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Creationist Ken Ham and the Boiled Frog Story

ken ham and origen

Snark ahead. You’ve been warned!

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum and a defender of young earth creationism, stated in a recent radio interview that the state of Kentucky is treating him like a second class citizen. According to Ham, by refusing to give him $18 million worth of tax incentives for his latest project, the Ark Encounter theme park, state officials are attacking his right to speak and worship freely.

Ham’s legal battle with the state of Kentucky over tax incentives is just the latest in a long string of controversies swirling around Ham’s creationism empire. Ham has spent most of his life being “persecuted” by scientists, secularists, humanists, atheists, liberal Christians…well by anyone who doesn’t think and believe just like he does. Ham gins up controversy so those who support him will be “righteously angry” and continue to support his moneymaking enterprises.

Last Monday, Ham was a guest on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall, a fundamentalist Christian, “is the host of the Christian talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall, which is broadcast on the Moody Radio network.”) During the program, Ham  stated:

“If we don’t do something about this it’s like the old idea of the frog in the water that you can boil it up and boil it to death and it doesn’t you’re doing it because it keeps accommodating to the temperature around it. If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”

I wonder if Ham, Parshall, or those who listened to the program on Moody Radio, know that the boiled frog story is bad science. Probably not. Since creationists jettison any science that doesn’t fit within the framework of a literalist interpretation of the Bible, I guess it would be too much to ask them to research the story before using it as a metaphor for Christian inaction and acclimation to culture.

In a 2011 article titled Frog Fable Brought to BoilDr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki wrote:

If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.

So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer…

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University both agree on this point.

Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too.

The aforementioned article was adapted from Kruszelnicki’s book, It Ain’t Necessarily So…Bro.

After doing some reading on the boiled frog myth, I found a study that best describes Ham’s use of the myth:

As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.

Frog…brain removed…Ken Ham…young earth creationism…

Hey, I’ve come up with a new metaphor for creationism.

Any day now, I expect Ham to come out with an Answers in Genesis defense of the boiled frog story. Like the voice of God speaking to Moses on the Mount, the utterances of Ken Ham are treated as infallible by his cult followers. Ken Ham, like the Bible and God, is never, ever wrong.

The easiest way for Ham to prove the boiled frog story is to conduct a frog boiling study. Oh wait, Ham doesn’t do research. He’s too busy preaching the Gospel of Genesis 1-3, also known as The Bible According to Hammy®, to take any time to conduct a study. With millions of dollars at stake, there is no time for bothering to speak scientifically when pretending to be a scientist on the radio. Souls are at stake. The future of America and Western Civilization depends on the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. If these beacons of ignorance are closed, what would Christian schools and homeschoolers do for science class field trips?

Perhaps one of Ham’s followers might say, yes, the science of the story is wrong, but the moral story behind the metaphor is correct. Oh, you mean like the B-I-B-L-E? Let the stammering begin…


The boiled frog story has been used by people of every political, social, and religious persuasion. I even know one redheaded preacher who used it years ago in his sermons.



  1. Avatar

    I am embarrassed to admit I have believed the boiling-frog myth up until this very day, but it has always bothered me, and I am glad to see it laid to rest (I lose points though for not being curious enough to research this for myself, though).

  2. Avatar

    Oh, SNARK!
    Bruce, you’ve socked it to ’em yet again, haven’t ya?
    I just adore that Ham has decided he’s being persecuted over his lack of a tax break. HE is the one who violated the terms of said break when it was first brokered. Part of the deal was that, since it was PUBLIC tax that was being incentivized, there would be no illegal discrimination. Part of the employment application asked for religious affiliation (in particular, one’s stance on the creation doctrine).
    Poor Ham. Such a dolt.

    As far as the froggy… OF COURSE the frog would never submit to boiling water. I never bought that crap! Frogs are smart! Remember that singing frog from back in the day????

  3. Avatar
    Canadian Atheist

    For what I think is the first time in my life I actually agree whole-heartedly with something that Ken Ham says. Your picture has him quoted as saying: “Rejecting a literal Adam and a literal Fall makes Genesis chapters 1 – 3 untrustworthy…And from there it’s a slippery slope to making even the gospel message untrustworthy.”

    Could not agree more. And thank goodness I sailed down that well-oiled slippery slope before I completely wasted my life believing in fairy tales. In my journey to atheism, it was a confrontation with the knowledge that a literal interpretation of Genesis was completely impossible that eventually forced me to question the veracity of the rest of the Bible (i.e. the gospel itself).

    Ken Ham, as frustratingly out of touch with reality as he is, represents nothing more than a very vocal version of myself and other former Christians who decided not to take the brave plunge down that wonderful slippery slope. I sort of feel sorry for him that he clings to these ridiculous anti-reality notions only because otherwise his fairy tale would fall apart.

  4. Avatar

    I had a pastor who was from Tennesee who told us that was how they boiled frogs, back home. I’ve never had a frog, nor was I inclined to, so I never questioned the story. A few years ago, I was reading about urban legends in illustrations and discovered this was one. Made me wonder how many other things he said were blatant lies.

    As for the tax incentives, Ham needs to realize those are only given out if the state/city thinks (or can justify to the people) that it makes good financial sense. Obviously, the state realizes this is a losing proposition.

    Not getting the tax incentive isn’t persecution. It is a perfect example of separation between church and state. The state is making a financial decision, not a religious one. I’m sure Ham would be upset if the state gave tax breaks to an Islamic park depicting Muhammad’s Night Journey.

  5. Avatar
    August Rode

    I think, if we investigated it, that we would find that when Ken Ham was living in Australia, he likely didn’t wear a hat nearly as much as he should have. His brain’s been at least partially baked.

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