Creationists gain national prominence
By Stephen Huba, Post staff reporter
The answers Ken Ham finds in Genesis are to questions that most
people ridicule or avoid, like: Where did Cain get his wife? Are
dinosaurs in the Bible? Where did the races come from?
But then, Ham, president of the creationist ministry Answers in
Genesis, has made a career out of controversy.
''It's not something I relish. It's something we do,'' Ham said.
The Florence-based organization, whose efforts to open a creation
museum in Northern Kentucky have generated heat locally, is starting
to enjoy a higher profile nationally because of the continuing
debate over evolution vs. creation.
The group believes in the literal story of creation as outlined
in the Bible and argues that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution
should not be taught as fact.
''We do believe there is a culture war in this nation,'' Ham
said. ''It's like a chasm that's widening. We're basically telling
people you have to jump on one side or the other.''
When state education officials in Kansas and Kentucky changed the
way evolution is taught in public schools, media coverage of the
fallout thrust Answers in Genesis into the national spotlight.
Major articles - not always flattering - appeared in the New York
Times and the Sunday Times of London. CNN is said to be preparing a
report on Answers in Genesis.
Ham said the New York Times story prompted 1,000 more daily hits
than usual on the ministry's Web site.
A counter-site titled ''No Answers in Genesis,'' operated by
Ham's critics in Australia, also gets plenty of visitors.
''It's given us an opportunity to speak,'' Ham said. ''We've had
several colleges contact us just so they can understand what
creationists believe. We have more standing invitations to speak in
churches in Greater Cincinnati than we could ever fulfill.''
Ham, 48, a native of Queensland, Australia, has become an
unofficial spokesman for the creationist movement. Answers in
Genesis, with an annual budget of $5 million, has become a leading
publisher of creationist literature.
Answers in Genesis recently opened offices in England, Canada and
Japan, bringing the total to six. About 300 radio stations,
including Cincinnati's WAKW (93.3 FM), carry the ministry' s radio
program ''Answers . . . With Ken Ham.''
Spokesman Mark Looy maintained that, as a nonprofit organization,
Answers in Genesis is not involved in legislation or litigation to
mandate the teaching of creation in public schools. But it would
like to shape the debate, he said.
''One of our main aims is just to disseminate massive amounts of
information, in a sense putting pressure on those who don't agree
with us,'' Ham said.
The organization has about 120 ''creation clubs'' in public
schools across the country, including six clubs in Cincinnati and
Northern Kentucky, giving young creationists an opportunity to meet
and exchange information.
Ham said the indirect approach of giving students the ammunition
to challenge evolutionary teaching seems to be working.
''Colleges are finding that there's an increasing number of
students that are educated on this issue and are asking questions,''
Answers in Genesis also seems to have the ear of education
Members of the Kansas Board of Education who approved the new
science curriculum guidelines downplaying evolution reportedly had
read the Answers in Genesis book ''Refuting Evolution,'' written by
staff scientist Jonathan Sarfati, before their vote last August.
More than 60,000 copies of ''Refuting Evolution'' have been
ordered for distribution in public schools in Greater Cincinnati and
across the country, Looy said. The book is a response to the
standards for teaching evolution published by the National Academy
of Sciences in 1998.
Duncan Irschick, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of
Cincinnati, finds the growing influence of groups such as Answers in
Irschick wrote a letter, signed by 322 scientists, protesting the
Kansas decision to remove the mention of macro-evolution from the
state's curriculum and standardized tests.
The letter was sent to Kansas Gov. Bill Graves and all 10 state
school board members, asking them to reverse the decision.
Irschick, who works in UC's biological sciences department,
believes creationist groups such as Answers in Genesis had a role to
play in the Kansas decision.
''They're very influential, incredibly influential. It's hard to
overstate just how insidious this is, and this is just the tip of
the iceberg,'' he said.
Last fall, the Kentucky Department of Education replaced the word
''evolution'' with the phrase ''change over time'' in curriculum
guidelines for science teachers.
The Kentucky Science Teachers Association plans to announce today
the results of a membership survey on the new wording. Its national
association supports the teaching of evolution.
Ham said that neither the developments in Kentucky nor the Kansas
case amounts to a real change in the way evolution is presented in
public school classrooms.
The ministry's Web site says:
''Christian parents should be aware of the fact that public
school teaching in our culture is currently slanted heavily in favor
of anti-Biblical worldviews about our origins, regardless of whether
the 'e-word' is mentioned in print or not.''
Despite its successes elsewhere, Answers in Genesis has been
stymied at home to open a creation museum.
In May 1999, after four years of false starts, the ministry
finally won approval from the Boone County Fiscal Court for its
museum, future headquarters and distribution center.
That decision is being challenged in a lawsuit filed in Boone
Circuit Court by neighbors of the 47-acre site.
A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 4 before Kenton Circuit
Judge Douglas M. Stephens, a visiting judge for Boone Circuit Judge
Jay Bamberger, who recused himself from the case.
Ham said the delays have allowed the ministry to build up future
exhibits for the museum.
Publication date: 01-22-00
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