Dear Ken Ham,
In recent years, your ministry has gained unprecedented publicity by cranking its ‘apologetics’ amps all the way to eleven. Between provocative billboards, a life-sized ark, and a lawsuit over religious freedom, we can’t help but to lend our ears and wonder how you came up with these entirely novel campaigns.
Of course, the pinnacle of your message was delivered through mock debate with a celebrity spokesperson for science, who—although proficient and knowledgeable in general science—does not conduct the sort of primary research regularly challenged by your ministry. Nonetheless, it was your time to shine and demonstrate to the world how “science supports the Bible”, as is purported by the sign off catchphrase in your comments-disabled podcasts.
Now, having followed your ministry for almost two decades, I know well that you’re not interested in how (or if) science supports the Bible. Rather, you seek to persuade the evangelical community that your highly nuanced, overly simplistic approach to reading the Bible is corroborated by superficial reports of censored scientific data. I know this personally because your ministry is specially catered to those with little background in science, and—more importantly—you avoid meaningful dialogue with the scientific community like Leninists at an Austrian economics fair. The latter invites great suspicion, because communication of research, including publication, peer-review, and open critique, is the most valuable and difficult step in the scientific method.
Ne’er did a kangaroo hop from Ararat to Oz
Your ministry, Mr. Ham, cannot meet its stated goal of supporting the Bible with science because 1) its claims are not scientific and 2) it refuses to read (i.e. exegete) the Bible. To demonstrate the first point, I want to consider your response to Bill Nye’s challenge regarding kangaroo fossils and Noah’s flood:
If there’d really been a global flood, we should find fossils of kangaroos that traveled from Noah’s Ark to Australia, and we don’t.
Bill Nye may not be a paleoecologist/paleontologist by training, but his challenge is perfectly valid because it is scientific. In other words, Bill Nye just handed you a testable hypothesis that could potentially corroborate your interpretation of the biblical record: if A, then B. As a scientist, therefore, I would expect you to respond thusly: “We conducted systematic searches for kangaroo fossils between Turkey and Australia in recent sediments and found the results do/do not support the hypothesis.”
But you’re not a scientist, Mr. Ham, and this is evident by your actual response:
Millions of buffalo once roamed the prairies in America, but we don’t find millions of fossils of these buffalo.
Notwithstanding that you’ve misidentified American bison as “buffalo”, I can’t help but to wonder, Ken, how do we know about species like Bison latifrons and Bison antiquus, who went extinct before we of European descent populated the American continent? Are you unaware that at least four species of bison have been described solely by their fossil remains, which are found in dozens of excavation sites across North America? Perhaps it would refresh your memory to know that even Lewis and Clark unearthed American bison fossils in your home state of Kentucky. Your attempt to evade Bill Nye’s challenge, therefore, has only unveiled a suspicious level of ignorance for a would-be authority in paleontology with unusually bold claims.
To be fair, you did specify “millions of fossils”, and I am personally unaware whether current museum collections top one million fossils or only tens of thousands. However, this distinction is inconsequential to the discussion, because the total number of American bison fossils (which is far from comprehensive) is infinitely greater than the number of kangaroos documented outside of the Australasian region, which—to my knowledge—is precisely zero.
So how is it that kangaroos specially avoided fossilization on their way to your native land? You suggest the following:
A plant or animal has to be covered quickly by sediment to preserve it, so you won’t normally expect to find fossils of animals like kangaroos just because they lived in an area.
We can agree that in most terrestrial environments, fossilization is the exception rather than the rule. Most animal remains will not fossilize, and those that do will not necessarily be unearthed by paleontologists. In light of the abundance of Quaternary-age terrestrial fossils, however, it is terribly misleading to imply that we should expect so few kangaroo fossils along the yellow-brick road. Did the entire post-Flood kangaroo population ‘beeline’ it to Australia and nowhere else, meanwhile avoiding death near any rivers, floodplains, caves, or lakes? Keep in mind that certain bones (like teeth and vertebrae) are especially resilient to decay and certainly would have been preserved in these environments.
If we consider nearly any other mammal species, your evasion of the question becomes increasingly absurd. Mammoth and mastodon, for example, have been documented in the millions along the route from western Siberia to North America over a period of tens of thousands of years. The same is true for wolves, deer, horses, and even humans, to name a few. While no serious scientist would accept these fossil records as evidence for a post-Flood migration from Ararat only ~5 thousand years ago, at least the documented migration path does not falsify our previous hypothesis.
About those kangaroo fossils…
You cannot have it both ways, Mr. Ham. Either fossilization is so rare an event that it requires a hydraulic catastrophe, in which case all fossils were preserved by a Noah’s flood, or it is sufficiently common that we should find kangaroos in Quaternary (“Ice-Age”) sediments between Turkey and Australia, alongside the millions of other vertebrate specimens found to date.
Since we know that fossilization is not so rare as you claim, we must reject the first option. In fact, the Australian landscape is dotted with thousands of fragments of fossilized kangaroos, described by dozens of peer-reviewed articles. Not only are Quaternary kangaroo fossils abundant (contrary to your previous statement), but they represent dozens of individual species that span a wide range of morphologies. It is precisely by this extensive fossil record that we understand kangaroos to be endemic to Australia. In other words, kangaroos didn’t hop to Oz from Ararat. They evolved there from ancient marsupial ancestors, which are found outside of Australasia (as early as the Cretaceous in North America), after becoming geographically isolated due to falling sea level.
In closing, I want to reiterate that you cannot reject Bill Nye’s hypothesis simply because it falsifies the premise of your multimillion-dollar Ark Encounter. Upon testing, I have repeatedly found your ministry’s claims to be scientifically inept—a fact that is particularly troubling given the association of your claims with sincere evangelism. By drawing together bad science with bad theology, you have brewed a potent cocktail from which the youth of America may never recover.
I beg you, Mr. Ham, for the sake of the church and of science, please stop this madness.