On the teeth of lions and bears

In his recent debate with Bill Nye (“the science guy”), Ken Ham (Creation Museum, Answers In Genesis) made some real bloopers but this is the one that most sticks in my mind.

In response to Ham’s assertion that, before the flood, all animals were vegetarians, Nye remarked that a lion’s big, sharp teeth don’t appear to be very good for eating broccoli.  Ham’s response was to point out that bears also have big, sharp teeth and they’re mostly vegetarians, implying that the teeth don’t tell us much about what the critters eat.

Well, that’s a bit misleading.  Bears do have huge, sharp incisors in the front of their mouths and molars* in the back.  They’re omnivores and they’ll basically eat whatever is available.  Lions also have huge sharp canines in front but they don’t have molars.  Rather, they’ve got carnassials** in the back of their mouths, which are excellent for slicing up meat into pieces small enough to swallow and not at all good for masticating plant material into mush, like molars are.

Ham most likely did not know this and, rather than leave the point alone or admit that he didn’t know, he made something up on the fly.  If one is going to claim to “love science”, as Ham says he does, one should understand that there is no shame in saying “I don’t know”.  Rather, the shame is in making shit up and presenting it as fact.  The “I don’t know” moments are opportunities for discovery.

The Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10a) but I say that “I don’t know” is the beginning of understanding.  One who cannot admit to admit to ignorance can scarcely hope to learn anything new.

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*http://www.grizzlybay.org/LearnMore/Teeth/Grizzlybearteeth.htm

**http://danielpeel.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/lion-anatomy-teeth/

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