Dear Gov. RE: Creation Amusement Park

Dear Governor Beshear.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the severe injury done to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s reputation. It is a sad day when Kansans can look down on Kentucky, that at least Kansas is not trying to attract an amusement park catering to the unscientific concept of young earth creationism.

Worse still, Kentucky is offering tax incentives to attract further development by Answers in Genesis, a group that can only further decrease our reputation as a state that values higher learning. All this in a state that is home to such treasures of paleontology as Big Bone Lick and the rich history of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history are visible to anybody who bothers to look at every road that cuts through a hill.

It wouldn’t be a slap in the face to all of my fellow alumni of the University of Kentucky, devaluing the doctoral diploma that I proudly display in my office and  denigrating the verifiable and evidence based science taught in our land grant universities and private colleges if Kentucky wasn’t looking to help fund an ethically bankrupt amusement park. The presence of the Creation “Museum” is embarrassment enough, but to know that my tax dollars may help to fund its expansion, when researchers at UK and University of Louisville face tight budgets while performing ground breaking scientific research, it is simply too much.

Today, you helped to tarnish my hard won degree with the scorn of the academic community. In an instant, my years of scholarship became worth a tiny little bit less. I will have to defend my state as I once did as a child. “Yes, we wear shoes,” becomes, “No, we aren’t all stuck in a scientific stone age.”

What hue and outcry would there be if Ken Ham’s execrable organization was teaching children that God’s way was to learn that left and right are actually right and left? And if you don’t follow the Ham’s specific and narrow interpretation of biblical direction, society will collapse entirely. This is the scientific equivalent of creationism. Students come prepared to ignore anything taught in biology classes, and no level of evidence will convince them that learning about how life evolves is of value, but will guarantee their damnation.

Imagine then, students unable to read their English texts from left to right, as their interpretation of those directions means that no book can make sense to them. Students walking through a line in the cafeteria, gathering their food in their hands and finally depositing it on a tray. Students inoculated against evidence don’t even know that their educational skills are stunted until they are faced with an honest presentation of evolution at the college or university level.

Perhaps saddest of all of this is that the tens millions of dollars already spent on this monument to prideful ignorance goes not to feed the hungry or clothe the poor (or even to clothe the hungry) but to enrich the purveyors of a plainly dishonest interpretation of all types of scientific evidence, biological, chemical, physical and astronomical.

And to what end? The hope that if people remain ignorant of the reality surrounding them, the facts of evolution, explained by the modern synthesis of the theory of evolution by natural selection, that their faith can remain intact.

Ignorance is bliss to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, ignorance and fear of a wrathful and genocidal god. I wonder, shall the amusement park include a wave pool filled with the simulated bobbing bodies of the dead, as the Museum cheerfully displays the Genesis account of the Great Flood via computer animation and artistic dioramas of the wholesale slaughter of the world? Having been to this “Museum”, I can say that no depth is too low to subject young minds to in order to scare them away from inquiry and learning.

What shall I expect next from the government of our fair Commonwealth? Should UK and the University of Louisville begin to offer degrees in astrology? Will the UK medical school offer coursework in homeopathy? Perhaps you could establish a Department of Divination to direct the government’s future goals and to offer you a morning horoscope? Or should I expect some other discipline of magical thinking to be given the stamp of approval of the state?

Why did you choose to encourage what can only harm our state’s reputation? Was it a promise of 30 pieces of silver (a temporary increase in construction jobs) to betray our good name?

Please do not count on my vote in the next primary election. I will remember your intentional step backwards on that day and cast my vote for any challenger. And should I look to spend money on a day at an amusement park, I will do so without guilt in neighboring Ohio, at King’s Island.

Sincerely and Remorsefully,

Robert Bevins, PhD

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18 comments on “Dear Gov. RE: Creation Amusement Park

  1. […] From the Teaching Sapiens blog: It was with great sadness that I learned of the severe injury done to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s reputation. It is a sad day when Kansans can look down on Kentucky, that at least Kansas is not trying to attract an amusement park catering to the unscientific concept of young earth creationism. […]

  2. Jeremiah Reece says:

    Dr. Bevins,

    As a recent Georgetown alumnus, I applaud your letter to our governor. It makes me proud to see a faculty member of my alma mater provide such an intelligent and provoking response to this miscarriage of public policy, especially considering the frustrating religiosity I remember being present during my stay at Georgetown.

