We don’t usually talk about doctrinal drift within the sciences — it’s kind of an alien category. It certainly does occur, for example the acceptance of plate tectonics, or in biology the increasing awareness of the importance of nearly-neutral genetic drift. There were many people who resisted the concepts, but the inexorable accumulation of data tends to eventually stabilize on a new paradigm. And it’s a good thing! Scientists tend to welcome new ideas, as long as they’re backed up by evidence and are productive in generating new hypotheses.
Religion, though, is a different story. Doctrinal drift is a horror that must be stopped — we must be rigid and unwavering in our fixed beliefs now and forevermore! It seems to be giving Ken Ham nightmares. He has written a lengthy post about all the things Answers in Genesis does to prevent doctrinal drift. It’s a bit amusing, because his entire ministry is the product of a significant doctrinal shift that occurred (after decades of evolution in various sects) in the 1960s. His version of the Christian faith is transient and will change again in the future. All he has to maintain it is authoritarianism.
It seems to me from all I’ve read and observed that within two to three generations of their founding, the majority of Christian institutions move away from their intended beliefs, mission, and purpose. There are many and varied reasons for this, including: employing someone who is great in one area but doesn’t take the right stand in other areas; not having a detailed-enough statement of faith, resulting in it being interpreted in different ways; allowing too much so-called “academic freedom”; using textbooks that compromise God’s Word in many areas; having a weak leader who won’t enforce the right standards; and compromising one’s position for the sake of financial support.
Interesting justification for having a “strong leader” running his show…I’m sure he thinks of himself as the protector of his version of the faith. I wonder who he’s grooming to run the show after his inevitable death? His son-in-law, Bodie Hodge, who seems like an amiable doofus to me? Or Georgia Purdom, who is often mentioned in this document? It’s a bit like Kremlin-watching at this point, and it’s going to be a decision that is definitely important to the future of AiG. It’s something Ken Ham is clearly thinking about.
A few years ago, I considered the future for AiG and recognized we are now getting closer to the next generation leading this ministry in all its various components. I pondered this and thought about how many institutions go off the rails when the founders are gone. I have thought and prayed through what to do at AiG to implement as many levels of protection as possible. Also, I recognize a great responsibility to our supporters. You are a part of the AiG family. You have invested (or may be considering investing) in this ministry financially and in other ways, and it’s important that we steward your investment so it will continue to be used to boldly proclaim and defend the authority of God’s Word and the gospel from the very first verse, as you likely intended.
Wait, what was that earlier bit about
compromising one’s position for the sake of financial support? Keeping donors happy is a major concern for this outfit.
Authoritarian groups have to plan for the succession as much as Roman emperors did. It’s clear that Ken Ham is the Brian Cox of AiG.
He lists the layers of rules that he uses to lock in his interpretation of the Bible.
Statement of Faith
Our Statement of Faith is very detailed, and every full-time employee must sign agreement to and adherence to this statement of faith which is included in our handbook (along with our mission and vision). Each year we require staff to re-sign this document to ensure they haven’t strayed from it in any way.
Is that creepy or what?
Then all their content is screened before publication.
Editorial Review Board (ERB)
The content we teach and disseminate is a key element in all we do at the ministry. To ensure we never waiver in regard to content, I set up the Editorial Review Board (ERB), headed by Dr. Georgia Purdom, who I know has a passion to ensure AiG will never drift in the wrong direction or compromise God’s Word.
Purdom is an unimpressive follower. We’ll have to see where she ends up — it’s often been the case that women end up heading evangelical organizations, but they’re usually rather more ferocious than Purdom. There could be a fanatic lurking under her weird hairdo, though.
AiG Oversight Council
I also set up the AiG Oversight Council chaired by Bodie Hodge, who also has a passion for ensuring the ministry never gets off track.
I find it hard to believe that Bodie Hodge could ever be the iron will behind AiG. He’s too goofy.
