This weekend, Catherine (my wife, and an Evolutionary Biologist) and I traveled four and a half hours (one way) from central Illinois to visit the Creation Museum located in Kentucky just across the river from Cincinatti, OH. The Creation Museum is an enormous facility, founded by Answers in Genesis, a group founded to push Bible-based education, but partially by showing how modern science can actually support Creationism founded by Australian, Ken Ham. The Museum is a temple of misinformation about modern science to create, for those who are inclined, what could be a very believable picture of a mere 6000 year history of the world.
Note: If the tone of the first paragraph isn't clear, I am not a creationist, and I think that anyone who is is grossly misinformed. That doesn't mean I believe faith is a bad thing, or people of faith are stupid or not worthwhile, simply that they're basing their world-view on incomplete information, and that their incomplete world-view (and faith-based) world-view has no place in public school. Private schools, and what parents teach their own children? That's fine, just not public.
Still, there was an enormous crowd at the museum, including at least a dozen Amish. And it was very clear that few (if any) others at the museum were approaching the trip from Catherine and I's perspective. Unfortunately, I haven't had an opportunity yet to go through all the photographs we took, and Catherine wants to save some of them for a possible presentation to the rest of her Department during Fall term. However, they will all go up online at some point, and I will update this post with more information when that happens.
Creation is actually a fairly small part of the museum, as it is actually trying to build an entire framework for belief in Creationism and the history of the world based on the Bible as a literal history. It does so by focusing on what Answers in Genesis calls the '7 C's of History', which I, who was active in a Church youth group through High School, had never heard of.
- Corruption - Adam & Eve eat the Apple
- Catastrophe - Noah's Flood
- Confusion - Tower of Babel and the spread of man
- Consummation - I believe this would be the Rapture, but the Six C's and an R isn't as catchy.
And there is a 'walk-through' history that focuses on each of these periods in order, with a beautiful Garden of Eden walk-through (complete with dinosaurs, more on that later), and the eating of the Apple, the first sacrifice, the hardness of life after the Garden and the murder of Abel by Cain. Then there is a huge Ark exhibit, complete with a talking Noah. The last three are not delved into much, but that's fine.
The basic ideas behind modern Creationism is that God, when he created all life created 'kinds', like Ape-kind, Horse-Kind, Man-kind, Weasel-Kind, etc. There was a single male-female pair of each kind, and each kind had the genetic material to form each and every species we see today, since the 'kind' is roughly at the 'family' level. Also, before the Corruption, all animals (including the dinosaurs) were all herbivores. Either God decided as part of the Curse to add carnivorous behavior to animals, or the Kind always had that potential, but it didn't manifest until after Corruption. And since there was no death (and probably no reproduction) before the Corruption, it couldn't manifest until later.
When the flood hit, Noah didn't have to take every species, merely a representative pair of each kind, which could then repopulate all the world. Okay, so Leopards and Lions are both born from the felid-kind pair that Noah took on the Ark. So...why don't Lions give birth to Cheetahs today? In Creation-land every mutation to DNA that happens is a loss of information. This is one of the first really obvious places where creationism completely ignores well understood science, and redefines words to suit their own needs. Mutations are any change, and in fact most mutations add code. They may not actually do anything, until paired with other mutations later on, but actually very few mutations are a true loss of information. Given that these are a people who believe in Rapture, and probably believe it's coming sooner rather than later, the idea that the genome will become too corrupted to be viable, probably isn't much of a problem.
I plan to write more on the museum as Catherine and I review the photographs and prepare her talk. But I think it's interesting to have a discussion of how this is such a big and popular museum, and why we're having such a problem with people taking 'creation science' seriously.
For decades, the Scientific Community has treated creationists as foolish people who aren't really worth addressing, because their wrong. And they may be wrong, but they're not stupid, but their marketing is top notch. If the scientific community is going to be able to win this argument, they are going to need to get off their asses and take this threat seriously, and actually take the time to educate people on the truth. As it stands, creationists are using real science, but only part of that science to make their points.
There was also a video called 'Men in White' that we visited that is about a young girl questioning her life, and a pair of Angels, Mike and Gabe (obviously meant to be the Archangel's Gabriel and Michael) trying to show her "God's Truth" and it paints modern science as these smug people who follow science as a Religion, and can't deal with evidence that seems to contradict generally accepted scientific fact.
Ultimately, that is the difference. Creationists have built their worldview on a very rigid structure, the Bible as a literal history of the Universe. Whereas Science bases understanding on where the preponderance of evidence point. That is the primary difference. There are parts of Creationism that can never change, while in Science, if there is strong evidence that something believed is wrong or different than was believed, than the view can be changed. When Astronomers announced that Pluto was just a Kuiper Belt Object, and not really a whole Planet, it was not astronomers and other scientists that really argued that point, the evidence was fairly clear. Pluto is large, but not the largest thing in an area of plenty of other large things of similar composition. It's an important Kuiper Belt Object, certainly, but not a planet.
I want to work with Catherine on a book that looks at these ideas behind Creationism and presents the rest of the story that the Creationists choose to ignore, in plain language, to help demonstrate that Creationism does not possess quite as much strength in argument as they want you to think.
Ultimately, we need to remember these people are not stupid they are misinformed. And we can no longer afford to ignore them, or treat them badly. There is a lot of work to be done in this country to repair this dangerous, insidious, pseudo-scientific thinking that has done so much damage to real science in recent years.