Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Creation Museum, part I

The Museum of Modern Art, The National Museum of Natural History, The National Museum of the American Indian; this is just a short sample of some museums that can be found in The United States. Since a young age, I have been aware of the difference that museums can make in one's life, as I was raised in Saint Louis, where I was graced with several free museums, such as the Saint Louis Art Museum. For this reason, when my father moved to Kentucky, one of the first things I researched was the museums in the area. When typing in the words “Kentucky” and “museum” into my internet's search engine, the second result that came up was “The Creation Museum”.The museum had no website at the time, but it was made clear that it would focus on the origins of life, with fossils, a number of well-known scientists, and exhibits to explain life to younger children. This museum is dedicated to explaining the origins of life and of the universe.

It has been over two years since I first read about the museum, and I am now returning to see what it has become. Going onto the The Creation Museum's website, the first logical course to learn about the institution is the page entitled “About Us”. The website proclaims proudly “Be prepared to experience history in a completely unprecedented way”. This statement in and of itself derives a number of questions, all of which stem off of the primary question of in what way will the experience be “unprecedented”? Is it because of the research that has been done, the size of the museum, or the special effects of the exhibits?

The museum seems dedicated to the pursuit of the natural histories, as it supposedly offers “an exceptional fossil collection, and a mineral collection”. An opposition to the claims of a remarkable, historical experience soon becomes visible, as the website discusses how a visitor can “see the scaffolding, smell the freshly-cut timbers in the busy work site of Noah's Ark” and visit the Garden of Eden, where “children play and dinosaurs roam”. These two examples seem provide a contradiction to both the previous statements concerning historical accuracy and even the title of a museum, especially one that wishes to focus on the origins of life. The website even says that it illuminates “the effects of biblical history”. This particular web page is filled with terms that one would not expect in a truly historical museum that intends to discuss life's scientific origins: “sin”, “Creation” “the Bible”, “The Tree of Knowledge”, and “Adam and Eve”.

The Creation Museum sounds like its focus is on biological history, but it is really about forwarding the Bible's message.

Those who come to The Creation Museum are expected to have a greater desire for learning about the word of the Bible than the history of the Earth, universe, and of life. Those who attend The Creation Museum are overwhelmingly “New Earth Creationists”, those who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that man was created by God, and that evolution is incorrect. This can be seen by following the links on the “About Us” page of the museum's website. All of the four links lead to a page of the website “Answers in Genesis”; due to the museum's heavy reliance on this organization, it is important to follow those links and see what that reveals.

It turns out that Ken Ham, founder of The Creation Museum, is also the founder of Answers in Genesis, which reveals where Mr. Ham believes the real answers can be found. Near the top of the page is a picture of Darwin with the words “200 lost years”, attempting to reduce the credibility of Darwin's theory and those which arose from that. Above that is the quotation “Believing it. Defending it. Proclaiming it.” This is the Mission Statement of Answers in Genesis and of The Creation Museum. Any who came to the museum with the intent of learning about life's origins would be disappointed, for the only time evolution is mentioned is in the attempt to discredit it.

Answers in Genesis's website even encourages its visitors to sign “The Creation Letter Project”, which ends with “We the undersigned affirm the truth of a Biblical, literal 6-day Creation....Evolution is a lie which undermines both Biblical authority and the foundational basis of the Gospel.” Though this statement is not directly on The Creation Museum's website, it is heavily associated with this organization and opens the door widely for Answers in Genesis to push its message.

In order to determine how much the museum reflects the views of its founder, Mr. Ham, I returned to the museum's homepage. The first thing I noticed that seemed to provide a contradiction was an advertisement for “new biology workshops with Dr. David Menton”, a former Associate Professor Emeritus at Washington University's School of Medicine, a fact which is advertised often on the museum's website. Dr. Menton's workshops are meant to focus on the human anatomy, skeletal structure, and senses.

