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Blue-Eyed Apes

August 2, 2008

Creation Science Museum by you.

As you drive into Big Valley, Alberta, don’t take your eyes off the left hand side of the road you come in on. If you do, you’ll spend ten or fifteen minutes slowly cruising through this one-horse town before you find your way back and recognize the small, grey, house-looking structure that is the Big Valley Creation Science Museum. That’s what we did last Saturday, when my partner and I, along with two friends, took a road trip several hours north to visit that place of “science” and another – the Royal Tyrrell (Dinosaur) Museum in Drumheller.

I was a little anxious about going to the Creation Science Museum. I thought I knew what I would find there, sincere and friendly people pushing tons of misinformation, and I didn’t exactly relish the thought of arguing something that cannot be won. I also was not really comfortable with giving a place like that several dollars to continue funding their work with. On the other hand though, I couldn’t in good conscience slam a place without ever having gone. That’s not good skepticism, that’s knee-jerk “I don’t believe” skepticism. In the name of SCIENCE! I decided to go and evaluate their claims and evidence for myself. Also, I really wanted to go to the museum in Drumheller and Big Valley was less than an hour away.

So we went, and it was pretty much as I expected. There were a few surprises. First, for such a teeny-tiny museum in a teeny-tiny town, it was surprisingly professional looking. The displays looked like real museum displays, written in clear but scientific-sounding language. I had expected the pseudo-science, but I had not expected museum-quality placards and cases. I wonder who funds them. Surprise number two: they didn’t even try to hide the fact that their views were primarily religious. I guess I had expected the Intelligent Design line about how none of this has anything to do with religion, the Christian god, or Jesus, forgetting that this museum was not about ID, it was out-and-out creationism. There were dinosaurs on the ark, Jesus lived with dinosaurs, all these “facts” prove the Christian God – they were not subtle. Good for them, I guess. It makes the whole enterprise a little more honest.

The rest was disappointingly as I expected. Real science explained by ridiculous logic, straw-man portraits of the scientific arguments, highlighting the cases of scientific fraud but portraying the fraudulent evidence in their favour as legitimate, not using any citations, and repeating the same old talking points we’ve all heard and refuted a million times. In some ways I think it would be fun to write down all the arguments they made and refute them one by one (and they can all be refuted, and have been many times over) but let’s just talk about a couple.

I Want One! by you.

The submarine is an amazing invention, the way it regulates the pressure inside through a system of doohickies and whatchamacallits. Now look at the Ammonite, an extinct marine animal that also regulated it’s internal pressure through a similar system. Since the submarine has been intelligently designed, the Ammonite must have been too.

What? Really.

Here’s another one: We can artificially simulate fossilization using a special mix of chemicals, requiring only thirty years. This means that the dinosaurs lived only 600-800 years ago. We have no evidence that these chemicals existed in the right areas in the right amounts, or that all the fossils were created through this exact same method, but since we CAN simulate fossilization in a lab, that means all the dinosaurs were fossilized in this way.

Oh geez, I could go on and on, but the gist of most of it was this: since I, an uneducated person, cannot understand this thing, God must have done it. I have never seen a blue-eyed ape, therefore I didn’t come from monkeys, therefore evolution is impossible. We all know that micro-evolution is real because we can see it, but since I cannot understand how a complex thing like an eye could evolve through small steps, Goddidit. Since flagellum are like motors and a hurricane blowing through a junkyard couldn’t assemble a motor, God must have made flagellum. On and on and on.

That “blue eyed ape” thing, by the way, was a direct quote. The whole time we were in the museum there was one other patron: an old man who, instead of walking through the museum sat at the front counter and talked to the man there about how convincing all the creationist evidence was. When we, hidden behind a display, heard one say “I’ve never seen a blue-eyed ape,” my blue-eyed friend pointed to himself. When I heard one man describing how completely illogical and irrational atheism was because of all these (fraudulent and ignorant) evidence that point to god, I wanted to scream “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts!” We were, I must say, exceptionally well-behaved. We were friendly, attentive, and kept our complaining for later.

