Your First Time at the Creation Museum June 5, 2009

Your First Time at the Creation Museum

This will never get old: Rational people visiting the Creation Museum for the first time and just being appalled by what they see…:

… the Museum makes no attempt to explain what evolution is. It does not merely underrepresent science — presumably all museums have to simplify matters for the general public — but instead deliberately sows confusion. Hence the Museum speaks of the “evolution” of animals, planets, the universe and coal, as if they’re all the same thing. When scientists speak about “evolution” in the creation versus evolution “debate,” they’re talking about random genetic mutation and then natural selection among living things; obviously this doesn’t apply to planets or coal. To my knowledge, neither random mutation nor natural selection was mentioned at all. A visitor at the Creation Museum will become accustomed to that kind of experience: the Museum takes something “scientific” (rival interpretations of data), pretends to do it better than conventional science, and ends up presenting a thinly veiled perversion.

The article by Tom Stern comes from The POINT Magazine, a new Chicago-based print journal. Michael Miner, a Chicago-based journalist, wrote about the magazine earlier this week.

It’s easy to forget your first time hearing fundamentalist Christian beliefs or seeing them in action — you see them so often these days, you get used to it. It becomes easier to dismiss and ignore. But we can’t forget how many people think this way. They need to be confronted. We can’t stop pointing out how ridiculous their beliefs are.

Do you remember your first exposure to religious fundamentalism? What was it? How did you react?

(Thanks to Jonny for the link!)


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  • Amber

    Do you remember your first exposure to religious fundamentalism? What was it? How did you react?

    Can’t say it was my first as I grew up in a fundy family… but this always makes me laugh and seems to be something that always stuck out in my mind.

    Cousin: You don’t really believe that we came from monkeys, do you? That’s so stupid.
    My reply: Blank look, then shock.

    (Side Note: I didn’t want to say anything as at the time I was working with her father. Needless to say, the entire company was christian aside from myself, and I found I was constantly made fun of. It was very satisfying to quit.)

  • chinaman

    not my first encounter nor very fundy, but it’s quite memorable. a preacher wrote this in a debate against some atheists including me.

    I’ve investigated other religions very extensively – the vast majority are, I’m sorry to say, blind faith or irrational wish-thinking.

    it’s now quoted in my favourite quotes section on facebook.

  • Mark

    Can you be skeptical about the basic random chance requirement of current evolution thinking and yet not be a creationist? Why do I have to pick one or the other?

  • Julia

    I consider my first exposure to religious fundamentalism to be a conversation I had in university with my then boyfriend. He professed a belief in a 6000 year old earth. My reaction? Shocked, horrified, angry and flabbergast! Honestly, I started yelling about geology and rationality in the middle of street and with every YEC “answer” I heard I got more and more upset (and loud!). To find it in Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia (UBC), coming out of the mouth of my intelligent, blue-haired, tongue-ringed, fellow engineering student boyfriend (that I had met at a night club) completely threw me for a loop. I thought “those people” were only in backwards areas of the US or in tiny hudderite or mennoite enclaves in Canada.
    I was so totally shocked by the situation that I didn’t even think to be polite. I found out that apparently no one had ever challenged these ridiculous beliefs of his before as he had gone to a religious highschool, was very involved with his church, and then lived in the religious dorm at UBC. He managed to hold his religious beliefs completely separate in his mind from reality.
    In the end, rationality prevailed, religious dogma was banished and we’re living happily ever after, pushy religious inlaws, aside. 🙂

  • Elsin Ann Perry

    My first encounter with them was at a United Methodist church in Martinsburg, WV.

    I’d gone to the adult Sunday school class, and the class—well-attended—spent the entire hour gloating about who was going to hell to burn foreverandever. “All the Chinese! They’ll all be down there!” Of course, the members of the class were all going to heaven. They seemed to actually relish the idea of looking “down” at the tormented souls being tortured in hell.