Answers Research Journal Editorial Review Committee
Now in its fourteenth year of publication, I have added a layer of protection to ARJ and AiG by the formation of the ARJ Editorial Review Committee. This committee will be chaired by Dr. Terry Mortenson, and members will include Dr. Snelling and all members of AiG’s research department.
Yeesh. Two of the most dull, uncharismatic pseudoscientists in the AiG stable. They’re also old. However, evolution into a gerontocracy is not uncommon, so maybe…
Here’s the bottom line for his explanation of how they will make sure no one drifts from the absolute truth of Young Earth creationism.
Would you prayerfully consider making a generous gift to our core ministry as we get ready for what we believe will be a very busy year ahead? I’m grateful for your partnership with us in ministry—it is vital to our ministry outreaches and their impact in reaching people for Christ!
It’s money. Money money money. What they have now works, and the goal is to make sure the money flows forever.
Unfortunately for them, doctrinal drift, like evolution, is inevitable. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s slow. I just hope I live long enough to watch the power struggle.
I posted this on Dan Phelp’s FB page, when he mentioned this – seems appropriate here, too.
Reginald Selkirk says
Yesterday I was against it, but today I am wavering.
Reginald Selkirk says
Especially that very first Christian institution, which wasn’t actually Christian, but was an obscure sect of Judaism founded by a Jew.
Whoopsie, forgot to give source: NESFA Hymnal, 2Ed, 1980
fusilier, SMOF, jg. (ret.)
For religion, so are splits, doctrinal and denominational schisms.
That is how we get 42,000 xian sects with more being created every year.
You can see that clearly with creationism. There are young earth creationists like Ken Ham, old earth creationists, intelligent design creationists, and the new one, the Flat Earthers.
It’s likely that sooner or later AIG will split off another sect or two. Someone will notice that Ken Ham and his family are raking in an (estimated) $1 or 2 million a year for doing nothing but babbling like a loon, and go off to start their own cult.
“It’s clear that Ken Ham is the Brian Cox of AiG.”
Is there another Brian Cox? I googled the name and only got the actor who played Hannibal Lecter.
That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Before the US Civil War, most of the US xian denominations split in two, one Northern and one Southern. That is how the SBC Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant sect, got their start. Their mission was to support slavery and oppose the Abolitionists.
These days, the Southern churches no longer support slavery and the Confederacy. Hmmm, well at least they don’t support either one openly. Or at least all that often.
They moved on to opposing mixed race marriages, desegregation, universal health care, science, medicine, gays, trans, women, Democracy, and anything else not from the Dark Ages.
Christoph @6 I wasn’t aware of the actor, but I can’t see why it should apply to Professor Brian Cox the physicist and former rock band keyboard player either.
PZ Myers says
There’s an HBO series called “Succession” — I linked to it in the post. Brian Cox plays the patriarch of an entertainment company (just like Ham!) as an abrasive, horrible asshole (also like Ham!).
bcw bcw says
@2 My religion has doctrinal drift as one of its key beliefs.
Of course, we’ll have to reverse that tomorrow. Except, if we change it, we’ll be violating one of our key principles.
One religion that has kept doctrinal drift to a minimum is islam. It did not work out well.
The brief periods of relative intellectual freedom in places from Andalucia to Afghanistan ended with orthodoxy firmly reistablished. And now these countries have lagged behind so long that colonialism alone cannot be blamed.
Of course, för the big cheese at the top, the lack of improvement for the peasants is irrelevant. And the counterparts of Ken Ham are at the top of the heap.
The mildly deranged penguin is pleased to announce Ye Doctrinal Multiverses™©® (Patent pending), which contains multiple Multiverses, each containing multiple Universes, but — the unique feature — each Universe contains only one Doctrine, be it food (Cheese!), science (Works!), food (MUSHROOMS!), religion (what you invent after too many of certain types of MUSHROOMS!), drink (vin (known to have created many Universes and Multiverses, most incoherent)), and even non-penguins (a small dark Universe all in a Multiverse of its own). Actually, science is a Multiverse with at least three Universes: Everything but Physics, Physicists, and teh Muskverse. Religion is also a Multiverse, containing at least ℵ₀ Universes (known as cults or, to the other cults, teh enemy).
