If they can’t get the details right, why trust them at all?

Is anyone else getting a “look how stupid Americans are” vibe from all the British coverage of Ken Ham’s creation ‘science’ museum? It’s another story from the European press that politely echoes Ham’s overblown claims for his grandiose edifice to ignorance, and mostly recycles the same old stuff we’ve heard over and over again. It really does seem to simply parrot whatever the Answers in Genesis con men say with complete credulity…for instance, I’ve seen this strange comment repeated multiple times in these kinds of stories.

Two-thirds of the US population lives within six hours’ drive of Cincinnati, but Mr Ham has bigger ambitions for tackling agnostics further afield.

Hold it. Think. Check your facts. Look at a map, and you’ll see that that domain outside of a circle with a radius of 300 miles includes everything west of Chicago, the entire urban Northeast, and most of the major cities of the South, such as Atlanta. It includes Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc., a populous region to be sure, but how can one argue that a small area that excludes California, Texas, New York, and Florida contains the bulk of the nation’s people? That’s an area of about 280,000 square miles in a country of 3,700,000 square miles—shouldn’t that make a reporter stop and think, especially when it is an area that does not include our regions of highest population density?

I’m beginning to feel a “look how stupid the BBC can be” vibe right now, myself. Does anyone know where this mysterious number comes from? Is it Ken Ham lying, or is it the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce lying?


  1. Bruce says

    Fact checking? We don need no steenkin fact checking! Reportage has become no more than Ctrl C, Ctrl V.

  2. Caledonian says

    Don’t worry about the BBC getting the stuff you can easily check wrong. Worry about them getting the stuff you can’t easily check wrong.

    From what I’ve seen of their reporting and programming on psychology, which most people aren’t qualified to check, they get very little right.

  3. J L Smith says

    The six hours claim seems to have disappeared from the story.

    Nonetheless it’s a standard media approach: foreign creationists = funny, local creationists = sensible people worthy of respect.

  4. Shane McKee says

    Actually, this is a written version of a piece by Matthew Wells, which formed part of a longer report, and panel with Richard Dawkins, on BBC Radio Ulster last weekend. Please do not worry – Dawkins *wiped the floor* with a creationist called Andy McIntosh, a Professor of Thermodynamics from the University of Leeds, no less. The full programme is available on the Richard Dawkins website:


    The other thing is that in the UK our speed limit is 70 miles per hour, and most people do 80 – 6 hours’ drive is therefore about 480 miles ;-) Surely you can forgive the BBC a minor miscalculation? [I still think the reporter could have been a lot more incisive]

  5. JW Tan says

    PZ said:

    Is anyone else getting a “look how stupid Americans are” vibe from all the British coverage of Ken Ham’s creation ‘science’ museum?

    Not me. And this is the first item I’ve seen in the UK media.

  6. Llywellyn says

    Oh, but more than two thirds of America’s population is withing a six-hour driving distance. Provided they take at least a three-hour flight beforehand.

  7. says

    I have a shortwave radio, and late one night I was listening to Radio 4 and heard them talking about the centenary of Samuel Beckett, the great American playwright.

    Gotta love the Beeb for accuracy.

  8. Anuminous says

    Well, the driving distance to Seattle is about 2,400 miles according to Google maps. So long as you can maintain 400 mph you should be able to get anywhere in the US in 6 hours from there!

  9. says

    I’ve gotten that “look how stupid the BBC can be” vibe ever since the guys in “Walking With Monsters” said that Cephalaspis was the ancestor of all gnathostomes, and that it could generate electric fields.

  10. Adrian Burd says

    This is more a matter of mainstream journalism per se, no matter
    where it originates from. I gave up on American journalism (CNN, Fox, NWT, WP etc)
    in 2000. NPR is just as bad. So unless one believes that the UK is somehow
    immune from this pervasive decline in journalism standards, (heck, look where
    Murdoch was before arriving in the US), then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
    As far as I can see at the moment, the New Yorker still retains some standards.

