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Answers in Genesis

Creation Museum Part 1

Petersburg, Kentucky On August 28th, Craig and I took an early flight (way too early) to the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport to visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, about 7 miles from the airport. Having heard quite a bit about the museum, we were anxious to learn more about it in a way that only a first-hand visit could provide.

The result was an oddly enjoyable combination of admiration, amazement, bewilderment, amusement, aggravation, and sadness.

Museum Parking Lot Entrance I can’t speak for Craig, but when the cab driver dropped us off in front of the museum and drove away, I felt just a twinge of intimidation. The guards in the parking lot were dressed like state troopers, complete with official-looking arm patches and even more official looking firearms. I didn’t remember seeing armed guards when I visited the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. I felt somewhat like an interloper, or, if I wanted to add a more masculine adventure flair to my description, a spy.

Creation Museum Entrance We had decided that we were going to remain “undercover,” so to speak… at least for the first day, in order to avoid any out-of-the-ordinary treatment. I gave a big smile to the guard and commented on the beautiful weather. He responded in kind, and seemed very friendly. We found that to be the case throughout the museum. The staff was very pleasant and helpful (with only a few un-noteworthy exceptions) and were quick to return my smiles and engage in light chit-chat.

04_Notice Posted on the front door was a notice stating that the Creation Museum was private property, a Christian environment, and an outreach of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham’s ministry that teaches a literal interpretation of the bible, including a six 24-hour day creation and a 6,000 year old Earth. The notice was fairly worded and I didn’t find it offensive or inappropriate, even for a secular museum (other than the first sentence, of course). Be nice, be polite, etc. Good advice in a museum.

So far, so good. We got in line to get our tickets and purchased a two-day pass along with a few special tickets for the Planetarium shows and a presentation called “Microscarium” which was to show all the life that can be in a single drop of water (more on those shows in later posts). The two-day pass was only about $7.00 more than a single day pass, so we opted for that so we could come back and get any pictures or video footage that we missed on our first day.

05_Lobby Finally we got to the lobby and our first real taste of the kind of quality production values that were consistent throughout the entire museum. Every display, structure, statue, and facility was top-notch. To quote John Hammond, they “spared no expense” when they built this place… and it showed. Had I not known what the museum contained, I would have been filled with admiration and excitement rather than a sense of dread.

Walking past the mammoth skeleton in the front of the lobby, we got our first glimpse of where we were truly headed. A young girl and boy played in a stream while a pair of raptors (no, not the birds… the dinosaurs) stood together behind them. It was like The Flintstones, only presented with animatronic realism… and presented as actual history.

06_DinoGirl 07_DinoKids

The idea of dinosaurs living at the same time as humans is presented, even emphasized, throughout the museum’s exhibits. A literal reading of Genesis demands it and the Creation Museum revels in it, as Craig and I were about to find out.

We wandered around the lobby for a bit to take a look at the exhibits outside the main “Walk Through History” exhibit. There was plenty to see and we checked it out before heading into the staff-recommended Men in White video presentation in the special effects theater. We got a bit more of a taste of what we would be seeing later that day when we ventured deeper into the museum, including the Seven C’s in God’s Eternal Plan (the overarching theme throughout the museum) and an anti-scientific declaration mixed with worship.

7 C's in God's Eternal Plan Our Back Yard - So Much Difference

The Men in White video, like the rest of the museum, had extremely high production values and was very entertaining, though riddled with long-debunked creationist propaganda and absurdly caricaturized science teachers. It was easy to see how viewers who are not well-versed in basic science would be pulled into the descriptions and then walk out of the theater thinking that maybe there was something to the whole “6,000 year old Earth” thing. It was like listening to a fast-talking carnie who was also good-looking, charming, and gave you free candy… so you wouldn’t notice that the live, two-headed snake woman was neither alive nor two-headed.

Creationist Paleontologist We then headed into the “Walk Through History” exhibit, which was designed to guide the viewer along the biblical explanation for life on earth. It starts with the paleontologist room. Two men are digging up a dinosaur fossil. The television screens in the room explain that the two men are finding the same fossils, but they come up with different views depending upon their starting point.

What do we know about Dinosaurs? This is another key point that is hammered into the viewer repeatedly throughout the museum. A dichotomy is set up between “Human Reason” and “God’s Word” (with “God’s Word” portrayed as the ultimate truth, of course).

“Dinosaur fossils don’t come with tags on them telling us how old they are,” the sign proclaims. “We have to figure that out from a few clues we find.” That’s true, of course, but what the museum consistently ignores throughout its halls is that we have an overwhelming number of “clues” from numerous branches of science… and they all tell us that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old. Different Views... Different Starting Points It’s not a matter of interpreting the clues differently. It’s a matter of creationists ignoring clues that don’t meet their biblical requirements.

