JISHOU, HUNAN — The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, is NOT a science museum. It is a tool to publicize a narrow religious view of the world and our place in it.
Thus, I found this comment by a Kentucky State Department of Education official particularly disturbing. [From the Louisville Courier-Journal]
Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said nothing in state law would bar public schools from visiting, if it were part of “a lesson” on “how some perceived the world’s beginnings.”
Kentucky does not require the teaching of evolution or creationism (or even science at all) in private schools. And public-school science teachers aren’t prohibited from mentioning creationism, but lessons often include concepts behind evolution, Gross said.
Maybe Ms. Gross was tiptoeing around the religious bias of Kentucky’s bureaucrats, legislators and population. Maybe she has never been to the Creation Museum. Maybe she is just plain stupid. Whatever the case, there should be no reason to bring any public school group to the museum, unless that purpose is to indoctrinate the students in an overtly religious world view.
If a high school teacher, having done a LOT of preparation, intended to use the museum as an example of propaganda or dogmatic religious instruction, then perhaps such a field trip would be worthwhile. I am just not sure how many teachers have the time and inclination to undertake such a lesson, though.
The Creation Museum is more than an “alternative science” museum. Sure, it contradicts the scientific conclusions of evolution, the Big Bang, paleontology and geology. Sure, students need to know some people do not accept those scientific theories as valid. But public school students do not need to visit a heavy-handed monument to religious indoctrination, for that it what is.
The Creation Museum is basically a church school. Public schools have no business taking students to church for religious lessons.
Now, at this point I need to be honest and say that I have not visited the Creation Museum. I am on the other side of the (spherical, not flat) world in an officially atheist nation. My evidence for my arguments is second-hand: photographs taken by visitors to the museum, news articles, and reviews of it, both positive and negative.
First, a little background info. The mastermind behind the Creation Museum is Ken Ham, a transplanted Australian who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. He is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). So, when it says in Genesis that God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh, YECs take it as a matter of their faith that it literally happened that way.
Concomitant with that belief is the understanding that the world is really only a few thousand years old, courtesy of counting back through all those “begats.” In the YEC chronology, God created Adam and Eve about 6,000 years ago. Noah built the Ark for the Great Flood around the year 2348 BC. All present animal species, geological formations and human dispersion happened after that time.
Layered on top of this belief in a young Earth is a peculiarly narrow Calvinistic theology that teaches how God deals with his Creation and why He occasionally gets pissed at it. The museum calls the major events in Earth’s history the “Seven C’s of God’s Eternal Plan.”
One section of the museum illustrates (at times graphically) the Seven C’s, and that is where most of the religious instruction is. Another section depicts detailed representations of dinosaurs. Judging from the photos I’ve seen, the models are actually really quite excellent.
Here are the Seven C’s:
Creation, of course, is described in Genesis 1. “In the beginning — in six, 24-hour days — God made a perfect creation (~4000 BC),” the museum display states.
Now, “perfect creation” here has a special, narrow meaning. In this version of YEC belief, God created a world in which there was no death, destruction or corruption. Carnivorism did not exist, because God gave plants — “green herb” (Genesis 1:30) — for all his creatures to eat. Adam, Eve and all the critters — including the dinosaurs, who co-existed with humans until the Flood — were essentially immortal.
As part of his role as First Man, Adam got to name the critters. The museum teaches that these critters were not necessarily the ones we have now, but were separate “kinds” that developed into the related species of recent history. Thus, Adam named one kind, say, dog, and that dog-kind developed into domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes and other canids. In a few thousand years.
What did they look like?
Creation biologists believe that God put the potential for a lot of variety in each created kind. With so much variety to choose from, we don’t know exactly what the original representatives looked like. Some of the possibilities are displayed in this scene.”
Then, Adam fucked things up, by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and then lying about it. (Strangely, Eve’s role in the Fall never seems to come up in the museum’s “historical” accounts.) God got a little peeved, and threw everyone out of Eden. To make things worse, God canceled the whole immortality plan, introduced death and corruption, and told the carnivores, “Go, attack the herbivores, be fruitful and multiply.”
Rejection of God’s World led to CORRUPTION
The first man, Adam, disobeyed the Creator, bringing death and corruption into the creation. His disobedience explains the catastrophes, disease, suffering and death in the present world. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Romans 5:12
Poor Adam. He really gets dumped on here. He fathers the human race, names all the animals, discovers the difference between good and evil, then gets blamed for every single bad thing for the last 6000 years.
Other displays gloss on the change in Creation after the Fall. Now humans and animals can be poisoned or get ill. Since the carnivores are now eating flesh again and attacking each other, animals are dying, which means the survivors have to procreate more to keep the population going. All that procreation apparently leads to … evolution, otherwise known (incorrectly) as “the survival of the fittest.” So, according to the YEC worldview, evolution is yet another example of the Corruption of God’s Perfect Creation.
