rather interesting way (I'll explain why its interesting later). He decides that races are defined by characteristics -- skin color, eye shape, etc. Then he goes on to say that there are no races, all humans are one race -- the descendants of Adam and Eve (and more precisely, descendants of Noah). He uses genetics in a strange way to prove his point.

Ham's genetics theory consists of the Tower of Babel story, and some guesswork about Adam and Eve. First Ham guesses that Adam and Eve were brown, having genes for both white and black skin. He then mentions Noah and that we are all actually his descendants. Then comes the reason for different races (although he does not accept the idea of race, he says we are all one race -- more on that later). His explanation for black, white, brown and yellow is Babel. It scattered the once unified race all over the planet, and due to environmental pressures, the different 'races' emerged. He then goes on to say that current genetic knowledge backs up his interpretation and contradicts evolution. The only problem is that he is wrong. His lecture presentation makes much sense when one refuses to go beyond his limited set of facts and simplistic explanation. Which of course is exactly what he is counting on when it comes to his Christian audiences.

So lets move beyond Ham's little mythological tale, and point out some other facts that everyone is aware of and which resoundingly defeat Ham's fantasy. He goes on at length to show that skin color is due to gene selection based on environmental pressures. He uses africans as an example; due to the heat and intense sunlight, the extra pigmentation was useful protection, so the light skin genes were bred out, leaving only dark skin genes, thus black people. He then says that they only lost information, not gained. This explanation is only half true, and leads to his totally false conclusion.

One reason it is half true (and there are many, but require biology and/or genetics courses to explain) is that he only focuses on one trait, skin color. But there are many different traits which distinguish the races. Hair color, eye color, eye shape to name just a few (there are also other less visible traits as well, blood disorders, susceptibility to disease, and other genetic traits). When you look at his linkage of environment to genetics in only the context of skin color, it makes sense (but still inaccurate). But the moment you link these other traits as well, say skin color, hair color and eye shape to environmental factors, reality sets in, and the errors of his theory become clear. Environmental pressures cannot explain why blacks have dark eyes or dark hair, it cannot explain why asians have narrow eyes and dark hair and it cannot explain why whites have either dark or light hair and dark or light hair. Bringing in seperation of populations due to distance further disproves Ham's case, not bolstering it. The reason is that Ham wants to claim that genetic information is only lost, never gained, and his mechanism for loss can only be environment, or distance. It cannot be cultural preference either because, for example, in Ham's view no one would have narrow eyes, so preferring narrow eyes would never result in a race with narrow eyes. So now we have solid proof that Ken Ham's theory of genetics fails to explain all the facts we know about humans, race, genetics, environmental pressure selection, and other methods of selection. Since his theory only moderately fits one special case, but falls apart completely when generalized, and evolution explains everything in the general case, and the specific case Ham chose to focus on, evolution must then be the truth, and Ham's creationism the fantasy.

Evolution better fits the facts and is the whole truth -- as opposed to Ham's half truth because:
1. Ham is correct, environment does play a role in genetic selection, but not the only role.
2. Evolution uses, in addition to environmental factors, geographic factors (seperation) and time as well (not to mention mutation and selection).
3. Time and geography give rise to traits that can't or didn't occur due to environmental pressures. These would in essence, add information to the genetic code
4. Ham's premise is that environmental factors only select between present genes, his 'loss of information' but evolution has a second method, mutated and replicated genes can be selected for based on environmental pressures, an 'addition of information'

Facts and worldviews
One interesting aspect of differing worldviews is how one sees facts. Science views facts as little pieces of the truth, not themselves interpreted, rather guideposts to interpreting the truth. Young earth creationists, on the other hand, already possess the 'Truth' (the bible story) and strive to interpret the facts themselves. The difference is profound. Science presumes the truth is unknown initially, and works toward uncovering it by finding the facts that compose it. YECs by virtue of already 'knowing' the truth actually have no need for learning the facts (which is why no research is done by them -- I will discuss this in more detail later). They are left trying to re-explain the facts to fit their worldviews.

The re-interpretation of facts is quite interesting in itself. That is what we are going to consider today. As an example, let us consider the theories (interpretations of the truth) of geocentrism versus heliocentrism. We will limit ourselves to three facts; the motion of the sun across the sky, the motion of the visible planets, and the rotation of the esrth itself. Representing science, I will use Carl Sagan, and for YECs, Ken Ham.

End Note:
When I spoke of no YECs doing science, I was not saying so in an absolute sense. There are many who are in the science fields. What I was referring to were those who could potentially make discoveries which contradict biblical teachings only. Since the bible is silent on the characteristic spectral lines of isotopes, you will find scientists in that field of physics, whereas the radioactive decay of ultra-long lived isotopes like uranium and thorium suggest an old universe, you won't find many YECs doing research in radioactive decay theory. Ironically, even in fields where they disagree, like astro physics, where they dispute the constancy of the speed of light (a fundamental constant in physics) over time, they refuse to conduct any research to back up their wild assertions on these fundamental constants. This shows my initial statement to be true, that YECs do not do any science contrary to the bible and consider science to be nothing but assertions and interpretations. They are satisfied with simply saying something, and not seeing it as necessary to back it up with proof.

Finally, the "part 'e'" in the title is a reference to a mathematical quantity, the base of the natural logarithm. It was simply another little joke in a long line of little inside jokes.

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At August 03, 2006 5:28 PM, Blogger Ghost Dancer said...

Nice blog ... just enough information without overload. Does Ken Ham believe that there are only genes for eyes, hair, and skin? It's funny how he uses "natural selection" only when he needs it.

Don't be so hard on Creationists, though, I think most of them are pretty smart and are going to figure it out one day that evolution and God go hand in hand.

The vanity of thinking God is somehow a reflection of what people like Ken Ham think.

God is infinite like the Universe yet present in every living like Evolution.


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