A ‘Positive Protest’ at a Creation Museum September 19, 2011

A ‘Positive Protest’ at a Creation Museum

The San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics are planning a “Positive Protest” of the local Creation and Earth “History” “Museum” on Saturday, September 24th.

Organizer John V. explains what that entails:

I’ve tried the angry-atheist thing before and, believe me, it doesn’t work… I think we should focus more on trying to improve the public image of science than on education and criticism of creationism (although education will certainly be a part of it).

Personally, I’ll be recommending my favorite books and documentaries and passing out flyers and booklets on our group, evolution, and science in general. I’m also considering bringing a few science toys/gadgets. Here’s what I’ll mainly be talking about:

1. Science has saved billions of lives through better crop yields and medicines. Science is also good for the economy.

2. Evolution is just as much a part of science as anything else.

3. Even many conservative Christian authorities believe in evolution and it really shouldn’t be offensive to think of yourself as being connected to all life on the planet.

4. Science is cool!

While it’s a nice idea in theory, I don’t think anyone who’s actually visiting the museum will listen either way. Positive Protest or not, the Fundies see those of us who live in reality as the enemies, because we’re trying to lure people away from God.

Still, it sounds like a great way to meet some local activists! So you’ll get something out of it either way 🙂

(via San Diego Reader)

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  • I’ve been attending a Bible Study with a group of Christian men, it’s amazing to me the cognitive dissonance that occurs… they’ve got multiple medical doctors and surgeons involved in the group, all that deny evolution and even make fun of it openly. Surely they know it’s true.

    While I agree that anger and blasting people personally isn’t gonna help anything at all, I’m still working on finding ways to break through the cognitive dissonance.

  • gski

    OP “… the Fundies see those of us who live in reality as the enemies …”.

    That’s true, and I wouldn’t waste any effort trying to convince the fundy.  Better to spend time showing the middle of the road religious how we do science and how it is used to learn about the universe.  Encouraging them to translate that to ‘ how god’s gift reveals his works’ may make it sound more acceptable.

  • “believe me, it doesn’t work” – can we have a roll call of the people who gave up religion in part because someone “angry” challenged them – “you don’t really believe that do you?”

    I’ll start – me. 

    I’ll grant the statement with an extra word “it doesn’t *always* work”

    Having to explain my beliefs to someone who was mildly incredulous that someone as smart as me could believe those things helped me realise I was cherry picking and compartmentalising.

    I didn’t wake up on the spot, but I did start examaining my faith and within a few months I realised I didn’t believe a word of it.

    Now contrast that to all the people who politely ignored my religiousity while I tried to pretend my church didn’t teach they’d be going to hell because that’d make me sad. There’s a strategy that didn’t work – for me at least.

  • I’m guessing they are less focused on the fundagelical parents and more on showing the many kids trooped into the building that there’s more to science than a conspiracy against god’s word”

  • ACN

    Me also.

    I watched Hitchens debate people. It planted a seed that in a few months broke down the partitions I’d built in my mind around protecting the religious beliefs from criticism. 

  • Anonymous

    I understand the feeling that people going to the creation museum are too hardened to react to an “No really, evolution is true and thats fine” friendly message but I think you need to remember the real targets of the creation museum.

    Creation museums target children.

    Yes you’ll get some church groups and possibly/probably some Christian university students, but the prime idea is for fundamentalist parents to bring their kids in order to indoctrinate them. Look at pictures of any creation museum and you’ll notice beautiful illustrations, voice narration and animatronic puppets. It’s a place meant to be attractive to children and thus to their fundamentalist parents who want to both give them a distraction and what they see as a good “Christian education”.

    So a friendly “Isn’t science awesome?!” message is actually the best idea. I would put cool looking science contraptions and live experiments pretty high on the list, and keep as friendly an attitude as possible. If families are passing through, the younger members of the family need to see that A-These people called “atheists” seem really nice and friendly and B-Science looks like fun, both messages they aren’t going to get anywhere else. You aren’t going to change the minds of hardened adults, but you may at least plant a seed in younger people that may help prevent them from shutting themselves off from science and people different from them.

  • Me too. While I now prefer to listen to the less agressive atheists (like Mehta, Dawkins and Myers), it was the angrier ones that first made me question religion.

