Creationism in popular culture: NYT culture critic visits creation museum
When I first turned to read Edward Rothstein's account in the New York Times' Arts section of the just-opened creation museum at Petersburg, Kentucky, I gritted my teeth in advance. I have little use for creation museums, but way, way less use for self-regarding, overaged art twerps who pretend superiority to millions of people who do real jobs for a living. So, I thought, Die. Twerp. Die. Before the cat gets you.
Well, I was overreacting, I am glad to say! Rothstein's review is thoughtful and his reflections are of genuine use to those who want some idea of what they might see at a creation museum - and how it differs from a Church of Darwin museum:
The Creation Museum actually stands the natural history museum on its head. Natural history museums developed out of the Enlightenment: encyclopedic collections of natural objects were made subject to ever more searching forms of inquiry and organization. The natural history museum gave order to the natural world, taming its seeming chaos with the principles of human reason. And Darwin’s theory — which gave life a compelling order in time as well as space — became central to its purpose. Put on display was the prehistory of civilization, seeming to allude not just to the evolution of species but also cultures (which is why “primitive” cultures were long part of its domain). The natural history museum is a hall of human origins.
The Creation Museum has a similar interest in dramatizing origins, but sees natural history as divine history. And now that many museums have also become temples to various American ethnic and sociological groups, why not a museum for the millions who believe that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old and was created in six days?
Rothstein, a good multiculturalist, makes clear that, if you grant the premises of multiculturalism, the creationists are as entitled to tell their own story using their own funds as any other cultural group. (Incidentally, Darwinist museums receive considerable public funds, which creates an interesting conundrum when so many Darwinists treat their convictions as an anti-theistic religion.)
And, if you are not a frothing Darwinist, it is not always clear who is right:
Nature here is not “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson asserted. In fact at first it seems almost as genteel as Eden’s dinosaurs. We learn that chameleons, for example, change colors not because that serves as a survival mechanism, but “to ‘talk’ to other chameleons, to show off their mood, and to adjust to heat and light.”
The creationists could well be right about the chameleons. 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.
One thing that Rothstein's review illustrates is the way in which popular American evangelical culture has become technically mainstream and innovative - and that's not typically asign of weakness:
Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and narrative. Its 60,000 square feet of exhibits are often stunningly designed by Patrick Marsh, who, like the entire museum staff, declares adherence to the ministry’s views; he evidently also knows the lure of secular sensations, since he designed the “Jaws” and “King Kong” attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.
Well, the museum, a short drive from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport, hopes for a quarter of a million visitors a year. We'll see.
My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
Are you looking for one of the following stories?
NEW!! Evolution in the light of intelligent design - look up intelligent design topics here.
Animations of life inside the cell, indexed, for your convenience.
Anti-God crusade ... no, really! My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.
Catholic Church A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.
Collins, Francis My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God
Columnists weigh in on the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy
Darwinism dissent Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin
Gilder, George A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism
Intelligent design academic publications.
Intelligent design-friendly students should be flunked, according to bio prof Evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.
Intelligent design controversy My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.
Intelligent design controversy timeline An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.
Intelligent design and culture My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design.
March of the Penguins A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.
Origin of life Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Peer review My backgrounder about peer review issues.
Polls relevant to the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy
Stove, David O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment will be accepted if I think they contribute to a discussion. For best results, give your name or some idea who you are and why we should care. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudesby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.