    Unfortunately, I was never able to enjoy even one of your courses, which I find very regrettable. I can only imagine the response that many of your students might have to this post, and wish you well in the tedious arguments that are sure to follow.

    Thanks for standing up for scientific integrity.
    I hope to see more of your writing in the future.

    Sincerely,

    Jeremiah Reece, Class of 2008

    • Robert Bevins says:

      Hi Jeremiah, Thank you for your kind words. Georgetown College is a wonderful school to teach at, and I only occasionally have students who want to argue the science of evolution. I actually welcome it, as long as it doesn’t take away too much from lecture time. We need to encourage asking questions, even if the asker cannot be swayed, the entire classroom can learn from open discussion.

      But when somebody who should simply know better puts their foot in the state’s official mouth…

      Gov. Beshear isn’t new to politics. He has to have known that this would blow up in his face. Did he miss Kansas I and II, the Dover Pennsylvania trial, Georgia’s textbook stickers, or Texas and Louisiana’s adventures with creationism?

      I do hope that he doesn’t think that this will win him any votes from the religious right. He is still a Democratic candidate, so no matter how he panders, he won’t be Christian enough or far enough to the right.

    • kilcom7 says:

      Evolution is a religion of random chance & survival of the fittest. There is no room for morality, ethics, or values (it’s not fair Governor) in those theories of thought. Evolutionary theory far too often refuses to objectively observe all aspects of all existence in a holistic manner. This is because of it’s predisposition to denial of a higher power that exists outside of all time & space. This frustrates minds that are so dependent on their seeing faith, based on only what their finite existence can observe through their 5 senses. This process polarizes entire societies, yes the entire planet, thereby burying the truth under an avalanche of visceral irrational slander & sensationalism, benefiting no one. Sadly, many so-called christians are guilty of a similar behavior; because humans are imperfect and God is the only Perfection.

      Evolution can’t believe in God because it denies the existence of any perception beyond 5 senses. Evolution is spiritually dead, but a religion by general definition none the less.

      • Robert Bevins says:

        Hi kilcom, I’m not quite sure how I can explain this, but evolution is not a religion, no matter how often you repeat the claim. Religions have dogma and refuse to be disproved. Evolution could be disproved with sufficient evidence, or perhaps even a spectacular find, such as the fossil of a rabbit in pre-Cambrian rocks. Religions have leaders, while science has none, just recognized experts. Religion is based on revealed truths, but science, including evolution, is based on evidence uncovered from observation and experimentation.

        Religion is based on faith, which is best described as a belief in something without evidence, or in spite of evidence. There is simply no evidence to support creationism, and as such, it has been abandoned by science.

        Evolution as a scientific discipline is based upon evidence. We see this evidence in the fossil record, comparative anatomy and embryology, and through comparing the genetic codes of all living organisms.

        Furthermore, evolution, like any scientific theory, such as gravity, atomic theory, germ theory of disease, etc., has predictive power. For example, Neil Shubin, based on his understanding of the fossil record, made a prediction that he would find fossils demonstrating the transition between lobe finned fish and amphibians in a specific layer of sedimentary rock deposited on the ancient stream beds of far northern Canada. (This was an equitorial region in the Devonian period, 380 million years ago)

        His prediction was correct. He found the fossil that would come to be named Tiktaalik roseae. I encourage you to read about tiktaalik here or here.

        Next up, science does not deny the existence of a “higher power” in any way. We just can’t detect these powers, and when a person makes a prediction based on a supernatural belief, tests based on those predictions fail or their results can be better explained using existing scientific knowledge. That doesn’t frustrate scientists, as we are quite used to learning from experiments that yield positive or negative results. Creationists, on the other hand, simply abandon any pretense of performing research and fall back on long disproved claims.

        The supernatural has yet to show any value in a scientific sense. How would you propose that we test for supernatural effects?

        Evolution doesn’t believe in anything for a very simple reason. Evolution isn’t a person. It is a concept with supporting evidence. Concepts don’t have beliefs and don’t have spiritual lives.

        Beyond this, scientists can use more than just our five senses to learn things. We can detect radiation that we can’t see, such as x rays, microwaves and radio waves. We can detect even discreet particles such as neutrinos and visualize the electron fields of individual atoms with electron microscopes.

        There are many, many scientists who are religious, including my colleagues at Georgetown, and such luminaries as Francis Collins, who says that the genetic evidence for evolution is enough to make it an open and closed case. Understanding evolution does not preclude a person from being a Christian.

