The YEC enterprise and grooming conspiracy theorists

Ken Ham posted this on Facebook this morning:

I have often said that I believe there is a link between the discourse coming from YEC leaders and the growing propensity of Christians to swallow insanely wild conspiracy theories of all kinds if they are founded on a distrust of scientists or the idea that there is a vast global plot to with hold the real scientific evidence from the masses.

Recently I learned some people I used to go to church with are all in with flat earthism and terrain theory (denying that germs exist or cause disease), in addition to YEC, anti-vax stuff, and climate change denial. Also I just found out some colleagues are leaving Mexico because they refuse to comply with the organization’s health care policy which requires vaccinating children for childhood diseases (in compliance with the Mexican government, which doesn’t hand out exemptions for “religious” beliefs like the US)

I’m all for live and let live when it comes to Bible interpretation, but when leaders are normalizing delusional and paranoid thinking, I think it should be challenged because we are seeing the disastrous consequences every day. Christians are leading the charge to elect conspiracy theorists who are pushing for destructive policies. They are actively endangering lives with their suspicion of basic public health recommendations.

Do you all think there is a link between this conspiracy-oriented way of talking about creationist topics and the normalization of conspiracy theories in Christian cirlces? How do you interact when you encounter it?


If you can just detach people from reality a bit then it is much easier to get them to do just about anything.

The similarities to mental illness is also worrisome. It suggest that insanity can be a social phenomenon and not just an individual aberration.

But how do you combat this? We already see a lot of social conditioning for less worthy causes.


When you think about it, young earthism is the mother of all conspiracy theories.

The fact that the earth is billions of years old and not just six thousand, and that humans and dinosaurs did not coexist, is the unambiguous and insistent conclusion from millions of research papers published by millions of professional scientists over more than two hundred and fifty years. These papers are detailed, meticulous, mathematically precise, and entirely self consistent. They do not support a young earth nor can they be reinterpreted to support a young earth in any way, shape or form.

For the earth to be six thousand years old, and for there to be “key information that is not generally known and is withheld from the public,” all of these studies, down to the very last one, would have to be the result of a tightly coordinated and disciplined fraud spanning multiple disciplines—geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology, anthropology and more. For more than two and a half centuries, millions of scientists would have to have been consciously and deliberately acting in collusion on an industrial scale to squander trillions of dollars worldwide on systematically misinterpreting, misrepresenting and even fabricating evidence in a tightly coordinated and disciplined way in order to weave such a narrative.

They would also have to be so adept at keeping it under wraps that nothing about it ever leaked out onto whistleblower websites such as Wikileaks. Not even from retired scientists and former scientists who had left those particular fields of research and who had no incentive whatsoever to remain silent about it. Not even from scientists working in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia who would have been motivated by the political and religious climate in those countries to blow the whistle on such a thing.

If such a conspiracy were actually happening, it would dwarf every other conspiracy, both real and imagined. NASA faking the moon landings, 9/11 being an inside job, MI5 being behind the death of Princess Diana, chemtrails, alien spacecraft in Area 51, and the US Navy covering up the existence of mermaids would all be a piece of cake by comparison. If this young earth conspiracy theory really were happening, it’s difficult to think of one that couldn’t be.

This 100%. This is the one thing that every Christian needs to understand about science: not taking it seriously presents a real and present danger to life, health, safety and the environment. In other words, science denial kills people.


I am not sure which one comes first. People that believe in a conspiracy theory are more likely to believe in a conspiracy in another matter.

I think that a combination of insufficient knowledge, getting conspiracy-minded feed from people around and having a suspicious attitude towards authorities and scientists makes it more likely that someone swallows a conspiracy theory.

How I react depends on the situation and the consequences of believing the conspiracy theory. If it is just a personal belief, like ‘illuminati are governing the world/EU’, I usually do not react. If someone tries telling publicly such unrealistic theories in the meetings of the church where I attend, then I feel I must interfere and try to tell in a nice way that it is just a personal belief, the congregation does not support such conspiracy theories. If I feel that a conspiracy theory somehow threatens the life or fate of others, then I try to tell I disagree and why I disagree, in a nice way provided that the Lord manages to give sufficient patience.

Discussions in the forums of social media are another chapter, there I am more prone to respond and tell why I disagree with someones wild ideas or interpretations I feel are misleading.


:grimacing: (If I ever knew it by that name I had long since forgotten it.)

That’s where the delusional part comes in, yes.


In the case of some friends of my sister, what came first was claims about the Kennedy assassination. They had more books in their apartment about “what really happened” with that than they did about Christianity.


I had to look it up. The name sounds like it should have something to do with geography, not biology.


My interactions with the faithful in everyday life are unfortunately quite limited, but I believe that this particular tendency is no different from the general phenomenon. In essence, I think that people tend to gravitate toward suspecting conspiracy in an effort to fill gaps in their own knowledge.

What dismays me most in these situations, whether they pertain to 9/11, the moon landing, or any myriad difficult chapters of human history, is that I strongly and sincerely believe that humankind has never possessed the capability to engineer and sustain any sort of conspiracy at scale. The larger any particular group becomes, the more atomized it gets. As others have already mentioned in various terms, the odds of any such grand plan being successfully executed without being discovered rapidly approach zero. Not only would such an association become increasingly porous in its effort to contain the truth by reason of its sheer size alone, but it would also become subject to differing and often conflicting individual interests within.