It’s the same with the “different starting points” claim, except this claim is more accurate, though probably not in the way the museum means it to be. Scientists do have a different starting point than creationists. Scientists start with the evidence and examine it to see where it leads. Creationists start with the bible and examine it to see how they can make the evidence fit. Scientists will change their ideas and theories based on new evidence. Creationists will never change their theories in the face of new evidence because, in their view, the bible trumps all evidence.

Same Facts, but Different Views… Why?

09_Why

Why, indeed.

(The tour will continue in part 2)

Ken Ham Confirms His Moral Bankruptcy

Ken Ham in the Creation MuseumOn Opposing Views, Ken Ham wrote an opinion piece about the creation of the new Answers in Genesis video showing a young boy pointing a gun at the camera while a voice-over says, “If you don’t matter to God, you don’t matter to anyone.”

Along with my opinion that it is a fear-mongering, horrible message to convey, the video has been lambasted here and here and here (among other places). Video aside, however, Ham’s writing shows just how morally bankrupt he is. He asks, without God, why should we protect each other or act with kindness and understanding to our fellow human beings?

Here’s one passage in particular.

If we are truly just evolved from ape-like ancestors, then why should we fight for the sanctity of life and protect and cherish it at all costs? Why is it important for us to exercise self-control when we are angry or frustrated? Why should we deal with problems with love and understanding instead of violence if there is no sanctity of life? If God really doesn’t matter and perhaps does not even exist—if Darwin was right all along and we just randomly evolved from ape-like creatures, if we aren’t fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a divine and loving God, then go ahead—let survival of the fittest rule supreme.

This is an all-too-common refrain heard from fundamentalists. I’ve addressed it here and here already, but just to emphasize the point… if you can’t come up with reasons to act kindly toward your fellow human beings without the threat of eternal damnation, then you’re morally bankrupt from the get-go. If you are only acting “morally” because of the dictates of a 2,000 year old manuscript, you’ve got no moral foundation. Christianity, in particular, is a free pass to sin your life away.

Oh, but there’s more from Mr. Ham!

If the Ten Commandments are ripped off the walls of our schools and courtrooms and disregarded as a basic ethical God-given code of conduct, then who should care if kids are killing kids and men are attacking defenseless women in their driveways at home at night? We watch animals hunt and tear each other apart every night on the Discovery channel. If you don’t matter to God, than tell me—do you truly matter to anyone? If God doesn’t care about what happens to you, is anyone else obligated to care?

If I wasn’t already familiar with Ken Ham’s general shenanigans, I would say the preceding paragraph was satire. Sadly, it’s not. In one paragraph, he displays his ignorance not only of evolution, but of human nature… of human psychology.

I’m sure that a vast majority of parents in the world would eagerly say that, even if a god didn’t give a rip about one of their children, that child would still matter hugely to the parent. The idea of a caring god is not a factor in why people care about their children… or their friends… or their family. At least, it isn’t for people who honestly care about others. Caring based on biblical dogma is shallow at best and intellectually abhorrent at worst.

In addition, I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that even without the idea of a divine creator, almost all human beings can come up with reasonable distinctions between lower animals and humans. Most people can probably recognize how human behavior is (generally) based on more than just primal instinct.

It seems that Ken Ham is incapable of doing that. If God doesn’t care about us, he postulates, why would we act any differently than predator and prey on the Discovery Channel?

Ken Ham is the kind of person that I would not let near my daughter unsupervised. I wouldn’t feel safe having her around someone who is only acting kindly because he’s just following some ancient rules, fears divine retribution, or believes that a supernatural deity is keeping him under control. I’d hate to think what horrible actions are tempting Mr. Ham, contained only by his faith in a god. His irresponsible statements imply that humans are like barely contained rodeo bulls, precariously held in check only by the surrounding fence of God’s love.

The problem is that the fence is imaginary. If that’s the only reason people act kindly toward their fellow human beings, then as a species, we’re doomed.

Fortunately for us, it’s not the only reason. For most people, it’s probably not even truly a factor. And actually, I doubt that Ken Ham is a dangerous (other than intellectually) person chomping at the bit to steal, rape, and murder. I think he, like most humans on the planet, can tell right from wrong and act kindly without having to reference ancient dogma. People don’t need it to be good.

To be bad, however, and feel righteous about it… almost invariably requires religious dogma. Stephen Weinberg once said, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” I suspect Ken Ham would disagree with that statement, given his apparent notion that God is the only thing that makes us good.

…but he also thinks the Ten Commandments are a good ethical code of conduct.