I finally went to The Creation Museum today. I had to go if for no other reason than I have a policy against forming an official opinion on anything until I’ve experienced it for myself (with some exceptions… like murder)
I have to say, I was a tad disappointed. Having seen it for myself, I completely understand why critics perceive it to be an attempt at brainwashing. From the moment you walk in the door the entire tone of everything you see is couched as a choice of whether to accept or reject God’s word. The first thing you see when you walk into in the main exhibit is a contrast between what God’s Word says against what “Human Reason” says. It presents the two as diametrically opposed and then takes you through a series of exhibits showing the history of man’s rejection of God’s Word and the disastrous effects that has caused. It was clear that the entire point of the museum was: You have to choose whether to believe God’s Word or Man’s Reason. Choose to believe God’s Word, because when you reject God’s Word, bad things happen. It was entirely a Faith vs. Reason mindset.
While I do not disagree with their conclusions on any particular point, I do not agree with their philosophical approach nor would I have set the museum up in this way. Perhaps this is because I was expecting a science or natural history museum, and it was clear that this is neither. It’s a religious museum. As such, it is extremely well done. It very clearly lays out the Biblical worldview and includes some science.
The entire thing is oriented around their 7 C’s which is simply their way of walking through the Biblical account of Redemptive History. All good Biblical expositions have to alliterate, don’t they? Their 7 C’s were: Creation, Corruption (the fall), Catastrophe (the flood), Confusion (Babel), Christ, Cross and Consummation (End Times). They had very well done and beautiful displays of the Garden of Eden, of the Serpent, of the post fall world, Cain and Able, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel.
They had an exhibit on the issue of the reliability of Scripture. They had a whole series of displays related to the flood including some examples of what Noah’s craftsmanship might have looked like, or ways they might have dealt with some of the problems that would have arisen (like having to water so many animals). They had a nice little computer simulation of one possible scenario for the geological phenomena that could have been involved in the flood.
That all was very interesting.
However, what I found disturbingly lacking was the science. They made reference a few times to holes in evolutionary theory and inserted a few things here and there, but they never extrapolated on any of them. Their planetarium exhibit was the one exception. It brought up two great arguments for a young universe: blue stars and non-diffused spiral galaxies. However, their main exhibit had hardly any of this. Oh and they had an “FX” presentation that did include some scientific evidence (like helium trapped in rocks and soft tissue found in T-Rex bones), but that was pretty much the extent of it. As I said, I was sorely disappointed.
I don’t think there’s always value in being reactionary in the way we approach the world. Christians should be true to the Scriptures, committed to their church community, involved in discipleship and let their love for God and their neighbors be their witness. Winning the creation versus evolution debate is not the prescribed strategy for building the church and winning the lost. However, at the same time, there is a large and growing perception that Christians are a bunch of closed minded bigots who refuse to think or open their eyes and hold tenaciously to an obviously farcical fairy tale. This museum has perhaps a golden opportunity to discuss at length and in a very scientifically credible way why there are problems with evolution and why believing in the Bible does not contradict any proven science. However, they did not take this approach.
I would have set the museum up centering it around the scientific research that is being done that raises questions about evolutionary theory. Walk through the places where evolutionary theory has to make assumptions to reach the conclusions they are claiming are proven. Raise the tough questions. Show things like the soft tissue from the T-Rex or blue stars. Then at the end offer the explanation from the Biblical World view. By that point anyone who is a skeptic and is trying to keep an open mind will be force to agree that there’s at least value in thinking on this further. However, when you simply ask them to check their reason at the door, you’re not inviting them to participate at all. It’s all or nothing then.
They could have made an entire museum out of the findings at Mount St. Helen’s, but it got a very tiny portion of the exhibit. They could have had a deep and in depth discussion of natural selection (speciation) verses Macro-evolution (“molecules to man”.) They made mention of God creating creatures “after their kinds” and used this and natural selection as an answer to “how did Noah get all the animals on the ark?”, but the only further study they had on that was tucked into a back corner off the main route of the exhibit. Unfortunately, that is a huge and ground breaking scientific discussion that could have been at the forefront and a cornerstone of their presentation. In natural selection, you always lose genetic information. In order for emergence to happen you have to gain genetic information. This has never been observed and cannot be reproduced in a lab. To claim that such a thing has ever or could ever happen is therefore not scientific. Unfortunately, it got very little press. They could have shown models discussing the distant starlight problem and brought out the issues of spiral galaxies and blue stars, but no.
Some Real Problems
I’ve already mentioned that the first part of the exhibit was their faith versus reason bit. This was expected, but the level they to which they based their entire presentation on it was frustrating. They made reason diametrically opposed to faith which first of all voluntarily gives away all credibility. “If you are a thinking person, you disagree with us. If you want to agree with us, turn off your brain.” I can hope that this was not their intended message, but I attempted to assume the position of a skeptic in my evaluation of the museum and had I been an actual skeptic, this would have turned me off right away. The next bit that would have turned me off is that they showed a timeline of the history of how biblical authority has been challenged since the reformation. On this timeline, they had Galileo as one of the “bad guys”. To someone who knows anything about church and scientific history, this is a complete falsehood. An atheist or agnostic who was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt would walk out of the building upon seeing that. It really forced me to take their credibility down a few notches.
