by Paul Braterman
Paul Braterman is Professor Emeritus in Chemistry, University of North Texas, and Honorary Research Fellow (formerly Reader) at the University of Glasgow. His research has involved topics related to the early Earth and the origins of life, and received support from NSF, NASA, Sandia National Labs, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He is now interested in sharing scientific ideas with the widest possible audience, and was involved in successful campaigns to persuade both the English and the Scottish Governments to keep creationism out of the science classroom. He is a regular contributor to 3 Quarks Daily, and blogs at Primate’s Progress, paulbraterman.wordpress.com.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at 3 Quarks Daily. We are grateful to the editors for their permission to republish it here.
One month ago today, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis appointed Martyn Iles, formerly director of the Australian Question Lobby, to the position of Chief Ministry Officer, ministry of course being Answers in Genesis’ core activity. Here’s why that matters.
Martyn Iles, a lawyer by training, was the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) from 2018 until he was abruptly sacked by the ACL Board in February 2023. Accounts of his dismissal differ. Iles described it as a result of difference in strategy; the Board wanted to move in a more political direction, making him in his own words “not the right person for that vision. I have always been a preacher first and politician second (or third…)”. The Board’s chair, however, denied that there had been any such change.
Answers in Genesis (AiG) is the world’s largest Young Earth Creationist organisation. AiG has a full-time working staff of 1200 and, according to its 2021 tax declaration, assets of almost $82 million. It owns the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky as well as other major assets, and its massive outreach programme includes formal publications, Answers magazine, and an extremely active website.
AiG is the property of Ken Ham, like Iles a product of Australian’s extreme Christian fundamentalist community. It was set up in 1994 after complex and litigious manoeuvres involving Ham and his previous associates, Creation Ministries International based mainly in Australia, and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). ICR itself had been set up by Henry Morris, co-author of The Genesis Flood, when disputes arose among an earlier generation of Young Earth creationists.
There comes a time in the life of every successful businessman (it usually is a man) when he starts to consider his legacy. Ham is now 71. The vigour of his early writing, which had attracted Henry Morris’ attention in the 1980s, has faded into stale repetitiousness, and his articles on the AiG website now describe themselves as produced with the help of research staff. It seemed at one time as if Bodie Hodge, his son-in-law, was his obvious heir apparent, but Hodge’s own writing is superficial and tedious. (Disclosure; both Ham and Hodge have attacked me by name in their writings.)
Iles is now, therefore, in an extremely strong position within the organisation, for which he has excellent credentials. He is a successful organiser and money raiser, and responsible for targeted interventions in Australian electoral politics. His Youtube series The Truth of It has a major following, and as we shall see is very good at what it does. Thus we can expect him to be a major influence on AiG in its direction and messaging, and to enhance its appeal and effectiveness. He has already been announced as a key speaker in next year’s homeschooling conference.
It is therefore a matter of some general concern that Iles is an extreme religious conservative, defines reality itself in religious terms, believes in male domination (while I was preparing this piece he told us that “A word like ‘independent’ is a direct assault on God’s design for women” and that a good woman is “Submissive to husbands. including imperfect ones”), is adept at promoting an intolerant agenda in the name of freedom of speech, has (ever so obliquely) inflamed concerns about vaccines, takes the historical truth of the early chapters of Genesis for granted, and thinks abortion should be illegal because God approves of population growth, among other reasons. Worst of all, he preaches that Christians must dismiss the findings of climate change science as “cultural Marxist rubbish,” because “God’s sustaining providence is crucial to our understanding of this world.”
For an example of Iles defending the indefensible, provided that the indefensible is based on religious belief, see his condemnation of Covid vaccine mandates.
To see him in unrestrained conspiracy mode, watch  his response to the World Economic Forum’s concept of a Great Reset, according to which we should use the pause imposed by Covid to rethink current industrial policy and its large-scale environmental impact. This notion offends against his core belief that the planet is in God’s hands, so that WEF’s concerns are fundamentally misguided. Like others, he presents the Reset concept, and the interest shown in it by governments, institutions, and major companies, as a conspiracy to do away with capitalism and democracy. Here, Iles is in lockstep with the Heartland Institute, a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry and for laissez-faire economics. As a sign of this conspiracy (and here I am reminded of Q-Anon) he points to the way in which the slogan Build Back Better, which occurs in the WEF literature, is echoed by politicians as diverse as Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and Justin Trudeau, while as co-conspirators he identifies the entire climate change movement, as well as Black Lives Matter which, like other creationist writers, Iles describes as Marxist.
