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Monday, August 10, 2009

I have faced the demons of idiocy and have laughed them into oblivion

My 11 year old, Alexander and I visited the Creation Museum, Creatorium for short, on August 7, 2009. We did so as part of the Secular Student Alliance group visit / invasion with renowned blogger and biologist, Dr. PZ Myers. Instead of paying the $22 per person, we got in with the $10 per person discount. Why did we even pay $10 a head to visit such a temple of ignorance? Good question. For the past few years I've criticized the place without actually visiting. This was a golden opportunity to do so with a large skeptical crowd.
The Creatorium's motto, seen on billboards all over the region, is "Prepare to Believe". Believe what? Their Biblical based fantasy? Or that adults that have matured in the first ostensibly secular society on the planet actually believe this stuff?
Driving to the Creatorium is a nice drive in Northern Kentucky along I-275. Approaching the exit, it is apparent that no businesses are in the general area. In fact, the only sign other than the one for the Creatorium is the exit sign for Petersburg, KY. Once the exit is taken, there is nothing in area at all: no fast food, no gas stations, nothing at all. A small sign indicates the direction to take to the Creatorium.
As we approach the actual attraction, we see fields of corn and soybeans. Then we spot the armed security. The security guards were given police powers by the State of Kentucky. They resemble the local sheriff officers in dress, hat and weapons. They are congregating around the entrance, scrutinizng cars as they drive in. One guard is talking to a group that decided to put up a banner across a drive from the Creatorium. The home made banner consists of a king size bed sheet with the words, "God is Real" sprayed on in red. The Creatorium compound is surround by state-of-the-art security; ranging from cameras to a modern, heavy-duty steel fence. The only surprising thing is that it's not topped by razor wire.
With a little bit of trepidation, we drive onto the compound, through the open, heavy duty security gate. The gate is surrounded by a brick barrier, with friendly looking steel dinosaur skeletons mounted on top, and the name of the place plainly visible on the side. Why the trepidation? My car has the new "NO GODS" license plate mounted front and rear, and a bumper sticker of DNA temporarily affixed to the rear lift door.
No incident occurred. We pass through and are directed to the spots to park. As we head back to park, we pass the entrance, where two ungodly lines of atheists are lined up, ready to receive the tickets that will lets us enter. Observing this crowd is another batch of people, who stare in disbelief at all the shirts with science messages ranging from an integral equation to images of Darwin, Tiktaalik, and even Carl Sagan. We left the car in the lot with the advice of the parking attendant to take our cameras to take plenty of pictures.
Walking to the entrance, we saw security examining almost every person with a bag, stopping each to investigate the contents of each bag. I was wearing my camera with my massive camera bag hanging off my right shoulder. I approached expecting to open up the bag and show my collection of lenses. But guard just looked at me and let me pass. No inspection. Not that I'm about to complain about avoiding security, but why was I singled out for this honor?
As we got in line, I was immediately asked to pose with another person who was wearing the identical Darwin hugging Tiktaalik shirt I was. Wow, solidarity, right from the start! The line crept forward slowly as each person obtained his ticket and signed an agreement to abide by the rules of the private institution. A woman employed by the Creatorium passed through the line, handing out the list of attractions for the day. The feature presentation today was a talk by Dr Jason Lisle, on "The Ultimate Proof of Creation". More on him at the end, but suffice it to say that the Astrophysics Department at the University of Colorado must be hanging their heads in shame for awarding him a PhD.
Finally, Professor Myers arrived. Several people flock to get pictures taken of him with all sorts of squid paraphernalia! The group of Mennonites that pass by have a look of shock, seeing so many shirts with the blatant message of Evolution. Alexander and I make it to the front of the line and sign the agreement in exchange for the tickets and a cool button with the words, "I was there with PZ Myers". Another guy is standing close by, handing out his own buttons, showing Prof Myers as Dr Evil, seated and holding a squid, with the words, "I'm with Dr. Evolution".
We are herded off to the side entrance, where the church group in front of us has just entered the building. They are posing in front of a large green screen. Just as we enter, we are asked to have a group picture taken in front of the green screen. Most of us decide against it. Hard to have 250+ pose at one time. An earlier bunch of our group has already entered and queued up to enter the main exhibit.
In the main hall, there is skeleton of a mastodon / mammoth (I don't know for sure which) in the center. Along one wall is the entrance to the Noah's Cafe and on the other wall is the exit from the Dinohall bookstore. The queue to the main exhibit snakes through a small area just off the main hall, with a diorama containing live fish and turtles, and animatronic dinosaurs with a human lining one side, and the other with a series of displays discussing God's word vs Man's word, and discussing the multiple C's of man: Corruption, Crime, etc.. To my pleasant surprise, I notice that PZ is just a bit behind us as we get to the front of the queue to hand over our tickets.
Amusingly, Pastor Tom Estes is lurking in the area. He appears perplexed. Pastor Tom had mentioned on PZ's blog that he would be at the "Museum" and would like to see us refute the Science of Creationism. Funny that he's not conversing with anyone. He's just lurking to the side.
We then enter the main exhibit of the Grand Canyon. We first enter an area that is a reconstruction of an archeological dig. Fossils and a sapphire are shown with the questions of how do we know what these are? How do we know what the living versions of the fossils did or eat? How did they die? How was the information discovered or passed down? The archeologist in the dig is shown on the video saying that the evidence is there and one's presuppositions lead us to the correct interpretations of the evidence. The implication is that the default view is that God exists and that the Bible is his word. The alternate view is that of scientists which deny the existence of God. The annoying thing is that the questions are written as if no one has an answer, yet if they bothered to ask a real scientist they would get reality based answer.
We enter the next area and the next thing we see is a comparison of images of the Grand Canyon with the images of the Toutle River "canyon" coming down the lower slopes of Mt St Helens. The message? The Grand Canyon was carved instantaneously during the catastrophe of the global flood, and the proof is that the Toutle river canyon was carved during the eruption. Yeah. Right.
Continuing through the exhibits, my jaw just drops. We are continuously bombarded by comparisons of Man's word with God's word. The exhibits show some amazingly accurate representations of what science says about cosmology, speciation, history, but those views are contrasted with the "Word of God". Basically the message is, "Who are going to trust? Man or God?" Of course, they don't answer the question in my mind, "How do we know that what you say is God's word is really God's word" More to the point, how do we know there is a God that can give any word at all? The assumption
