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.

Comments

  1. #1 Warren
    June 26, 2007

    How do they plan to explain the jump H5N1 will make to human infection, if not by evolution?

    Or will they be forced to argue that it was magicked up — I mean, created — and therefore it’s their god’s will for millions to be sickened and possibly killed?

  2. #2 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 26, 2007

    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”, 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.

    Ghasp! Don’t they know that the King James Bible is the one true Word of God? Don’t they know that cultured English of the early 1600s is the only approved way to read the words of Jeeesus? Heavens above! The next thing you know, they’ll be putting the Comma Johanneum in brackets and translating almah in Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman.”

    Suddenly, I have the urge to drive to the Creation “Museum” in a large iron chariot.

  3. #3 RBH
    June 26, 2007

    They are effectively conceding that evolution is a reasonable conclusion to draw unless you begin with preconceived notions from Genesis.

    According to a talk by Georgia Purdom, a Ph.D. molecular geneticist (Ohio State) and now full-time employee of AIG, it really is all in the presuppositions. According to her, one can interpret evidence any way at all, depending on one’s presuppositions. I don’t believe she’s thought through that very carefully. Presuppositions based around Cthulhu are a dab different from hers. :)

  4. #4 rubble
    June 26, 2007

    The rejection of reason, coherent debate, and ultimately science itself is simply explained. The concern is the culture: the graffiti and the headlines displayed in the museum make that point very clear. The whole argument is basically undesirable consequences — to even consider that science is a good way of understanding physical phenomena is to invite trouble into society.

    That the “museum” doesn’t offer any tangibles of antiquity isn’t surprising, because it’s not a scientific research institution — unlike the typical natural history museum. There’s simply no need for such tangibles, because it’s not about the science; to paraphrase the infamous sign hung in the Clinton White House, it’s the culture, stupid.

  5. #5 Susannah
    June 26, 2007

    Good series!

    What struck me, reading your posts and their posters, is how much they, claiming that the Bible is the Word of God, disrespect its text.

    To bolster a statement or two by Paul, “…by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,…” they devise a whole scheme about the purported vegetarianism of the original creation. For this, they add to a text saying that God has given them herbs, making it say that this is all that they were able to eat. Then, to round it all off, they use a poetic text from the prophets, referring to a (mythical) future time, as if it also, with no hint of a justification in the text itself, is describing the state of things in Eden. And that, when the text specifies the location; “in the sacred mount.” IOW, in Jerusalem. Not in Eden.

    These guys are so used to quote mining, that they can’t see that they’re doing the same to their “Holy Bible”.

  6. #6 Lettuce
    June 27, 2007

    Midwestern?

    That really floats your boat, don’t it?

  7. #7 Christophe Thill
    June 27, 2007

    If I’m not getting it wrong, a cockatrice is something like a basilisk. A mythical monster, a sort of rooster-snake-dragon with an extremely powerful venom.

  8. #8 Paul
    June 27, 2007

    Contempt for human reason?

    I haven’t been to the creationist museum, and by the sound of it, I would have many similar concerns to you. However, I wanted to comment on this “contempt”, from a theological perspective.

    There are problems with human reason – both theologically and philosophically. Theologically, Christians would point out that it has been affected by sin. Philosophers would point out that whilst empiricism and reason seem to work, it lacks an epistemology – there is no way of knowing whether it really is working, or whether it will continue to work, other than the fact that it seems to.

    There are alternatives to modernism, philosophically – I wrote a series of posts here, here and here which address exactly this issue. These posts are no more than poor reflections of what Alvin Plantinga and Francis Schaeffer have said about this in much more precise ways.

    So what about human reason? I don’t hold it “in contempt”. However, I am aware of its limitations – as are many non-Christian philosophers. As a Christian, I would argue that it comes from God – we are able to reason because God is logically coherent. However, when people deny what God says ought to be obvious to them, then at the heart of their reason is an “unreason”, a profound illogic.

  9. #9 ZacharySmith
    June 27, 2007

    No snake venom before the fall?

    I guess those fangs were used to puncture coconut shells so they could liesurely sip out the milk. Stupid scientists.

  10. #10 OutOfContext
    June 27, 2007

    I was actually struck more by the sign claiming that weeds were a result of original sin. Maybe it was because of the middle aged ladies in front of me, upon whose faces the light of understanding shone as they realized it was the devil who was responsible for them being on their knees in the yard.

  11. #11 arensb
    June 27, 2007

    Then, to round it all off, they use a poetic text from the prophets, referring to a (mythical) future time, as if it also, with no hint of a justification in the text itself, is describing the state of things in Eden.

    One of the many ironies that amused me was that they claim that without the Bible, people can’t tell good from evil or right from wrong, yet they want to return to a pre-Fall Eden, just like it was before Adam and Eve ate the fruit and learned the difference between good and evil, right and wrong.

  12. #12 kemibe
    June 29, 2007

    “…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.”

    This is something that’s always made me chuckle. You can ssk a fundie, “In the absence of the Bible, do you really think anyone would, after examining all of the physical evidence available on Earth as a whole, reach the conclusion that the world is 6,000 years old, was created in six days, was once covered in 30,000 feet of water, and was a breeding ground for never-observed miracles such as the resurrection of the dead, feeding thousands of people with a couple of loaves of bread and a bucket of fish, and healing the blind?” and he or she will answer “yes” with a straight face or tell you that you just don’t understand Christianity.

    No problem, though — atheists need to quit viciously blasting away at this craziness and instead sit down with these folks down and reason with them calmly; as open-minded sorts, they’ll come around in no time. Or so I’m told.

  13. #13 Ken
    June 29, 2007

    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.

    How then do they explain St Thomas Aquinas?

    Either Peter Kreeft (sp?) or C.S.Lewis said “Divine wisdom might not agree with human wisdom, but should not flatly contradict it.” In a Venn diagram, human reason/wisdom is a subset of divine truth/wisdom, NOT a completely-separate set like this statement claims. That way lies madness as complete as an al-Qaeda suicide bomber’s; if “apostasy begins when human reason is elevated above God’s Word”, then abandoning all human reason is Godly, and the stupidest and craziest action MUST be God’s Will, and God is insanity — Christ as Azatoth.

  14. #14 Ex-drone
    June 29, 2007

    Or perhaps the information for making venoms was built into the creation, but was not revealed until after the curse.

    So was god a pessimist or just hedging his bets?

  15. #15 Kevin
    June 30, 2007

    So was god a pessimist or just hedging his bets?
    Posted by: Ex-drone | June 29, 2007 11:17 PM

    God knew exactly what he was doing. He created man to fail so he could punish him. It was all a setup for thousands and thousands of years of torture so that when he sent his son to save you you really where happy to see him.

    err. so happy that you had to kill him…or something.

  16. #16 CortxVortx
    July 4, 2007

    ” … 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. …”

    Hmm… seems I recall some dire warning about changing jots and tittles.

    re: Paul’s “… God is logically coherent …”

    You can say that with a straight face?

    — CV

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.