Imagine! An entire Universe of your very own, with no distractions like piglet rapists or dinosaur doctors. Alligator dentistry is, of course, optional. As are the alligators. And dental work. There is currently a run on both Coronavirus-free, and vaccine-free, Universes, though the later usually don’t bother to specific virus-free. There’s a huge number of naziverses, each containing its own single nazi, bouncing around in a rage and frothing.
Some Universes in the Learning Multiverse lack University boards and similar, which allowing the professors and students many things, including breeding newer and better monsters. A blue British Police Box is commonly-seen, usually after the latest set of monsters has tunneled their way out of the obviously-not-escapee-enough escape-proof containment and eaten half the other Multiverses.
A Universe can trivially create other Universes, and even Multiverses. The ease of creation depends on the Universe’s Fundamental Parameters, most notably the fees paid; there are a range of options, and upgrades (to spew out more Universes or Multiverses) are possible. You can create another Universe or Multiverse without paying the fee, but then either the newly-crested one (and any it creates), or else the creating one (and any it subsequently creates) vanish. No POOF! or smoke, just vanishes. Rather like the ideais not a misogynous insult, a view of only one small, almost-unoccupied, basement incoherent Universe, unwanted and unpaid-for, presumably soon to vanish, without any smoke, POOF!, or disappointment.
For further details on Ye Doctrinal Multiverses™©® (patent pending) leave out a well-stocked cheeseboard (no British Industrial Cheddar, please)… some nice porto and vins earn a discount. A loud CRASH!, GLUP!!, and GLUG!!! will announce the arrival of the mildly deranged penguin (easily confirmed by the slight smell of herring and the penguin-shaped hole in the wall or ceiling), to explain the offer and options, and obtain the money.
Notice how it’s all “I… I… I…” and not “we… we… we…”.
“I set up…”, “I have added…” etc.
Ham turned 70 four months ago, but you can bet any amount that they’ll have to pry the organization from his cold dead hands in, probably another 15 years or more. That alone should be a red flag to Ham that he has no faith in the fate of the organization once he’s gone.
Wikipedia notes he has five children and 16 grandchildren, and it would be a shocker if it was just one son-in-law who ended up in control. As with just about all evangelical ministries, there’s still plenty of time to ensure this remains well and truly a family business.
@6, Whilst the actor Brian Cox did indeed play “[Hannibal] Lecter (spelled ‘Lecktor’)” (in Manhunter (1986)), that role (in the movies) is perhaps more commonly associated with Anthony Hopkins.
I was also a bit confused by poopyhead’s reference (explained in @9), albeit I was thinking of the physics professor, rock band musician, authour, and (BBC?) science presenter, Dr Brian Cox.
Is that creepy or what?
Well, I remember a US born professor saying that back in the 1950”s he had to take an oath of allegiance to the USA administered by his Dean to get the job in the USA. Now that was creepy.
One religion that has kept doctrinal drift to a minimum is islam.
You must be joking. Other than the Shia – Sunni split there are any number of splinter groups ranging from the Ismailis to the Druze.
And sometimes their founders were off the rails to begin with.
For example, if I call a plumber, I want someone who is great at unclogging drains. If I am having a heart attack, I hope the first person who shows up is great at using a defibrillator. When I travel, I hope the airline pilot is great at flying a plane. But no, no… this is a mistake. I should be demanding a statement of faith from each of them.
” There could be a fanatic lurking under her weird hairdo, though”.
For shame Doc,you are going to be accused of Hairism if you are not careful.
@15 I thought the Druze were a sect of christians?
As Ham assumes he’s going to heaven after his inevitable death, and as Ham assumes he will be sitting at the right of God-Jesus-Holy Spirit, why doesn’t he promise to smite his successors should they stray from the current written rules either through reinterpreting them or actually rewriting them? That’s what others have done, essentially, and it’s worked so well for them.
