Let us now ponder more closely a few of the specific exhibits at the big museum.
One surprising item in the exhibits is the blunt contempt for human reason. We are constantly told that apostasy begins when human reason is elevated above God’s word. Placards on the walls contrast the conclusions of human reason (evolution, millions of years, people are the products of chance) to the vastly better conclusions of starting with God’s word (creation, young Earth, God loves us). This strikes me as a bit of a blunder on their part. They are effectively conceding that evolution is a reasonable conclusion to draw unless you begin with preconceived notions from Genesis.
Another display that struck me came in the “Same facts, different worldviews” portion of the museum. They showed a video in which a white, bearded paleontologist stands before a dig. He is talking about his friend, Kim, an Asian paleontologist digging through the dirt nearby. One of these men is an enlightened, young-Earth scientist, while the other is one of those evolutionists you keep hearing about. Want to guess which is which?
Okay, I’ll tell you. The white guy is the enlightened one. He proceeds to explain how he and his friend Kim approach the same facts from different starting points. Nothing judgmental, no condemnations of the blinkered Asian fellow. Just two scientists trying their darndest to get at the truth of the matter.
The video was interesting for two reasons. One was the whiff of racism that emanated from the whole sorry display. The other was the gag-worthy idea that the creationists are scientists no less than the real thing, just sifting nature’s data to reach the most reasonable conclusion they can.
The display labeled, “Scripture Abandoned in the Culture,” was also interesting. As mentioned in the previous post, this featured a collage of headlines from newspapers and magazines. The sheer wealth of topics featured is staggering. We find headlines about school shootings, stem cell research, abortion, acceptance of homosexuals, questioning the existence of heaven and hell, gay marriage, removing religious monuments from public displays, the ACLU, euthanasia, and the “crusade against religion.” It is revealing. For the creationists it is galling that any of these issues lead to controversy. Of course it is acceptable to have religious monuments in court houses. The very idea of gay marriage is such an oxymoron that it is a confused culture indeed that would even ponder such a thing. The Bible, in their view, says everything there is to say on the subject and that really ought to be the end of it.
Also interesting is that the backdrop for this section is an urban landscape, complete with graffiti and faux brick walls. One suspects that for many of the museum’s visitors, cities represent menacing hubs of modernity. There’s a reason fundamentalism thrives in small Southern and Midwestern towns and not so much in major cities. Fundamentalism requires uniformity and isolation to survive. Living in a big city surrounded by tremendous cultural diversity makes it difficult to believe that your religious myths are in some way better than those of everyone else.
For similar reasons fundamentalists are right to worry about their children losing their faith in college, but this is not because they will face indoctrination from intolerant professors. It is because education is always the enemy of religious extremism. In college you learn about disciplines you never even knew existed in high school. One browse through the typical college course catalog shows how blinkered and narrow-minded it is to think that the Bible contains everything you need to know.
The final thing that struck me was the extraordinary attention to seemingly mundane details. In an exhibit listing the horrible things that entered the world as the result of man’s sin, we are treated to a placard on the origin of snake venom. First we are reminded of Isaiah 11:8:
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the viper’s den.
(An interesting side note: I saw nothing in the museum to indicate which translation of the Bible they were using. I assumed they were using the King James version. However, in the KJV the word “viper” is replaced with “cockatrice”. The New International Version translates it as “viper&rdquo, but it also has “cobra” instead of “asp.” So I suspect they were, indeed, using the KJV, but figured that since no one would have the faintest idea what a “cockatrice” was supposed to be, they took a few liberties.)
Before Adam’s sin: no snake venom. After Adam’s sin: snake venom. Here, in an unprecedented fit of curiosity, they begin to wonder where that venom came from. They offer some suggestions. Perhaps chemicals that had a non-harmful function at the creation changed to venoms after the creation. Or perhaps the information for making venoms was built into the creation, but was not revealed until after the curse.
Make of those suggestions what you will. For me the intriguing thing is that usually they are content to say “Sin entered the world” as if that is a sufficient explanation for the particular bit of badness under consideration. For example, aging, death and carnivory are all things that entered the world as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, but I have seen nothing in the creationist literature seeking to explain the physical mechanisms by which these things entered.
A similar example came in their discussion of Noah’s Ark. They have one whole placard discussing the placement of the door on the Ark. Another on different meanings of the word “cubit” throughout history. Yet another on the possible use of metal fasteners in constructing the Ark. One more on the question of whether Noah might have employed people to help him build the Ark:
God gave the instructions many years before the flood, but it was Noah who built the Ark. With ingenuity and very thorough planning it is conceivable that Noah and his family could have prepared and built the Ark without outside help. On the other hand, his family did not have to build the Ark alone. After centuries of righteous living, Noah may have been wealthy enough to hire shipbuilders. Paid workers may have been his audience while Noah, a preacher of righteousness, warned them of the coming judgment.
Such attention to detail! Yet through it all the sheer impracticality of building a five hundred foot boat does not seem to bother them. Personally, I think Bill Cosby had the more plausible take on the whole thing.