  • gsw

    With specific regard to those still fixed on the biblical creationist theory (there are others), I find the greatest hurdle not to be ‘accepting science’ or ‘rejecting genesis’, but the actual lack of understanding of language. 
    Now that the churches have redefined proof to mean ‘found in a book’ and theory to mean ‘what I believe in’, it is very difficult to actually talk to a creationist.
    Of course your ‘proof’ is no good – you looking in the wrong book! (i.e.Darwinism: you got your proof from Dawin’s book). As to your ‘theories’, well we have theories too, and our ‘proof’ is older than yours. 

    We are talking different languages! We need to find new words not yet redefined and then nail them down fast. 

  • I really want to thank Gordon, Ingen and ACN for their comments about giving up religion because someone “angry” challenged them.  You give me some hope that there are people out there who are willing to listen to reason.  Also, I’ve seen discussion on some forums on whether the “angry” or the “friendly” approach is the best. Previously, I thought that the “angry” approach may actually have driven more people away.  From your comments, it seems I was mistaken.

  • Red

    How do we know that ‘angry atheism’ doesn’t work?  Where are the studies that indicate this?  We’re supposed to embrace science, right?  So how about citing some hard data before proclaiming your personal preferences as undisputed Truth.

    In my opinion, there is no singular ‘best way’ to go about disabusing the world of magical thinking and that any attempt to squash a particular method is foolish.  In fact, I think  an individual who cares about correcting fallacious thinking will have to employ many different strategies in her conversations with believers.  Sometimes it’s appropriate and useful to be friendly and positive.  Other times, like when you’re observing the open miseducation of children, you’re going to need to be more direct and less polite.

    As the great sage Dalton once mused, “be nice, until it’s time to not be nice”.

  • Andrew Kern

    I get the impression that most of you have held onto your fundamentalist tendencies, swinging from an extreme version of religion to an extreme version of irreligion. Atheism is not as obvious as you want to imagine, nor is the very validity of “proof” in the Enlightenment sense. You might be in the process of being left behind by the history and philosophy you have identified with. 

  • ACN

    This is a common argument from theists who want to falsely equate belief in their god fantasies, with non-belief in god fantasies as requiring “the same amount of faith”.
    It’s hogwash, of course, and the argument reeks of a particularly childish kind “oh yeah, you all aren’t so great!”

    Also, it’s not at all clear what you mean by “extreme” here.

  • Anonymous

    I get the impression that most of you have held onto your fundamentalist tendencies, swinging from an extreme version of religion to an extreme version of irreligion.

    I have never held religious beliefs, fundamentalist or otherwise. Atheists come from religious and nonreligious families. Sometimes atheists who are former fundamentalists are “stronger” in their stance because they feel on a personal level the damage religion can do and sometimes they are “softer” because they have closer contact with religious people in their family/friends and are better able to empathize with them. It really depends. Calling atheist “fundamentalist” is really just childish namecalling. What does a “fundamentalist” atheist do? Write books? Yes, that is totally equivalent to wanting to impose your religious views by law or even violence..(/sarcasm).

    Atheism is not as obvious as you want to imagine, nor is the very validity of “proof” in the Enlightenment sense

    “That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” Christopher Hitchens

  • Erik

    ” I don’t think anyone who’s actually visiting the museum will listen either way.”I really disagree Hemant. I still remember watching Kent Hovind with my dad when I was young. The fact is that for every zealot visiting this museum there are 1 or 2 moderates that play along with the zealotry in order to preserve a good relationship. For me the change was 1st year University Biology, for them it might be a pamphlet.

  • Anonymous

    I just visit the website for that “museum” and I feel sick to my stomach. 

  • SJH

    Your description of indoctrination by Christians sounds very similar to what you are trying to do from an atheist perspective. I would not define it as indoctrination but simply education. We all try to educate others in the ways which we view as positive. To do otherwise would be irresponsible. If an atheist actually believes that religion is harmful then it is his responsibility to follow his conscience and teach others how it is harmful. If a religious person believes that atheism is harmful it is his responsibility to teach us how. We are all just doing our best to make it through this life with as few scrapes as possible. Hopefully, through dialogue and reason we can figure this stuff out and we all can live a happier life.
    I try very hard to teach my children to think critically and I encourage them to question authority. I also encourage them to seek out truth from wherever it springs. Try not to judge and be open to other beliefs. If my beliefs are correct then I should not fear others and their beliefs. I encourage John V to share his position as long as he is being respectful, nonjudgmental and intellectually honest (and it sounds like he is). If he has truth to share then it will come to light and make itself apparent. Truth does not need a sales pitch it only needs honest listeners.

