Ken Ham Really Doesn’t Understand Science

May 15, 2016

By Phil Plait

In 2014, popular science communicator Bill Nye “debated” creationist Ken Ham in a live webcast on YouTube. The event went pretty much as expected; Nye presented levelheaded evidence that science works, that evolution is real, and the Universe is very old, while Ham used bad logic, cherry-picking, and blatant twisting of scientific claims.

At the time (and still today) I think Nye made the right decision to participate in the event. Ham runs the Answers in Genesis ministry, and also the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and is well-known for his outrageous statements. It might seem silly to elevate the debate by paying any attention at all to Ham, but that ignores the fact that polls consistently show that half of the American population believes in some form of creationism.

We ignore this at our own peril.

Debating creationists is slippery. When your opponent doesn’t have to adhere to facts or logic, it’s tricky to find traction. My friend Zach Weinersmith once wrote that it’s not that most creationists are anti-evolution, it’s that they’re anti-some distorted version of it told to them by their pastors.

He’s completely correct. That became even clearer to me when, shortly after the debate, BuzzFeed posted an article called “22 Messages From Creationists to People Who Believe in Evolution”. It was clear from the questions asked that the creationists involved had no idea about how evolution—even science itself—worked. The questions were universally based on false premises, a distortion of the science that made it actually pretty easy to answer those supposedly “gotcha” queries.

So I did answer them, in a post titled “Answers for Creationists.” I politely, but firmly, answered the questions posed, with links to expert sources if anyone wanted to dig a little deeper. It became one of my most popular articles of all time.

But as Zach pointed out, while these questions have been answered countless times, they still get asked. Why? The answer is obvious: Because the people asking those questions are still getting their information from people like Ken Ham who refuse to listen to anything science has to say and who still propagate falsehoods.


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21 comments on “Ken Ham Really Doesn’t Understand Science

  • @OP – link – Ken Ham ‎

    The recession of the moon is evidence confirming the moon cannot be 4+ billion years old–it would have touched the earth way before then

    Ham arguing about the rate recession of the Moon into a higher orbit over billions of years, is comical in view of his other claims that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, along with his disputing of radiometric dating! He simply picks out fairly complex scientific calculations, and then illustrates his incompetence making simplistic flawed assertions about his perceptions of how these should be calculated, in order to dispute whatever evidence-based scientific conclusions he does not like.

    The material of of the Moon did of course touch the Earth during the collision described as the Giant impact hypothesis when it was flung into Earth orbit in a debris ring.

    @Wiki link – During the Apollo program, rocks from the Moon’s surface were brought to Earth. Radiometric dating of these rocks has shown the Moon to be 4527 ± 10 million years old, about 30 to 55 million years younger than other bodies in the solar system.[6][7] New evidence suggests the Moon formed even later, 4.48±0.02 Ga, or 70–110 Ma after the start of the Solar System.

    Of course the Apollo laser reflector experiments which measured the recession of the Moon’s orbit, use the physics which Ham’s simplistic denial based thinking cannot understand!



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  • Ken Ham really doesn’t understand what he doesn’t know. A quick look into an online physics forum would do Ken Ham a world of good, that is if he really gave a damn about knowing anything he’s talking about. For example, I was interested in knowing how reliably predictable the orbit of the moon is given the uncertainties of measurements, how chaotic the celestial mechanics of the inner solar system is, etc. Here’s an estimate: “… while one can somewhat reasonably create a planetary ephemeris (a time-based catalog of where the planets were / will be) that spans from 10 million years into the past to 10 million years into the future…” (http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/137350/how-far-ahead-can-we-predict-solar-and-lunar-eclipses). In other words, one can reliably know where the planets – and the moon – were (and where they will be) on a time scale 1000 times longer than the time Ken Ham thinks the universe has existed…



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  • Tim #2
    May 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    In other words, one can reliably know where the planets – and the moon – were (and where they will be) on a time scale 1000 times longer than the time Ken Ham thinks the universe has existed…

    You would have thought with all his bronze-age backwardness and preoccupation with ancient writings, that if he was actually interested in understanding science, he might at least have caught up with the Ancient Greeks of 100 to 205 BC!!!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism
    The action of turning the hand crank would also cause all interlocked gears within the mechanism to rotate, resulting in the simultaneous calculation of the position of the Sun and Moon, the moon phase, eclipse, and calendar cycles, and perhaps the locations of planets.



