Ken Ham’s Climate Change Rhetoric Uses Cigarette Ad Tactics

Ken Ham's Climate Change Explanations Use Similar Tactics to Cigarette Ads.
Ken Ham caused further wrinkles of bewilderment to etch themselves into Bill Nye’s forehead during his explanation of climate change post-discussion, prompting Nye to compare his rhetoric to tactics used in cigarette advertisements. The president of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and the TV personality and scientist appeared on CNN after their Tuesday night discussion to elaborate on their views.

Ham became defensive after Piers Morgan pointed out that 80 percent of scientists believe in climate change. Ham countered that he had never divulged his stance on global warming, having only briefly explained what young-earth Creationists like himself believe.

According to Ham, man’s fool spurred extreme weather patterns. Whether this means that man created the weather patterns, or that a higher power created the weather patterns as punishment was not elaborated on.

Nye took the explanation to mean that Ham attributed global warming to punishment from a higher power. Skeptical of this explanation, Nye reiterated that warming is the result of excess heat energy in the atmosphere. Of particular concern is the rate at which heat energy is being added, prompting storms.

During Ham’s explanation of climate change, he compared how scientists and creationists talk about weather patterns. Ham said that both view climate change as a series of highs and lows, and embrace the fact that global temperatures have been changing.

Where the two views diverge is on the explanation for why temperature change takes place. Ham avoided directly answering what he believed. The rhetoric that he used to dance around the question caused Nye to compare his language tactics to those in cigarette ads.

After Ham caught Piers Morgan assuming that he did not believe in climate change, Ham maneuvered around explicitly answering what he believed. Ham said that observation and interpretation needed to be dealt with separately. Then he said that past and present needed to be understood individually too.

Citing the belief that temperature has fluctuated throughout time, Ham’s elusive point was that scientific data could be interpreted multiple ways. As the minority view on CNN, Ham stopped short of saying that his interpretation was markedly different from Nye’s, but Nye caught the omitted opinion.

If any doubt were to exist as to Ken Ham’s exact stance, the material marketed by his Answers in Genesis project reveals pointed views. One documentary titled, “Global Warming, the Scientific and Biblical Expose of Climate Change,” accepts climate change, but denies that man creates it.

The skepticism lauded by Ham is dangerous to the future of the country according to Nye. Skepticism itself is not dangerous, but sidestepping facts as cigarette ads often do, is deceptive. Furthermore, doing so undermines the scientific process. Nye emphasized that scientific uncertainty is not the same as scientific doubt. While there may be some aspects of climate change that scientists are not 100 percent certain of that does not mean that they doubt it exists.

Raising future generations to believe that scientific uncertainty and doubt are synonymous is severely detrimental to the country’s future according to Nye. Uncertainty is a fundamental of the scientific process because it allows for adjustment as new discoveries are made. If discoveries were dismissed when they allow for uncertainty, what would the impact be?

The number of Americans who do not believe in climate change has been on the rise since early 2013, according to a Yale study. Twenty three percent of Americans were dismissive of global warming in November 2013, up from 16 percent in April 2013. The number who believe in global warming has held fast at 63 percent, and the number who say they are unsure has dropped from 20 percent to 14 percent.

Overall, does it matter if people believe in climate change or not? The documentary published by Ken Ham’s organization claims to have policy implications. If views on climate change shape behavior, then they could impact the future. If nothing else, rhetoric used by Ken Ham and others that blurs the line between uncertainty and doubt uses deceptive tactics similar to those in cigarette ads, and according to Nye, may result in equally dangerous consequences.

Editorial By Julia Waterhous