  • Pureone

    Accept. Accept. Accept Evolution. Not “believe in”.  Accept.

  • Anonymous

    Simply calling what I am suggesting indoctrination does not make it so. The essential thing that distinguishes indoctrination from education is that the former severely discourages dissent, critical thinking or review. Since you accuse me of wanting to indoctrinate children, which I consider a very serious charge, I would appreciate you showing me at what point I made any such suggestion.

    It is true that education does not mean we teach all options are equally valid, and that it’s tricky to educate properly and retain the ability for critical thinking. However even you must admit that some points of view are patently not valid. Holocaust denialism, belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth, or that disease is caused by evil spirits. It is not indoctrination to explain to children why these ideas are wrong, just as long as you give them the tools to figure it out themselves when they are old enough and teach them that there’s nothing wrong with re-examining a position if new evidence arises.

    So it is with evolutionary theory. Creation museums are peddling a view of the origin of biodiversity as false as the flat Earth, and there is nothing wrong with saying so. Even so, I wasn’t particularly suggesting that approach here. These museums are meant to turn children away from authentic science in favor of make-believe, and usually carry a scary message at the end about how terrible things happen when people “turn away from God”. I am merely suggesting a friendly alternative be presented, so children understand that science is pretty cool and nonbelievers aren’t the devils they are made out to be, with an aim at hopefully getting them to critically examine what htey are being taught at some point.

  • SJH

    Changing/manipulating language is dangerous. I do not think that is the way to go. That seems, to me, to be dishonest, coercive and disingenuous. The problem with many fundamentalists is there unwillingness to reason (however I have met many to whom reason is very important) some basing much of what they believe on emotions. Teach them to reason and the truth will become apparent.
    I would begin by engaging them and challenging their understanding of their own beliefs not as someone trying to convert them. Challenge them as someone who is honestly interested in dialogue and opposing views. (I stress the word honestly. This can’t be an underhanded attempt to convert.)  If you are confident that there is no God and religion is bad then it should not scare you to engage them and learn about their beliefs and experiences and possibly even participate in them. If you honestly care about others then you would be interested in their beliefs and may try to understand them. Perhaps you will discover some truths about our reality that you did not see before. If we are going to make any progress then we have to do it together, trying to understand each other.

  • Anonymous

    Which the make-believers will then co-opt.

    This isn’t a language issue, it is a divergence at the fundamental level of perception of reality. Those who trust that corroborated emperical evidence is the best indicator of what is true, knowable, and real will accept evolution. Those who start with an a priori assumption about the nature of reality based upon a story will only accept as facts those data which conform to that.

  • Anonymous

    Me too. This kind of statement gets *me* angry. It’s like he’s undercutting everyone for whom this strategy does work (both the angry people and the people who’ve changed their minds).

    It was the aggressive, angry approach that got me to challenge my own intellectual integrity. How could I consider myself an educated, intelligent person when I accepted things only because I felt like it would be cool if they were true? I say, no mercy for foolishness!

  • SJH

    Sorry for the miscommunication but I was trying to say that I believe that you nor the museum are trying to indoctrinate but are simply trying to educate. Now I do not know this museum but I am trying not to judge them. Perhaps if I visited it I would see that it is full of propaganda and discourages dissent but I will not make that assumption. I find that people are generally good people and simply trying to do their best to help. Some are more aggressive than others and hopefully they will change their tactics and we should certainly be actively calling them out.

    I have to admit that being on this blog I have come to the opinion that I have to spend as much time in discussion with Christians as I do with atheists. I can definitely see how atheists have come to their opinions of many Christians (though I do not condone the judgment).

    Also, see my reply to gsw…

  • Anonymous

    In some ways, fundamentalists are *easier* to disabuse of their religious beliefs. Liberal believers tend to be very compartmentalised and mushy about their views and when they give up one belief, there rises up another to take its place in the collection. (God created everything. Evolution happens? Ah well, God must be guiding it. God isn’t guiding it? Ah well, it must have been part of God’s plan.)

