The Creation Museum 3: General Overview
5 Jul, 2007 11:54 am
The Creation museum that opened on May 28 in Kentucky keeps fueling the debate between evolution and creationism. Jason Rosenhouse tells here his visit to the museum along with other bloggers associated with the Panda?s Thumb and Scienceblogs. This is only one of a series of eight lively posts to be found on Evolution Blog*.
The museum is laid out like a long, twisting path. Visitors are moved through various sections, organized around the “Seven C's” of history. Those would be Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross and Consummation. To which I add an eighth C: Clever!
Two things struck me soon after entering. The first is that this is not really a museum at all. In a museum you expect to find tangible artifacts of some kind, typically with just enough commentary provided to tell you what you are looking at. Real museums exist, among other reasons, to provide a safe place for housing important historical objects that everyone ought to be able to see and enjoy.
Not so with the creation museum. This is really just a straightforward attempt at evangelism. None of the displays and exhibits present anything that you can't also find in any of a dozen different creationist books. With a real natural history museum you might say, “It is one thing to read about evolution in books. It is quite another to be able to see the fossils for yourself.” But with the creation museum there is really no distinction between the creationist literature and what the museum presents. You can read the propaganda in book form, or you can walk through the museum and read the same material presented on colorful placards.
The second was the generally good appearance of the displays. This is not some fly-by-night operation cranked out in some guy's basement. The placards and sets look as good as what I have seen in many real museums. The announced price tag for the museum was twenty-seven million dollars, and it is not hard to see where all that money went.
I was next struck by the reliance on videos. At times it felt like they were just plunking me down in front of the television. One whole section of the museum is nothing more than a series of “fifteen amazing science videos.” The topics: Common designer, The Language of DNA, Eyes, Flight, Kinds, Communities, Dominion, Made in God's Image, Stars, Solar Systems, Sun, Plants, Habitable Planet, Building Blocks, Natural Laws.
The museum opens with some generic material about the tenets of creationism. The first main section bears the slogan “Same facts, different worldviews.” We are constantly reminded that “The facts are in the present, but the events are in the past.” Creationists do not ignore the facts, you see. They merely interpret the facts differently because they come at them from a Biblical starting point, unlike the secular scientists who prefer an evolutionary interpretation.
This is standard creationist fare, of course, but it is a useful reminder of how these folks manage to get everything backward. On scientific questions the creationists are relativists. You interpret the evidence your way, I'll interpret it my way. Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to. But on moral questions they are absolutists. Their interpretation of the Bible is right and everything else is wrong.
Actually, these are two sides of the same coin. Creationists are not big on debate. They have no interest in considering arguments for or against various propositions, or weighing evidence as part of a search for truth. On moral issues, where your starting point and prior assumptions really do matter a great deal, they want to be able to make assertions and have that be the end of it. God says gay marriage and abortion are wrong. It is sheer perversity that any further justification is necessary. On scientific questions, where you can talk about universally accepted standards of evidence, they see that the facts are going against them at every turn. So they have to try to discredit science in any way they can.
Section Two: Why start with God's word? Mostly standard material about the importance of the Bible generally, and Genesis in particular. Section Three: Scripture abandoned in the culture. Here we are treated to a collage of newspaper headlines, Time magazine covers and so on, all bearing alarming headlines. Stories about school shootings and random violence are interpsersed with stories about acceptance of homosexuals.
Section four begins by passing through a tunnel through time; by which I mean a dark corridor that leads to a small theater. A friendly museum employee informs us that we have just gone back in time six thousand years to the dawn of creation. We are about to be made to watch a four minute dramatic reading of Genesis One. The business about the tunnel through time is another example of the efforts the museum makes to appeal to little kids.
Section five is the aforementioned wall of videos. I didn't have the patience for this, and proceded quickly to section six. This is where God finally creates the freakin' world. We are treated to displays of a contented Adam going about the tedious business of naming all the animals. The ubiquitous dinosaurs were back on display, as were various other four-legged mammals. As we walk through this section we are told that Eve was created from one of Adam's ribs. We conclude this section with Adam and Eve in a Blue Lagoon style embrace in a lake.
Alas, this all ends with section seven. Adam and Eve have now sinned, and all manner of unpleasantness begins. Whereas section six was brightly lit and featured pleasant animal noises, section seven is much darker, and features a somber, downbeat soundtrack. Section eight, The Wages of Sin, is closely related. This is where the specific badnesses introduced into the world as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience are listed for us, in all their horrible glory.
Section nine: Noah's flood. Visitors are able to walk through a large wooden structure said to be a replica of the ark, while displays along the walls discuss the technical details involved in building such a structure. We are treated to placards discussing the location of the door on the ark, and to speculations about the possible use of metal fasteners to hold the thing together. My personal favorite is the one that suggests that Noah may have had some hired help to aid with the construction. Somehow I don't think Noah told them what the ark was for.
Section ten discusses the flood, while section eleven moves on to the aftereffects of that very flood. Section twelve recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. This represents the “Confusion” stage of the seven C's.
And just like that, we have reached the end of the museum. All that remains is one final movie, The Last Adam, in which the last three C's are all rolled up into one. Upon leaving the museum proper you are in a basement area that possesses a small refreshment stand and one further theater. In this one you can watch a short movie about dinosaurs and dragons. It was a weird film indeed, but we will save that for a future post.
Then its up a flight of stairs into the bookstore. After that all that remains is the planetarium show. It will be interesting to see how well the museum does long term. It's brand new right now, and is no doubt attracting a lot of morbidly curious folks. But it's hard to believe it will attract a lot of repeat business. The whole point, after all, is that God's word is unchanging. It's not like a real musuem where they constantly have new shows and new displays to see.
*Originally posted on Evolution Blog