Creation Museum Aftermath

29 05 2007

Now that Ken Ham’s funhouse is now open, I thought I would reflect on some of the reactions I’ve seen to the “House ‘O Lies” over the past few days. In case you’ve missed it, the Anti- Creation Museum Carnival hosted by PZ is a must-see, and the Panda’s Thumb has a few links relating to the opening as well.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention last nights let-down on Bill O’Reilly’s program, (mass-media isn’t geared towards intelligent debate or discussing complex issues, apparently) featuring Ken Ham and Lawrence Krauss, although DefCon has a few good resources up on their website. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the anti-Creation Museum t-shirts and bumper stickers, however; if the best comeback to creationist drivel scientists can come up with is “I went to the Creation Museum and all I got was stupider,” we’re not doing a very good job. (In fact the word stupider makes me think of the Robot Devil’s response to the word in the final episode of Futurama “Stupider?! That’s not even a word!”). Again, I’m not sure I could do better (and I do like the design of the shirts), but I don’t think the attempted catchphrase really works. Which reminds me, if you don’t already have one, you can order a shirt to let everyone know you’re a “Future Transitional Fossil.”

The Answers in Genesis homepage also gives some interesting insights into how politics are intertwined with creationist nonsense. Here’s a snippet from an article about the opening posted yesterday;

Judge Moore [“Judge Executive Gary W. Moore—the top elected official in Boone County, Kentucky”] said he also appreciated the message of the values that will be underscored by the museum’s presence in the area. “Thank you for the impact it will make in our community from the standpoint of belief, from the conservative values point of view. We know that the message that you will promote and teach here is a message that our world needs to hear today,” he added.

George Ward, secretary of commerce for the Commonwealth of Kentucky who represented Governor Ernie Fletcher, echoed Moore’s sense of appreciation for the economic impact to the area. “On the tourism side, it’s going to be a great complement to what we have at Big Bone Lick State Park,” he said. “I envisioned when I was here (nearly a year ago) that every Christian school … is going to have a field trip to the Creation Museum, and we’re really happy to have those visitors.”

As others have already noted, it will be interesting to see if any court cases are generated because of local field trips to the creationist indoctrination center. Why not go to a reputable museum instead? It’s out of the range of plenty of people, but if you’re in the New York City area, the new Mythic Creatures exhibition is certainly worth a visit. Ironically enough, Edward Rothstein (who came out with a rather limp review of the Creation Museum) has also written a review of the new AMNH exhibit, although he doesn’t seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together when it comes to the realities of mythological creatures and they way the Creation Museum uses dragons to make the case that dinosaurs once walked with man. As John Hawks notes, perhaps Rothstein’s specialty is reporting on unicorns and dragons rather than museum displays.

What has most intrigued me, however, is the response from the ID community. Always pushing hard to make sure they’re not dubbed “creationists” but realizing that they can’t survive without the help of the “Big-Tent” Christian mentality, almost nothing has been uttered about Ham’s museum by the Disco Institute or any of its cronies. If they are so concerned with good science, why aren’t they just as pissed off as everyone else about the Creation Museum? Do they really believe in a young earth or vegetarian Giganotosaurus? In this debate, silence=complacency, and although Denyse O’Leary claims she has “little use for creation museums” she doesn’t seem to have anything else to say on the topic. Indeed, her reaction to Rothstein’s article seems to fuel O’Leary’s frustration that reputable museums receive public funding to educate visitors about evolution more than anything else. Likewise, the Discovery Institute has nothing to say about the museum at all, which tells me that they’re simply ignoring the problem because they need some amount of support from young earth creationists (if they aren’t themselves) to function.

O’Leary also belies her lack of knowledge about chameleons and evolution in her discussion. Quoting the misconception that chameleons change color to hide from predators put forward by Rothstein, O’Leary writes;

The creationists could well be right about the chameleons [changing color to communicate]. Darwinian theory needs the colour change to be a survival mechanism and interprets just about everything in that light. The chameleon itself may not have any such need. If you think that everything about life forms exists in some relation to a survival mechanism, you have spent too much time among Darwinists.

To put this in proper perspective, in the 4th grade I entered my first science fair, and my chosen topic was “Why do chameleons change color?” Looking through a few very basic science books and magazines, I discovered that the color change was not primarily used to hide but rather for communication, especially aggressiveness. Sure, chameleons have had selective pressures act on them so their “normal” color states would be likely to resemble their environments and so they could do a decent impression of a stick in order to sneak up on insects, but scientists have known for some time that the primary purpose of chameleon color changes is not some sort of camouflage mechanism. If I was able to figure this out in 1993 (I was 10 years old at the time), either O’Leary doesn’t understand the state of modern science or she didn’t care to actual research her assertions. I vote for the latter, which would be par for the course when it comes to many “anti-Darwinist” claims.

In any event, I don’t expect the creation museum to be making headline news for much longer, at least until a smart parent sues a Kentucky school for a field trip to the ghastly place. If you really must travel to the Creation Museum (and I eventually may just to check this place out for myself, although I’ll have the closest hospital on speed-dial in case my brain tries to detach from my skull and make a run for it), at least travel a bit down the road to Big Bone Lick, a place that has some of its own interesting mythological/paleontological history, as I outlined in my post The Dragons of Eden.