  3. RSC says:

    What I would love to see is KY Science teachers (K-12, Higher Ed) mount a large, visible organized protest to let KY know that they don’t appreciate them undoing the decade’s work they’ve done in boosting science education in the state.

    • Robert Bevins says:

      That would be wonderful, but the first step we need to take is revising our science education standards so that they take a brave step forward… actually including the word evolution instead of the phrase “change over time.”

  4. Jim Lund says:

    While the UK Medical School doesn’t have classes that teach homeopathy (AFAIK), there is a Complementary and Alternative Medicine project. And UK HeathCare’s website has patient information that indicates that homeopathy is effective for several diseases! Look at: http://ukhealthcare.uky.edu/content/content.asp?pageid=P00182

    And not just homeopathy, a whole range of fake medicine, including 19th century favorite ‘Electromagnetic Therapy’!

    • Robert Bevins says:

      The sCAM that UK has integrated into science based health care is really troubling. I was part of an educational review committee when I was a graduate student working in a lab housed in the cancer center. The goal was to see if the center was doing it’s job educating undergrads (didn’t have any: check), grad students (excellent), medical students (excellent), surgery fellowships (WOW).

      I had the opportunity to ask the person who was bringing in the sCAM to UK if it fulfilled the goals of educating students and patients regarding evidence and science based medicine. I didn’t feel prepared then as a student to go up against a 30 year plus respected MD on a topic that I wasn’t as strongly versed in as I am today. I chickened out and let it go. I don’t think it would have had any effect, looking back on it, as it brings in needed dollars to the system for no real cost, except for legitimizing complete BS.

      • mattward says:

        i am very pleased someone with letters beside their name is speaking to the public about such a vile undertaking. concerning funding for such nonsense, i am in total agreement.

        i was with you, until you started dropping the hammer on what you do not comprehend, in much the same way you accuse others.

        as far as i’m concerned, a study of placebo is about as valid a scientific exploration as whatever discipline you want to stage for your argument. if the outcome of the so-called sCAM turns out to be placebo, then arms will be thrown up, and everyone will brow beat the charlatan in the room. yet, no one will be willing to actually question the value of the placebo itself. that is because usurping it is beyond what is now considered credible science.

        i claim that the value of the program may be its own undoing, and yet the baby will be thrown out with the bath water, again…

        this is the result of dogmatic attachment to scientific method. sure, it is the biggest stick, but it does not reach beyond the observable. there are phenomena which are unobservable by virtue of the fact that they are beyond the subjective scope. the measurement problem isn’t just implicating to physicists. it reaches the nature of organisms, as well. especially organisms with the capacity to conceive using imagination, and drawing from a symbolic context. perception as analogy, as it were.

        maybe a parallel could be made with the symbolic value of religious thought.

        i am just as incredulous that supposed medical science has such lagging hindsight, in terms of churning out bunk and toxic approaches to disease, while refusing to be honest concerning prevention, in practice. it is a disintegrated model.

        …and if we really want to get to brass tax, the godly pantheon of science includes funding and reputation. it is true, as you say, that science is no person, but without the frail human perception it would not exist. we are reaching the limits of scientific inquiry, as we probe deeper into the nature of reality, where subject and object lose definition.

        it is sickening to see money wasted on such contrivance, but let’s not pretend we are immune. rather than ridicule dubious interventions that seem to work for no scientifically verifiable reason, perhaps we should ask ourselves how far our science goes, tethered as it is to human perception.

        thank you for your time.

      • Robert Bevins says:

        The problem with sCAM is that no level of evidence ever removes it from the health-care community. There is, after all, a sucker born every minute.

        As for the placebo effect goes, every treatment used gets a boost from this. If the treatment you are offering can’t beat this baseline, you are doing something wrong. This something might be that you are using the wrong drug to treat a disease, or the patient has a genetic factor that prevents the drug from working properly, you gave the wrong dose, etc. Another possibility is that your treatment is nothing beyond a placebo.

        In that case, you have an ethical obligation to not sell it. When the cost of a treatment is above zero, either in dollars or in side effects, and the effect is nothing that you couldn’t have gotten for free, the cost / benefit ratio becomes infinitely bad.

        The problem you describe regarding modern medicine using toxic approaches and not valuing prevention is somewhat flawed. Everything is toxic, depending on the dose. In fact, those toxicities describe what drugs we use. Penicillins are toxic to most bacteria, but aren’t very toxic to people at a reasonable dose, barring allergy. Prevention is incredibly important in some areas, especially when we can use vaccines to prevent diseases, or condoms to limit the spread of SDIs. The problem with getting prevention to work is partly communication, partly insurance.

