Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ken Ham Versus Heathen Space Aliens

Ken Ham of Creation Museum fame has to be one of the stupidest human beings on the planet. While I realize that to my readers this isn't exactly a revelation, his recent comments pretty much take the cake. According to Ham, we should stop spending money exploring space and searching for alien life because the aliens are all going to hell anyway.

“Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe,” he continued. “Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space. I certainly suspect not.” But regardless of whether there was life in outer space, Ham asserted that it could not be truly “intelligent.”

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation,” he explained. “Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the ‘Godman’ as our Savior.”

Let me detail the ways in which this makes absolutely no sense, and bear with me, it'll take awhile. First off, Genesis doesn't explicitly state that God only created life on earth. From Genesis 1 (King James Version):

1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Note: "the heaven and the earth."

2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And then the beginning of verse 2 sets the context of the narrative that follows with "And the earth." Thus, from verse 2 on it's specifically the earth being talked about. No other planets are mentioned. So there's nothing in the text that precludes other planets also being created by God - at least, not if you possess basic reading comprehension skills.

Then, in Genesis 2 and 3 - the story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden - the text likewise doesn't mention other planets and certainly not the "whole universe." Eden is, in fact, identified as a place on earth, the source of four rivers including the very earthbound Tigris and Euphrates. So again, there's nothing in the text that would preclude the creation myth being specifically about earth.

Much of Ham's perspective stems from the way in which he interprets the Bible - even though he flat-out claims that he's a literalist and does no such thing. The Ussher Chronology, which he insists is the only way to date the age of the earth, is itself a seventeenth-century interpretation that not even all young-earth creationists accept.

For example, let's say you keep Ussher's contention that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" from 2 Peter 3:8. If you then read the story in order as "seven days" before the events of Genesis 2 marked the beginning of recorded history, you wind up with a creation date more like 10,000 BCE or so rather than Ussher's 4004 BCE. If you read the Bible literally, that makes more sense than Ussher's additional convolutions.

Ussher for some reason decided that the birth of Jesus had to take place at the beginning of the fifth day, 4004 years after the creation itself. This is pure interpretation. Here's what Genesis actually says God created on the fifth day:

20. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

Not one mention of Jesus, or even human beings. They get created on the sixth day. Not only that, mapping the six days as Ussher does would imply that there were no human beings prior to 1000 CE, because that's when the sixth day starts. But according to Ham, even prominent conservative evangelist Pat Robertson is not a real Christian because he doesn't accept the Ussher Chronology, even though it makes even less sense than and differs from a literal reading of the text.

At any rate, Ham's apparent perspective on Genesis is that the narrative is exclusionary - that is, nothing not in the narrative actually happened. But that would imply, for example, that China never existed in Biblical times. It's not like much of anything outside the Middle East appears in scripture, and if you read a story like the Exodus that way, it would imply that there were no human beings anywhere in the world besides Egypt and Mesopotamia. But we know that's not true.

So that says to me that even if the young-earthers are right, reading Genesis as exclusionary is simply wrong. That being the case, earth may not have been the only world God created with intelligent life, and as we can observe planets orbiting nearby stars with our current telescopes, it seems a pretty likely bet.

As to the question of life on those worlds, without the exclusionary reading there's no reason to think intelligent alien life couldn't be out there. But if Ham is right, and aliens can't be saved because they are either (A) not the descendents of Adam or (B) do not know Christ, I can't see why any good Christian would want to stop looking for them.

Let's say (A) is correct. Then the solution to saving an alien race would be to hybridize them with humans. In fact, if the contactees are right, could this already be going on? As far as (B) goes, clearly any good Christian would want to develop the technology to communicate with them and share the Good News. Maybe they wouldn't be interested, but they would at least have a choice. But Ken Ham wants to deny them even that.

So where does that leave Answers in Genesis, with this incongruent mess of a theology? It all makes so little sense that it's hard to say. And that's all just looking at his comments from a theological rather than a scientific point of view.

Science, of course, abandoned Ken Ham and his brethren long ago.

UPDATE: Ken Ham has clarified his comments, explaining that what he really meant was that we should take all the money being "wasted" on the space program and use it to build more Creation Museums. You know, because animatronic statues of people riding dinosaurs are so much more worthwhile than building the infrastructure that may one day let us colonize space. In the same article, he also offered this gem:

He suggested mainstream secularists believed that aliens had contributed to human life on Earth, citing as his proof the History Channel program “Ancient Aliens” and writings by Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick.

“In the beginning aliens, they’ll believe, but in the beginning God?” Ham said. “They’ll believe in eternal aliens, but absolutely reject an eternal God. They’ll believe in all sorts of ridiculous weirdo beliefs about aliens.”

Umm, last I checked most "secularists" think that Ancient Aliens is a big joke. It's one of the most unscientific programs I've seen, and keep in mind that's coming from a ceremonial magician who watches plenty of weird crap. Ham seems to believe that to be a "secularist" you have to accept UFOlogy, which has its own set of fringe beliefs that are completely rejected by the secular, academic mainstream.

Statistically speaking there probably are intelligent aliens somewhere in the universe. Whether they're close enough to ever visit the earth or even become aware of humans, though, is anybody's guess.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good read. I wrote something from my perspective as well from a Young Earth Creationist.


Scott Stenwick said...

Exactly! Your article, unlike Ham's statement, is completely reasonable. Why would God create a whole vast universe out there and then expect human beings to just ignore it?

Also, if there are intelligent aliens on some other planet, it seems to me that any serious, committed Christian would want to share his or faith with them and give them a chance at salvation.