All the World in One Cartoon: Or, A Picture Contradicts a Thousand Words

Randall Stephens

On Wednesday Chris Beneke posted a review on this blog of The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, a book I coauthored with Karl Giberson. I especially liked Beneke's response to a populist, misguided review that appeared on the Creationist Answers in Genesis site. (The reviewers whipped up readers by claiming that Giberson and I are snoots who look down our noses on salt-of-the earthers who don't have PhDs.) "Credentials aren't irrelevant," Beneke writes, "but they aren't the real issue here (see: Herberg, Will). Rather, it's the misuse or wholesale neglect of critical facts that distinguishes rigorous, honest scholarship from the work of self-anointed experts such as Ham."

One of the things that struck me most about the Answers in Genesis review was a short paragraph in which the two reviewers claim we misrepresented Ham and his organization's mission.

They write:

The authors also asserted that ICR [Institute for Creation Research] and AiG argue that evolution is “responsible for much of what’s wrong with the world” (p. 36). Answers in Genesis has never stated or implied this. We have both—in countless articles and even in the 2008 online debate between Ham and Dr. Giberson—declared instead that the teaching of evolution has caused many to doubt or disbelieve the Bible.*

It made me wonder if they've spent much time reading what's on their own website. Ham and company do repeatedly "imply" that evolution leads to all sorts of horrors. That's plastered all over the Answers in Genesis site. (See here, here, here, here, here . . . I could go on.) How could these Answers in Genesis reps write that "Answers in Genesis has never stated or implied this." Are their pants on fire?

But my favorite example of Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham's view of
evolution being “responsible for much of what’s wrong with the world" is this wonderful, ubiquitous cartoon that is still up on the AiG website. This picture has been teaching children about the real issues that are at stake for over a decade now.


Tom Van Dyke said…
The rebuttal

was of interest, on the formal and epistemological level per the scholarly rigor of the book in question: errors, omissions, elisions, and the apparent free use of polemical language.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Should we consider the tome as serious scholarship or just another volley in the culture wars?

[The cartoon rebuttal of the rebuttal holds, of course. It does not close the book on this, however: there are many other points of contention, and winning a single battle does not win a war. As a non-litigant with no sympathy for either "side" of this, I want to hear more. Rock on, Randall. I'm intrigued. And entertained.]
Randall said…
They are esp angry because they think we sound "mean" or "snooty." I'm not sure what to make of that. We de-snooted the entire MS. Thin skin I guess. (Can't imagine how they react to Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkin's criticism.) I did notice that they seem irked that all sorts of people think they are better than them. There's a serious beleaguered tone in the piece. Reminds me of what Rick Perlstein has written about that chip-on-the-shoulder populism or the right. Their hackles are up.

Here's a good example of how they twisted things in that "review".

They write: Stephens and Giberson "mistakenly claimed that Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a young-earth creationist (p. 19)"

In fact, on page 19 we make the factual claim:

"Dobson enthusiastically promotes Barton's Christian history and Ham's young earth creationism." Is that the same as saying that he *is* a young earth creationist? His Focus on the Family book store carried and still carries Ken Ham books and videos. I saw those on the shelves in the Colorado Springs store.

Barton was a regular guest on Focus.

There's also the bit about "the late Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the founder of the modern creationist movement, supposedly drew significant inspiration from a “mentor,” George McCready Price (p. 23)."

Ronald Numbers at U Wisc and people who actually study and know something about this are deeply aware of the close connection between Price's ideas and Morris's.
Tom Van Dyke said…
Re the snoot and snark, is this part accurate

As the authors frequently singled out the AiG president for criticism, they demean him with terms like a “pied piper” (p. 45) of the seemingly uneducated masses of Christians. His views, the book argues, have “transported [him] into a scientific Land of Oz” (p. 59). Ken is said to have a “pandering anti-intellectual presentation style in his talks and writings” (p. 45). Furthermore, the authors bizarrely contend that the last time Ken “brushed up against science” was during the Cold War (p. 58).

Sounds good and snarky to me. Funny as hell, too.

...including the claim that the late Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the founder of the modern creationist movement, supposedly drew significant inspiration from a “mentor,” George McCready Price (p. 23). This is simply incorrect and was most likely regurgitated from the book The Creationists by historian Dr. Ronald Numbers.

Well, at least y'all are on the same page re Dr. Numbers: the mileage varies, is all.

We must point out that six of the full-time Answers in Genesis faculty members have doctorate degrees in their fields, including genetics, astrophysics, geology, biology, the history of science, and medicine. This fact is conveniently omitted in a book that pretends to question the scholarship of our staff.

I thought this one scored on a formal level, if they're accurate here: that information is key. Not that it helps their case any--that they're credentialed and still hold to creationism is even more bizarre than if they were merely pseudo-scholars.

As for Dr. James Dobson, his credentials look OK. PhD USC in psychology, 14 years on faculty. The mileage on "soft" science varies greatly, and it seems to me Dobson has the right to be as wrong as Freud and Dr. Spock were.

I continue to monitor this whole affair with interest. Thx.

And apparently for the authors, Ken Ham’s 35-plus years of research, writing, and speaking on apologetics don’t quite measure up to the knowledge level of a student leaving a university with a PhD in science.

Heh heh. No, they don't.