Rally for Reason vs Creationism Nonsense
MAINSTREAM AMERICAN CULTURE, REPLACED SCIENCE?
It was once only a fantastic belief preached in fundamentalist and
evangelical churches, tent-revival meetings, and the most hard-shell
Baptist seminaries and other religious schools.
Now, though, creationism -- the belief that human and other life on
our planet, along with everything we know to constitute the observable
universe, was recently created by a supernatural deity, and the
literal account revealed in passages from the Old Testament -- is
rapidly going mainstream. The teaching of creationism and similar
accounts like "Intelligent Design" in public schools has become a
culture war skirmish playing out across the country. Authors and
lecturers regularly debate the topic in the media and even college
campuses as they attempt to "challenge" and refute Darwinian
evolution. Personal opinions about evolution and creationism were
even solicited during last week's nationally televised debate among
the major Republican contenders seeking their party's nomination for
And what may be a high water mark in the public relations campaign to
showcase creationist doctrine is slated to occur on Memorial Day,
Monday May 28, 2007 when the group "Answers in Genesis" opens its $27
million, 60,000-square-foot Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.
Supporters pray that the museum will present an "alternative" to
scientific evolution. The core audience is expected to be the
millions of Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists who look to the
Bible as a literal, true and reliable source. Other visitors, though,
may agree with much of the message being promoted by "Answers in
Genesis" and its president, Ken Ham. A Gallup Poll released in March
showed that 47% of Americans believe a supernatural deity created
humans similar to their present form within the last 10,000 years.
This belief contradicts findings in geology, biology, astronomy and
other sciences that indicate life and the present condition of our
universe to be the result of long evolutionary processes taking place
over "deep time," millions and even billions of years.
The museum is strategically located. Ham boasts that the facility is
within one day's drive of 60% of the U.S. population, and expects to
draw over 250,000 visitors in the first year. AIG has spared little
expense in putting together what is described as a first-class
exposition. A second construction phase is now underway, adding
another 10,000 square feet of space. Crosswalk.com reporter Michael
Ireland described the project as "a one-of-a-kind, high-tech museum
filled with animatronic displays (e.g., moving dinosaurs), striking
videos, a state-of-the-art planetarium, Special Effects Theater, etc.
that is spread over 60,000 square feet incorporating up to 40-foot
ceilings to contain some of its massive exhibits."
"The museum will go beyond telling the compelling story of the
creation of life on this planet," Ireland added, "to proclaiming the
Bible as supreme authority in all matters in addresses."
The expansive undertaking was possible thanks primarily to AIG's 8,500
charter members and tens of thousands of other donors. There has been
considerable media coverage of the museum project on the major
television networks, PBS and print media including The Washington
post, The New York Times and Discover Magazine. International media
from Australia, Europe and elsewhere have also covered the story.
"Answers in Genesis" -- Crankery to Mainstream
"Answers in Genesis" has evolved from humble beginnings into one of
the nation's leading crusaders on behalf of Biblical literalism and
supremacy. Its roots go back to the Creation Science Association
which, in 1980, became the Creation Science Foundation. Ken Ham, born
in Australia in 1951, moved to the U.S. in 1987 after earning a
bachelor's degree in science. In 1993, he was granted an honorary
doctorate of literature from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.
During this period he worked at the Institute for Creation Research,
and in 1994 established the "Answers in Genesis" Christian ministry.
Ham and his organization expound a religious doctrine known as "young
Earth creationism." This belief rejects Darwin's Theory of Evolution,
along with most mainstream scientific findings about the origins of
life and the rest of the universe. Instead, believers point to select
passages in the book of Genesis, taking as literal truth stories that
Jehovah created everything in six days, along with the tale of Noah
and his ark. In lectures and debates, Mr. Ham and other advocates of
creationism often attempt to discredit evolution by asking, "Were you
there?" They also claim to find evidence of flaws or shortcomings in
evolutionary evidence, or take the position that "fairness" and free
speech require creationism be given equal time in public school
Not all Christians, of course, accept Biblical literalism or oppose
the science behind evolution. There are also advocates of so-called
"Intelligent Design" who reject the proposition that the universe is
the result of recent divine creation, but instead claim that physical
laws and other scientific findings are evidence of deity who played a
role of "first mover" in bringing life and the universe into existence
at some point in the distant past. Like the "young Earth"
creationists at AIG, supporters of "ID" claim to challenge mainstream,
evolution-based scientific findings, and promote themselves as a
legitimate "alternative," especially in public school classrooms.
Just as they promote a Biblical-supremacist theology, Mr. Ham and
other creationists condemn evolution as a pernicious force in human
history. Wikipedia notes, "Ham believes the Theory of Evolution
indirectly caused or heavily contributed to the rise of humanism,
racism, eugenics, euthanasia, pornography, homosexuality, family
breakup, abortion, and more by increasing the influence of atheism."