My best fish face by you.

We didn’t complain for too long, though, because just an hour later we were at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and all thoughts about misguided and untruthful people perverting science to forward a religious agenda were gone. The Royal Tyrrell was amazing. Absolutely amazing. If I wrote a whole post on it, it would be several thousand words worth of gushing. Nicest of all: it was packed. Packed with old people, young people, people with families, kids, people of different ethnic groups, different nationalities, just packed. Everything was so well-presented, evolution was mentioned on placards as if it is a given (hint: it is), and all these people were learning about science and inculcating scientific interest in their kids.
Comparing this to the creationist museum… well, there is no comparison. One is a museum and the other? Well, the other was a closed-minded and dishonest church denying that their creator would be able to conceive of something so elegant as evolution, teaching that their creator must be no smarter than they themselves, and telling lies that I hope are only attractive to those who already believe.

I have posted some pictures at my flickr page, but since I haven’t gotten permission from two of my travel-mates, you’ll only see my wife and I. If you haven’t met us, you’ll know which is which in the pictures if you just remember that she is the pretty one.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2008 8:13 am

    Though this list is intended primarily to assign a point value to “new” theories of physics as proposed by the occasional wingnut I think a lot of it can be easily tweaked to apply to creationists.

    —-

    The Crackpot Index
    John Baez

    A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics:

    1. A -5 point starting credit.

    2. 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.

    3. 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.

    4. 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.

    5. 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.

    6. 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.

    7. 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).

    8. 5 points for each mention of “Einstien”, “Hawkins” or “Feynmann”.

    9. 10 points for each claim that quantum mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    10. 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity.

    11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it. (10 more for emphasizing that you worked on your own.)

    12. 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don’t know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.

    13. 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory.

    14. 10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.

    15. 10 points for each statement along the lines of “I’m not good at math, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations”.

    16. 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is “only a theory”, as if this were somehow a point against it.

    17. 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn’t explain “why” they occur, or fails to provide a “mechanism”.

    18. 10 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Einstein, or claim that special or general relativity are fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    19. 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a “paradigm shift”.

    20. 20 points for emailing me and complaining about the crackpot index. (E.g., saying that it “suppresses original thinkers” or saying that I misspelled “Einstein” in item 8.)

    21. 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.

    22. 20 points for each favorable comparison of yourself to Newton or claim that classical mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    23. 20 points for every use of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.

    24. 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.

    25. 20 points for naming something after yourself. (E.g., talking about the “The Evans Field Equation” when your name happens to be Evans.)

    26. 20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.

    27. 20 points for each use of the phrase “hidebound reactionary”.

    28. 20 points for each use of the phrase “self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy”.

    29. 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported. (E.g., that Feynman was a closet opponent of special relativity, as deduced by reading between the lines in his freshman physics textbooks.)

    30. 30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

    31. 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by an extraterrestrial civilization (without good evidence).

    32. 30 points for allusions to a delay in your work while you spent time in an asylum, or references to the psychiatrist who tried to talk you out of your theory.

    33. 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.

    34. 40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

    35. 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.

    36. 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)

    37. 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

    © 1998 John Baez
    baez@math.removethis.ucr.andthis.edu

  2. Dr. Jim permalink
    August 11, 2008 2:43 pm

    Hey Natasha!
    Sorry I haven’t posted my pics yet. Been busy.
    Don’t worry about asking permission for showing my ugly mug or lying about me.

    Cheers,
    jim

  3. September 24, 2008 11:38 pm

    That’s a great summary- great insights. Everyone should go to Tyrrell (even the nutballs who have a bone to pick with the inconvenient facts).

    By the way, shouldn’t Homo Academicus be Homo academicus? Your point is that it is a species of Homo, right?

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