| || As we walked out of the Creation
Museum, we were asked, by one of the officers of the Secular Student
Alliance: What did you learn from the Creation Museum?
I had difficulty answering the
question—he acknowledged that nearly everyone else did as well. I
answered something about the psychology of Creationism, which was
true enough; but I've given it some thought, and this is what I
really think I learned there.
Obviously, I learned no genuine
factual knowledge, really nothing about actual science, philosophy,
or truth; while some of the statements made in the museum were true
(e.g. the Earth is 10,000 kilometers in diameter), most were trivial,
and all were familiar. The Creation Museum had a lot of information I
already knew, and many outright lies and absurdities. Nor did I learn
much about the actual claims of Creationists; perhaps a little, but
in general I'd heard almost all of it before.
What I really learned was what we
are up against. I learned how
wealthy, how powerful, and how dedicated the enemies of science truly
are. The Creation Museum was, above all, a sick parody of a natural
history museum, with all the same bustling gift shops, full-color
posters, and animatronic animals, but none of the actual scientific
validity. (Same great taste, less filling?) I was reminded that we
cannot simply ignore this issue; we cannot sit idly by while
anti-scientific values and beliefs become more and more powerful. We
must stand up and support science against these attacks before it is
also learned about indoctrination, and
was forced to confront the fact that a lot of what we call "teaching"
is really not teaching at all, but indoctrination. The Creation
Museum is a masterwork of indoctrination; but then, it is not so
different from a mainstream science museum. Most of the information
presented by even a mainstream, respectable natural history museum is
presente without justification, without evidence, and frequently in a
dumbed-down form that omits significant qualifications and nuances.
The posters are beautiful—but the evidence to support their claims
is scant. In short, they are presented as dogma, rather
than inference. There
is really no more reason for a young child to believe the claims of a
mainstream science museum than there would be for them to believe the
claims of the Creation Museum. When we say that the K-T boundary was
laid down 65 million years ago, we don't show the convergence of
geological, physical, chemical, and biological evidence for this; we
merely state it as a fact, to be accepted and digested. When we
declare that quasars are millions of light-years away, we don't
discuss the astronomical and physical reasons we think so; we merely
declare it to be true. (Oddly, the Creation Museum does not deny the
size of the universe—after showcaseing the universe's incredible
grandeur and Earth's total irrelevance in the cosmos, it merely
hand-waves the contradiction with the Biblical account using a few
sentences of technobabble about "gravitational time dilation,"
which has already been accounted for in the mainstream age of 13.7
billion years, and "alternative synchronicity conditions,"
which as far as I can tell is just a meaningless phrase.)
need to change this; it's time to restructure our educational system
so that it really is about education and not indoctrination. We need
to teach logic, probability, critical thinking, inductive inference;
these things are far more
important than astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry, and physics. A
student trained in logic can go on to learn everything there is to
know about biology, but a student indoctrinated in biology may never
go on to learn what everyone needs to know about logic. There is no
skill or knowledge more important than the capacity to critically
evaluate new information; yet our education system barely even deals
with this subject. We must stop filling buckets and start lighting
course you want to hear about the Creation Museum. This will also
help us to understand what not to
do in science education.
five hours of driving (including rest stops), we arrived shortly
after noon at the massive high-tech complex, part of a beautiful
tree-lined campus, surrounded by Kentucky cornfields. (Presumably the
land was cheap.) Slightly chubby yet fairly intimidating security
guards directed us to an appropriate place to park in the enormous
lot. Lesson Learned: Locate your educational facilities
where people are, preferably somewhere near a major city.
ran into quite a few people from the Secular Student Alliance, but
none of them knew how to register and collect our prepaid tickets.
Eventually we learned that somewhere in the fine print it had said
that registration was at 11:00, and so we had to buy new tickets from
the Museum itself. This cost us an extra $60, for which we were quite
annoyed. Lesson Learned: Always be suspicious of education
that costs you money.
the Museum, we found a display offering "both sides" of the
Creationism controversy, the Christian Young-Earth-Creationist
version juxtaposed with the mainstream scientific evolutionary
account. It was a surprisingly fair description of each—but the
notion that there were only two options was already biasing things in
favor of Creationism. Next came a series of displays arguing for why
we should accept the Biblical account ("God's Word") rather
than the mainstream scientific account ("Human Reason").
The arguments were among the most ridiculous and least compelling
I've ever heard, yet they were presented on beautiful full-color
displays. Lesson Learned: Either only show your own views
with minimal reference to other views—or specifically include all
the relevant alternatives people have believed throughout history,
with all these beliefs placed in appropriate historical and cultural
was a moderately revisionist history of the relationship between
religion and science—a history which ended at Darwin, as if
Darwin were the last word on science's knowledge of nature or its
relation to religion. Lesson Learned: It's easy to twist history
to support your view; all you have to do is leave out important
followed by a display of the alleged "degradation" of
modern culture, represented by postings of newspaper articles about
gay rights and feminism (unequivocally good things by any sane
standard) combined with depictions of apathy and moral relativism
(certainly bad things; but hated just as much by scientists as by
religious leaders). Then we went through a "time tunnel"
which was basically a bunch of lights stuck onto a round
ceiling—something like what the stars appear to be according to the
book of Genesis. This was followed by a display of the grandeur and
awe of science, with little notes about how to interpret this
grandeur in an appropriately Biblical way. (Actually I think they
shot themselves in the foot; distant galaxies don't seem to fit with
Genesis, and what Intelligent Designer would make dolphins swim
sideways and be unable to breathe underwater?) Lesson Learned:
Okay, this time I have nothing.