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  • A few years ago Richard published an article here entitled “Lying For Jesus”. As usual from Richard, a good article full of reason and science. From my POV, Ham is just a showman, a businessman, whose product is “Jesus”. Certainly a product easier to sell in parts of the USA, than the Brooklyn Bridge. If it weren’t for the money, we would never have heard of Ken Ham. He has nothing to offer society except his ignorance.



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  • Ken Ham may well not understand science but he does a damn good job of pretending to. Anyone who believes that creationists are just a bunch of nitwits who answer “God did it” to every question has not spent any time on creationist websites. These are slick, professional and, to anyone without a good grounding in high school science, eminently believable. Do not underestimate what we are up against.

    Take a look at this chapter from answers in genesis discussing the origin of the solar system. https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/solar-system/origin-of-the-solar-system/

    I really don’t know how to counter this. You could pick apart the arguments, one by one, and each time they will have a rejoinder. And so it goes, wearingly, on and on. In the end I wonder how you could hope to convince the average young earther when most of this would be so far over their head anyway. I really believe it’s a lost cause and we shouldn’t give them the satisfaction of engaging in any kind of debate.

    I was one of those who thought the Bill Nye – Ken Ham debate was a bad move. I still do. I highly doubt that it changed the opinion of a single young-earther. What it did was give Ham the patina of scientific credibility – two intellectuals debating a topic – instead of showing him for the buffoon he is.



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  • Creationists are not anti-science any more than a two year old is anti-science. They are anti-logic and anti-reality and that started well before they are mature.
    Their parents taught them to dodge, weave and deflect at a young age.
    I’ve found the best way to “converse” with them is ask them how they think evolution works.
    Then you have a target.



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  • @John.wb #6

    This is from Answers in Genesis.

    The force of gravity is pulling the particles together but other forces, like the pressure exerted by the gases in a balloon, are pushing the particles apart. Gravity is a relatively weak force, and this model has great difficulty in explaining how the stars and planets actually formed.

    This is towards the end of the Answers in Genesis link from John.wb. post. The qualified scientific people might know for sure, but my understanding is that the “the pressure exerted by the gases in a balloon, are pushing the particles apart” is wrong. Gravity is the dominant force in early star solar system formation. The only other force at play is centripetal force due to rotation. The “Pressure” referred to above, only occurs at the point of ignition of the star, which is well after gravity has had a chance to collect enough mass together to ignite fusion. When gravity has condensed enough mass, that fusion can occur, the force of gravity on such a mass is massive, not weak like the Answers in Genesis claims. Gravity over long distances is weak, but near massive objects, black holes for instance, gravity can overwhelm all other forces in the universe.

    The “Pressure” exerted by the gasses post fusion, are enough to throw off matter, but by now, the star is formed, and god wasn’t necessary.



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  • A normally educated 15 year old could dispatch this touchy-feely account, “gravity is weak” in fairly short order. Boyle and Newton, by the start of the eighteenth century had provided the painfully simple equations that explained how gravity overcomes a big enough quantity of low density gas to compress it to the required small volumes and raise its temperature. (Gas compresses without limit increasing its density and adding to the central mass, acting with particular attractive force over a short range. Provided the blob of gas is large enough to feed the process the centre can become arbitrarily dense [and hot] until something breaks [like atoms]}.The gravitational potential energy of the dispersed gas molecules is turned into an increasing kinetic energy [heat] as they fall together.) The only missing knowledge is that of fusion and its ignition requirements (including temperature.)

    All these lying accounts like Ham’s work by appeal to the common sense experience of the everyday rather than the extrapolations of which even the moderately educated can manage.

    NEVER cheat children of a decent education. They are not owned by their idiot parents to be so abused. Decent education and medicine are their right in any civilised nation.



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  • @John.wb #6
    This is from Answers in Genesis.

    The force of gravity is pulling the particles together but other forces, like the pressure exerted by the gases in a balloon, are pushing the particles apart.

    After initial collapse under the increasing gravity of accumulating mass and ignition of a star, the well known fact that these forces remain in balance despite fusion reactions upping the gas pressure, throughout the stable period of a stars life, simply means that Ham is utterly dishonest and/or incompetent at calculating the forces of physics/astronomy which govern stars!