It is ultimately about the money and who inherits the business after his death. At the risk of future predicting, I would guess that within five years of that inevitable event there will be infighting between his heirs, either family and/or business associates. In 10 years you might not find AiG at all or at least two or three versions of it.
If Ham thinks he can prevent the inevitable schisms from the grave, he has no understanding of history…but that goes without saying.
@17, Whilst the Druze did splinter from a Muslim cult, they don’t consider themselves Muslims.
@15, @11 said “minimal”, not none. I haven’t been able to locate an estimate of the number of Muslim cults (now or historically), but it does seem to be rather small, probably much less than the estimated current tens of thousands of xian cults (a staggering number which grows much larger if you add in the historical cults which probably don’t exist anymore).
@18, et al., Remember the current States (Ken “piglet rapist” Ham’s) AiG is itself a splinter from the Ozland wackos of the same name (of which Ham was then a member), which itself was a merger of at least two previous, differently-named but AiG-like, Ozlandic cons.
I am absolutely opposed to any doctrinal drift from whatever the official position is today, and I will remain absolutely opposed to doctrinal drift from whatever the official position is tomorrow!
I don’t believe smiting is one of the Heavenly powers people are imbued with upon passing through the pearly gates. Ham will have to settle on warning them he’ll be looking down on them sternly.
Is there any doubt that these theocrats would throw us in prison if they had the power?
tacitus@22 Yeah, I think those powers are usually limited to haunting. Shaking tables and creaking doors might not be enough to keep the heretics in line. The prospect of seeing Ham’s face in a mirror late at night would be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.
It’s not surprising that religions attempt to prevent doctrinal changes, since they believe they have received divine and inerrant wisdom. But (off topic but nagging me lately) how do you explain the Federalist Society and “constitutional originalism”? While there’s no doubt that the US Constitution meant something specific in historical context, it was also written by people who could not possibly anticipate the all the changes that have happened in the economy, technology, and culture since that time. While I think the “living constitution” is a pragmatic fiction, it beats being chained to an understanding that has not been testing empirically in over 230 years.
In fact, it’s supposed to be amendable, but this is rarely used anymore. I also don’t think the “originalists” are in favor of amendments either. What they want, put simply, is to take their own rightwing views and say “the founders would have wanted it like this.” And now those fuckers have a lock on SCOTUS.
@24, “The prospect of seeing Ham’s face in a mirror late at night would be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow” for replacing the mirror or changing the lighting.
Lynna, OM says
As far as I can see, Ken Ham needs your money in order to keep himself pure. Purity payments are needed.
Scott de Brestian says
One religion that has kept doctrinal drift to a minimum is islam. It did not work out well. The brief periods of relative intellectual freedom in places from Andalucia to Afghanistan ended with orthodoxy firmly reistablished. And now these countries have lagged behind so long that colonialism alone cannot be blamed.
I’d disagree with this pretty strongly. Islam has always contained a lot of diversity, somewhat harder to see than Christianity because there has never been any central authority claiming to define orthodoxy. As Jonathan Brown has said (paraphrasing) — the salient feature of Islam is not that it hasn’t produced a Martin Luther — rather, it has produced thousands of them. And that’s aside from four main traditions of Islamic jurisprudence (and many more even smaller than that), the myriad manifestations of Sufism, and countless heterodox groups.
Owosso Harpist says
He’s just like all the other charlatans who rely on their gullible flocks to fork over money to keep their luxurious lifestyles going.
It can be uncomfortable to contemplate the inevitable future where society continues without you and people make changes you are unable to stop.
Whatever Ken Ham took from that, he obviously can’t stand it and change makes him angry.
@ PZ, # 9: Thanks for clarifying. I’d hate to think bad of Brian Cox, he was a fine cannibalistic serial killer when he was younger.
Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge are just ignorant fools, but I have total contempt for Purdam and Snelling who have been trained in the two disciplines (genetics and geology) that make it undeniable that Genesis is a load of Bronze Age twaddle, and yet they go on pretending that this is not the case, and providing academic respectability for the idiots. There is probably a name for that.
