Cancer, in case you were wondering, is the result of sin.


TALKING POINTS

If you happen to be one of those obstinate Christians who still trust the sciences to explain nature, check it: Creationist Ken Ham just dropped some gospel.

Let me explain. 


Ham's Twitter polemic from Monday was spurred by a not-so-recent discovery: Fossil records showing traces of pathologies -- including cancer and arthritis -- which have, till recently, been considered unique to humans.


Why is this a big deal? Because over the years, spiritual leaders tried to explain cancer (and occasionally other illnesses too) as a moral disease. The product of Sin, in fact.


"Cancer is a manifestation of the Edenic curse of decay and death," ​Dr. David Demick, a pathologist by profession, wrote for Christian Answers.


But if signs of cancer were found in fossils predating man, how can it be a moral artifact, and not simply part of God's Creation?

Rushing to countervail the findings (two years after their publication), Ham made the following argument:


  • God is good.


  • God created the ​earth and saw "it was good."


  • ​Cancer is evil (ie. not good).


  • Therefore, God could not have created cancer along with the earth.​


  • Conclusions: Cancer must be subsequent to humanity. "Diseases came after sin," wrote Ham.


I'll let the good reader decide whether the syllogism holds.


But considering that Ham's literalist worldview rejects outright the possibility of an old earth, for him to even bother with the whole question of fossils seems a bit redundant. (It's a little like saying, "I don't believe Swiss cheese exists, but if it did, it couldn't possibly have holes in it!")


The thing is. Ham doesn't doubt that fossils are the remains of creatures long annihilated, he only disputes their antiquity. In Ham's mind, therefore, the finding of disease in fossils leads to a profound corollary...


  • If traces of cancer are found in fossils, and Sin must have predated cancer, then fossils can't be as ancient as geologists claim!


In other words, to prop up his Bible-Says-So argument about the age of the earth, Ham fabricates a Bible-Says-So argument about morality and sickness. Dizzying, isn't it?


BACKSTORY

The career of Australian-born creationist Ken Ham is a tour de force of obfuscation on all matters scientific. Ham, a Bible literalist, predictably rejects evolution, climate change, and any other empirically-established theory to suggest the earth could be older than 6,000 years. 


Living in Kentucky, Ham founded The Creation Museum and, more recently, The Ark Experience, a theme park with a "full-sized" model of Noah's Ark built to specs. Both attractions offer visitors an alternative narrative for the origin of man that is unencumbered by scientific rigor.


To his credit, he's happy to debate his detractors.

Although how efficacious these debates really are, God only knows.


CLASSROOM

The origin of evil is one of the oldest problems in monotheistic theology. If God created the earth and saw "it was good," why did he create cholera and erectile dysfunction? If all was made in His Light, how can we explain ineradicable pestilence, the brevity of human life, and the MTA? Did God screw up? Or is He a sadist?


Minds much brighter than Ham's have tortured themselves over the problem of "theodicy." Here are a few suggested solutions...


St. Augustine. More than any Christian before him, this 5th-century monk was obsessed with Original Sin. If the Creator is Good, how could the appetite for Evil have even "entered the world"? His profoundly consequential (not to mention Freudian) conclusion was that Sin originated -- and was later transmitted -- through the act of sexual relations. (Explains a lot, doesn't it?) Augustine was one of the first Christian thinkers to give a biological explanation for Sin.


Nicolas Malebranche. To the glamorous backdrop of 17th-century Paris, Malebranche developed a theodicy that ruffled his fellow clergymen. He argued that God was not, strictly speaking, all powerful. God, according to Malebranche, is Pure Reason, and as such limited in His powers to the laws of rationality. Under these insurmountable limitations, the world He created is indeed good -- the best possible, even -- but it is not perfect. And it's into this absence of perfection that Sin creeps.


Antoine Arnauld. Arnauld was Malebranche's contemporary -- and rival. Their love-hate relationship culminated in a wrothful and inspired correspondence, in which Arnauld torched his frenemy's theodicy. Arnauld's solution to the problem of evil was the opposite of Malebranche's: God must be all powerful (ipso frickin' facto, according to Arnauld). Therefore, everything we perceive as evil, suffering, or sin (and the temptation we might feel for it), is part of God's design. It is not for us -- ephemeral and feeble of mind -- to recognize our earthly pain for its true meaning and purpose.