    Gravity is a relatively weak force, and this model has great difficulty in explaining how the stars and planets actually formed.

    No it doesn’t!
    Thousands of tons of space dust and meteors are falling on to Earth every day under the force of gravity!
    Only a dishonest charlatan or science illiterate, would make such a claim! – and it is likely that only someone with the Dunning-Kruger confidence of a self deluding creationist, would then comically pose as an expert authority on the subject while making a fool of himself!



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  • 11
    Pinball1970 says:

    I frequently ask JW on the streets of Manchester what they think evolution is.

    When I ask, it is clear that they have an astonishingly low level of understanding of the subject and of biology as a whole, scientific method as a whole.

    It is quite a job to explain what they do not know whilst they are telling you that it is false.

    They have a publication called “Design or Evolution, How did life get here?” or something like that and that is when I ask the question.

    They also have another publication that looks at abiogenesis rather than speciation, although abiogenesis may not be the term used.

    The first thing that strikes you about these publications is that they are incredibly dishonest, they present an argument of creation that is apparently built on a split in opinion in the serious scientific community.

    Evolution is just a theory not everyone agrees etc

    There is also valid biology and physiology in there which is not disputed, as though the JW authors discovered it and are now kindly educating us!

    They mine quote Dawkins just as creationists previously mine quoted Darwin about his comments regarding the complexity of the mammalian eye.

    They also quote various scientific journals to bolster an argument, again choosing grey area subjects to give an air of conflict.

    Or sometimes no grey area at all, just a few facts here and there about genes and DNA to give some credence.

    The guys in the street may be clueless but the marketing teams behind the publications are spinning a complex, but well thought out and sinister campaign, to pray on and ensnare uneducated, vulnerable and young people.

    I am sure the other creationists religions use similar tactics.



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  • This is from Answers in Genesis.

    The force of gravity is pulling the particles together but other forces, like the pressure exerted by the gases in a balloon, are pushing the particles apart.

    So as Ken Ham “knows”, gravity is so weak against gas pressure, that the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, have just evaporated and blown away because their gravity was too weak to hold them together!!! 🙂

    Gravity is a relatively weak force, and this model has great difficulty in explaining how the stars and planets actually formed.

    Yeah! I mean we can see them falling apart rather than accreting more mass. Comets don’t fall into the sun, black holes don’t swallow stars or gas clouds, meteorites don’t fall to Earth, stars don’t ignite their fusion reactions at critical pressures! – at least not when viewed in Hamster blinker-vision!!!! 🙂

    That must be right! – After all, having consulted bronze-age writings, the “envisioned” Ham’s god-delusion dreamed it up and said so!!!
    Who would have though all those thousands of astronomers with their high-tech telescopes, and space agencies calculating gravity and orbits for satellites, could be so wrong!!! 🙂
    They even use words like “orbital decay” and atmospheric drag!!!!
    Horrors! Do you realise that according to “Hamster science”, The Earth has lost its atmosphere due to gas pressure overcoming gravity!!!
    . . . . . and the absence of a rubber balloon around the planet! 🙂



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  • @OP – Hamster link – The nebular hypothesis is simply a story to describe what may have happened in the “prehistoric” solar system. There are no observations to support the claims that natural processes over millions of years could form a solar system.

    This is laughable linear thinking of the “were you there” type! – as if our Solar System was the only one to have evolved, and there are no other observable accretion disks or star forming areas in our galaxy! (Hint: It is full of spiral arms with star clusters lighting up all over the place!)

    http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/science-milky-way-galaxy-four-spiral-arms-01649.html
    A 12-year study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society has confirmed that our Milky Way Galaxy has four spiral arms,

    The Bible gives a clear description of the formation of the earth by the spoken word of God.

    Yeah! That’s a credible alternative which is simple enough for the creationist mind to think it understands! 🙂



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  • Alan:
    I heard Neil Degrasse Tyson describe it like this:
    “Gravity itself is a weak force when compared to other forces”.
    (paraphrased) In no way did he suggest it could not have been the cause of formations of planets, nebula, etc.
    I think he was saying that in comparison to the strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetic forces?