  11. Hank Fox says

    Everybody pause a moment and take note of how the article ends:

    Despite adopting the structure and technology of the most extravagant science museum, it remains that none of it is remotely plausible without first accepting Genesis.

    Without taking that leap and rejecting centuries of scientific reasoning, it all resembles just another Disney-style magic kingdom.

    To me, this seems to be VERY critical of the museum.

  12. says

    Well, I think that if you believe that the speed of light has changed so that the earth really is only 6000 years old, you can believe that the mile can change length so that in 6 hours, you can drive…


  13. dak says

    I did find this from a Frankfort, Kentucky tourism guide (PDF):

    Two-thirds of the US population lives within 600 miles of Kentucky’s borders.

    The booklet’s probably not the source of the claim, but this factoid may well be its genesis.

    Of course, note that this claim is much more plausible (and pointless): Not only is Kentucky a few hundred miles wide (e.g., wider than Cincinnati), but it does not say 600 miles driving distance (which would be 8-10 hours nonstop, anyway). So lots of stuff is within 600 miles of the border of Kentucky as the crow flies? I guess that’s good information to know if you’re flying directly to a point on Kentucky’s border.

    I half suspect the Kentucky factoid is false, anyway, and strongly suspect that no one has ever really verified its truth. But perhaps a more thorough investigator can follow up?

  14. Barry Rountree says

    When Answers in Genesis’ board of directors decided to build a museum, it chose a 50-acre plot near Cincinnati – just two miles west of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport on I-275 – because it is within 650 miles of two-thirds of the U.S. population and provides easy access to travelers heading along the I-75 corridor.
    “Creation Museum puts biblical spin on Earth’s history”,

    Toledo Blade, Sunday, August 6, 2006

    Hmmm…. Google says Cincy to NYC is 632 miles, Chicago is 294, St. Louis 351, Atlanta 467, Washington DC 515….so 650 miles is at least plausible.

    The greater Cincinnati area is within a one-day drive and 1 ¼-hour flight of two thirds of America’s population, so, demographically, it is a phenomenal place to be.

    Ken Ham interview with CBD (ChristianBook.com?)

    Well, I expect only professional truckers and university students consider 650 miles to be a one-day drive, but the AIG site does use the “one day drive” phrasing consistently. Perhaps the reporter simply mis-heard the number, or translated one day’s worth of driving to something sensibly European.


    (Distances courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/yxbwjp)

  15. Keanus says

    Two things are apparent: Facts are flexible in the hands of Ham and the BBC’s was far too gullible in interviewing a known con man.

  16. Millimeter Wave says

    Well, you shouldn’t trust them as a primary source… or any other media outlet, for that matter. Some are better than others, but I don’t think the BBC is exactly at the bottom of the list for accuracy (although they’re somewhere further down the list than they used to be).

    I didn’t read the piece as at all positive towards AiG, by the way

  17. Blaine says

    Actually, the notion that 2/3 of the population is within 6 hours is true….

    150 years ago. Course you couldn’t actually drive back then…


  18. says

    Within a 6 hour drive. Well, let’s take a typical American driver, Bill Clinton. We learned from Jennifer Flowers that Bill could — in the space of ten hours and not being noticed — drive round trip 700 miles each way and also make love. So a 6 hour period should be good for about 800 miles or more, sex optional.

  19. Ginger Yellow says

    The same claim appears in the Guardian’s feature on the museum from a few weeks ago, without a source. I suspect that it’s from Ham. That article was very much a “These Americans are crazy” type piece. Here’s the intro:

    Just off the interstate, a couple of junctions down from Cincinnati airport, over the state line in rural Kentucky, the finishing touches are being put to an impressive-looking building. When it is finished and open to the public next summer, it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world.
    The Creation Museum – motto: “Prepare to Believe!” – will be the first institution in the world whose contents, with the exception of a few turtles swimming in an artificial pond, are entirely fake.

  20. Greco says

    This isn’t the first I’ve seen Europeans vastly underestimating the size of a large country. I imagine the Russians can get it right.