8 responses

29 05 2007
Chris Harrison

Heh. So a 10 year old Brian Switek proves more research savvy and knowledgeable than Denyse O’Leary.

It looks like ID/C can’t help but embarrass itself these days.

29 05 2007

Thanks Chris; in all honesty I did receive some help from my mom, but I did manage to win first prize! I just find it interesting that rather than go and find out what evolutionary scientists actually say about chameleons and color changes, she decides to get her information from an arts writer she doesn’t even like and set up a straw man. I guess it’s easier than cracking a book and actually learning something.

30 05 2007

…either O’Leary doesn’t understand the state of modern science or she didn’t care to actual research her assertions.

Those are not mutually-exclusive possibilities. I vote for both, simultaneously.

…in all honesty I did receive some help from my mom, but I did manage to win first prize!

Belated congratulations to 10-year-old Brian. This reminds of the utter debunking of “theraputic touch” (wave your hands over a person who feels bad and they feel better! It’s an aura thing, or something) by a 10-year-old girl a few years ago.

30 05 2007

I think you’re right about O’Leary, Martin; in fact the combination of the two factors in more than apparent in the various UD writings.

Thanks for the belated congrats as well, hah. I had something of a “science fair streak” for a while, where I’d win 1st prize, then get an honorable mention, then win 1st prize, then get an honorable mention, then win 1st prize… etc. I think I went out on top for a project I did about fish behavior and intelligence, a kind of simplified “Pavlov’s Dog” experiment where I conditioned them to expect food when I performed certain actions. The lesser of my experiments were about the feeding mechanisms of dinosaurs and communication in ants, but I still was proud of them. I simply picked something I wanted to know and went for it, although sometimes it didn’t work out (like when I found a new queen ant and tried to create a start-up colony with her and some little black ants from around the yard).

30 05 2007
Bob G

You are both partially right about the chameleon. The adaptation of transitory color change is for the primary purpose of camouflage in the chameleon, the squid, octopus, etc. The use of the attribute has secondary use for hiding, predation, and communication. Which came first? I would argue for camouflage. One has only to observe geckos at my Florida home. White on white substrate, black on black substrate, etc. However, its throat bag is always red for communication purposes. The squid has intricate color used for communication, but when under predation or stalking, it goes drab. When used for territorial ambitions, it flashes every color under the sun.

As a much published and patented scientist (biochemist – AND RU undergraduate – “upstream red team”), I am amused by the need for scientists to organize into camps; I used to call it scientific colonization, but now I feel that it may be just a common herd instinct.

Bottom line: Darwin and Ken Ham are predominantly dead wrong! But some of their ideas are borne out in principle and fact. Their basic underlying premises are demonstrably refutable. By the way, a recent volume of Nature (v.446/15 pp246ff.) has a great tribute on the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus. From that review, one can readily see that the idea of species is totally fabricated.

So the “Origin of the Species” did not have to be that long a book. It just had to say that man invented species, and Linnaeus was the inventor. For example, the Galopagus finch’s beak was not a step toward evolution into a new species. It was a result of differentiation of an already present gene in the genome, so this is an ANTI-evolutionary adaptation that prevents the need to “evolve” into another beast. This is referred to as “genetic spread” in the genome of a “species”. The genome of a vertebrate especially is so vast, and many genes cooperate to produce the phenotypic variation we see. To top it all off, there are “nonsense codons’ that were thought to be inactive, but become activated by an external stimulus. This can then alter phenotype. Let’s give a round of applause to laMarck.

I must say now that I am a Christian, and believe in the design of man by a Supreme Being. BUT I do not place myself with Young Earthers. I have met very few “IDers” who believe the earth is young. No one knows how old the earth is. The tautology of dating fossils by the strata, and then the strata by the fossils leads to these stretches of the imagination. Then “validation” of other technologies sets in, such as radiometric dating, magnetic orientation, etc., to arrive at the date that is already accepted. Using Ken Ham’s personal beliefs in a young earth or the dragon mythology to discredit the ID group is using straw man agruments, and is patently unfair.

BUT, apart from gradualism that Darwin said was his achilles heel, Darwin had a lot of correct things, so let’s not throw out the baby with the bath.

In the Bible, God separated the animals by their “kinds” not species. And I believe these “kinds” are still the same, but with genetic elements lost, not gained, over time. So the genetic spread becomes sparser. This has been shown unequivocally with humans, in which a lot of the genome was lost by hardship ages ago, so the recombination variety has become paltry over time. That is why species are not necessarily created (mutation = death is the rule so far in experimentation), but become extinct over time. That is why there are hundreds of “species” going extinct each year, and will continue to do so.

So, I think the safest course is to not follow the groups, be they evolutionists or crationists, but to use scientific method and common sense to arrive at a question that no one can ever suitably answer.

Sorry for the rambling discourse, I hope y’all get the drift.

Bob from Exeter NH
PS. Great web site!

30 05 2007

[…] Creation Museum Aftermath […]

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