Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

Creation Museum – Microscarium

MicroscariumTicket One of the special presentations that Craig and I attended was called “Microscarium,” which required the purchase of a separate ticket and took place in one of the museum’s “classrooms.” The ticket indicated that this was part of the museum’s “Discover the Truth” series of workshops. I was rather dubious of that title.

The museum’s website describes the presentation with these words.

Welcome to the Microscarium! Enter the world of the microscopic with our intrepid Dr. Menton on a journey through a landscape filled with ferocious looking creatures that move rapidly through the dense jungle of the living world that is their home, hunting for something to eat. From single celled protozoa that accomplish many of the same functions that humans do with 30 trillion cells, to the more complicated creatures sucking in anything that comes near them, you will be thrilled with this trip through the wondrous [and sometimes a bit scary] micro-world created by our awesome Creator God.

Interesting, if not hyperbolic.

DavidMenton01 The presentation was being done by a Doctor David Menton, who gave us a bit of background about himself. He’s got  quite a list of credentials, which you can read about here and here if you’re interested. If not, suffice it to say that he he holds a PhD in cell biology from Brown University and the Washington University School of Medicine seems to think highly of him. It seemed somewhat encouraging.

He appeared in a white lab coat… very sciencey-looking until I noticed the “Creation Museum” logo embroidered on the front of it. Then it was just amusing.

The presentation was going to talk about all the life you could find in a drop of pond water and there was a very impressive phase-contrast microscope hooked up to a large-screen display so everyone in the room (about 30 of us) could easily see it. When we got there, we saw a pink image on the screen which turned out to be a very thin slice of rabbit tongue. While Dr. Menton was waiting for everyone to arrive, he was chatting about it. He seemed very personable, sometimes funny, and definitely happy to be there.

He talked about the tongue, pointing out the barb-like structures (mini versions of a cat’s barbs) and said that humans have them, too, which is why we can lick ice cream cones and actually get ice cream instead of having our tongues just slide off. He contrasted that by moving the slide to show the underside of the tongue which was very smooth. He also showed how the muscle cells in the tongue go every which way instead of in parallel like many muscles… because we can move our tongues all over in every direction. It was all pretty cool and his presentation was entertaining.

Then it suddenly want down the tubes. When talking about the barbs again, he said, “Can you imagine if they went the other way?” Everyone chuckled, and then he followed it up with, “That’s why I can’t be an evolutionist.” Almost everyone laughed. Craig and I were stunned. He then went on to make the same comment in relation to the tongue being upside down.

So after an introduction to some really cool material about the tongue, he lost all his credibility by showing that he had not the slightest notion of evolutionary theory… yet was quite content to dismiss it for reasons that anyone with a basic education in evolutionary biology should know are preposterous.

Craig left shortly after that (he wasn’t feeling well anyway… flu), but I stuck it out for the majority of the presentation and heard some gems.

Dr. Menton spoke about cells for a bit and said that the human placenta was a single, giant cell… the largest cell in the human body. I had never heard that before and he mentioned that he’s told that to other biologists and doctors who didn’t know that, either.

*skeptic bells go off*

Then he said (about the single-celled placenta), “You won’t hear that anywhere but here.”

*skeptic klaxon alarm blares*

Doing a bit of googling seems to indicate that the placenta is not a single cell, by the way.

That’s when what had been a somewhat interesting biology lesson turned into a high-alert bullshit-detection exercise.

He went on to show some slides of different single-cell (or thereabouts) organisms that we might see in the pond water (new pond water each time, so he never knows what he will see) such as amoebas and parameciums and the like. He got to one organism with a flagellum and my hackles went up in anticipation of a comment relating to bacterial flagellum, but no such comment materialized.

What did materialize was much worse.

flagellum He showed a diagram of the internal workings of a flagellum similar to the one on the left. His diagram was a bit more detailed but showed how it worked and how each internal piece interacted with others to create the whip-like motion that caused propulsion. It was a cool diagram and interesting information.

Then he said, “Can you imagine that just all happening by chance?”

*strike one*

He added, “There’s just so much that I know is going on there. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I know too much to be an evolutionist.”

