When Is a Museum Not a Museum

This is not a fake!  This is actually in the museum!

Dr. Sato likened the museum to an amusement park. “I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Disneyland,” she said.  Did she enjoy Disneyland?  “Not very much,” she said.

Recently, several paleontologists (about 70 of them) attended the Creation Museum in Kentucky, as detailed by a  New York Times story which can be seen here.   They were at the University of Cincinnati for the American Paleontological Convention and were curious about a museum that explicitly opposed almost the entirety of their field’s work, so they all hopped on a bus and rode over to check out how Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis crew saw the early Earth.  The paleontologists were from all over the world, so it is hardly shocking that some of them were surprised to discover that such a place even exists.  Some of them were quite harsh in expressing their opinions on the establishment.  Lisa E. Parks of the University of Akron suggested, “they should rename the museum — not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum,” and Jason D. Rosenhouse, a mathematician at James Madison University in Virginia, went even further:  “I hate that it exists,” he said.   As you might have guessed, none were convinced by the not-so-fancy animatronics and scenes of dinosaurs aboard the Ark, nor were they persuaded by the amazing ability to have their pictures taken riding what appears to be a small triceratops (see the pic on the left).

These paleontologists are not the only ones to recently pay the Creation Museum a visit.  Michael Ruse and some of his graduate students also made the rounds of this museum last month, but his reaction seems to be different from that of the paleontologists.  Unlike the scientists, Ruse said, “Just for one moment about half way through the exhibit …I got that Kuhnian flash that it could all be true – it was only a flash (rather like thinking that Freudianism is true or that the Republicans are right on anything whatsoever) but it was interesting nevertheless to get a sense of how much sense this whole display and paradigm can make to people.”  Yes, you read that right.  Ruse said that there was an instant where he felt that the creationist paradigm might actually be right.

This is where the issue becomes puzzling for me.  I don’t want to hammer Ruse too hard as he seems like a decent enough guy and an okay philosopher.  I actually had the opportunity to meet Ruse a few years ago when he came to the University of New Orleans to speak for Darwin Day.  I will say that I had to correct him on a few criticisms he had of Dan Dennett (and he seemed much more amused than I was about the fact that he found such a breadth of insight from a person with such “shocking hair”),  but I’ve been happy to see him going on his rounds defending the teaching of evolutionary biology in the science class when school boards have attempted to push through some ruling that would either remove evolution from the curriculum or require the teaching of some version of creationism alongside genuine science.  It is for this reason that I find myself disappointed and at a loss for how Ruse could experience such a “Kuhnian flash,” even if it was momentary.

The problem with the suggestion of such an “insight” is that to have it would require one to disregard an enormous amount of data that has been collected along with the most successful theories ever developed.  In fact, we are in the midst of the most significant synthesis of scientific theories in history, with theories in biology, chemistry, physics, etc. all supporting and buttressing one another to an amazing degree.  It is all this that would have to be set aside in order to have the creationist perspective make sense to anyone.  And this is likely exactly the reason that the scientists I mentioned in the first paragraph did not also experience such flashes of insight.  They are simply too deeply entrenched in the real world for such an insight to ever take place.  In that case, it is curious that Ruse had anything like that himself.  Certainly, as a philosopher of science who has intensely studied and written about evolutionary biology he is as aware of the facts as are the scientists from the paleontological convention.  As such, it would seem unlikely that Ruse would be susceptible to the reality distortion field that pervades the Creation Museum.  And yet….

Regardless of what Ruse experienced, it seems absurd to suggest that the people running the Creation Museum are doing anything other than spreading lies and attempting to mislead people, primarily children, about the truth of the early earth and the origin of species.  Contrary to what Ruse believes, that “we on the other side need to get a feeling not just for the ideas but for the psychology too,” no one is under any obligation to do anything other than ridicule those who would teach our youth that Jesus rode around on dinosaurs.  Coddling such purveyors of ignorance, whether such is intentional or not, does nothing but encourage them and legitimize their position, and their position has no legitimacy at all.  We should not treat them otherwise.

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2 Responses to “When Is a Museum Not a Museum”

  1. CreoZerg: A Day at the Creation “Museum” « Apple Eaters Says:

    […] Museum.” I’ve written about this “museum” a couple of times on this blog (see here and here)  as I, like a casualty vampire passing by a ten-car pileup, just can’t seem to look […]

  2. Ruse is Wrong on Dawkins « Apple Eaters Says:

    […] are able to end up with absurdities like the Creation Museum (see my posts on this nonsense here, here, here, and here).  And that is exactly why it is important to seriously consider the arguments […]


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