    Fundamentalists are invested in the whole. Not one thread can really be pulled out and leave the rest intact. Not one jot, not one iota makes sense in less it all makes sense together. That’s why they are so adamant about creation and the historicity of the bible and why they are often so legalistic with their scriptures. Convince them that evolution happened and they say, well then there can’t have been an Adam and Eve, and if that’s not true then we can’t trust the rest of the bible, so what else in there isn’t true?

    Not only that but fundamentalists (referring to the indoctrinated rather than the indoctrinators) are more likely to care about the truth. They just haven’t  got it. Milder believers are more likely to be tolerant and apathetic (What does it matter if people believe in evolution or not? Let’s just all agree to disagree and respect that everyone has different opinions).

  • Anonymous

    I was never a fundamentalist anything. I was raised in a secular household, free to explore religion. I had friends of different backgrounds, including Catholic, Anglican, Hindu, Muslim, Chinese Protestant, Taoist, and Ukrainian Catholic, and tried them all on for size. I studied history in university, focusing on the history of religion. Far from being fundamentalist, I was a syncretist, a fuzzy pantheist, that took whatever I thought was good and sought the “Truth” underlying all religion.

    And then, some “angry atheists” confronted me (well not me, but people like me as I looked on) and said: “You’re a scholar, a person who cares about what is real and what isn’t, right? You know the history. You know how every religion was built by humans (mostly men) from the ground up (mostly for political reasons). You know the science. It has no need for that hypothesis. Why are you pretending that magic is real when all the evidence says that it’s nonsense? If you feel like playing make-believe, that’s fine, but just look at the harm it’s doing. Look at the opportunity cost. This is not a hobby that society can really afford. It’s a time to fight ignorance, not a time to wallow in it!”

    “True, true, true,” says I. And then I became a passionate atheist too.

    And I’ve got a hint for you, Andrew. There’s no such thing as fundamentalist or extremist atheism, because there’s only a single, monolithic principle at question: you either believe that there are gods or you don’t. There aren’t scriptures to adhere more so or less so to, and once you’ve concluded that you don’t accept the god hypothesis, you can’t “not accept it” to a greater degree. A person might be more or less confident in that rejection, I guess, but that’s not the same thing. Confidence tends to grow as one is exposed to more and more evidence and as the power of religious indoctrination lessens over time (for those who suffer from that scourge). What you perceive is not that kind of difference. It is merely a difference among those who want to fight irrationality by direct and aggressive methods, those who want to fight it by gentle and gradual persuasion, and those who don’t care what others do or think because they don’t feel affected by it and have other things to concern them.

  • Michael Appleman

    “Believe in” is ok. “Have faith in” is not. Faith is belief without evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence.

  • Anonymous

    i can do both modes and i find them equally ineffective or effective. really, it seems to me to be mostly about catching a believer in the right mood at the right time. “angry” works well with people who are already on the verge of letting go of belief. you express the anger they already feel, and deny, for them and show them it’s ok to feel that anger (at the fact that mythology and superstition dominated their lives for so long). or, you don’t express anger, and just do the soft and gentle “do you really believe *this?* ok, if not, why do you believe the rest of it?” and just kindly guide them thru the logic tree. 

    there’s no one right way to be an atheist, or to argue for atheism with believers. 

    i do agree with a previous comment; this action is about atheists reaching out to children, who are being brought to this place for purposes of indoctrination. not all children will respond or remember what an atheist may have said outside the gates, but some will. i have long believed the easiest way to keep children from accepting the indoctrination is to take them to a real museum with real dinosaurs and similar objects. i really don’t think the Ark can compete with a T-Rex, in a child’s mind. one is so much more obviously ‘cool.’ 

  • ACN

    Exactly. Intelligent, educated people are just as good at drawing mental partitions to keep out the critical thinking as anyone else is. Coddling people prevents them from over “seeing the veil” that they’ve drawn for themselves.

  • ACN

    Exactly. Intelligent, educated people are just as good at drawing mental partitions to keep out the critical thinking as anyone else is. Coddling people prevents them from over “seeing the veil” that they’ve drawn for themselves.

