Kenneth Alfred Ham (born October 20, 1951) is an Australian-born Christian fundamentalist and young Earth creationist living in the United States. He is president of Answers in Genesis (AiG), a Creationist apologetics organization that operates the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
Ham advocates Biblical literalism, believing that the Book of Genesis is historical fact and the universe is approximately 6,000 years old, even though scientific evidence shows the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the Universe about 13.8 billion years old.
Personal life and education
Ham was born October 20, 1951 in Cairns, Australia. His father, Mervyn, was a Christian educator who served as a school principal in several schools throughout Queensland. According to Ham, he was inspired by his father, also a young Earth creationist, to interpret the Book of Genesis as "literal history" and first rejected what he termed "molecules-to-man evolution" during high school.
Ham earned a Bachelor of Applied Science, with an emphasis in Environmental Biology at Queensland Institute of Technology and a diploma in education from the University of Queensland. While in college, he was influenced by John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris's 1961 book The Genesis Flood. Upon graduation in 1975, Ham began teaching science at a high school in Dalby, Queensland. Ham is married to Marilyn Ham; the couple have five children.
In 1977, Ham began teaching at a high school in Brisbane where he met John Mackay, another teacher who believed in young Earth creationism. According to Susan and William Trollinger, Ham was "appalled by the fact that some of his students assumed their textbooks that taught evolutionary science successfully proved the Bible to be untrue," and he said the experience "put a 'fire in my bones' to do something about the influence that evolutionary thinking was having on students and the public as a whole." In 1979, he resigned his teaching position and, with his wife, founded Creation Science Supplies and Creation Science Educational Media Services, which provided resources related to creationism to the public schools of Queensland, which were legally required to teach both creationism and evolution. In 1980, the Hams and Mackay merged the two organizations with Carl Wieland's Creation Science Association to form the Creation Science Foundation (CSF).
As CSF's work expanded, Ham moved to the United States in January 1987 to engage in speaking tours with another young Earth creationist organization, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). His "Back to Genesis" lecture series focused on three major themes – that evolutionary theory had led to cultural decay, that a literal reading of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis contained the true origin of the universe and a pattern for society, and that Christians should engage in a culture war against atheism and humanism. With his popularity growing in the United States, Ham left ICR in 1994 and, with colleagues Mark Looy and Mike Zovath, founded Creation Science Ministries with the assistance of what is now Creation Ministries International (Australia). In 1997, Ham's organization changed its name to Answers in Genesis.
From the time AiG was founded, Ham planned to open a museum and training center near its headquarters in Florence, Kentucky, telling an Australian Broadcasting Corporation interviewer in 2007, "Australia's not really the place to build such a facility if you're going to reach the world. Really, America is." In a separate interview with The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul Sheehan, Ham explained, "One of the main reasons [AiG] moved [to Florence] was because we are within one hour's flight of 69 percent of America's population." The 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) museum, located in Petersburg, Kentucky, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, opened May 27, 2007.
Disputes with CMI and GHC
In May 2007, Creation Ministries International (CMI) filed a lawsuit against Ham and AiG in the Supreme Court of Queensland seeking damages and accusing him of deceptive conduct in his dealings with the Australian organization. Members of the group were "concern[ed] over Mr. Ham's domination of the groups, the amount of money being spent on his fellow executives and a shift away from delivering the creationist message to raising donations." Ham was accused of trying to send the Australian ministry into bankruptcy. According to the CMI website, this dispute was amicably settled in April 2009. In 2008, Ham appeared in Bill Maher's comedy-documentary Religulous. AiG criticized the movie for what it called Maher's "dishonesty last year in gaining access to the Creation Museum and AiG President Ken Ham."
In March 2011, the board of Great Homeschool Conventions, Inc. (GHC) voted to disinvite Ham and AiG from future conventions. Conference organizer Brennan Dean stated Ham had made "unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst". Dean stated further, "We believe Christian scholars should be heard without the fear of ostracism or ad hominem attacks." The disinvitation occurred after Ham criticized Peter Enns of The BioLogos Foundation, who advocated a symbolic, rather than literal, interpretation of the fall of Adam and Eve. Ham accused Enns of espousing "outright liberal theology that totally undermines the authority of the Word of God".
Bill Nye–Ken Ham debate
In February 2014, Ham debated American science educator and engineer Bill Nye (popularly known as "Bill Nye the Science Guy") on the topic of whether young Earth creationism is a viable model of origins in the contemporary scientific era. Critics expressed concern that the debate lent the appearance of scientific legitimacy to creationism while also stimulating Ham's fundraising. Nye said the debate was "an opportunity to expose the well-intending Ken Ham and the support he receives from his followers as being bad for Kentucky, bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind."
Ham said that publicity generated by the debate helped stimulate construction of the Ark Encounter theme park, which had been stalled for lack of funds. On 12 November 2015, AiG announced that the Ark Encounter would open on 7 July 2016, a date (7/7) chosen to correspond with Genesis 7:7, the bible verse describing Noah entering the ark. On July 8, 2016, the day after the Ark Encounter's grand opening, Nye visited the Ark, and he and Ham had an informal debate.
As a Young Earth creationist and biblical inerrantist, Ham believes that the Book of Genesis is historical fact. Despite scientific evidence and consensus that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the Universe about 13.8 billion years old, Ham believes the age of the Universe to be about 6,000 years. He asserts that Noah's flood occurred about 4,400 years ago in approximately 2348 BC. Arguing that knowledge of evolution and the Big Bang require observation rather than inference, Ham urges asking scientists and science educators, "Were you there?" The Talk.origins archive responds that the evidence for evolution "was there," and that knowledge serves to determine what occurred in the past and when.
Chris Mooney, of Slate magazine, believes Ham's advocacy of Young Earth Creation will "undermine science education and U.S. science literacy." But Andrew O'Hehir of Salon argues that the "liberal intelligentsia" have grossly overstated the influence of Ken Ham and those espousing similar views because, while "religious ecstasy, however nonsensical, is powerful in a way reason and logic are not," advocates like Ham "represent a marginalized constituency with little power."
Ham has been awarded honorary degrees by four Christian colleges: Temple Baptist College (1997), Liberty University (2004), Tennessee Temple University (2010), and Mid-Continent University (2012).