04 April 2008

Ken Ham at Parklands, 3 April

A group of members of the Society turned out to leaflet Ken Ham's creationist lecture at Parklands, Oadby.

Here is Pennie's report

Well folks, Ken Ham has been to Leicester and is now on his way to pollute the minds of the faithful in London.

When we first arrived at the Parklands Leisure Centre, we went to check out the room to find it was set up for about five hundred people (I would say about 250 to 300 actually attended). I had printed 120 leaflets, plus 20 each of additional “pages” of the booklet I am working on, printed as individual flyers (I was very, very sorry I hadn’t printed more to go inside the leaflets) and George had printed a few more. There were eight or nine of us handing out the leaflets and most people took them. In fact it appears that we gave out all but five!

Most people were friendly, a couple were a little hostile, some were genuinely interested. The handing-out-of-the-leaflets and the discussions which took place went without incident and only one woman told me she would pray for me. I’ll let her out of the boot of my car tomorrow morning – in time for her to go to church.

We were invited into the talk and some of us did take up the offer, going in when almost everyone else had taken their seats.

It was a few firsts for me. The first creationist talk I had been to, though I have watched some on YouTube. The first “lecture” I have ever been to where there was no Q & A at the end, and it was the first talk or lecture I have ever been to which aroused almost every emotion in the space of an hour and a half.

I laughed a little (not at the bits that Ken Ham and a smattering of the audience thought were funny). I felt angry (mainly at his tactics), irritated (that there were so many gullible people), deeply depressed (seeing the number of children in the audience) and, fleetingly, deep sympathy for Ken Ham. Yes, that is right. I’ve had this feeling before watching him on YouTube. It only lasts for a second, but it was there. For that moment, I saw him as a young boy in short grey trousers, drumming his heels on the floor and screwing up his little face and shouting, “’Tis true, ‘tis true. It is, it is, it is!”(OK, I have an interesting imagination!)

The feeling disappeared as he explained to the audience that “Creation Science” is just like “Secular science” (to him, “Secular” = “atheist” = “all that is bad, wrong and immoral”) except that creationists start with the Bible, and scientists, rather than as they claim, starting with the EVIDENCE, start with their own suppositions, hopes and prejudices - and human (presumably sinful, atheist and immoral) thought. Of course, he didn’t explain that this is why scientists have peer review (which extends, in its rawest form, to Q & A after a talk, Mr. Ham. Q & A that everyone can hear the answers to, not a clandestine little meeting with a few people who come up afterwards!)

My husband, who confessed to being quite taken aback by it all, told me it was not what he had expected. Having gone to help and support me, feeling strongly about keeping creation and ID in the RE classes and out of science lessons but feeling much less strongly than I do about the role of religion in damaging our society, he expected the talk to be a sermon, with Ken Ham preaching. “That wasn’t a sermon”, he said afterwards, “it was a pseudo-science lecture, distorted and dishonest.” Now he understands why I have been getting involved in this!

There were a few interesting things. After God, the name that came up most in the talk was … “Richard Dawkins”. Clearly an object of fear. He asked why someone (Richard) would spend so much time and energy hating something he claims not to believe in. Mr. Ham, you have, as always, missed the point. We don’t “hate God”, as you say, we don’t believe he exists, what we are opposing (and some people probably do “hate”) is the power and control the BELIEF in God, and the church, has over people. Still, some of the audience giggled at this side-slapping humour… but not many.

He did a plug for “Expelled” and said that Richard was one of the stars – he didn’t mention PZ Myers. It did make me smile when he asked the audience who had heard of the film. I believe I am right in saying six hands went up … you guessed it, five atheist scumbags sitting at the back and one at the front!!! He advised people to go to see it … but then seemed to hesitate … “go to your local theatre and ASK them to SHOW it”, he said!

He told a couple of tales (I use the word advisedly) about conversations he had had with Eugenie Scott. Interestingly, he told the audience one question he had asked her – I don’t remember the question but it was, from their point of view, a good one. He DIDN’T TELL THEM WHAT HER ANSWER WAS. It was not the only time that I had to sit on my hands – I so wanted to ask, “and what did she say?” I could imagine her answer but will never know!

Of course, he brought up abiogenesis and said that scientists don’t know how life came from non-life – as if “da magic-man, he done it” is a sane explanation and “we don’t know (yet)” proves that da magic man DID do it.

Having said all this, I didn’t feel that the audience was as sympathetic to him as I had expected. Not one person (NOT ONE) clapped at the end of the first, and major, part of his talk (I don’t know if they did at the very end or, if they did, how “prompted” they were to do so). We also laughed at the fact that, whereas an open, honest talk or a lecture would end with fifteen minutes of Q & A, Ken Ham’s talk ended with fifteen minutes of marketing!

Then came the awkward bit! As people went out to get a coffee or buy DVDs and books, we loitered. A young chap came up to me, where I was chatting with someone from the Leicester Secular Society.

“What did you think of that?” he asked, and I sensed a slight scepticism. For some reason, I thought he was “one of us” and I shook my head in disbelief and said (and I paraphrase), “Well, what I find utterly incredible is that there could be a single person in this room who is so ill-informed or gullible that they could be taken in by this guy and yet they clearly are. I find it scary.” To which he replied, “Do you think they are all just stupid?” “No,” I said, “I think there must be a very deep emotional need that is filled by this stuff and people like Ken Ham need it to be true SO badly, they can’t see outside that need. I mean, for God’s sake, the guy has built a museum to try to convince himself it is true!” It was only then that I realised that this chap had not asked what we thought because he was sceptical of Ken Ham, but because he wondered what answers we had to such a convincing argument and was sceptical of our ability to counter it! Oh dear!

The guy from LSS and I talked to this chap for a while. He explained that, if it were not for the authority of God, he would probably behave immorally. This, of course, tells one much about the person uttering this statement. We parted company at the point where he agreed that the Bible had “evolved”, which is why we no longer stone to death sons who disrespect their parents or people who wear cotton-polyester mix. Still, if belief in God stops people like him from going out raping and pillaging, we should accept that some good comes from faith.

Five of us couldn’t stomach the second part. Daniel, who stayed, deserves a medal. He joined us later and said that the people handing out leaflets (Ken Ham had mentioned us a few times in the first bit too) had been called “scientologists” … can we sue?

One other time he mentioned us was a classic. He said that some people, like the ones giving out leaflets out front, claim that they are trying to get creationism into schools. This is not true. He then went on to explain that he thought other people should be doing that like the school boards and so on! I DID laugh at that.

All in all, I’m pleased we did the leaflets. They looked professional and some people DID read them. As my husband said … “If it saves one child …”!