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.
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.
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.
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.