Creationist Nonsense: Were You There?

It seems that a previous post of mine caught the eye of Ken Ham ( and he felt the need to comment on it. I should feel honoured that one as humble as me has caught the attention of such a high profile Creationist.

One commenter on my post kindly copied Ken’s Facebook comment to my blog post, otherwise I may never have known.

Ken’s final paragraph gave me cause to chuckle:

Well this person wouldn’t like our Starting Points Room at the Creation museum now would they!! This person has no concept of the difference between historical science and observational science. Your kids will they–particularly those who were taught to ask ‘Were you There?’

The “Were you there?” question is one that I’ve known about for some time. Children are encouraged to ask prominent evolutionary scientists this question in response to their assertions about how we know certain facts. The implication behind it is that if you didn’t see it happen, how can you be so sure? I imagine that Creationist preachers taking this line can then go on to explain that we know the Bible to be accurate because its written down for us by eye witnesses to these events and so if they ask themselves the same question the answer is “no, but I know a man who was.”

This line of logic may work on children, but it doesn’t survive the critical examination of intelligent adults. So to see an intelligent adult actually using it in this way genuinely makes me sad.

The worst part of this line of reasoning is that it actually misses the point of the scientific study of evolution. I wonder if that’s intentional.

The scientific study of evolution is about the physical evidence and the corroboration of that evidence across different disciplines. People and their testimonies are neither sought nor trusted. A man might lie, rock strata, tree rings, varying fossil shapes and genetic relationship maps do not lie. These are there for people to examine and draw their conclusions from. If someone gets it wrong, there will be someone else along to spot it. When different interpretations come up, there is a healthy scientific discussion about it. People get impassioned and eventually the more accurate descriptions survive. Occasionally, when further evidence pops up, long held ideas get to be overturned.

This is good science; and it means that if your radical idea is to be accepted by anyone other than yourself, it has to survive immense scrutiny.

Asking “were you there?” is neither good science, nor intellectually sound. It’s the equivalent of sticking out your tongue, putting your thumbs in your ears and waving your fingers while blowing a raspberry. It serves no useful purpose.

The temptation is great to ask back, “were you there in the garden of Eden? Or on Mount Ararat? Or at the battle of Jericho?”. I’ve already given the hint as to what the answer will be. “I didn’t need to be, those who were there wrote it down, see.”

Poorer is the Creationist who takes that line and considers it weightier than the history we see in world around us.

Creationists like Ken Ham will mock the use of evidence taken from the physical world, calling it “observational science” and “garbage”. I wonder how much of this observational science is utilised at the creation museum. Does he only use physical evidence that the Bible specifically mentions? Surely he wouldn’t use fossils with an interpretation of his own that’s not mentioned in the Bible would he? What about a description of erosion that contradicts science but is not found in the Bible? I don’t know the certain answers to those questions, but given the creationist stance on evolution and the global flood, I think I can safely say that the Creation museum interprets observed science and uses an explanation that doesn’t match the prevailing understanding.

Dare I label this hypocrisy? I think I do!


4 thoughts on “Creationist Nonsense: Were You There?

  1. I think there’s also a practical response to the “were you there?” distinction between historical and observational science that certain creationists use. It’s true that we cannot possibly know for certain that millions of years ago, the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology are the same as they are today. However, if we cannot assume that the laws of nature are consistent throughout time, how can I possibly build anything for the future? Just out of practicality, we have to be able to assume that the laws of the universe stay constant.

  2. On the point of the laws of nature remaining the same. The creationist faces a challenge there too because they believe in a god who doesn’t change. If they are to invoke the idea that the laws of nature have changed then they have to match that with a god who claims to be the same yesterday, today and forever.

  3. If you go to the Answers in Genesis website Ham most certainly does use fossils. I’m not sure about the Creation Museum. But as a Christian I frequently listened to his “Back in Genesis” programs and he did all sorts of experiments to “prove” that the global flood caused rapid fossilization. He started out with a hypothesis and set about proving it. Certainly he didn’t just follow the scientific evidence which is what he accuses mainstream scientists of doing. Hypocrisy? Just a wee bit I would say.

  4. Pingback: Creationist Nonsense: Science assumes no God « Confessions Of A YEC

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