Thursday, February 6, 2014

Slurping Ken Ham's Solipsistic Soup

In the first video of my series reviewing the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate, I summarized an argument Ken made with an illustration of a falling pen.  According to Ken, we can’t assume the rate we measure an object (such as a pen) was the same 100 years ago or 5000 years ago.  Well, we can assume it, but Ken would call that "historical science".

He claims that it depends on your starting point.  Observations we make are filtered through the lenses of the perspective we start from.  He freely admits several times that he’s starting from the belief that the bible is true and accurate.  He claims Bill and the rest of us are starting from the belief that evolution must be true.  Then both sides find evidence to support their “historical perspective”.

That’s simply not true.

It's true for Ken Ham and others like him who admit (just as he did several times during the debate) that they start with the Bible being true.  But that's not how rational, reasonable, scientifically minded people do things.

We don't start with the idea that evolution is true.  We observe things in the world around us -- fossils, DNA, comparative biology -- and that evidence points us in the direction of the truth.  There is no "historical science vs observational/experimental science"...there's just science.  The method is the same even when it comes to history.  We make assumptions and inferences by how things work in the real world.

Ken's starting with the "the Bible is one hundred percent true", and in doing so, he misses the first step.  I've covered how the Bible isn't accurate many times on this blog over the years, and you can find a lot of great sites out there as well, so I won't refute it here.  This post is about making sure people realize that if you're just going to hold to a solipsistic idea like, "we can't know things weren't different in the past", then claiming pigs flew 3,000 years ago is just as valid as claiming people lived to be hundreds of years old just a few generations ago.  At that point, everything is on the table and we can't make sense of the world.

Luckily for us all, we don't hold to such ridiculous beliefs.  The fruits of science that each of us uses is based on the idea that nature has laws.  If they changed radically, they wouldn't be laws (not to mention we probably wouldn't be here in the first place).


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