*strike two* … *strike three* … You are SOOOO outta here.

“I know too much to be an evolutionist.”

Seriously? How can someone seriously make a statement like that with a straight face? How can someone with any sort of ethical values make that authoritative claim to an audience so anxious to hear real scientific information? The audience ate it up, though. They laughed and nodded and thought this fraud’s information was all true and accurate. After all, he was a doctor!

To give you an idea of the crowd, however, I offer this anecdote. I can’t say if this example is indicative of the entire audience, but it struck me as interesting.

When Dr. Menton asked the audience how many cells were in the entire human body, one man called out, “thousands.” Yes, he said thousands. Not even millions. Not billions. Nobody said trillions. The real answer is trillions (about 50 – 100 trillion, depending upon who you ask). “Thousands” isn’t even on the continent, much less in the ball park. Much like 6,000 isn’t close to 13.5 billion.

Dr. Mention said one trillion, by the way.

At that point, I was done. I watched detachedly as he put the drop of water under the microscope and panned around to find a couple swimming organisms, but after a couple minutes of that, I got up and left.

It was an appalling display of ignorance and abuse of authority.

7 Comments

  1. MG says:

    It’s too bad so many people will be pulled in by his impressive credentials. He seems to have missed quite a few lessons I remember well (like what an organ is), even with “only” a B.S. biology. My comparative vertebrate anatomy book (Kent and Carr, 2001) defines a placenta as ‘the highly vascular region of an extraembryonic membrane . . . and the associated highly vascular lining of the maternal uterus’. Just knowing the uterus is multicellular answers the question.

  2. joe agnost says:

    I’m always struck by how much self control you (and others like you) are during these talks. How do you manage to sit there quietly and not correct the speaker all the time??

    I’m assuming you didn’t ask any questions, nor point out what a dishonest tit this man was… why not? (I’m just curious – I’m not saying you ~should~ have).

    1. Dan says:

      In this particular case, we were trying to stay “incognito” so to speak so we could get a picture of the museum that wasn’t influenced by any kind of special treatment… and it was day one of our two-day passes.

      If it had been during day two, I would have been much more inclined to speak up. As it was, it was pretty hard to maintain my composure. I bit my tongue and remained silent.

      Having been there now, if I ever go back, I would definitely be poking fun, questioning, and correcting… pretty much the whole time.

      1. joe agnost says:

        That’s basically what I figured… that you didn’t want to reveal yourself (as a “spy”).

        Kudos to you then – you’re a bigger man than I! 😉

        1. Dan says:

          LOL! Thanks. …or maybe I’m just crazier. 😉

  3. hd says:

    Since Dr. Menton has a citation on pubmed for an article on placenta anatomy (as well as an essay on AIG about the placenta, which shows more than one cell), I think it is possible that either you misheard or Menton didn’t speak clearly. From what I read, there is a layer of the placenta which is a syncytium – a fusion of many individual cells. Could Menton have said the placenta *has* a giant cell, rather than that it *is* a giant cell?

    1. Dan says:

      I could be mistaken, but I’m fairly certain that he emphasized that the placenta was one giant cell. It was a bit more than a passing mention, but not a lot more, but I specifically remember him asking the audience if they knew what was the largest cell in the human body (not what HAS the largest cells)… and then he said it was the placenta… then said you wouldn’t hear this anywhere else.

      His article on AiG tends to support his “one cell” idea. Quotes…

      “After implantation, the placental giant cell “invades” the walls of several uterine arteries and veins, causing the mother’s blood to flow through channels within the cell…”

      …and…

      “The entire surface of all the tree-like cotyledons is covered by syncytial trophoblast, forming a seamless covering, which comprises a single cell with millions of nuclei (see Figure 5). This means that the entire surface of the placenta is covered by one giant cell, which has a surface area of over 100 square feet (9.3 square meters).”

      So he’s either referring to the placenta being one giant cell or a placental “covering” which is a giant cell… with millions of nuclei. It depends which part of his article you read and how you interpret it.

      Here’s the link to his article on AiG: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n1/placenta

Leave a Reply