At this point, two men are politely asking some of the older members of our group about beliefs and some minor debates ensue. These men have families with them, and the women in the group were wearing the quaint white hair pieces typical of Mennonites. Everyone in their family is being quiet and not even looking at the exhibits. They are obediently waiting for the men folk to signal that it's time to move on. We leave the comparison exhibits behind and enter an area that shows how only the Bible has prophecies that have been 100% fulfilled. Alexander doesn't understand, and one of the young adults in the groups explain the difference between old and new testament. Alexander laughs, saying that the writers of the newer book could have just used the older book as a reference and written the stories to make it seem like they were fulfilled.
We continue to wind through an area that talks about God's word and the corruption of God's word. It's obvious that Ken Ham and company lament the removal of Christianity from American public schools. Ham continues to try and link the acceptance of the fact of Evolution with the growth of societal ills. He has an exhibit showing a part of the Scopes' "Monkey" trial, with William Jennings Bryant, standing, giving an oration. The path leads to a theatre where an obnoxious film of the paradise of the Garden of Eden is shown.
We escape that room and enter an open area describing the six days of creation of the universe. We are reminded that we have no excuse to not believe, since the Bible says we have been told the Truth. The "truth" I observe is that the story of creation as told in the Bible is beyond reason; it is complete unreasonable and the Answers in Genesis (AiG) people KNOW IT! They admit it. The entire theme leading to this point has been harping on the point that God's Word must be trusted beyond all reason.
The route now leads us into the specific creation story of Adam and Eve. Adam is created first, of course, then the animals, then Eve as an afterthought from Adam's rib. So, did God create the animals as all males? Or what? Don't tell me the first thought of females occurred because of Eve. What did God intend for Adam to do with all the animals? Hmmm?????
We see the first couple, standing in front of strategically placed leaves and dinosaurs in the background and foreground, eating the vegetation, since death is only the result of sin and nothing else. The serpent makes an appearance and the fall of Adam is described. Much lamenting is given about how Eve fucked up God's plan for Adam. Does it EVER occur to these numb nuts that if God's so called plan did continue as planned, that none of them would be here?
Life after the fall is then shown, with Eve pregnant and Adam tilling the soil for food. The dinosaurs are shown now killing other animals for food. There is also a display asking who Cain's wife was, with a long, biblical, justification for incest, since Cain's wife could only have been his sister. Let's see now: Incest is OK, but homosexuality is wrong. Yeah right.
Methuselah then tells us that he is over 900 years old and that he has predicted that man is too evil and that God will visit retribution on all life. We pass the old guy and now see a "1% section" of Noah's Ark. It describes the gopher wood and the method of construction. Alexander asks the difficult questions now. Where did all the wood come from? How could all the species fit in that ark? Where did the poop go? How could only Noah and his family take care of all the animals by themselves? If God took care of those problems, why didn't God just teleport all the animals into the future? Or why didn't God just get rid of the bad people with a snap? Pastor Tom Estes didn't want to stick around for those hard questions.
Passing beyond the Ark, we enter a hall showing the mechanisms of the flood. According to AiG, the waters of the deep rise up and flood the planet like the scenes from "Deep Impact" where the massive wave rolls across the landscape. Most of the smart intelligent brains at this point looked as if they needed a serious re-boot. Jaws were dropping, people could hardly suppress snickers, and some of us started moving on, our minds barely suppressing the need to have a "Scanners" moment.
Continuing on, we pass more displays showing their poor understanding of genetics, biology, mutations, replication errors, let alone their complete misrepresentation of evolution. We enter an area that appears to be a mid point, where a small snack bar stands. Despite being thirsty, I am so thoroughly disgusted by this imitation of a museum that I am not willing to part with any more of my money at this Temple of Ignorance. Just off to the side are stairs leading up to the Dinosaur loft.
Alexander leads the way up the stairs, and we come upon a combination of fleshed out dinosaurs with lizard eyes and fossil casts. On a video screen plays a description of the fossilization process. Alexander stares in disbelief, throwing up his hands in frustration, and yelling that they got it wrong. AiG is not showing how the process really works.
We have had enough and decide to continue on, thinking that there is more to see. We exit out of the snack area, and then we see it. The dinosaur with the saddle!!!!!! Oh boy, oh boy. Alexander puts his little birdie on the saddle and people take pictures. Several of us decide that, "We MUST see PZ on the dinosaur!" So we wait. Many Christian groups pass by us, and several people from those admonish some of the more expressive secular attendees. We continue waiting the arrival of PZ. And then he arrives, and expresses pleasant surprise on seeing the baby Triceratops!! After very little coaxing, he climbs aboard. Sporting a squid and a black hat, and accompanied by Alexander's birdie sitting on the nose, he rides the dinosaur like a bronco!
As PZ climbs down and Sarah from OSU climbs up, Alexander and I go up the nearby stairs, thinking we are going to the next portion of the exhibit. We pause long enough to take a few photos and block the rapidly responding security goons. It now is evident that the tour is over because we are now entering the book store.
I slowly peruse the titles, where everything from the Young Earth Creationist nonsense to the Old Earth Creationist nonsense is sold. They even have "Expelled" for sale. Many misrepresentations of Darwin are shown, as well as dinosaur related stuff. Alexander spots PZ, and asks to have a picture of his birdie taken with PZ. PZ brings out his Panda and poses for Alexander. At this time, we strike up a conversation with Derek Rodgers, who was forced to turn his shirt inside out before entering the "Museum". He mentions that he feels bad having paid for some food here and doesn't want to buy anything else and give these goons more money. I asked Alexander if he wanted to buy anything? Alexander says LOUDLY that he doesn't want to waste any money in such a silly place. At this point. Mark Looy of the "Museum" comes and asks Derek to keep it down. Mark leaves, and Derek explains what happened to him when he entered the Creatorium.
We then decide to leave and Alexander asks about food. I suggest grabbing a bite at Noah's Cafe, and Alexander again repeats that he won't eat food from such a silly place. So on we go, heading out the door. We again spot Derek, standing in front of a green screen, being interrogated by Mark Looy, and surrounded by security. I of course, decide to use my camera. A guy who was filming a documentary about atheists films the confrontation. Security asks him to stop, and he continues to film. I also have my camera up and security comes at me. I quickly snap a few shots and set my camera down as security comes up behind us and asks the video guy to leave!
We then head out the door, re-exposing ourselves to the light of day and out of the darkness contained within the walls of the Temple of Ignorance.