        How many times does a typical patient get advice on diet and exercise from a doctor? Enough that it makes it into stand up comedy routines. We need to develop better techniques for doctors to communicate this advice to patients.

        The insurance industry is set up on a short term gain economic model. It doesn’t pay in this model to encourage prevention that requires lots of hours of trained work to have an effect. Weekly meetings with a dietitian are expensive in the short term, but have great long term payoff, so they don’t get the support that they should within the insurance industry without regulation.

        Finally, if an intervention works, but we don’t know how, we still use it. There are lots of important drugs that we don’t know the mechanism of action for, but we still use them. The problem is, if they can’t be shown to work better than placebo in a well designed trial, there is no level of hand waving that will make them work. We have to use the scientific method and statistics to separate our fallible perceptions and observations from those that are repeatable and valuable.

  5. Bob Gotwals says:

    Professor Bevins,

    Thank you very much for your excellent letter. I too wrote to the “guv’ner” (yee-haw), but, as a non-Kentuckian/nonvoter, I suspect that my note will not be read. The gist of my letter was to thank him for making my job teaching science to NORTH CAROLINA high school students that much easier — I don’t have to worry about them competing with YOUR kids for good science jobs, acceptance to major universities in North Carolina, and the like.

    Your embarrassment on behalf of your home state is well deserved. Yes, Kentucky now joins several others in the disdain of the scientific community. I fear on a daily basis that something like this might happen in North Carolina — as the saying goes, “there but for the grace of (fill-in-the-blank) go I”. (and the best “fill in the blank” answer here is: the Research Triangle Park.)

    thanks again for your fine letter. I love how Ken Ham tried to discredit it. I don’t think he succeeded (ya think??)

  6. TJ says:

    I understand your open letter as it pertains to taking a step backward in regards to education, and I must say that I completely agree. I’m merely playing devil’s advocate here, but the Creation Museum has actually brought money into the state, which is why the amusement park is getting the go ahead. Unfortunately, this is something that other state museums, such as the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, can’t say. If part of your argument is that the money should be going towards poverty stricken parts of the state or to further the state’s education, then I must admit that you lost me when you said that should you be taking your money to an amusement park that it would be to King’s Island. That is just another example of money NOT well spent… King’s Island is fun, but let us not kid ourselves. In stating that, you’re showing you’re agenda for the opposing side, and showing that this isn’t about money not being spent on certain things but merely the reason it’s being spent. I have to ask why you wouldn’t mention spending that money at the Discovery Center in Ashland, or the museum of Science and History in Owensboro? Simply put, you showed your bias a little too much, and in doing so you showed a bit of hypocrisy. Maybe I’m dwelling on semantics, but other than that I enjoyed your article. Regardless though, the one thing I can hang my hat on is that if anyone asks where I’m from, especially if they ask about the creation museum, is that I can say “Northern” Kentucky; that gives me at least some separation form the rest of the state.

    • Robert Bevins says:

      I see your point. It was a throw away jab more than anything. I do patronize our state parks, especially the out of the way ones like Blue Lick Battlefield. You can find no better place to watch a meteor shower, stargaze, and then get up a few hours later and have a country ham and cheddar omelet for breakfast.

      I have been to the “Museum” (part of a group rate) and was underwhelmed. It would have bored my socks off if it weren’t for the constant wonder of what would come next, scientific, historical or racist dog-whistle. Real museums to me are enjoyable.

      Real amusement parks are fun and exciting. This will be a snore-fest. Kentucky just lost a fun six flags park, although it might come back under new ownership, so an un-amusement park can only succeed with government subsidy and a credulous target market. Parents will drag their kids to the park and the kids will drag behind wishing that they were playing video games somewhere.

      Since we have no other alternatives when it comes to fun parks, I have to go out of state to find one that is not only fun, but doesn’t go out of its way to insult my intelligence.

  7. Well said, sir. As a fellow graduate of the University of Kentucky, I share your embarrassment.

  8. […] own Robert Bevins (a biology professor at Georgetown College). Check out his essay “Dear Gov. RE: Creation Amusement Park“–then check out Ken Ham’s pitiful response on his Facebook […]

  9. […] feasibility study, and AIG isn’t sharing so much as the executive summary with the media.  Science academics in Kentucky are none too happy with the state’s implicit support of bad science for the sake of a few dozen low-paying […]

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