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Monday, March 24, 2014

Confident Creationists: A Review

     I went to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky as a critic; a friendly critic, but a critic nonetheless. If its presentation was tacky or silly or careless, I was ready to call ‘em out. I found a few glitches, but mostly I saw a bold, confident, intelligent analysis of the differences between old-earth evolutionism and young-earth creationism that follows the Bible. They’re on the Bible side, and they can tell you why.
     Clearly explained is the difference in starting point, or world view. The evidence we have—the fossils, rocks, canyons, rivers and creatures—exists in the moment that we observe it. We can’t go back and see what they were like 6,000 or 6 million or 6 trillion years ago. We can only make our best guess. The people at the museum figure they have an eyewitness account in the book of Genesis. The Creator was there, creating, and He had an account of the process written down for our information. Starting from that position, they show how any honest scientific fact can fit nicely into the creation model. They also show how the other side sometimes cheats.
     That was most dramatic in the exhibit on “Lucy,” the supposed human ancestor dug up in 1994. Casts of the fossil bones show how little hard evidence there is to work with—roughly half a skeleton and a third of a skull. Even though the leg bones fit together pretty well in a short configuration, the text says, evolutionist paleontologists spread the bones out, with only air in between, to make it look like Lucy had a long, human-ish leg. (And the creationists are supposed to be the ones operating on faith.) There’s more about the hip and knee joints, which evolutionists say are humanoid, but the CM text explains that similar structures are seen in apes, so there’s no definitive evidence that Lucy was anything but an ape. This is illustrated with a nifty hologram.
     A panel shows also how artistic interpretation shapes the models of critters like Lucy. Forensic reconstruction can give some idea of what the owner of a skull looked like, as far as shape and thickness of tissues go, but it says nothing about eyes or hair or color. (There’s not a whole lot of skull to work with in Lucy’s case, either.) You can give Lucy human-like eyes and a hairless face if you want her to be your great-great-grandmother, but you can also make her a hairy ape. They turned an artist loose, and he/she crafted on the same base faces  that resembled a chimp, a gorilla, an orangutan, a proto-human. It’s a matter of imagination. And dogma.
     The heart of the museum is a walk through history, which starts with creation. Adam and Eve figures looked more realistic to me than the animals in Eden. “Real” versus “not” kept my brain churning. I admired a glass cage full of finches and moved to the next “window” to spy a very plastic red cardinal on a branch. Next, I spotted the chameleon. It moved a bit, and lashed its tongue out to the glass. Real. Poison frogs: I couldn’t decide. Bright blue and still, they looked artificial, but later, they were in different spots, joined by yellow and black types. In a hall full of pinned insects, a child asked, “Are they real?” Dad replied, “They used to be.” 
     Some human models in the “walk through history” were animatronic, and some still. Oddly, the still ones seemed more realistic to me, especially the prophets and apostles. A lot of care went into the eyes, outfits and hair. They even had unique feet and sandals. King David had a slight bunion. But then I passed a couple of figures meant to be middle-school-aged students. “Weird,” said an actual student. I couldn’t argue. Fake hair, clothes about a generation old, distinctly unhip. One of them has a speech balloon saying, “I never heard this before in school,” and the other says, “Come on, let me show you the rest.” Sorry, CM, but they’re oddly placed and pointless. The theme might work in an ad, but not in the middle of the exhibits. I’d also lose the stairwell pic of a kid looking a little deranged because Mom bought a pass. Rather than happy, he just looks like the photographer said, “Bug out your eyes. Now stick your tongue out.” Not convincing.  But the enormous, round “7 Cs” quilt in another stairwell is spectacular.
     Gustav Dore etchings and images of classical paintings and statues give an air of seriousness and historicity. Creationism is not a new-fangled idea. The Biblical account was seen as real through centuries of art, literature and theology. The museum recounts the history of religious and scientific thought. It even covers the Scopes Trial with depth and context that are usually ignored. Bravo.
     I do have my quibbles: an extraneous comma in the introduction to Art and the Bible, a misplaced apostrophe in Answers Hall, and one mistake each in the narration of otherwise splendid planetarium shows: “the nuclei of Halley’s comet” in “Fires in the Sky” (should be “nucleus”) and in “The Created Cosmos,” a pet peeve, “is comprised of” should be “is composed of.” I’m probably the only one who noticed.
     In the models of life in Noah’s ark, which overall are brilliantly conceived, I wondered whether a little garden bed could really have lived in the ark. Next to it, in an aviary, a tiny bird had fallen from its perch. Next, one of the women is reaching into a cage. It looks as if something should be in her hands, but they are empty. A dead insect lay in a flood diorama—an accidental reminder that death has entered the world. The little figures on the exposed rocks lay in despair, fought each other, or confronted wild animals. One stood with hands on hips, as if to say, “Huh. It’ll subside in a minute.” Gave me the willies.
     There’s a lot more to the museum, from the bridge-strewn garden and the zipline (I did not zip) to the lectures. I heard one on the resurrection of Christ, the evidence for it and the silliness of theories against it, from “He swooned” to “They forgot which tomb He was in” to “God made Judas look like Jesus, and that’s who they crucified.” Yes. Silly.
     It took me three days to feel I’d covered the museum anywhere near thoroughly, but I finally walked out the door with more confidence than ever in the truth of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I was pretty sure I was already on the same side as Ken Ham. Now I’m all the more likely to stay. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dem Bones