  21. TAW says

    hey! I love BBC documentaries! :(
    I hope the inaccuracies don’t spread there? I haven’t really found anything nearly as big as the population “fact”… but then again, what do I know?

  22. Shane McKee says

    OK OK, so we Brits don’t know the size of the USA. But spare a thought for us here in little Northern Ireland (seat of Archbishop Ussher, he of the 4004BC fame), where you can drive *anywhere* within two-and-a-half hours.

    Or you can march and march and march for over 300 years, and never get anywhere.

    I lecture (Genetics) to medical students (doctors of tomorrow, remember?) and get negative feedback from some when I even mention evolution. I think that unfortunately there will be a market in UK for Ken’s Barbie World.

  23. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    For many years I worked at the BBC in what used to be called News Information units which were tasked with providing journalists with background information about stories they were researching. Originally simple press clippings libraries, they later added a range of reference and text books, electronic databanks and finally the Internet.

    In any organization the size of the BBC you are going to find both good and bad journalists. I had the utmost respect, for example, for those who who worked in the Science Unit in the BBC’s World Service.

    On the other hand, I remember a programme researcher, most of whom were graduates, calling to ask about a ship that was sunk, she thought, during the Second World War. I pointed out that, actually, quite a lot of ships were sunk in World War II. A process of question and answer finally identified the incident in question as being the sinking of HMS Hood by the German battleship Bismarck in 1941. This didn’t surprise me because I didn’t expect everyone to share my interest in military history. What did make my jaw drop, however, was her next question when she asked who was the Prime Minister during the War. She wasn’t asking me to confirm what she already knew, she – a graduate – didn’t know about one of the greatest Britons of all times. It was a bit like an American graduate not knowing who was the President during the Civil War.

    That said, I think that Brits, on average, have a better knowledge of what happens beyond their borders than Americans although, to be fair, we are comparing a continent to a small group of islands.

  24. says

    I’ve harbored the suspicion for several years now that no British media outlet, from the Telegraph on the right to the Guardian on the left (I’ll overlook the Star), will ever pass up an opportunity to heap scorn on Americans, justified or otherwise (and lest I be accused of pro-American bias, I’m actually Dutch and grew up partly in the UK). I put it down to the British never having gotten over not being Top Nation anymore. I’ll add that I harbor the same suspicions about the French, by the way.

  25. says

    Is Ken Ham a dual Australian-American citizen, or did he tear up his Australian passport and spit on the pieces, the way Rupert Murdoch did when he hit U.S media ownership rules?

  26. Ginger Yellow says

    There are a few reflexively pro-American publications in the UK. The Telegraph under Conrad Black was one of them (although it only really manifested itself obviously under Republican presidents) and the Economist is another.

  27. Michael Hopkins says

    If Ham is claiming that 2/3 of the U.S. Population is withing 650 miles of the “museum” I suspect that he might actually be correct. Google finds that Kansas City, Jacksonville, Florida, and Minneapolis are easily within that criteria. The entire Eastern seaboard from Northern Florida to NYC is in.

    Now calling it a one-day drive is a stretch for most people with families — the target audience. Indeed stats for a one-day drive is really meaningless here anyways. A more realistic criteria would be for a round-trip. I don’t see very many people driving 1300 miles just for one museum. Almost all of the non-local traffic for this “museum” will be by people in the general area for other reasons.

  28. says

    Not 650 miles — 6 hours drive, which is about 300 miles.

    I don’t think anyone can drive at almost 110 miles per hour to get to his museum.

  29. Ichthyic says

    drive round trip 700 miles each way and also make love. So a 6 hour period should be good for about 800 miles or more, sex optional.


    no way could that rate of travel be accomplished without sex as a motivating factor.

  30. says

    That division by zero article … oy, what a mess. Why do journalists not seem to ever know anything about the subject matter they investigate when it comes to scholarly topics? (And before people jump down my throat, seem is the key word.)