Yesterday, my wife Tina and I attended the Secular Student Alliance tour of Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum” with PZ Myers. I was excited to finally meet PZ Myers, as a long-time reader of his blog and anxious to see how I would respond to the museum as a former Christian, now atheist. Tina went with me so I’d have a companion. Tina has no real feelings about godlessness. I must say that she’s appalled when she hears stories of my background, visits my family’s home in North Carolina* or visits the Creation “Museum” in Kentucky.
We were two of over 300 who attended the event. If I had to guess, the group was 2/3 students, scientists and professors, and the rest non-students or post-grads seeking like-minded individuals. We met people who drove 20 hours from Texas. There was mention of …
… Canadians there too. It was interesting that the event attracted so many from so many different places.
In a nutshell: over 300 atheists, agnostics and skeptics were very well behaved given the subject. The believers visiting the museum were noticeably bothered that we were among them, but they were polite as they could be.
A couple favorite moments I had: 1) I found myself behind PZ Myers at one point. I heard him say dryly, “There’s no biology here.”
Another moment, a photographer pointed his lens at Tina and me, and he said, “Look at the exhibit and give me a reaction.” I said, “How do I make a ‘head-exploding’ face?”
The information they were showing was dumbfounding. I thought the “museum” did an awful lot of apologizing. It made too much of an effort to say, “This is why the world is wrong, while we’re RIGHT!” Many exhibits showed human reason versus god’s reason, and expected the guests to completely agree with God’s reason.
On the other hand, they didn’t answer questions they asked. There was an exhibit showing a cast of Lucy’s bones. The placard beside asked questions, “What did the creature look like?” or “How did the creature behave?” No question was answered, and none of them gave an argument for or against “creation” or evolution.
I overheard a family talking about the bones. The mom said, “There were not enough bones to show that it was human.”
Growing up in the church, I often criticized it for even having to apologize for its belief system. If they’re right, then they shouldn’t have to demonize what they deem incorrect, especially in a place like that. The displays at the Field Museum in Chicago don’t show Sue the Dinosaur and then show lightning striking people who don’t “believe” Sue ever existed. They present the facts as have been understood by science, and scaring guests isn’t part of the deal — unless you have a phobia of dino bones.
Likewise for Christian message, if God’s love is so great, then there wouldn’t be a necessity for explaining hell, because the love would sufficiently attract followers.
Why would there have to be a display of “The Enemies of Christianity” that depicted (demonized) the DaVinci Code or modernist theologians who disregard miracles in the bible if their “excellent” message held any water?
Rest your laurels on your merits.
There were rooms that showed the darkness and destruction that results from disconnection with God. Some of them could scare the bejesus out of any body, especially babies being forced through that place. Tina overheard one teenage girl asking her grandma what the room meant, and her grandma couldn’t answer. This little girl appeared really confused. While her grandma tried to explain Scopes Monkey Trial, the grand daughter was trying to understand what was so bad about it. When she was curious why the room she entered was covered in graffiti and “news” clippings without explanation, grandma didn’t answer her so Tina spoke up and said, “I think the things on the wall are metaphors for what happens without god.” The grandma said, “What did she say?” And it sounded like the girl was able to relay what Tina said. I have a feeling that grandma’s tug and acceleration away from us was a sign that she didn’t appreciate her answer regardless.
After the fall of Adam and Eve, there was a room showing a baby with small pox and a woman screaming in childbirth (see video below).
Another video showed the creation of Adam (below). Adam is depicted as a beautiful bearded man from a low camera angle giving him magnificence and grandeur. When we meet Eve, she’s a lifeless mannequin and a sign says a bible verse saying how she was created to be Adam’s helper. “A helper!” Tina exclaimed. “A helper!?! What about a companion?”
Tina never read that verse before.
There was much more that happened, and I might blog another post later. In sum, though, I left with the following thoughts:
1) It was a great event organized for like-minded people to meet and give faces to the internet characters we run into online.
2) Godless meeting God-ies could be spun in any direction by any of those involved, including PZ Myers or Ken Ham. Negative news is good news, so Ken Ham will have a hayday with it. They will view it positively, and will be unable to see how well 300 voices will perpetuate their messages.
3) There is no science at the “Creation” museum. If I wanted to explore a retelling of the same boring stuff found in the bible, I’d read it or watch the Christian Broadcasting Network.
4) I’m truly sorry to Ashley, the women who I accidently kissed on the back of the head thinking it was my wife. I had my eye in the viewfinder of my camera a lot, and I expected Tina not to wonder off every other minute. I did however shake PZ’s hand right after, so that was fun.
5) I was approached by a security guard and told that I was not to shoot photos of children at the museum. He said if photos turned up on the Internet, it could be considered a felony. I can’t figure out if someone complained to security or if they saw me do it via surveillance camera. Of course I politely told him I would not do it any more.
6) As skeptics, it’s essential that we are mindful of the facts we talk about. When we talk about things we’ve learned, it’s important not to sound like we’re reading a script. If not, we sound as guilty or guiltier than the creationist, because that is the tactic they use (i.e. speaking with confidence on “facts” they’ve learned from speakers or books).
7) If you believe that your god is responsible for a scene like the picture below (Noah’s flood), consider rethinking what you “believe” about the whimsical and angry deity you worship and serve:
*Note: Tina always feels welcome at my family’s home in N.C. It’s amazing to see “belief” through the eyes of an outsider. I liken it to a friend of mine’s young boys who went to a church for the first time when they were 5 or 6. They saw Jesus on the Cross and asked their dad, “Who died?” Tina honestly doesn’t get how people believe the stories in the bible. She especially wonders how any woman would willingly go along with the atrocities found in the bible and in Christian culture.