A Creation Petting Zoo?

I decided to take some time and write a follow-up piece to my adventure at the petting zoo at the Creation “Museum” and fulfill Mr. Hammer’s offer of guest posting.

A little about myself… I finished my PhD in Toxicology in 2005 at the University of Kentucky and am now teaching part time at my undergraduate alma mater. I used to blog as a graduate student, mostly on politics and religion, and gradually slacked off. After the SSA visit to the Creation “Museum”, I decided it was time to come back, and put together a blog on what is happening in the biological sciences today, and how you could present that information in a manner that would engage students and promote learning. Daniel offered to let me write up a guest post on the visit, and so, here I am.

You can probably guess how I responded to the faux science of this place. The good news is that it seems like an incredibly boring place to take a kid. The bad news is that lots of kids get hurried through there, and find themselves lied to about how science works. Of course, that makes my job harder, because the theory of evolution is a central concept in biology, and without it, there are lots of unconnected lines of evidence, begging for something to unite them. Answers in Genesis hopes to provide a replacement concept in a very narrow interpretation of Genesis, and hell take you if you dare to disagree. The problem is, even if they were able to disprove evolution by natural selection, it wouldn’t make a six day version of biblical creationism, by default, correct. The worst part is that they can’t even come up with any new claims. They are stuck with arguments that are decades, sometimes more than a century old, and all long debunked. Even intelligent design isn’t a new concept.

Science is a system by which we attempt to remove our bias and prejudice, and seek naturalistic and materialistic explanations for what we find in the world around us. The supernatural doesn’t enter into our examinations, unless somebody makes the claim that the supernatural can be measured or otherwise proved to exist. So far, nobody who makes those claims has been able to offer any concrete evidence for their claims and while it is impossible to disprove them, the “Museum” is being academically dishonest and is ethically bankrupt by plainly admitting that they start with a conclusion and ignore any evidence that doesn’t support their conclusion. They abandon any pretense of science from their starting point and they don’t even know it.

Keeping up with the amusement church theme found on the rest of the grounds, Profit Prophet Ham has a lovely little petting zoo, perhaps one of the two interactive exhibits available to catch the attention of children.

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The Creation “Museum”

Why would I go to a creation museum?
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I don’t believe in a special creation, to put it bluntly. I have no question that evolution by natural selection is fact as well as solidly grounded theory.  I find the whole concept of a 27 million dollar facility pushing a narrow interpretation of a creation myth to be offensive, when one could have sent those millions to, say, upgrade the facilities of a teaching hospital in Africa, or fund clinics in the slums of central America, or promote polio vaccination programs worldwide… the list of real charitable projects would go on and on and on. And if you would prefer those dollars be used for US charities, try Habitat for Humanity or the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity, or the Secular Students Alliance (more on this group in a post to come).

Why? Because my students come from varied backgrounds and with this “museum” only a 90 minute drive from home, some will have visited this place. While I am familiar with most of the claims of creationists of many stripes, thanks to TalkOrigins and The Counter Creationist Handbook (which I am holding above, and if you are a science educator, you should own this book and keep it in your office or classroom), it is always best to see these claims firsthand so that you can see their claims firsthand, how they are presented, etc so that you can be better prepared to respond.

Also, because there was a large group going, I didn’t have to pay $22 to get in, just ten. I’ll be offsetting that with donations and dues payments to a variety of pro science education groups or skeptical organizations, such as the NCSE, CSI and SSA, among others. Consider it Idiocy Offset Credits, sort of like offset credits of the carbon type.

Finally, PZ Myers, lord of the squid, was going, and I wanted to get a chance to see if fire really did shoot from his eyes and if bats darkened the skies with their leathery wings above him, blotting out the sun. Sadly, his reputation in this manner has been greatly exaggerated.

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My tie has the periodic table on it. I was ready to teach the controversy between four elements and all those hundred or so elements that scientists keep adding to every now and then. PZ’s tie, on the other hand is one of two crocoducks, the other belonging to Richard Dawkins.

What did I find? Continue reading