Iles’ full talents are on display in his The Truth of It YouTube, Climate Totalitarianism, which I recommend to students of rhetoric. Its thousand closely argued words are a masterpiece of misdirection, false dichotomy, strawmanning and vilification of opponents’ positions (the word cancer occurs four times); emotional engagement with the concerned, leading to a promise of reassurance and erasing of anxiety; imposing an intellectual superstructure (which he calls hierarchies of control) on the Bible and then using this superstructure to argue that mere worldly science can be safely ignored; slyly referring to fossil fuels by another name (mineral resources) as put there by God for humanity to use; and hinting at massive totalitarian conspiracies behind climate policy. All reinforced by dramatic phrasing, intonation, and gestures.
The title of the series, The Truth of It, prepares us for the message that anyone Iles disagrees with has been misleading us. The individual podcast title, Climate totalitarianism, casts the entire climate issue in terms of individual freedom versus governmental overreach, echoing his recurrent motif of a conspiracy of the powerful against the godly. And his opening sentence, “Well, it looks as if in the post-pandemic world, we’re going to be increasingly preoccupied with climate change,” describes a crisis over 50 years in the making as if it was just the next thing that they want us to worry about.
Iles then gives us two examples of net zero policy in action. Firstly, the enforced shutdown of Netherlands farms, early victims of the climate juggernaut (“there will be more”). I can find no reference to these alleged closures; the most relevant EU document that I could find sought, on the contrary, to reduce the loss of farmland, but no matter; our sympathies have been engaged with the alleged victims of the juggernaut, as have our fears, since we may be next. Secondly, eating bugs rather than red meat. Clearly, the net zero policy is unnatural, disgusting, and destructive.
Where do such misguided policies come from? From evolutionary thinking, of course. “I understand why they’re getting it wrong, because they basically believe that human beings arose on this planet quite by chance, and in time proceeded to go on a destructive, and a murderous, and exploitative, and a cancerous rampage, which must now be stopped.” (The word “cancer,” in connection with any concerns about human impact on the planet, occurs three more times in this presentation.)
If only our decision-makers would pay proper attention to the Bible! There they would find (Iles gives chapter and verse) that the descendants of Adam, and the descendants of Noah, were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, that Adam and his descendants were given dominion over everything on earth, and that God promised Noah that springtime and harvest would never cease as long as the Earth endures. Those who are worried about climate change have failed to recognise the hierarchy of control, according to which the planet was created to be adequate to human needs. It is humanity’s right, and indeed duty, to get to work and enjoy what has been made available, in the secure knowledge that caring for the planet as a whole is not their responsibility, but God’s.
Notice here the construction of a vast theological superstructure on a narrow biblical foundation, followed by the claim that this superstructure is itself biblical.
Like a judo player, Iles now uses the very force of the environmental argument as a reason for rejecting it. “If I thought we were here by chance, and we were just one of the gazillions of planets and we were just very fortunate to be in the position that we are in, I would think the future was pretty uncertain, and I’d get pretty nervous.”
Fear not. This nervousness is dispelled if we remember the hierarchy of control, and what God has promised: “Genesis is quite clear that what we see in the world around us was substantially put there for human use, and enjoyment, and sustenance, including plants, water, minerals, and animals.” The word minerals is the only reference in the piece to fossil fuels, but its significance will not be lost on his intended Australian primary audience.
Governments pursuing environmental goals are in an extremely stressful situation, he tells us, since they are going against fundamental human nature, and must use totalitarian methods to impose their will. But this stress is unnecessary, if we remember the divinely ordained hierarchy. Humankind is steward of the planet, but God is an even greater steward, and we should listen to His word.
The most alarming part of Iles’ sermon is what he does not say. He simply bypasses the scientific evidence that business as usual risks unacceptable damage to the environment. Implicit in his position is the acceptance that such things, if they happen, will represent the working out of God’s will.
For those who see us as approaching the End Times, as I suspect Iles does, this is merely spelling out the obvious. For the rest of us, terrifying.
I thank Dan Phelps for useful background information about AiG’s empire, and the Rev Michael Roberts for helpful comments.
1] Disclosure. Life is short, so once I’ve got the flavour of a presentation, I just scan the transcript.