On a cold Thanksgiving morning, three years ago, I sat down at my old computer, a desktop long disused which had served me throughout high school, logged on to wordpress.com, and launched Southern Fried Science. This little blog has changed so much since those early posts, but the heart of the blog, that science is wonderful, conservation is essential, and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously all the time, remains. In honor of our three year anniversary, here is the very first post, excepting the generic “hello world” introduction, published on this blog.
In order to start with something interesting, I thought I’d dig up and old article I wrote on a visit to the Kentucky Creation Museum in 2007, enjoy.
Down a long country road outside Petersburg, Kentucky, past giant roadside crosses and even larger adult entertainment centers, stands a new monument to the old time religion of William Jennings Bryant. The Creation Museum was built by Answers in Genesis, an evangelical non-profit, as a state-of-the-art natural history museum promoting young earth creationism. The museum is not new – it’s been here for more than 20 years – but now it’s stylish and sleek, sexy and inviting.
Past the dinosaur-emblazoned gates, an ocean of asphalt strokes the horizon. Buses bearing pilgrims, parishioners, and prodigals line the shoulder. I count states on license plates. Only Hawaii is missing. The main entrance towers, monopolizing my view. A banner declares ‘prepare to believe’. The ticket line oozes like day old spaghetti congealing along the side of the building. It is Sunday and the Creation Museum is filled to capacity.
Some are here to see their beliefs vindicated, others for a laugh, and most as an idle curiosity on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Inside, the crowd clings nervously to the wall, waiting for the planetarium to open. Pretty lightshows and a soothing narration describe the awesome enormity of the universe. The narrator explains how light from across the cosmos reaches Earth in 6,000 years by saying “creation scientists have determined that [it could].” This delighted the believers but left the skeptics unfulfilled.
Beyond the planetarium is a walkthrough model of a canyon, presumably to show how huge geologic features form quickly. The convoluted path reminded me of an amusement park queue – designed to efficiently move large groups. Many displays go unread as the tight crowd pushes through.
The most text heavy displays are in a room dedicated to the Evils of Science. The posters present the worldviews of Evolution and Young Earth Creationism as fundamentally opposed. Evolution is the rider on the pale horse that hell follows behind while young earth creation is the truth, the light, and the way. There is no proof for evolution, only false science. It is a vast conspiracy against religion maintained by millions of minions across five generations of degeneracy. Evolution is a scapegoat for sin.
The museum changes themes in the Graffiti Hall. The displays are not reveling in creation or praising the glory of God’s design, but mourning the pain of a fallen world. Kids watch pornography. Wives cheat on husbands. Drugs are pushed and used. The displays don’t tell me why I am seeing this. Another visitor has to explain that these are the result of a world made imperfect by original sin. God’s creation is tainted.
The largest room, aside from the main hall, is the Garden of Eden which snakes through nearly a quarter of the lower floor. It is beautiful. Every detail is sculpted and painted with an artist’s eye for detail. Adam names the animals as they line up to serve him. Eve plucks an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, serpent hanging from its branches. Animatronic dinosaurs populate paradise. In this world, terrible lizards live among men. There are no predators before the fall, no disease, no hunger. Everything is peaceful. Everything is perfect.
Once cast from the garden, the crowd is immersed in an imperfect world: the first sacrifice, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Flood, the Tower of Babel. All these horrors are brought together in a graphic film of Jesus Christ dying on the cross with the declaration that he can take our suffering away. Creation is not the focus. The museum has evolved into an Evangelical amusement park: pretty pictures, wonderful models, a deficit of content or context. Its mission is to convert the non-believers while congratulating the faithful who delight in the misfortunes of the faithless. Evangelism unadulterated.
Half-hearted young earth creationist explanations litter these exhibits. Before the flood all land floated on the sea. When the waters burst from the fountains of the deep, the land sunk. After the flood animals spread on floating mats of debris that circled the world. Like the planetarium, these examples placated the believers without satisfying the skeptics.
The most impressive part of the museum is a fossil collection that would make any natural historian jealous. The hallway, which ultimately leads to a restroom, features archaeopteryxes, ammonites, trilobites, even a wonderful cast of a horseshoe crab with its wandering tracks preserved. The fossils are beautiful but the museum provides only their names. Anyone who wants to learn more must search somewhere else. The flow of the crowd leads few people to these treasures.
Little in the museum would sway the uninspired. It is not a testament to the truth of young earth creationism, but a mausoleum to a world view that knows it is dying. Leaving the museum I recall hundreds of biblical passages, but the lines that stay with me as I drive away are not in the elegant prose of Genesis, but the last few of Shelley’s famous sonnet:
“‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
the lone and level sands stretch far away.”