Perhaps one approach to take when interacting with those that possess such mindsets would be inquiring (with kindness and humility, of course) what benefit they think such a conspiracy would provide to those responsible for it. In the case of the example cited, what would preventing the general public from knowing this supposed “key information” result in? If they were inspired to further investigate motive objectively, they’d maybe come a little closer to understanding why they’re apt to believing such a thing in the first place.


Now there’s a conspiracy theory for you!

So far my only interaction with a flat-earther (that I know about anyway) has been right here online (but in private).

But as to how it’s affecting evangelicalism … let’s just put it this way; in the public environs where I teach, there are people that I’m actually afraid to ask - as in, I respect them and want to keep it that way; but I’m afraid of what I’ll learn about what they believe (which may even be as far as flat-earthism … and moon-landing denial).

I do have reason to believe I’m at least partially, even if not wholly correct about this - and it would fit that the whole “we’re in on this secret that millions of you have fallen for” temptation has proved too much for those whose minds have already been darkened with general mistrust and hatred. Hopefully it isn’t that there are so many more gullible people now than there were, but just that they’ve been given methods for finding each other and forming more visible communities where they can find mutual emotional reinforcement.

Recent quote from somebody to me (for real!):
“I wasn’t aware that any reasonable person still believed that Apollo nonsense.”

So there are some who are so delusional now that they even imagine their idiocy has somehow been mainstreamed.


That fits the one raving conspiracist that I know personally. :cry: But now it’s mainstream and lying and deception is a brand. :grimacing:

I’d “like” your post above, but somehow it just seems wrong to ‘like’ that. It’s all-too-true. Maybe one of those good examples where truth is not beautiful.

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Trust had been severely broken in the instance noted, and it bled over everything.

That seems to be one of the mixed blessings of social media. People have this new ability to surround themselves with only people who believe the same as them, no matter how crazy it is. There are plenty of blessings in that – people who have rare diseases can communicate with others who understand where they’re coming from, etc., because there are times when those who surround you geographically simply don’t have the experience or understanding to commiserate. But sometimes the natural grounding of a community is a good thing because it provides balance. I mean, even the fact that I spend a lot of time on the BioLogos forums means I’ve surrounded myself with far more “origins talk” than would likely happen in an entire lifetime of my church interactions. Does this contribute to me being more frustrated about the fact that most church people won’t understand where I’m coming from?

And this can happen without the internet – academics can become an “ivory tower” and wealthy people can raise ignorant children who have no idea how most people live. But now it’s as if everyone has the ability to create their own web-based ivory tower.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s mistrust or an over-the-top amount of trust. Believing in a conspiracy theory requires you to believe that an enormous amount of people are really good at keeping secrets for a long time, and I just have not seen much evidence of humans’ ability to do that.


I agree with your analysis, but I don’t think that those infected with the mistrust, the original pathogen, are capable of it. They’re not likely to make a spreadsheet to examine the data.


I think that denying science which is actually well-supported by evidence always requires some degree of paranoid thinking. Otherwise, how do you explain why these “false” ideas seem so convincing to so many people, especially experts in the field? I think this is most pronounced with flat earthism, where you essentially have to be a conspiracy-theorist for the idea to even make sense. Young earth creationism does not deny quite as much scientific evidence, so it does not need to be quite as conspiratorial in its thinking. It is easier to believe that scientists are just wrongly interpreting the data, but interpreting it honestly, if you what you are denying has to do with ancient past, compared to something that involves the shape of the earth.

Answers in Genesis in my opinion is fairly mild when it comes to conspiratorial thinking. I haven’t been following AIG much in the past decade, so that could have changed of course. I think a more extreme example of a young earth creationist who incorporated conspiracy theories in his thinking is Kent Hovind. Hovind would probably be considered fairly mild today, since, as far as I know, he never spoke against vaccines or directly talked about global climate change. I haven’t really been following Hovind either since he went to prison for tax fraud back in 2007, so that may have changed as well.


But this is my point. Yes you don’t necessarily walk away immediately thinking “these are insane people,” but it’s the seemingly innocuousness of their conspiratorital thinking that allows it to go unchallenged. After repeated micro-dosing on the “scientists are all lying to us” narrative with AIG articles, you can tolerate a lot more when you hear the same sentiments expressed in ever more implausible scenarios from other groups. That’s why I think it’s akin to grooming. I think you can wholeheartedly embrace all YEC has to offer and not be a conspiracy theorist. But I think it affects your ability to recognize when someone is trying to get you onboard with conspiracy theories because it primes you to be fearful of legitimate sources outside your approved little circlr and distrusting of scholars and experts.


Oh yes, he went full anti-vax sometime after I stopped listening to him (which was well before he went to prison). Which is not surprising at all considering it’s right in line with many of the other conspiracy things he promoted – I think it just wasn’t a big thing in the mid-90s and so wasn’t on his radar then.


That’s a good point, and important to remember. Some of my colleagues (and former colleagues) are exactly these sorts of people (though in their own families and church communities they may be surrounded by others who are not as level-headed.) My anecdotal, and not entirely speculative observation about that group is that they have been a very depressed group for some time now. (not … clinically depressed … but … you know what I mean.) My heart goes out to them - these are people that I love. But, how to reach them without just chasing them further into their crazy-town is not a small question for me these last few years.