When Australian-born Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, visited Charles Darwin's home in England in 2006, he found many things of interest.
"What Darwin observed, we would agree with," said Ham, whose biblical message of creation is heard weekly on 900 radio stations worldwide. "He observed that species change. We would agree with that. He talked about natural selection. We would agree with that. You can take dogs and produce dingos, wolves, all kinds of dogs. But natural selection doesn't mean molecules-to-man evolution.
"A good way to explain it is, if you take dogs, even evolutionists would say they all belong to one dog kind. Absolutely. You've got your domestic species, dingos, coyotes, wolves. Just as in elephants, you can get mastadons and so on. But can natural selection do what Darwin said in postulating the idea that one kind over time can evolve into another kind? We'd say absolutely not. Dogs remain dogs. Cats remain cats.
"The other thing about Darwin's house is in one of the last exhibits, they talk about people who believe in creation and believe in design behind the universe. They actually make the statement that Darwin's theory made nonsense of this. That's really the legacy of Darwinism -- to attack a belief in creation, attack the belief in the Bible."
Ham will bring his "Answers in Genesis" conference to Calvary Chapel Modesto on Sunday and Monday. He said Christians and non-Christians alike will gain information from the conference to help them "sort out what people really believe."
For example, he said, evolutionists often like to portray themselves as the scientists of the world and creationists as dogmatic religious lay people.
"It's true, the majority of scientists would believe in evolution," Ham said. But, he added, there's also a Web site (www.dissentfromdarwin.org) "where they're asking scientists, experts in their fields, to log in and to sign. There are hundreds of people like that."
He also points to his own organization, which includes staff members with scientific doctorates, such as Andrew Snelling, geology; Jason Lisle, astrophysics; Georgia Purdom, molecular genetics; and David Menton, cell biology.
Ham was born and raised in Australia, where he became a biology teacher in a public high school.
"As a teacher, I found that students were really being confronted with evolution through their textbooks and the museums we visited, and these things were stumbling blocks to those who were Christians," he said. "Students in my own science classes would say, 'How can you be a Christian? How can you believe in the Bible?' I said, 'Why?' They said, 'Evolution.' God gave me a real burden to give people answers in this area."
The 57-year-old has spent about 30 years working for creation-believing ministries. He moved to the United States with his wife, Mally, and their five children in 1987. In 1994, Ham began his own ministry, which is headquartered in northern Kentucky, just a few miles south of Cincinnati. In 2007, the ministry opened the Creation Museum, which includes a planetarium, animatronic dinosaurs and more than 50 video displays.
The ministry publishes a magazine called Answers, has 260 people on its staff and in one 24-hour period in 2007 had nearly 100,000 visitors to its Web site (www.answersingenesis.org). Ham also has appeared on "CBS News Sunday Morning," "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" and "The PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer," as well as other national TV shows.
Divisions and bottom line
When asked why there is such division in the creation or intelligent design vs. evolution argument, Ham said it all boils down to interpretation of the evidence.
"What we have to understand is that creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence. But we have different views of history of how life came to be, so it causes us to interpret the evidence differently. You have to see whether it really conformed to natural selection, or does it really conform to intelligence? Evolutionists can't really explain how life came about."
The issue, he said, is "it's not just a debate about genetics. It's about who we are as man. That's why it's so emotional, why there's such a divide."
Evolutionists like to portray creationists as saying that God made the world and everything in it just as it exists today. Not true, Ham said. The entrance of sin in the world and the flood (in the Noah's ark story) changed things. Major changes have occurred within the framework of different kinds of animals and plants, he said.
But that isn't the main part of the creationist's views, he said.
"The bottom line is we want people to know that the Bible is history concerning creation, concerning the entrance of sin and death, concerning Noah, concerning the tower of Babel. It's a true history, and really is the word of God. We want them to understand we're not just on about creation. We're not just out to battle evolution. We want them to understand that God created them. God owns them. We're sinners and we need God.
"It's not just a movement to tear down evolution or to believe creation. It's a movement to tell them that the Gospel is true, and they need to respond to it."
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.