after this, we walked through an exhibit of animatronic animals and
(very Uncanny Valley) androids, apparently to represent the story of
Genesis. There was no explanation of the animatronic technology;
presumably the children are to think it's all divine magic. Moreover,
all the animatronics were sexless creatures, lacking nipples or
genitals; I presume this was to avoid traumatizing the children with
tasteful displays of correct anatomy. The story of the Tree of
Knowledge was carefully articulated, including the fact that
apparently it accounts for all evil everywhere ever, because
evidently we all deserve to be punished for the actions of Adam and
Eve. Lesson Learned: Robots probably aren't necessary, but if you
do have robots, include information on how they were constructed and
what they were based on; that's part of science. Also, animals have
sex organs, and it's best to include these in your robot
representations. Sure, be tasteful rather than pornographic; but
you're not "protecting" anyone by avoiding showing any kind
of sex organs. Kids know that boys have penises and girls have
vaginas, and most realize that animals come in male and female
varieties as well.
There was also a
series of displays about death, horror, suffering, and other forms of
evil. Apparently all of these things can be attributed either to
Adam's Fall or to Darwinism; they seem to waffle on this point.
Lesson Learned: Scare tactics generally lead to the closing, not
opening, of minds. Avoid depictions of horror and violence unless
specifically necessary (e.g. Holocaust museum). Moreover, due to the
structure of the human mind, any depiction involving text and words
will be more rational than a depiction involving images, which will
be more rational than a depiction involving videos, motion, or
came to a display of Noah's Ark, a large wooden mass apparently
representing 1% of the craft's total volume. I presume it was based
on actual Biblical references, perhaps with a slight overestimate of
the length of the "cubit" in meters. It certainly could
have contained a great many animals, but what about food? Was waste
simply shoveled overboard? Moreover, do Creationists have any idea
how many species there are on Earth? Naturally, we did
not receive a display indicating the precise configuration of animals
and food upon the Ark (e.g. where the trilobytes go, how the
tyrannosaurs are kept from eating the bovines) while in motion. We
were however treated to dioramas in which a pair of some sort of
sauropod was carried onto the Ark. This was also accompanied by
displays of Egyptian hieroglyphics, for no apparent reason. Lesson
learned: Naturally, you can't include every possible detail about
everything; but acknowledge that, admit the limitations of education
and of science in general, and offer resources for learning more.
Cool displays are fine, but they need to be backed up by serious
evidence and additional resources.
Next came a
surprisingly accurate display about evolution and natural selection.
The explanation was clear and cogent; what its authors didn't seem to
understand was that it was completely beside the point. Yes, natural
selection only adapts organisms to an environment; it does not make
them objectively more "fit" in any deep sense. Evolutionary
biology is based on this principle, so I don't know what exactly they
were trying to argue against. Lesson Learned: Make sure you
understand your opponent's position before you start arguing against
it. They might not even disagree with you.
Then we saw
a display about the geologic column, and some ridiculous hand-waving
explanation for how it could have formed in the Flood. Basically it
was an insult to all human intelligence. And then, of course, the
gift shop! The gift shop was enormous, full of books, DVDs, tee
shirts, and toys; one tee shirts attacked the Darwin Fish, saying
"Legs that mock have knees that will bend." For me, the
most frightening part was the children's section. It was at this
moment that I learned the deepest lesson of my visit to the Museum:
It is in the minds and hearts of our children that the battle will
be fought; and it is they who will suffer the most because of this.
we visited the planetarium, where we were treated to an eminently
sound account of the vastness and awe that is the natural universe,
with a few spliced-in sound bytes about how "secular science"
will never account for things that in fact it already has. Finally,
there was a petting zoo with adorable hybrid animals (supposedly
illustrating the flaws in evolution's concept of "speciation"
in favor of a broader "kind"; in reality these hybrids
clearly illustrate the fact that speciation exists on a
continuum—exactly what evolutionary theory would predict); no
terrifying hybrid animals, I might add. No snakes, no spiders, no
mutant worms; just zebra-horses and llama-alpacas.These two final
exhibits may actually have, more than anything else, converted a few
Creationists to the scientific side: They are so much more consistent
with the evolutionary view, and so obviously so. Pale Blue Dot plus a
continuum of speciation equals checkmate. Lesson Learned: If there
is powerful evidence against your side, you should probably
reconsider your side. Failing that, you should at least develop
counterarguments that are fairly compelling. Just displaying the
evidence without addressing it makes you look pretty foolish.
you have it; the Creation Museum and what I learned from it. My
numerous and highly amusing photos of this experience have been
uploaded to my photoblog in the album "Creation Museum."