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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Atheists Visit the Creation Museum

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Last Saturday I joined a small group of Ohio atheists who’d decided to visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky (just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) to see what we would see.  The museum is dedicated to presenting the traditional version of the Bible’s creation story in dioramas, videos, books, a petting zoo, and exhibits of all sorts.  Much money has gone into this endeavor and it is—frankly—quite impressive.  We had lunch before we went with Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists (who has himself visited the museum in the past), and he sent us off with the instruction “Prepare to believe!”  That’s the motto of the museum, and, indeed, I now own a refrigerator magnet bearing that legend.
Said Refrigerator Magnet
As one enters the museum there is a large sign warning visitors that this is a privately-run enterprise, and that the views expressed herein are to be respected and not subjected to scorn or criticism. Throughout the facility are stationed rather large intimidating-looking men in uniforms very similar to Kentucky State Troopers, with arms folded and stern expressions, clearly there to enforce reverential decorum among faithful and scoffers alike.
When I stepped up to purchase my ticket, the happy young woman staffing the cash register quoted me the price, including the senior discount, though she (with apparent seriousness) casually commented I obviously didn’t yet qualify for that.  Smiling, I allowed as how I did, at which point she looked at me curiously and asked, “Are you over 60?”  I was delighted!  I replied, “Yes, my dear, but I’ll pay full price if you card me!”  She took me at my word, and the entry fee was just under $24.00. 
Why, you might ask, would atheists want to visit a museum explaining creationism at all?  There were certainly a number of our fellow atheists who posed this question, disapproval in the voices.  The answer is that it’s useful to learn what the other side is saying so you can be prepared to refute it.  In this case there was a lot to refute.
The dioramas were fascinating.  They told various biblical stories: Adam and Eve existing happily with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden,  Noah building his ark and giving instructions in a heavy Jewish accent, St. Paul writing epistles (apparently he was right-handed), etc.  I’m told that a live-size replica of the ark will soon be built at a nearby Kentucky location.  In the loading of the ark diorama the animals included paired dinosaurs trudging up the entry ramp! There was even an explanation of how the animals were fed and watered (though the Bible says nothing about this—apparently the carnivores were fed dried meat).  I couldn’t resist having my picture taken in a number of these settings (click to enlarge).
 

Helping Noah Build the Ark


There are a number of exhibits explaining and refuting Darwin and his evolution “theory,” and the bookstores are filled with many tomes on this subject.  Interestingly, the exhibits acknowledge that the idea the earth is only around 6,500 is not validated by scientific fact, but then go on to demonstrate that this should be ignored!  One poster lists “Man’s Word” and then “God’s Word,” and then asks the viewer “Which do you believe?”  For the usual visitors to the Creation Museum the answer is clear.  If man’s facts differ from those God has given us, then God’s version triumphs and man’s facts, however compelling, must be ignored. 

That this leads to scientific illiteracy and contempt for the real world where decisions must be made on some group of facts is apparently of no concern.  Such a casual dismissal of science would be funny if there weren’t huge consequences.  Ronald Reagan appointed a Secretary of the Interior who allowed the looting of the public parks because he was a devout man who believed that Jesus was about to return and thus there was no need to protect the environment.  Arguments put forth by the creationists lead to a distrust and indeed a contempt for science, a dumbing down of our society, and make us look absurd in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Okay.  I’ve visited the Creation Museum, I know what they profess, and I avoided being eaten by overly large reptiles.  Now if a group of creationists want to attend a program put on by atheists, they’re welcome to do so.  To them I boldly say, “Prepare not to believe!”

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[Postscript:  On August 8, 2014, a news report stated that the Creation Museum will suspend its Ark project due to declining attendance and serious financial problems.  Apparently those who believe in creationism and are willing to fork over $30 a person to have those beliefs reinforced are a dwindling number.  See http://deadstate.org/kentuckys-creation-museum-in-financial-trouble-due-to-declining-attendance-video/]

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Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
"An Atheist's Christmas Card," December 23, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

11 comments:

  1. I have been surfing online more than 3 hours these days, yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will probably be a lot more useful than ever before.

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  2. for the purposes of full disclosure, I am a creationist and I too have visited the Creation Museum, and intend to go back again for a second visit in a few weeks. That said, thank you for you blog post. It is probably the best "non-Christian" assessment of the museum I have read. Because of our differing viewpoints I admit I respectfully disagree parts of your assessment, but that said due to differing perspectives your views are not without their merits intellectually speaking. For instance, if there is not a God (You said you are an atheist) Then why should you put any weight at all into a book that claims to be the Word of God. Without a God the Word of God is the the word of nothing, and any intellectual assessment would require it to be discarded as worthless in it's entirety. On the flip side, if there is A God, (and I believe there is) and if he is creative as his Word claims, wouldn't it stand to reason that his word would trump that of man His creation? Why would man, who is not all knowing (or science, the reason of man, which is limited) have the upper word over God who is all knowing and does not have limits? I think that is where I disagree with your assessment, but I didn't come here to start a debate or argue. I came to read your assessment of the museum and to thank you for your civil tone and well thought out blog post.

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  3. Douglas,
    First, I want to commend you on the "tone" of your article; it was respectful and rational...many times those who disagree with Creationists get loud, and irrational and that doesn't do much to forward the discussion.

    I would like to directly interact with a comment or two because I think that you might have missed a nuance of the Creationist position in a few places.

    You said:
    Quote:
    "Interestingly, the exhibits acknowledge that the idea the earth is only around 6,500 is not validated by scientific fact, but then go on to demonstrate that this should be ignored!..."
    End Quote.

