Scientific Fraud in the Name of Religion
16 May, 2007 03:42 pm
An interesting cultural experiment is taking place in Petersburg Kentucky, near the Ohio border. The experiment will shed light on the following question: How much money and glitz does it take to institutionalize a scientific lie? Of course, "buying" reality is not a new idea, especially in politics. And institutionalized attacks on science are also not new, from the Nazi campaign against "Jewish Physics", to the postwar Soviet effort against Genetics. But the Kentucky experiment differs from these by borrowing a recipe from sideshows throughout the ages, reminiscent of the film, "The Wizard of Oz", namely: smoke, mirrors, and high-tech gimmicks. A lot will be riding, in this case, on how effective the man behind the curtain will be.
Great media fanfare is already beginning to surround the official opening later this month of the $27 Million Creation Museum, close to the Cincinnati airport. Designed to oddly resemble natural history museums throughout the world, this will be a supernatural history museum, denying most, if not all, of natural history on this planet as centuries of careful study and experimentation have revealed it.
An intellectually honest approach would be to then denounce modern science as flawed, and not depend upon the technological results that depend upon science for their development. Indeed, those who argue for a 6000 year old earth are hypocritical whenever they get on a plane, use a car, watch television, or utilize any of modern technology based on science that also implies that the Earth is billions of years old.
Ham’s approach, and the approach of the Creation Museum, is, however, precisely the opposite. While renouncing knowledge, Ham and his colleagues are nevertheless enamored with the illusion of science and the methods of science. Therefore they have created a museum that appears scientific, but that simply lies about the science.
This is why the museum should be condemned and shunned by the media, educators and government officials. Not because of its purported religious basis, but its basis in lies.
Because the wizardry of modern science actually works, the Creation Museum was designed to suggest that science demonstrates the viability of a literal interpretation of Genesis. It is here that the museum departs from mere fallacy and moves to fraud. In order to argue that science justifies a six-day creation of the Earth, a 6000 year old universe, and a world where dinosaurs and humans happily roamed together, the Creation Museum has to misrepresent the process and results of science, and lies about the scientific record. And it does this not just once, but via every single dazzling animatronic display and explanation that goes along with it.
Alas, scientific fraud is generally not subject to legal intervention unless there is a financially injured party. But what of the thousands of young children who may visit the museum, which was located where it is precisely because it is within a day’s drive of 2/3rds of the US Population? Are they not intellectually injured when they enter a high-tech museum with an air of authority that claims, nonsensically, that the Grand Canyon was created by the Biblical Flood?
The early media reports on the Museum rave over the quality of the dinosaur models, and describe the polite earnestness of its director. But good cons always seem realistic, and good con artists are always personable.
What Ken Ham and his colleagues are doing is not only a travesty vis a vis modern education, it is a disservice to religion. Since St. Augustine, it has been recognized that if the Christian church teaches things about the physical world that are manifestly false, then everything else the church teaches may be discredited as well.
Ham has been quoted as saying "The Bible is true. No doubt about it! Paul explains God's authoritative Word, and everyone who rejects His history-including six-day creation and Noah's Flood-is ‘willfully’ ignorant." However, by distorting reality and lying about scientific discoveries that have illuminated our understanding of nature and our place in the cosmos, Ham and his colleagues raise willful ignorance to a new height. Better to quote an actual enemy of ignorance, Albert Einstein, who said, "Blind respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
Religion doesn’t have to be bad science, and similarly bad science should not be defended simply because it might have a religious basis. Not a single historical record supports any of the nonsense displayed in the museum regarding dinosaurs and humans cohabiting. Not a single astronomical piece of data supports a 6000 year old universe, the Creation Museum’s Planetarium notwithstanding. I am one of a group of scientists who will be preparing a short brochure pointing out the scientific fallacies of the museum’s exhibits.
This is not a question of the separation of church and state. The Constitution protects us against this. But as Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, has emphasized, only we can protect ourselves against bad science.
Religious tolerance is important in modern society. But there should be little tolerance for religiously motivated fraud. Media, and government officials alike need to be clear that this project as misguided, as they would more easily do if the fraud was not religiously motivated. Parents should be ready to bring lawsuits for any school system that uses public funds to bring students to this museum of misinformation.
Lawrence M. Krauss is Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University as well as the Chair of the Forum on Physics and Society of the American Physical Society. His most recent book is Hiding in the Mirror.