  • I would point out  the use of microfossils in exploration for petroleum.
      A map of ring species makes a nice poster.
    Oh, what is the size of an apatosaurus relative to the size of the ark?

  • I specifically remember saying, as a christian, that christians should adopt a belief in reincarnation because it was “better” -more satisfying- than an afterlife.

    It was just what you are saying – I thought that *because* I felt like it would be cool. *And* that was while I believed in christianity!

  • Pureone

    No,  It’s not ok. Firstly it puts it into religious language, which allows anti-Evo people to call it simply a belief. that’s how they squirm around to get the notion that what people believe as “science” can be taught in school.

     Do you believe  in gravity? Nuclear reactions? I don’t- I accept them.And there are different kinds of faith. I have faith that my brakes will work every time, because I have evidence that they have before.

  • So what’s the “angry atheist thing”? He doesn’t go into detail about that.  He makes a vague, blanket accusation, and then operates against it. Well what IS it?

    Just having a public demonstration seems like an act of anger to a LOT of Atheists. So is this protest really an angry one? By that logic, yes.

    Or not? If there’s an “angry atheist thing,” what is it? A straw-man? 

  • ff42

    “Science has saved billions of lives through better crop yields and medicines. Science is also good for the economy.”I am curious about the semantics behind the first 5 words.  Couldn’t one also say that Science has killed millions of lives through better bullets, remote aircraft and bombs? 

  • gsw

    “Changing/manipulating language is dangerous.” of course, see Orwell, however, warning of the dangers after the fact doesn’t really help. 
    You cannot “engaging them and challenging their understanding” unless you first agree on a common terminology.

    If I argue that the moon rises in the west and has a surface temp. of 6000 degC, we will not obtain agreement until you understand that ‘moon’ is my word for the sun.  Ditto for “honestly interested in dialogue”. If you are interested in dialogue, you must first understand what the words mean to them, common usage and the dictionary often diverge. Then, while scientists insist on their own technology and usage, they have many words in common with creationists and some which merely sound the same.
    A present in English is poison in German!  

  • Anonymous

    The most annoying thing about the move this site made is the drive-by comments made by certain theists.

    I’m all for having conversations and dialogue with religious people, and for the opportunity that brings I’m glad for the move, but  the people who read something they think is clever in an apologetics book or on Answers in Genesis and decide to shout it some atheists really bug me. They don’t stick around to find out it’s old hat, long refuted, or even to try to argue it out. At least an argument might get somewhere.

    It’s cowardly, too. And childish.

  • you are getting onto shaky counterfactual ground there. Who knows how many people would die if warfare was still at the medieval meatgrinder level…

    I could say -completely out of the air, but with as much justification as you- that without scientific weapons we would all die at the hands of Viking style raiders with big axes.

    I can say with some justification that the chances of dying by be killed by another human have plummeted over the centuries from leading cause of death to a statistical blip.

  • SJH

    Very true. We must understand each other’s language. Perhaps that is a good first step. Listening is a powerful tool and, I think, the best one to understand language. Unfortunately I think people do not even have an adequate understanding of their own language (including me). This is obvious among Christian communities who will sometimes use the same vocabulary for different things. Unfortunately the Christian world is so fractured that we can’t even understand each other. I think that since atheists tend to try and root themselves in science and reason, there is a common understanding that communication standards are important as you expressed. However because some Christians (I stress some, usually the less orthodox) rely less on reason they are less inclined to do so. Perhaps we can change that.

  • Justin Miyundees

    I think the arrogance of the claims should be demonstrated.  Most creationists believe they are molded by the very hand of a god.  This is extraordinarily conceited in light of all the unfortunate infants stricken with birth defects.  This creator, one has to assume, has a pretty twisted sense of humor.  He could, by their accounts, usher any innocent through gestation to achieve the form of perfection of most of these creationists, but he doesn’t.  Either this creator who saw fit to equip you with health and fitness is a pretty evil mean spirited prick that you kowtow to groveling away in a pathetic display of gratitude and fear or the alternative or it’s just make believe.  What makes you so much better than the unfortunates of this world?  You just a better ass kisser?  No, you’re just lucky and lucky you live in an age when science ushered you through gestation with prenatal care, state of the art obstetrics and gynecology.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Correction:  …fear OF the alternative…” .  Apologies.

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