01/25/2013 11:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Creationists Say the Darndest Things -- And Their True Colors Are Made Clear

Perhaps one of the funniest and most genuine television shows of all times was Bill Cosby's "Kids Say the Darndest Things," which was based on a long-time segment Art Linkletter ran on his radio and television show "House Party." First Linkletter and then Cosby would ask young kids simple questions and the results were often outrageously funny. The stars of the show, the kids, often had no idea how funny, insightful or truthful they actually were.

If you have no recollection of any of this, take a look at this clip:

But it's not only kids who can be hilarious when they speak what they believe is the truth. And it's not only kids whose utterances can portray a deeper meaning than they ever intended.

Creationists repeatedly claim that they believe that it's only fair for "all sides" of the evolution issue to be discussed in schools. As I pointed out in a recent HuffPost piece, discussing a billed introduced in Indiana by Republican Representative Dennis Kruse that would permit school boards to require that creationism be taught in public schools:

Josh Youngkin, spokesperson for the Discovery Institute, a well-funded creationist organization advising Kruse, fleshes this insanity out even further. "It frees teachers to teach both sides of scientific controversies in an objective fashion. The teacher would not be barred from saying 'Let's look at both sides of the evidence and you guys can basically make a judgment.'"

Dig a bit deeper into the creationist psyche, however, and it's clear that those promoting this view don't want schoolchildren to be thinking for themselves. As I noted in another recent piece, the Republican Platform in Texas demonstrated this as clearly as you could hope for:

In clear and dramatic prose the Republican party in the state that has most aggressively attacked the teaching of evolution has stated: "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

That entire sentence is absolutely frightening, but let's distill it down to is most simple meaning: "We oppose ... critical thinking skills ... which ... have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Now the leader of the world's largest creationist organization, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, has, in true Linkletter fashion, made a simple statement that strips away all his fancy rhetoric and demonstrates what he truly believes. When Ham was asked if he had seen an article about Zack Kopplin, a Rice University sophomore who has been fighting creationism since his high school days in New Orleans, he responded simply and clearly: "Yes -- he is a product of the system -- brainwashed by secularists -- is so ignorant about what science really is -- we are writing a blog about it."

The article in question is entitled "Meet Creationists' Nightmare -- The Teen Who Is Combating Christians & Defending Evolution in Public Schools" and it tells about Zack's relentless and remarkably successful fight to ensure that Louisiana students are well educated in science. Since I've written about Zack numerous times before (here and here, for example), perhaps I'm biased. But I hasten to point out that Zack has won a number of prestigious awards for his work. The National Center for Science Education awarded him their Friend of Darwin award last year and the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation bestowed their Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award on him this past year as well.

So Ken Ham believes that Zack Kopplin has been "brainwashed by secularists" and "is so ignorant about what science really is." What form has Zack Kopplin's brainwashing taken? Well, it's led him to draft a letter opposing creationism in Louisiana that has been signed by 78 Nobel Prize-winning scientists. He articulates a position that has been endorsed by virtually every major scientific organization in the world including the national academies of science of 67 countries.

It doesn't seem to me that Zack is all that "ignorant about what science really is"! Maybe Ham is simply put off by Zack's promotion of a secularist agenda. But wait, his secularist agenda has been fully endorsed by mainstream religions around the world. For example, the Roman Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church are fully in favor of the teaching of evolution, as are a host of other Christian denominations. And the organization that I founded, The Clergy Letter Project, has collected signatures from more than 13,600 American clergy promoting the teaching of evolution, recognizing that such teaching poses no threat to either their religious freedom or beliefs.

No, Zack hasn't been brainwashed, and he's certainly not ignorant about the principles of science. He's simply (and from one perspective there's nothing simple about it!) one person who is well read, thoughtful, articulate and committed. He's exactly the kind of person anyone interested in education should applaud.

But then there's little evidence that Ken Ham is interested in education. What he calls education, others might, in fact, call brainwashing, to use his own term. The biblical theme park he's created called "The Creation Museum" uses the most advanced animatronics to convince young children that dinosaurs and humans happily cavorted together 6,000 years ago. He preaches to thousands of young children yearly, attempting to convince them that most religious leaders and scientists are completely mistaken about their view of the world. Take a look at this clip of him before hundreds of very young kids and form your own opinion:

There's plenty in there to discuss at some other time, but for now please note the definition of evolution he lays before these kids: "Evolution is the idea some people have to explain life without God."

So, who's doing the brainwashing?