Like others on the religious right, Ham also links the teaching of
evolution with increased secularization and social changes. Reacting
to the recent shootings at Virginia Tech, Ham posted an opinion piece
on the "Answers in Genesis" web site declaring, "We live in an era
when public high schools and colleges have all banned God from science
classes," presumably resulting in "a culture (that) allows the killing
of the unborn" and the perception that human life is "cheap."
GENESIS AND RAQUEL AND BARNEY, OH MY!
As creationism has become a major cultural project for many
evangelical Christians wary of secular science, the academic community
has managed to respond with books, articles, web sites and
conferences. The fact that anti-evolution activists have taken over
local and, in some cases like Kansas, even state school boards and
education departments has also generated concerns about the status of
science education in America. Meanwhile, creationists and Intelligent
Design proponents have become more sophisticated in getting their
message out to the public.
Despite a more polished and sophisticated message, many of the claims
of "young Earth creationists" remain difficult to defend. That will
not stop the Creationism Museum from presenting every detail of the
literal Genesis story as truth -- such as the claim that dinosaurs
co-existed with our early human ancestors. Dioramas and 3-D exhibits
at the museum will reportedly depict dinosaurs and humans living in
the same environment. It may not be as titillating as the 1966 film
hit "One Million Years B.C." starring a buxom Raquel Welch and other
humans who battle their monstrous reptilian neighbors. Fossil and
other evidence points to a different sort of time-line, where
dinosaurs became extinct about 60 million years before human beings
made their appearance. Film producers and executives at Hammer
Studios made no claim to scientific accuracy, though, and instead
indulged in fantasy, violence and, of course, titillation in the form
of a sexually-charged heroine.
The AIG may also have to deal with charges that it is simply blending
ancient Bible-based allegory with American pop-culture, especially the
Hanna-Barbera Production animated sitcom, "The Flintstones." The show
ran from 1960-1966 on the ABC television network, and portrayed the
travails and triumphs of a stone-age, working class family living in
the imaginary town of Bedrock. "Friendly" cartoon-style dinosaurs
were part of the natural environment, and the show skillfully
amalgamated a semblance of contemporary technology built from
stone-age implements often powered by animals.
While pop-culture entertainment like "The Flintstones" or movies
featuring ancient monsters and distressed fashion models make no
pretense to scientific or historic accuracy, creationists are serious
in citing the Bible as a literal, accurate answer to complex questions
about human origins. As Biblical supremacists, they embrace the works
found in the Old and New Testaments as revealed truth from God. AIG
and other creationist groups, for example, not only reject evolution
as an explanation of how life appeared on Earth, they also expand
their theology to reject much of contemporary cosmology. Their "young
universe" -- only 6,000 or so years old -- still betrays compelling
evidence that it is much larger and far more ancient. Creationists
have invented interesting but nevertheless flawed arguments to explain
this discrepancy, including claims that God created light "en-route,"
or that the speed of light was considerably greater in the
Collision in the Classrooms
Creationists not only argue the validity of the Biblical account in
Genesis, but also insist that their views are at least as "valid" as
contemporary science, and thus worthy of "equal time" in school
science classes. They also oppose efforts to censor teachers who want
to introduce creationist ideas, especially as "an alternative" to most
science texts now used.
Because of its stance on behalf of "Biblical Supremacy," AIG also
opposes any pro-life position in respect to abortion rights, and
challenges homosexuality as a violation of Christian teaching. It
also maintains that Darwinism and evolutionary teachings have been the
basis of destructive racial theories and eugenics. They cite the
Holocaust and the rampages of Stalinism as examples. According to
Wikipedia, "In dealing with Christendom's own violent history, AIG
asserts that anyone using the Bible to justify atrocities (such as the
Crusades, the colonization of the New World, pogroms, the burning of
'witches,' the Wars of Religion etc.) are 'completely contrary to the
teachings of Christ.' "
Critics, though, see creationist undertakings like the Answers in
Genesis Creation Museum as destructive; they worry that young children
may be influenced by such ideas at the expense of scientific literacy.
Several hundred people are expected to join a "Rally for Reason"
outside the gates of the AIG museum on Memorial Day, May 28 during the
facility's grand opening. "Many educated people realize that
creationism is a myth," said Edwin Kagin, Kentucky State Director for
American Atheists and an organizer of the Rally For Reason in an
interview with Associated Press. "Myths aren't necessarily untrue,
but they aren't literal, either."
For further information:
"Federal judge bars 'Intelligent Design' from classrooms (12/20/05)
(Numerous articles on creationism, evolution)
(Nearly half of Americans accept creationist accounts over scientific