Bruce in the Packet
133. The Obscurantist

Forty miles south of Cincinnati, in Kentucky where you might expect it, is a full-scale reproduction of Noah’s Ark as envisioned by Ken Ham. You could be forgiven if you think this is a fantasy amusement for children, like Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland and Disney World. It isn’t. This is Ken Ham’s hope to convince the world that Noah and the worldwide Deluge was real. Many Americans believe in creationism rather than evolution and that the universe is 6000 years old rather than 13.8 billion years. It is difficult for anyone with a thorough education to take Ken Ham and his ilk seriously, yet these people are serious and they vote.

It took a large crew and heavy machinery, like cranes, bulldozers, and portable sawmills to build Ken Ham's Ark in six years. Noah took fifty to seventy-five years, but then he had only his three sons and their wives, eight people in all. Ken Ham even considered incorporating a few live animals aboard his replica to show how it was done, but discovered he could not afford the staff to maintain even a partial menagerie.

Ken Ham's Ark

That Ken Ham, or anybody else, can believe the story of a six day creation, Adam and Eve, or Noah, or that the world is only 6,000 years old, boggles the mind. To toss out astronomy, biology, geology, and all the exponential advances in research in favor of a collection of paradoxical stories of magic that haven’t contributed to our understanding for thousands of years is ludicrous. Still, while claiming the Book of Genesis must be taken literally, even Ken Ham cherry-picks what he chooses to believe. His mind is boggled by flat-earthers. Ken Ham rejects the notion of the dome of the Firmament holding back an ocean in the sky. He rejects the Bible’s cosmology of a flat planet held by the pillars of the earth thrust into the Great Deep. Still he wants to toss out the Enlightenment and science to live in a world similar to a past he imagines as an ideal, a time before Darwin and Wallace.

The contortions that Christian apologists must make to explain a 24-hour day before there is a sun by which to measure it is just the beginning. It makes Ken Ham an easy target for comedians and several skeptical YouTubers. By the time you get to Noah, you have to explain a boat large enough for pairs of all the world’s species, not to forget the food stock for special diets, the constant feedings, and the ceaseless cleaning of waste from stalls, all accomplished by eight people for 150 days. Do we even ask how Noah came by a pair of hummingbirds from the western hemisphere or a pair of koalas from Ken Ham’s homeland? All the same, I do not think it is a question of what they believe; rather, it is a question of why they want to believe it, and more devious still, why they want to require everyone else to believe it.

The need for religion will not go away, I can accept that. There will always be people who will need it. Do not mistake what appears as stupidity for what is actually a profound fear of reality. Many people fear death and want the hope of an afterlife for comfort. They see their extinction as the erasure of every possible accomplishment and shudder when pondering the futility of any achievement. Many people are discomforted by mystery. They will embrace myth to avoid the distress of not knowing. Many people are alarmed by the portion of events relegated to randomness. It suggests they are not important and they want to feel important. They want a divine spirit to have their backs and guide their destinies. By virtue of just existing, they want to believe a greater agency will find merit in them, protect them, maybe help them win the lottery.

Such people worry about the knowledge beyond the narrow realm of their belief. Ken Ham wants to discourage curiosity in areas beyond his mythical bailiwick. Humans are born with a natural curiosity. It takes authoritarian parents, or societies, or governments to quash it. This is accomplished by suppressing all knowledge that is unauthorized and claiming outside knowledge to be corrupting. Such wisdom is Satan’s temptation. Ken Ham finds himself duty bound to inform his adherents to not study the sciences and history lessons taught in highly regarded universities. Instead, he deploys a curriculum for homeschooling and advises attending Christian Colleges immersed in fundamentalism.

Ken Ham does not want to know that when my great-great-many-times-great-grandfather wrote down his grandfather’s oral story of the Flood, his grandfather was casually plagiarizing the Sumerians.

Ken Ham does not want to look at his feet. How can anyone look at their feet and not believe in evolution? It is plain to see the foot is a modified hand, that toes once meant to grip are vestiges of our past. There are no other reasons for toes. A good designer could have made them one solid piece of flesh. Or were the toes designed to provide niches for dermatophytes?

Whatever good a religion might preach, the religion of Ken Ham reflects his discomfort and unease living in reality. He fears what he fails to understand and finds it easier to wish for the world to change than to compromise. That is why it is not enough to live privately with his beliefs. He is driven to convert the nation. For example, he doesn’t want to be confronted by the existence of homosexuality. He wants it to go back into the closet.

To his credit, Ken Ham is not a racist. He believes all people are one race descended from Adam and Eve. But again, Ken Ham cherry-picks among the Bible tales. Noah cursed his son Ham, the father of Canaan, saying, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” For some Christians in the past and a few today, this has been the justification for slavery.

Ken Ham has my sympathy. I do not always find reality comfortable. Tattoos and piercings baffle me, send a shiver down my spine. But that’s my problem, not theirs. I wonder if Ken Ham is as scared of me as I am scared of him. But I am not an evangelist.

The other day, I was accosted by a street evangelist while on my way to meet my brother-in-law at the pub. She insisted that all I had to do was open my heart to God and He would reveal himself. I replied, “He has my number. Tell him to call me.”

Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions,
he would be pleased to hear from you. 

You can find his several books at Enshrined Inside Me, his second collection of essays, is now available to purchase.