For the uninitiated, Galileo did have a scientific dispute with the Church. But the issue was not about Biblical authority, it was about the authority of the Pope, who dogmatically claimed that the sun goes around the Earth (which is not claimed anywhere in Scripture). Galileo simply had evidence from his new telescope, and the Pope, being a man full of pride, didn’t like it. To say that Galileo was trying to reject God’s word is utterly incomprehensible.
They had an exhibit on the Scopes Monkey trial, which was not surprising, but in this, they condemned the movie “Inherit the Wind” as being intentionally targeted toward making Christians look like ignorant bigots. What’s funny is that this wasn’t entirely unfair to William Jennings Bryant who was in fact a bit of an ignorant bigot. He supported prohibition after all. But this movie was not intended to make Christians look like ignorant bigots. It was intended to give a bit of a landmark to an historic event and to explore such ideas as due process of law, freedom of thought, whether one can safely betray conscience, and whether one’s religious beliefs justify political and legal crusades. It is an excellent movie to watch in light of the religious right’s attempts to legislate morality in terms of homosexuality. As a libertarian, I love Inherit the Wind. I was astonished that the museum oversimplified the movie in this way.
Assessment: Religion: A+; Science: D
All in all, I was not surprised. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I’m familiar enough with AiG and Ken Ham to know that this is par for their course, but I was hoping for better. I really wish that it had been such a good science and natural history museum that just had Biblical interpretations of the unanswered questions but had science that was so good that any scientist that walked through there would have to come away saying, “Well, I disagree with this or that or the other interpretation or whatever, but the science in there is really phenomenal.” I think that would have brought to light the fact that Christians are not just a bunch of closed minded idiots who believe a fairy tale and that there are some legitimate questions of the theory of Evolution. But the science at this museum was very minimal
What’s Wrong with Faith vs. Reason?
Here are several reasons why I think Answers in Genesis’ faith vs. reason mindset, and their setup of the museum are so dangerous:
1. It Reinforces the Stereotype.
Christians carry the stereotype of “check your brain at the door,” with them. Premising their entire presentation by placing God’s Word in opposition to Reason does nothing but reinforce this stereotype.
This is more of a cautionary tale to parents and educators who want to use this museum as a tool to teach their children (of whom I am one, by the way, but perhaps not for entirely the same reasons). Bringing students here and telling them this is a scientific museum and telling them that anyone who rejects God’s word is just flat out diametrically wrong and not teaching them to think through the issues critically will only create a generation of students who are less prepared to participate in any meaningful apologetics. It would be better for them to be taught how to think critically about what is and what isn’t actually scientific about evolution and creation and to help them be able to understand that origins of any kind are not scientific, but are rather religious and philosophical in nature. Which is no to say they are not reason issues, but that they are not scientific.
3. It’s Bad Stewardship.
We were given minds. We were commanded to love God with our minds. To say faith and reason are opposed is to cut off a portion of what makes us human and made in God’s image. This is to violate the very nature of who we are. It would be no more safe to stop thinking than to stop breathing.
4. It’s Completely Unnecessary.
At the heart of faith vs. reason is a rejection of the notion that all truth is God’s truth. At the heart of it is a fear that if enough science is done, the Bible will somehow be disproved, so we need to prepare ourselves to believe the Bible no matter what. However, I have no such fear. Science is a great tool for exploring God’s creation, and I have no problem with scientists using evolutionary theory to do it, so long as they are doing good science. This is simply because I don’t have a misunderstanding of what science is. Science is not some philosophy or religion. Oh, sure there are philosophies and religions that use Science as their sacred text (Secular Humanism), but science in and of itself is simply the observation of the natural order of things and the process by which you try to understand what happens and why. I have complete faith that no scientific discovery will ever disprove what is true about God, no matter how much it challenges my current understanding of his Word. I don’t hold myself up to be infallible. Rather than pulling away from science and dismissing all evolutionary theory as a rejection of God’s word, AiG should be involved in doing good science on their own and providing a peer review to other scientists which helps keep them honest to not blur the lines between what is really science and what is philosophy, speculation and assumption. They would be a valuable voice independent of the group think of evolutionists and a bit of salt and light in this dark field. Christians need to reclaim the sciences. Unfortunately, AiG seems to have pulled themselves away from the sciences.
I would actually recommend a visit to the Creation Museum to anyone. I would, however, try to prepare you for what you’re going to see. If you do not believe in Creation and find you don’t fully understand the position, this would be a great way to find out what the Biblical Worldview is. If you are a Christian parent or teacher and you want your students to be familiar with the Biblical account, pick up a Bible. After you’ve read through that, bring them here.
No matter who you are and why you come, try to keep and open, but inquisitive and questioning mind. Don’t just accept anything at face value, question everything and use those God given minds, but do recognize that your human reason is subject to the fall (psst… so is our ability to interpret Scripture…).