For the images I took during out visit, please visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/evodevo_mike/sets/72157621854290897/

9 comments:

  1. Disneyland for the Dumb.

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  2. At last I know what the little thing is perched on the triceratops' nose!

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  3. You wrote: "The security guards were given police powers by the State of Kentucky" but this is not technically correct. They asked for them, several times, and were eventually denied these powers. They didn't want to pay for their guards to have the training, they just wanted arrest powers. It should also be noted that Derek wore his shirt into the museum normally and wasn't asked to switch it until he reached the room with the tricerotops with a saddle. At that point a portly gaurd brisquely demanded that he go to the restroom and turn his shirt inside out (I was there, watching this, downloading pictures from my camera to my netbook). Derek resisted a bit, futilely attempting some logic, and then complied with the direction only to be asked to leave again later due to his "continual disruption", a baseless charge of course.

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  4. Thanks for the corrections, Blenster!

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  5. Based on your pictures, the skeleton at the beginning of the tour is a mastadon. The teeth have prominent cusps.

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  6. Wow, sounds like you really hate people who believe in God. You hope for a "world without gods"? Well, vanquishing religion has been tried before. Stalin killed around 40 million in his quest for an atheist utopia, and Mao around 70 million, but they and other atheist champions produced hell on earth, not heaven.

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  7. No, Andrew, I do not hate people who believe in gods. And I do not "hope" for a world without gods. There are no gods, and I hate the meme or idea of gods. I long for a world of rationality; not a world that replaces religion based on ancient gods with a religion based on the state. Yes, Stalin and Mao were atheist with respect to your god, but they were not irreligious. They recreated a religious form of old, where the only gods that should matter were the leaders of the state. That is not atheism. That is state worship.

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  8. The following is printed on the ticket to the Creatorium.

    "Notice:
    Any loud disrespectful, destructive, obscene or abusive behavior or inappropriate dress will not be tolerated & will result in your removal from premises w/o refund."

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  9. What is it with Pharyngulistas and having nice and intelligent children?

    Ah well - I guess it's good to hear that there is hope for the next generation.

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