[I am not entirely sure how sex figures into all this exegesis. Genesis says nothing about Adam and Eve getting it on while still in Eden, or the other critters, for that matter. Being ashamed of their nakedness after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve apparently did not wonder what those body parts were for beforehand. Sex is apparently part of the Corruption after the Fall. So, Adam did something good, after all.]
The museum interrupts its train of thought here to explain briefly where Cain found a wife to continue the human race. Well, he married his sister. OK? Now, let’s move on.
Those troublesome humans still were disobedient, per the explanations in Genesis, so God once again got a tad annoyed and decided to start over again. First, he told Noah to build a big Ark, and load two of every kind on board. Then, God flooded the Earth, literally wiping it clean, around 2348 BC.
For the YEC worldview, the Flood is a convenient, if scientifically inappropriate explanation for fossils and the extinction of the dinosaurs. The dino displays, for example, place the geological epochs (Jurassic and Cretaceous, for example), which are normally separated by millions of years, all around 2348 BC.
Moreover, for young Earth creationism, the kinds that disembarked from the Ark are the progenitors of the species we see today. The museum uses the metaphor of a “tree” to depict evolutionary development from a single organism (a gross oversimplification) and the “orchard” to depict concurrent evolution of the post-Deluge “kinds.”
According to the museum, the Flood also accelerated geologic and climatic changes, putting environmental pressures on organisms. Since God imbued critters with the ability to adapt rapidly, there was more variety in organisms after the Flood than before. One display discusses the changes in North America and uses the development of the equid-kind from Eohippus, a forest dweller, to the modern horse, a grassland dweller, as an example of adaptation.
Organisms change rapidly as the earth changes.”
As North America cooled and dried following the flood:
– larger species replaced smaller species
– grass eating species replaced leaf-eating species
– swift species of the open plain replaced slower species
Present changes are too small and too slow to explain these differences, suggesting God provided organisms with special tools to change rapidly.”
Using the horse as an example of evolution among North American animals is a bit strange, since paleontologists have concluded the horse became extinct in North America about 10,000 years ago. It was introduced back into the wild after the Europeans brought Old World horses with them only a few hundred years ago.
But I am trying to complicate this very simple picture. So sorry. Moving on …
Another major catastrophe (not mentioned in the Bible, but still part of the museum’s displays) is the Ice Age, referring to the most recent one that ended (scientifically speaking) about 10,000 years ago. According to the museum’s displays, the Ice Age happened a short while after the Flood, maybe around 2100 – 2050 BC. Now I see a major problem with this idea. If the last major Ice Age occurred around 2100 BC, wouldn’t the major civilizations existing then noticed it was kinda cold out? The Sumerians, for one, left written records dating back to 3500 BC. The Jews (you know, the authors of the Old Testament) would have noticed something, too. Ancient civilizations knew something of the lands to the north, and glaciation in Europe and northern Asian would have cooled things off further south. Why does the Bible omit mention of a major climatic shift?
Back to the Seven C’s. CONFUSION: God was not quite done with his unruly children, who had the gall to try building a tower to Heaven. He cursed them with different languages, leading to the dispersal of humans around the world. [Linguists disagree with this notion, by the way. Languages evolve much as organisms do.]
Up to this point of the Seven C’s, the museum mixes religion and science, with religion getting the upper hand. Now it’s time to play Christianity’s wild card, Jesus, to introduce the final three C’s.
The Creator became a man, our relative — a member of the human race. His name was Jesus of Nazareth, who obeyed God in everything, unlike the first man, Adam.
The Answer of God’s Word
The penalty for mankind’s disobedience was death. Jesus, the Messiah, died on a cross to pay that penalty. He rose from the dead, providing life for all who trust in Him.”
The Fulfillment of God’s Word
One day the Creator will remake His creation. He will cast out death and the disobedient, and dwell eternally with all those who trust in Him. Earth will be restored to a perfect place — as it was before sin.
Tell me, if you can, how any education official can justify bringing science students to a museum that panders specifically to a religious audience, with an overtly Christian message? For that matter, how could any science teacher use the museum as a teaching tool, since it and YEC in general is so overtly anti-science? (I haven’t discussed the anti-science slant of the museum. It could make for another lengthy post.)
Sadly, the museum is amazingly successful. According to the Courier-Journal, the museum has brought in $7 million in revenues last year, and brought $20 million in revenues to the local community. Since it opened two years ago, the museum has had 720,000 visitors, including many, many schoolchildren, including public school kids.
There is an old marketing adage that “sex sells.” Maybe religion sells, too.