    I was dumbfounded and never went back. And my husband was the minister.

  • zoo

    presumably all museums have to simplify matters for the general public

    Indeed. How much depends on your public and your subject [for instance it seems most zoo visitors only care if the animal is real, how old it is and how long it can live, if [yes, IF] it poops and occasionally how]. And how well you can personally explain evolution without actually using the word. It’s rather amazing. You can tell people all the usual things about adaptation and speciation and such, sometimes even what’s related to what and talk about millions of years, and as long as you don’t use the dreaded ‘e-word’ [we’re told to avoid it, presumably to keep the peace and avoid ranting emails and phone calls] they take it all in willingly.

    Do you remember your first exposure to religious fundamentalism? What was it? How did you react?

    Can’t say I remember a first since I was raised in it from conception essentially. I do get tired of the silly arguments against things [evolution, gays, etc.] that come out of complete ignorance and from listening to people who are not qualified to comment. I don’t react because it’s usually someone I really don’t need to rock that boat with. I just go quiet and think ‘evolution doesn’t work that way’ or ‘no it fucking isn’t/doesn’t’. Or smile/grimace and nod at zoo guests who comment about God making things a certain way [most often not worth engaging; best to move on to someone who might actually be open to real info].

    I thought “those people” were only in backwards areas of the US

    Other than it means I would have grown up there, I wish that were true. They do tend to concentrate in certain areas, but they’re still -everywhere-.

  • Richard Wade

    Mark, you asked a good question:

    Can you be skeptical about the basic random chance requirement of current evolution thinking and yet not be a creationist? Why do I have to pick one or the other?

    If I understand it correctly, the concept of randomness in the context of genetic mutations is the “default” position if there are no apparent causes for the mutations that are consciously chosen by some kind of entity or mind. So, if you were to believe that evolution is driven by natural selection of genetic mutations, but that those genetic mutations are not caused exclusively by non-conscious, mindless events such as biochemical bonds and breakdowns, by bombardment of cosmic rays and other natural influences, but instead are caused by a consciousness that can pick and choose those mutations, then you would not be strictly a “creationist,” but more likely would be categorized as an “intelligent design” proponent, a sort of “evolution guided by God” kind of idea.

    The only problem with that is that you would have strayed away from the discipline of strict scientific thinking. For an idea to belong in science, it has to be guided by empirical evidence. There is plenty of evidence for the non-conscious causes of mutations, but there is no evidence for any conscious cause. It may be an idea that is comforting to those who want there to be a driver at the wheel of the universe, but without empirical evidence, that is where ID stops being science and becomes religion.

    So no, you don’t have to pick one or the other; people mix all sorts of ideas into whatever helps them to make sense of the world, and to feel okay about it. It’s just that it would be an internally conflicting mix of an empirically based discipline of thought and a faith based allowance of whatever thoughts feel good.

  • medussa

    Wow, Richard,
    you took the words right out of my mouth, twisted them around, and made them sound a whole lot more intelligible (and civil) than if I had said them…

  • beckster

    Not my first encounter, but my most memorable . . . If you are a pro-choice woman engaging in verbal discussion about abortion with a pro-life evangelical fundie woman, the conversation will eventually lead to the fundy woman accusing you of being pro-choice because you have had an abortion and feel guilty about it. This has happened to me twice and the easy retort has always been “maybe you are so pro-life cause you feel bad about your abortion and are trying to make up for it.” Then the conversation ends with neither side being convinced and both people feeling bad about it.

    I laugh about this because the reason I have not ever had to make a decision about abortion is because I am pro-choice and liberal and know something about birth control. . .

  • dan

    on a boy scout camping trip in middle school i encountered a kid who believed the earth was only a couple thousand years old. i asked him about dinosaurs, and he had some nonsensical reply. even back then (when i still attended church and did my best to believe) i was appalled at this kid’s ignorance. that was definitely my first encounter, as i had no idea people like him existed before.