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  • I have not the slightest doubt that Ken Ham understands science perfectly well. He used to be a high school science teacher FFS! He just doesn’t let it interfere with his primary concern of making money from gullible xtians. Sadly the Bill Nye debate has swelled his coffers considerably. I was vehemently against that debate taking place and giving Ham the oxygen of publicity. I think Nye was a fool to agree to it and conceited if he thought he was going to change the mind of a single one of Ham’s supplicants in even the tiniest degree.

    As I have myself established in the past, logic, reason and facts don’t alter these people’s beliefs one iota. They are preconditioned to believe anything other xtians tell them (particularly the authors of these pseudo scientific religious books) and to disbelieve anything non-xtians say to refute them. For the vast majority of poorly (science) educated xtians it doesn’t take much to keep them believing that the buybull is always right and that science is wrong in respect of the age of the universe, the flood, evolution, creation etc. There’s an entire industry devoted to churning out books full of vaguely plausible sounding mumbo jumbo refuting anything that science says that contradicts their belief system and all that has to achieve is to leave each topic open to some sort of doubt in their minds. With just the tiniest doubt they will stay on the side of religion. Science has to prove every point to an absolute certainty and all the refuters have to do is keep a little chink of possibility open and sow an element of confusion. It’s a stacked deck which is almost impossible to beat.



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  • alf1200 #16
    May 17, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Tyson ;- “Gravity itself is a weak force when compared to other forces”.
    (paraphrased) In no way did he suggest it could not have been the cause of formations of planets, nebula, etc.
    I think he was saying that in comparison to the strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetic forces?

    Ah! But that is what creationist pseudo-science is all about! – Taking scientific words and phrases out of context and trying to allocate them new meanings!

    Arkrid Sandwich #17
    May 18, 2016 at 10:23 am

    I have not the slightest doubt that Ken Ham understands science perfectly well. He used to be a high school science teacher FFS!

    The link on this article shows he is quite capable of finding science textbooks and quoting the words.

    However, – when it comes to understanding the words, and the scientific contexts behind them, I would not be at all surprised to find that many “science teachers” in parts of the USA, have no relevant qualifications and teach from textbooks without understanding of the subject matter!

    Ham’s claim that gas molecules would “bounce of each other” rather than accrete into planets and stars, is either utterly dishonest or utterly incompetent.
    Anyone with any understanding of science, knows that energised molecules vibrate and zip around as gas when they are hot! They also know that they liquefy or stick together as solids (when the lack energy the energy to do so) and freeze!

    Deep space is a near absolute zero, with molecules in nebulae moving VERY slowly relative to each other, so they are pretty near to “bounce-factor zero”!

    Accretion, like evolution, is an observable on-going process, but of course in fundamentalist YEC thinking, processes are one-off magic instant creations by means of god-did-it!

    Gas pressure? It does not take the brightest to spot that water molecules ( and similarly other substances) fly around as (gaseous) steam but stick together as solid ice at low temperatures!!!!

    Demonstrating that he has no understanding of temperature, is hardly a badge of scientific authority!



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  • If, just IF, Ken Ham is right and the universe was created on 23rd October 4004 BC, i.e. some 6000 odd years ago, how come there is a tree in Sweden about 11,000 years old ? Hmm let me guess, the scientists’ dating methods don’t work ? Too bad for him then that nuclear power stations work, based on the observable half life of radio active elements ! Too bad for him that we have ice cores in Antarctica going back about .75 million years ! Too bad for him that astronomers have observed light going back about 13 billion Earth years. !

    The man should be put to work in a circus wearing cap and bells, and pelted with rotten cabbages and eggs.



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  • Ham continues to engage in cognitive dissonance and deceptive double talk about “hiring Christians”, for his pseudo-science Barking Encounter Park!
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/04/15/ken-hams-ark-encounter-theme-park-will-only-hire-young-earth-creationists/

    As you might recall, a judge ruled earlier this year that Answers in Genesis would be allowed to discriminate in hiring even if they ultimately received tax incentives worth up to $18 million. The “No Jews” sign wouldn’t prevent them from having access to the cash.

    . . . In reality only besotted YEC fundamentalists can sign the ” Statement of Faith” and apply for jobs there!

    Because the jobs are posted on Answers in Genesis’ website, and they make it very clear that you have to believe in a 6,000-year-old Earth in order to be hired.

    Perhaps some “competent authorities” should put up mental health warnings for potential visitors on direction signs!



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