On the schedule for events for the museum, along with this workshop, are a number of events concerning Darwin, such as “The Science of Darwin's Evolution” and “The Origin of Species: Was Darwin Right?” At a museum that has exhibits of Noah's Ark and shows “the sacrificial Lamb on the cross”, it is doubtful that Darwin will receive a fair trial. The Creation Museum uses 'big-name' scientists and the advertisements for biological workshops as a facade to make their attempt to preach the Gospel appear scientific.

An important aspect of any object to consider, especially one like a museum, is the reaction that people end up having to it. While discussing this issue with my father, a substitute teacher at a school district in rural Kentucky, he relayed this story to me. He was discussing dinosaurs with the class and mentioned how long ago a number of them went extinct. A girl raised her hand and said that it was impossible for dinosaurs to have gone extinct millions of years ago, due to the fact that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The reason that scientists disagree with that fact, according to the grade-schooler, is because they need to make money, and the easiest way to do that is to say something new, even if it means lying with things such as carbon-dating.

This is the exact reaction that designers of The Creation Museum seems to desire. This can clearly be seen in two ways, even if one were to limit himself to looking at the “About Us” page. First, the catering to children and whole families is apparent on this page due to the number of items they have directly aimed at children, including the ability to “saddle up on our triceratops and have their picture taken with a dinosaur”. This initially appears to be an innocent enough gag, but after remembering that the Garden of Eden exhibit shows children and dinosaurs living next to each other, it becomes clear that this is more than a simple attraction: it is an attempt to reinforce the idea of humans and dinosaurs living together, perhaps to the extent that human rode dinosaurs.

Another feature that elicits the type of reaction that the grade-schooler had can be seen within the advertisement for the “Dragon Hall Bookstore”. It says that the bookstore includes “technical books (including Bible dictionaries and reference books)”. Typically, when one visits a museum that advertises lectures in biology, including the skeletal structure and nervous system, one would expect that any “technical books” would be along the lines of biological science, not “Bible dictionaries”. By having scientists, “technical books”, and God next to each other, all preaching the same message of Creationism and anti-evolution, the museum elicits a very specific reaction. Those who disagree with the science presented at The Creation Museum are not only presented as wrong, but also anti-God, and thus inherently wrong. The proof for this can be seen back at the parent website, Answers in Genesis.

In an article discussing Darwin, it is stated that “It has often been assumed that Darwin started off as a Bible-believing Christian who later rejected his faith because of the scientific discoveries he had made. Nothing could be further from the truth.” The entire rest of the article is spent focusing on evidence that Charles Darwin and his father were atheist, thus, in the mind of the author, proving that Darwin was wrong. This is a theme of the museum as a whole, and a reaction that it creates: if someone states something that goes against the Gospel, they are against God, and anyone against God is against the truth. The primary topic that is discussed within the museum is the argument between evolution and creationism, but the principle presented can applied to any scientific debate.

When one who believes in God is presented with the problem of choosing between God and science, and being forced to chose one, the faith often overrules the science. This is tactic of The Creation Museum; it presents two alternatives: God and science. Often, the option of God is presented alongside pseudoscience, the only purpose of which is to forward the Bible's message or simply to present the image of a scientific institution. The Creation Museum attempts to discredit modern science by giving its viewers the choice between God and science, thus forcing discussion of the Bible into the science class and casting doubt on anything that disputes the Bible, all the while hiding behind a facade  of being a scientific institution.

1 comment:

JB said...

Here's a letter to the editor of the Kentucky Enquirer that I wrote when the "Creation "Museuem" was opening. The paper was giving almost daily front page coverage, pictoral essays and a tour on it's website...
I sure hope when I get my funding together and open my Humpty Dumpty Museum that the Kentucky Enquirer (or should we call it the National Enquirer for presenting fantasy as news?) will give me continuous coverage and thousands of dollars of free PR. It is my belief that Humpty Dumpty really did fall off the wall and since I firmly believe it it must be true! I will teach children that although the liberal media and misguided teachers have been telling them that Humpty Dumpty, Little Red Riding Hood, et al were merely fairy tales they were being mislead and my museum will teach the one truth. Then, when they go to school they will be able to challenge their teachers and other students with the actual facts that Humpty really fell and sadly couldn’t be put back together again

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