  • ZombieGirl

    In 7th grade, I revealed to my then-boyfriend that I was an atheist and he stared at me with his mouth wide open and shouted at me that I’m going to burn in hell.

    O_________O

    I was completely shocked and at first I thought he was joking. So I laughed and he told me it wasn’t funny and I shouldn’t be laughing.

    Happy ending to the story: I currently have a very rational, free-thinking boyfriend and my ex-bf has calmed down with the fundie-ness and is a supporter of marriage equality.

  • llewelly

    Julia,
    June 5th, 2009 at 8:17 pm :

    My reaction? Shocked, horrified, angry and flabbergast! Honestly, I started yelling about geology and rationality in the middle of street and with every YEC “answer” I heard I got more and more upset (and loud!).

    I was so totally shocked by the situation that I didn’t even think to be polite.

    In the end, rationality prevailed, religious dogma was banished and we’re living happily ever after, pushy religious inlaws, aside.

    But Julia, I read over and over and over and over and over again that it’s impossible to change anyone’s mind if you’re loud and impolite, and impossible to use reason to argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into by means of reason in the first place.

  • Heidi

    The first fundie experience I remember was when I was maybe 5 years old. My family was on the way to the zoo with my (Adventist) Aunt & Uncle, and their two kids. My dad gave one of my cousins a can of Coke. My Uncle told him that it had drugs in it (caffeine) and that it would make him sick. He upset the kid so much that he threw up when he got out of the car in the zoo parking lot.

    My reaction was pretty much a little kid’s version of WTF? I’d never seen anybody get sick from a can of Coke before, and I just couldn’t figure out for the life of me why he threw up. My parents explained later that it was their religion to not drink caffeine, (although it appears to have only applied to colas and coffees). At which point I decided I wasn’t too impressed with their religion if it made them sick.

  • Julia

    llewelly Says:
    June 6th, 2009 at 12:51 am

    But Julia, I read over and over and over and over and over again that it’s impossible to change anyone’s mind if you’re loud and impolite, and impossible to use reason to argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into by means of reason in the first place.

    I’m happy you posted and pointed this out, because that was partially why I posted to begin with. I’ve learned through this experience that just because people BELIEVE something stupid doesn’t mean they ARE stupid, perhaps they really just haven’t thought about it before. Also, I wouldn’t normally advocate being loud and impolite, but when it’s an honest reaction from someone you care about (or are seriously starting to care about) apparently it can be very effective. 🙂
    From my perspective I was definately attacking IDEAS. Although, knowing myself, I’m sure I had some choice words about him for believing said ideas… I do remember tearing a strip off his religious education for putting him ‘out there’ into the world with such pathetic explanations – essentially giving him no armour.
    So I guess being loud and impolite shouldn’t have worked… and I guess I should have written him off as soon as I found out he believed in a young earth because those irrational people cannot be reasoned with… AND I never should have met my husband in a nightclub to being with because those relationships never work out… So, apparently I’m either very lucky or very stubborn (I’d bet on stubborn – he’s damn cute and I really liked that tongue ring 😉 ) Either way, it’s been 8 very happy years!

  • Rachel

    Evolution based museums don’t make any attempts to explain creationism either.

    What did you expect 😛

  • Andrew

    I suppose that I should back up Julia here and post my own point of view on the situation.

    As much as I hate to admit it now, at the time I was partial to a YEC point of view. This was not so much due to my fundamental upbringing, but as a result of my peer group being limited to friends at my church and at the Christian highschool that I attended – and this limitation was of my own volition. Growing up I never paid much attention on how to reconcile the difference between the literal creation timeline and real scientific evidence. Only when I was in highschool and pursuing a more academic perspective did I begin to investigate how to join these things. One or two people in my peer group had very strong beliefs, and combined with some terrible books – “Evolution of a Creationist” by Dr. Jobe Martin, the *dentist* comes to mind – it was enough “evidence” for me.

