Friday, July 6, 2012

16 museums dedicated to teaching creationism pockmark the American landscape.

By Marc Jampole

Secular humanist that I am, I couldn’t contain a squeaky chortle of glee when reading that the Creation Museum in a Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati is in financial distress. Attendance is down more than 30% from its opening year of 2007. It’s having trouble raising the $20 million it needs to build a giant Noah’s Ark theme park.

The Creation Museum uses interactive exhibits to brainwash children and uneducated adults to believe that the Earth was formed by a conscious deity about 6,000 years ago and that humans and dinosaurs once inhabited the same ecosystem at the same time.  The museum, whose theme line is “Prepare to believe,” was built by a ministry called Answers in Genesis, founded, like the Murdoch right-wing media empire, in Australia.

The museum blames the bad economy for the slowdown in business. Of course the museum operates with one hand tied behind its back, since no public school classes are allowed to send field trips there because it would run counter to the Supreme Court decision that keeps religion outside the classroom. Imagine how well the Creation Museum would be doing if could get on the public school field trip gravy train.

I’m wondering if the problem isn’t that it has to face brutal competition. I’m not talking about from Disney and Universal Studios, which are dedicated to the religion of consumerism. I mean competition from the other museums that want us to believe in an unscientific and false view of the physical world. After all, there are now 16 museums in the United States dedicated to the false notion ofcreationism, including:

·         Creation Museum – KY
·         7 Wonders Museum – WA
·         Akron Fossils and Science Center – OH
·         Creation Adventure Museum – FL
·         Creation Discovery Museum – FL
·         Creation Evidence Museum – TX
·         The Discovery Center – TX
·         Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum – MT
·         Grand River Museum – SD
·         Lost World Museum – NY
·         Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum – TX
·         Wyatt Archaeological Museum – TN
·         Camp Sunrise Museum – GA
·         Creation and Earth History Museum – CA
·         Museum of Earth History – TX

You’d think there would be plenty of paying customers for everyone, what with a recent Gallup poll showing that 46% of all Americans believe that a god created humans in their current form, while another 32% think that whatever the process of evolution, it got a good nudge from a deity. That’s an enormous target market.

The creationist museum is a very much a phenomenon of the South. Of the 16 museums dedicated to creationism, 11 are in the South, with 3 in attraction-rich Florida and 4 deep in the heart of all things conservative, Texas.

Yet, despite the fact that Gallup found only 15% of the population endorsing the scientific view that humans evolved with the intervention of a deity, museums that advocate Darwinism, such as the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (4 million visitors a year) and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (1.3 million visitors a year), draw more people. No creationist museum comes close to these numbers. It’s probably because those damn yankees stole all the best dinosaur specimens. 

To believe that a god created us is harmless enough until it is used to defend pollution-causing activities or war. I also have no problem with building institutions full of pretty pictures and exhibits dedicated to religious contemplation and then charging people an entrance fee to see. Maybe it works a little better when the entry fees are voluntary donations, which has been the game for the Catholic Church for about 2,000 years.

What I find pernicious to the intellectual health of the collective body of the American people is to pass off this nature-centric religion as science, which is what all these museums attempt to do. In one way or another, they all use facts and what they call analysis to provide what they call scientific proof of the intervention of a god in the creation or development of human beings. To ask the “god” question is inherently unscientific (which is why calling the Higgs boson a “god particle” is so unfortunate). Science exists outside the world of gods, because it is based solely on observation and not a priori theories of existence. Science looks for consistent rules that exist through time and does not care who or what created the rules, just how they work.

Thus, it’s their pretentions to science that make these creation museums unethical.