I see the Tangerine Tantrum Thrower has created (i.e., has had created for him) a new social media platform. He is calling it Truth Social, obviously because Pravda was already taken.
@33 That is fruitism,comparing an innocent fruit to the snatch snatcher.
Ham worried about succession? Makes me wonder if he’s had a diagnosis.
I humbly apologise to to all the citrus citizens.
Puzzled me too. There are to other Brian Coxes who come to mind before the actor for me; one is a personal friend, the other a British physicist and science populariser, somewhat along the lines of Carl Sagan, frequently appearing on British TV.
A pedant writes: Genesis, like the rest of the Tanakh, is without serious doubt an Iron Age, not a Bronze Age, product. It is extremely unlikely (see Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts) that any significant part of it was written before the 8th century BCE, well into the Iron Age in that part of the world.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Y’all seem to have mixed up Brian Cox and Brian May. The latter is the guitar-playing astrophysicist with The Hair. IDK who the former is.
@38 OK, OK, but, you, know, “early” Iron Age…
KG@38 The underlying myths could extend further back. I am not saying they do. It would just be interesting to trace the origins of Ancient Near East creation myths as well as others.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
@39, both Brian Cox and Brian May are astrophysicists, and both played in rock bands, Dare and Queen respectively.
The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) says
Anybody else remember reading about how one of the recent Popes (I think it was John Paul II) was musing out loud about how maybe the Catholic Church would one day replace the Holy Spirit with the Virgin Mary under influence from/to keep relevant to South American followers? (I can’t find the report now, but when I looked it up on Google a moment ago it seems Francis has actively been trying to shut down any attempts to move in that direction, which means the idea has legs within the church.)
So… like the US government, then, where there are at least 16 levels of Presidential succession defined?
Ham doesn’t need to worry about getting sick — obviously he’ll be cured. (Rimshot!)
Rob Grigjanis says
Nerd of Redhead @42: Cox is a particle physicist.
Reginald Selkirk says
@40 “Early” Iron Age –
The Iron Age may have started with working of meteoric iron at relatively low temperatures. Only later did humans learn that high temperatures would free iron from ore.
King Tut’s Meteorite Dagger Has a Mystery Origin Story
Ah Andrew Snelling he who when he writes reports for exploration companies uses ages of billions of years but when he writes for AIG uses thousands of years. I worked with a guy who went through Uni with Snelling and said he was so obnoxious that the other students called him Andrew Smelling.
Religion changes. Ken Ham changes. I change. But while religion pretends it never changes, Science is more honest, and admits it changes. The bible is the literal truth which is the bedrock of all morals, except for where it contradicts itself. Except where God orders his people to do things he said a few pages ago were wrong and mortal sins. Incest with your father ? sure, just get him drunk first. Seeing your father naked ? mortal sin, be content to be stoned to death. Physics, nothing can escape a black hole? Hawking proved it. Then later he reversed himself. Unlike Ham, Hawking wasn’t a liar, he just proved himself wrong, accepted he was wrong, and moved on.
(re my @47: I realize the Hawking Radiation situation is more nuanced and more complex than I make out. )
Do the names Bodie Hodge and Georgia Purdom sound like the names of characters in a Vonnegut novel to anyone else?
Of course, Kanned Ham isn’t that far from a Dickensian name itself.
Paul Ditz says
How much opposition is there to near neutral genetic drift? I ask this as a Biology teacher from NSW Australia, who is highly critical of our Stage 6 Biology syllabus. It is not covered in the syllabus and evolution is always referred to as “the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection”.
Reginald Selkirk says
@50 – There seems to be a fair amount of opposition to near-neutral theory amongst the data.
Theorists Debate How ‘Neutral’ Evolution Really Is
This has nothing to do with anything,but whenever I hear kenny ham’s name mentioned I always think of the scene
in the film Airplane,where the captain is on the phone”,Give Me Ham On White,Hold The Mayo”.
@ ^ davidc1 : Makes me think of the Space shuttle astronaut of the same name :
@53 What an interesting life he has had.