    As Julia has posted more about the exchange between us at the time, I don’t think that much more needs to be posted about it. However, I would like to add a bit about my frame of mind at the time.

    I had left the town which contained my rather closed circle of friends. I was also beginning to question some aspects of my faith, such as how a number of things are to be interpreted by the church depending on the dominant culture at the time, but others are always to be taken literally. Most importantly, the person challenging me was a girl who I was quite taken with, and who seemed to like me despite my beliefs. Perhaps it was a perfect storm of circumstances that let Julia get through to me. But if there was a chance for me, then there is definitely a possibility to reach others.

    At this point I don’t entirely consider myself an athiest – I’m not entirely confident in my knowledge of the universe to be able to define myself as such. But as it stands, I think it has still been a rather radical transformation from my conservative Mennonite upbringing.

  • H

    Can we get science taught in church please? People need to hear both sides of the debate!

  • Vins

    @Richard Wade:
    I believe that you have misunderstood the basics of ‘strict scientific thinking’:
    empirical ‘evidence’ only serves to justify the use of a working model, or an assumption. Such an assumption can only be -falsified- by empirical evidence.
    You could counterargument that the existence of a conscious behind intelligent design could not be falsified. But then again, this counterargument could be used against you: random = not influenced by a falsifiable influence NOR by any other, unfalsifiable influence.
    Such concept of random is thus rendered obsolete by its own definition, following the stict logic of science. That is far worse then the fact that it would be hard to falsify the existence of a conscious responsible for intelligent design. It would therefore be more reasonable to assume that there is a GOD.
    It’s tempting to say that my disbelief in god stems not from science but from the fact that religious ideologies have been proven wrong time after time, but then again… this is also inherently valid for science.
    It gets worse when you realize that science is only a construction which helps us to accept certain assumptions. Then again, so is the bible. The existence of god is not a scientific statement. That is why religious and scientific thinking do not necessarily conflict inside the mind of one person. It’s only when people start to discuss and try to be right, that they start to mix everything up and forget what they are actually talking about. The entire reasoning in the above paragraphs is an example of such mix-up.

  • My first experience with a true fundie was when one of my high school Earth Science teachers was a closeted Creationist who tried to weasel little lessons about how the Bible was scientifically possible into the occasional lesson. Interestingly, I found that he did it in such a way that provoked thought more than it offended, and it never occurred to me then that he probably wasn’t supposed to be doing that. If anything, I consider that to be a sort of “training session” for dealing with more hardcore fundies.

    On another note….my first hands-on experience with a *real hardcore* fundie was at Mr. Frank Turek’s blog a year or two ago. And I Freaked. The. Hell. Out.

    Seriously, those people believe in some crazy shit. Stoning kids (there are literally two guys at that blog that defended it as a justifiable moral practice), owning slaves, etc. It’s completely insane. Can you say “culture shock?” I think that’s the best word to describe my initial reaction.

    Now it’s more like, “Meh.”

  • I was in kindergarten in Little Rock Arkansas in the mid 1960s. We kids were sitting in a circle on the floor and the teacher had us go in turn and tell everybody which church we went to. Every kid piped up proudly about their specific church. I sat in horror (wanting to fit in so badly) without knowing what to say because my family didn’t go to church. Perhaps I have blotted out what happened next because I really don’t remember the details. Oh, the “tyranny of the majority”. My mom remembers, not so fondly, that in every small town we lived in, the neighbors would always knock on our door and the first thing out of their mouth was “What church do you go to?” Thank goodness things have gotten better in the United States since then.

  • Jane

    One of my first times I was exposed to religious fundementalism was when I was a little girl maybe 11 or 12. I was talking with a friend who said that homosexuality was evil. This made NO sense in my little head and I asked if that meant Elton John (who I adored) was evil. She said yes. I just sat there thinking she was nuts, but I was also kinda sad because that meant she didn’t like Elton John.