    I guess the point that they should have made more clear is that any historical "evidence" about the age of the earth will be interpreted based on a person's presuppositions; i.e. their "base assumptions" about how things are. Any "evidence" that comes in through the senses is evaluated and critiqued based on these presuppositions. There are no brute facts.

    Therein lies the basis for the disagreement between Atheists and Creationists. They meant that since the "interpretation" of the evidence is what is in question and not the evidence itself, then should we believe men's changing interpretations or a God who was there and doesn't change?

    I hope that makes it more clear instead of muddying it up even more.


    Then you said:
    Quote:
    One poster lists “Man’s Word” and then “God’s Word,” and then asks the viewer “Which do you believe?” For the usual visitors to the Creation Museum the answer is clear. If man’s facts differ from those God has given us, then God’s version triumphs and man’s facts, however compelling, must be ignored.

    End quote.


    I'm pretty sure that I answered this above but to add this: all people do the same thing; they judge the "evidence" based on their worldview; we do it, you do it...everyone does it. That's just a fact of life, and so they aren't advocating ignorance, they are simply saying that their worldview (in which God is the creator of all things) know's what he's talking about...man is frequently wrong about a lot of things...scientific "facts" included.

    You then went on to say:
    Quote:
    That this leads to scientific illiteracy and contempt for the real world where decisions must be made on some group of facts is apparently of no concern. Such a casual dismissal of science would be funny if there weren’t huge consequences.

    End quote

    Actually it doesn't. I'm a Mechanical Engineer by trade and the fact that I disbelieve Darwin's theories doesn't hinder me a bit in my daily life.

    There are many many scientists who are Creationists and who do their work just fine without reference to Darwin's theories. Neither they, nor I have contempt for the real world or any "facts"...we merely see them differently, that's all.

    The list of bible believing scientists of the past reads like a who's who of science; Kepler, Kelvin, Pasteur, Maxwell, Stokes....and the list goes on.

    PS: When you equate your worldview with "facts" and our worldview with "belief" it illustrates that you are missing the point just slightly...we are all interpreting the evidence and a "fact" is the result of our conclusions based on our worldview.

    Again...I'm trying to make their message more clear and I hope that I've done that. I want to thank you again for your presentation.

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  4. I'm glad Mr Whaley, that you availed yourself of the Creation Museum and enjoyed the displays, videos, etc. Although it didn't make a believer of you, you were able to see what and why there are others among you that do believe in the Bible and all that entails. The Bible has never been disproven [not that it hasn't been scoffed at and disputed by many], although much of what man has purported as true has had to be revised over time to accomodate new discoveries and updated scientific information. If you are interested in real science and more information, visit www.icr.org as this is science at its finest. The Institute of Creation Research will update some of your reservations perhaps and might even make a believer of you.

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  5. I respect your 'politeness.' There are endless scientific facts that support Creation-- you are simply being information resistant. I understand if you saw these scientific facts clearly, it would undermine all that you (don't) believe in. I can imagine that would be difficult for you.

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  6. The fact is that no one knows the age of the universe nor of the earth, not even you, Douglas Whaley. Ken Ham is choosing to believe the word of God; you are choosing to believe the word of Nineteenth Century scoffers who preferred not to do so, and who invented a means of having a creation without a creator. Odd thing is, though, Mr. Whaley, that such scoffers were prophesied a couple thousand years ago, give or take a few years. II Peter 3:3-7 reads, "First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, 'Where is this promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, ALL THINGS CONTINUE AS THEY WERE SINCE THE BEGINNING OF CREATION.'"(3-4) [That's another way to state the doctrine of uniformitarianism, i.e. 'the present is the key to the past'] "They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished." (5-6)["Scientists" will look for any reason other than a catastrophic worldwide flood to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs, etc., despite the preponderance, worldwide, of fossils in sedimentary rock. Maybe that's because they know that if the Bible story of the flood is true, the theory of evolution is not because there's not enough time for everything to evolve since the flood.]"But by the same word, the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (7) (I could be wrong, of course, but I assume the destruction by fire will be caused by nuclear bombs.) Ken Ham says, "If there had been a flood, the purpose of which was to kill all living things, what one would expect to find is a whole lot of dead things buried in mud. That seems to be what the fossil record contains." Scoff if you wish, but I think you should pay close attention to verse 7 and repent.

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  7. To "Go Share Your Faith" - You provided an excellent reply to the blog article and showed light on the misconceptions of the author. Thanks.

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  8. Anonymous,
    No problem, I appreciated the column itself and thought that it deserved a bit of clarity.

    It's not often that people who disagree on things like this can actually have a conversation instead of a shouting match :)

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  9. BTW, I shared what I shared about II Peter 3:3-7 as "anonymous" not because I'm ashamed to have my name published, but because I'm not "tech savvy" enough to understand how to post otherwise. :-)

    Mary Jefferson

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  10. "To them I boldly say, “Prepare not to believe!”"

    Indeed. I am very prepared not to believe atheism. Thanks.

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  11. To the Creationist "Douglas":
    The age of the Earth is calculated using radiometric dating, it's mathematical and it's not from a "world view". This is not to be confused with carbon dating as I have seen many creationists do as a result of their apparent lack of scientific education. Secondly, most "hard scientists" are not creationists? How do I know this? I'm a geologist. And surely if you are an engineer you know the difference between hard and soft scientists. The age of the universe is calculated using, again, math. It's called Hubble's Law. I don't expect creationists to get it, as it takes a tad more than algebra to do. You claim to be an engineer, you are not a scientist. Your explanation is your opinion, not fact. Creationists are morons and if they don't like it, too bad.

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