Yesterday, my friend Phyliss and I went on a road trip almost all the way through Kentucky to the town of Petersburg, so that we could visit the Creation Museum. Phyliss wanted to go, and asked on Facebook if any of her friends felt like a road trip, so I said, "Sure," but I want to get one thing out of the way first:
We did not go to make fun of people.
I was actually a little concerned about this, and discussed it with Phyliss before we went: "Why are we going? Because if it's just to make fun of people for their beliefs, that seems kind of mean, even if this particular belief is kind of stupid." I don't claim to be unbiased, but I felt like driving all that way just to walk around their museum and laugh at them was kind of cruel, and I try to avoid cruelty unless I think it's really necessary. Phyliss assured me that she wanted to go because she wanted a better understanding of why people believe in creationism, and that she really just wanted to get out of town for a day. That seemed innocent enough, so I agreed.
We went, we had a good time, and I learned some things and thought about some things. Before I get into what I learned, I want to get another thing out of the way: I didn't change my mind. I still disagree with their beliefs, I still think "Young Earth" theories of the planet being 6,000 years old or less are garbage, and I still think that "teaching the controversy" is a bunch of garbage, too.
On to the things that I did learn:
1) Nobody there seemed overtly religious. I'll be honest: I expected to see a bunch of people praying, maybe some fundamentalist home-schoolers with a dozen kids and handmade extremely modest garments, and, honestly, way more Jesus, but for the most part the museum tries to present the idea of creationism in a serious sense, as if it is actually some form of legitimate science. The people lined up outside to get in looked like any people you might see waiting to get into a movie, or for school to open, or outside of in any line anywhere:
Granted, we only saw one family of color in the entire museum, so it was a pretty homogenous group of people, but they seemed incredibly normal for a crowd of irrational science rejecters. No one prayed, no one tried to convert us, there weren't any crucifixes in the gift shop, and really the only person who said anything religious to me all day was the lady who sold me my ticket:
and all she said was, "Have a blessed day." I hear that from people on campus all the time, and barely notice it. I only noticed yesterday because I was looking for it.
Seeing how normal everyone seemed was also a little disarming, though, like being in an episode of the "Twilight Zone" where everyone looks human but is actually an alien or a lizard person or an android inside.
2) I did see some things I expected to see. I saw cavemen and dinosaurs:
I saw displays proclaiming that "there's no ape in my family tree!":
and I saw books in the gift shop that confirmed that these people are, in fact, my enemy. That may sound a little harsh, but if they're going to sell books that explain that homosexuality is an abomination and that I'm going to hell for being one, then I'm not going to pretty up my language. They don't know me, but they hate me, so I feel justified in referring to them as enemies. They're definitely not my friends.
I also saw some religious displays. There's a whole section on Noah's Ark, including some adorably charming apocalyptic dioramas:
and we spent a lot of time walking through the "Garden of Eden"/Fall of Man display.
Things there started peacefully enough, with Adam frolicking in the bushes and naming the animals:
I tried really, really hard to see if naked Adam was anatomically correct, but was constantly thwarted by a well-placed penguin:
All of the animals lived happily together, and according to the signs they were also all vegetarian, which is why this dinosaur was clawing open a pineapple:
but then Eve came:
and fed Adam some berries:
and suffering was loosed upon the world:
And, also, weeds. Weeds exist because of Eve:
I also learned that Abel had no butt. Or pelvis. At least, that's my assumption based on the body:
but I guess I could just be interpreting that wrong.
3) Visiting the museum is like visiting a parallel universe where everything you know is wrong. The things that they present at the museum are packaged like science. There are displays that would be at home in any secular museum, like in the insect exhibit:
Some parts of it look very much like a legitimate secular institution of learning:
and that's how they make it so easy for people to believe in the irrational. The entire museum is founded on one idea, illustrated here:
It's the idea that the same evidence will lead you to the wrong conclusion if you start with the wrong assumption, and the museum spells out the difference between "man's word" (science) and "God's word" (the Bible) in almost every display. If you accept the idea that the Earth is only six thousand years old and was created exactly as described in the Bible, then all of the evidence in the world can be presented in a way that supports that. And if you don't believe it, all of the evidence in the world can be presented in a way that supports that view, too.
The museum and the people in it just feel bad for how misguided you are.
And I feel bad for the people in the museum.