The only parts of the museum I have not reviewed are the bookstore (pretty much what you’d expect) and the men’s room (impressively clean). So what conclusions should we draw?
Is this the end of civilization as we know it? No. But it is one more symptom of the disease that has been growing ever since Ronald Reagan started making appeals to religious fundamentalists a standard part of Republican Party politics in the 1980′s. Just ponder the fact that AiG had little trouble raising the twenty-seven million dollars needed to build this monstrosity. Consider that now everyone in the Cincinnati area has for a neighbor a professional propaganda factory spitting out some of the vilest and most vicious stereotypes of science and scientists that you will ever encounter. This is not a good thing for American civilization. And a culture that can produce such monuments to ignorance is a culture facing some serious problems.
In her own write-up of the museum, Tara Smith offered these words of comfort:
Obviously, the good thing about the museum is that it will only be convincing to the already convinced. For those who aren’t about to accept a literal Genesis, there’s nothing in the museum to make them change their mind. However, it does have enough here and there to sow confusion in the minds of those who already have some anti-science leanings.
Alas, I fear the second part of that dichotomy is the more important. There’s something very seductive about a confident and professional presentation of views such as these. I don’t think anyone will go in a confirmed atheist and will come out a fundamentalist Christian. But many of the visitors to the museum will not be people who spend much time immersed in this issue. They will be people with nebulous religious views who visit the museum in the company of a more religious friend. They will be people who had been inclined to give scientists the benefit of the doubt until the museum showed them just how confused the pointy heads really are. They will be young adults who have never been exposed to anything other than fundamentalist Christianity, having the ignorance of their parents and preachers reinforced by slick propaganda.
Let’s face it. Most people know little about science, and are sufficiently trusting to think that a museum this slick must have some basis in truth. The possibility that virtually every substantive claim made in the museum is either a bald distortion or a flat-out lie is not something most people consider. It’s the reason so many Christian denominations pour so much money into the physical design of their churches. You might argue that they could get by with a more modest building, using the savings to aid the poor. But this overlooks the psychological effects of building so beautiful a church. How can they be wrong, all too many people say. Their church is so fancy and ornate.
No, if there is a ray of sunshine in this boil on the backside of Cincinnati it is the thought that this museum is not inexpensive to operate. And considering the static nature of the museum’s exhibits, we can hope that they will have a problem attracting repeat business. Perhaps a year from now, after the initial novelty has worn off, AiG will come to regret their little money pit in Northern Kentucky. We can only pray.