Monday, May 28, 2007

Spades, handsaws, and velociraptors: A follow-up

(Updated below.)

Not quite 2 years ago I noted the plan to establish the "Answers in Genesis Museum" in northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati.

The Washington Post's coverage of this "alternative reality" theme park included this description:
Set amid a park and three-acre artificial lake, the 50,000-square-foot museum features animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics, and a half-dozen staff scientists. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark.

And this splendid quote from a museum vice president:
"When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

Today, not quite two years later, the Creation Museum (as it's now called) is open for its own special brand of business:
It is a measure of the museum’s daring that dinosaurs and fossils — once considered major challenges to belief in the Bible’s creation story — are here so central, appearing not as tests of faith, as one religious authority once surmised, but as creatures no different from the giraffes and cats that still walk the earth. Fossils, the museum teaches, are no older than Noah’s flood; in fact dinosaurs were on the ark.

So dinosaur skeletons and brightly colored mineral crystals and images of the Grand Canyon are here, as are life-size dioramas showing paleontologists digging in mock earth, Moses and Paul teaching their doctrines, Martin Luther chastising the church to return to Scripture, Adam and Eve guiltily standing near skinned animals, covering their nakedness, and a supposedly full-size reproduction of a section of Noah’s ark.

There are 52 videos in the museum, one showing how the transformations wrought by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 reveal how plausible it is that the waters of Noah’s flood could have carved out the Grand Canyon within days. There is a special-effects theater complete with vibrating seats meant to evoke the flood, and a planetarium paying tribute to God’s glory while exploring the nature of galaxies.

Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and narrative. Its 60,000 square feet of exhibits are often stunningly designed by Patrick Marsh, who, like the entire museum staff, declares adherence to the ministry’s views; he evidently also knows the lure of secular sensations, since he designed the “Jaws” and “King Kong” attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.

If this band of biblical literalists want to spend $27 million of their money on this shrine to the finest thinking of the 16th century and tuck it away in the hills of northern Kentucky--well, I can certainly think of worse things they could be spending that money on. I'm a little more disturbed that, in a few years, children who were "educated" in this anti-science stew will be able to vote, operate motor vehicles, purchase rifles, and have children themselves, but that problem obviously didn't start with this group.

I'm more immediately concerned by the all-too-likely prospect that "experts" from this Creation Museum will be invited to take time off from screening double-features of Teenage Caveman and Eegah on Documentary Night to appear in an article in the Times or the Post, or on Fox News or even ABC News as "authoritative spokespersons" for the "alternative" to Darwinian theory--all in the interest of journalistic "balance."

The clock is ticking on that last one--if it hasn't happened already, it will soon.

Update: And while we're waiting for that sad but inevitable moment in our news media, the LA Times notes we have another problem to worry about:
This would be risible if anti-evolution forces were confined to a lunatic fringe, but they are not. Witness the recent revelation that three of the Republican candidates for president do not believe in evolution. Three men seeking to lead the last superpower on Earth reject the scientific consensus on cosmology, thermonuclear dynamics, geology and biology, believing instead that Bamm-Bamm and Dino played together.

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