     How it makes the ganglia twitch to go from Creation Museum immersion to a place like Big Bone Lick State Park, Union, KY, where all the time periods are zillions of years. It's called the birthplace of vertebrate paleontology in the US because many thousands of large land creatures' bones have been found there, from the 1700s to the present. Meriwether Lewis stopped by to load up some bones for Thomas Jefferson. The water there is very salty. That's where the "lick" in the name comes from. Mammoths and mastodons and giant sloths came along to get their salt and sank in the "jelly ground," as the colonists called it. That I can buy. Sounds like the LaBrea tar pits. 
     Things get goofy when the signs say there is sedimentary rock under the bedrock. I wonder how that managed to slip in over bazillions of years. It sounds like catastrophic upheaval to me. And the salt comes from a layer of minerals way deep under it all. Within shouting distance of the mammalian bone pile is a hillside full of fossilized trilobites and other sea creatures. From a sea. That used to cover the area. Aren't there juxtapositions like this all over the world? Seashells on mountaintops? That sea sure gets around. 
     Just for fun, this is where in 1750 one Mary Ingles escaped Shawnee captors who brought her and other slaves to harvest salt. She and one other slipped away and started walking. Forty days later, an acquaintance spotted Mary and took her home. No sign of the other escapee. I couldn't help wondering how well fed Mary was.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Read It

     “That’s a baby dinosaur!” shouts a boy in the Creation Museum, “That’s a baby dinosaur!” Only the fossil he’s looking at is archaeopteryx, a bird, full-grown. It’s labeled clearly, but his mother does not correct him.
     At the Cincinnati Zoo, a bird exhibit includes some large bats. Three girls scream, “Bats! There are bats in here! Let’s get out!” I tell them, “Bats won’t hurt you. They don’t bother people.” One girl, eyes wide, asks, “They won’t kill you?” I assure her, “No. They mostly eat mosquitoes. Those big ones eat fruit. They’re called fruit bats.” “Ohh,” she says. “OK.”  

A pair of “takin,” a sort of mountain-goatish antelope from the Himalayas, gaze back at me and at a young man and woman holding clipboards. Students, apparently. They look at the critters and then at their clipboards. “Elk,” says the woman, “elk… elk.” I refrain from blaring, “Read the sign!”

     At an art museum in Sarasota years ago, a member of our business conference group asked who the man in the painting was. I told him, “It’s the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. He was shot with arrows.” “Oh,” said the fellow, “you know about art?” “Not much,” I said. “I read the sign.”
     That’s really all it takes.
     So much knowledge waits around us. You can pluck it like berries: tasty, fun, colorful, nourishing. It will fall into your hand. Dig deeper into books (my favorite), or instantly online. There are diamonds and silver and gold, all free. Yet so many remain malnourished and poor. And all they need to do is read the signs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Snowy Dirtballs

     Cruising happily through space in the Creation Museum planetarium show “Fires in the Sky,” learning all sorts of things about comets, I tripped over a bit of bad interstellar grammar. The narrator told us that a photo showed “the nuclei of Halley’s comet.” Um, that’s nucleus. I don’t suppose most people notice or care, but to me, it’s a screech of static that nudges me out of my educational reverie. Providentially, the program was good enough to pull me back.
     Three-D graphics showing how the long elliptical orbits of comets intersect with our solar system are fascinating. Coming close to a planet can put a wobble in a comet’s orbit and either lengthen or shorten it. A comet’s ball of ice and dust is only a mile (or up to nine) across, but when the sun warms it, it can send out a tail of particles a million miles long. Solar radiation ionizes it and makes it glow.
     Comets create problems for old-earth believers, because every time they pass the sun, they lose a bit of volume. No way can they have been doing this for the posited zillions of years since the posited Big Bang. So a fellow named Oord imagined the Oord Cloud, a sort of nursery for comets which pops new ones out to replace the casualties. No one could find it or prove it exists. So a fellow named Kuiper imagined the Kuiper Belt, out beyond Neptune, nurturing "snowy dirtballs" until they are ready to pop into orbit around the sun. Nobody can prove it.
     One of the video monitors in the museum shows a snippet of an interview with a California Ph.D. evolutionist who says the problem with creationists is that they have no imagination. And the prize for lack of self-awareness goes to…

Who and How

Just around the bend from the Creation Museum in Kentucky, I passed a church marquee that said, “The book of Genesis is about who, not how.”  It must have been a dig at the museum.  I wondered why a church would make a point of separating itself publicly from the literal Genesis. It might as well have said, “We don’t think all of the Bible is true.” Here was the schism that divides our culture, with groups who claim to follow Christ apparently taking their stand with the dogma of evolutionism rather than the historic dogma of Christianity. How sad. For one thing, they’re looking in the wrong direction for truth. For another, should Christians be airing their differences this way in order to curry favor with… whom? Stephen Hawking? Trust me, church people, hard-core evolutionists may snicker in triumph at your capitulation, but they still think you’re morons for believing any of that God stuff. If it’s their approval you seek, you have to throw out the whole Bible, including the Savior. Ironically, this church stands near a neighborhood labeled “Mars Hill” in the town of Hebron. There’s even a “Damascus Rd.” Do those names mean anything, or are they just jokes? From the book, see. Clever, huh?

The Museum deals with the history of belief in a six-day creation. Apparently, nobody much thought six days meant anything other than six days until the 1700s. Eventually, theologians wanted to be hip and modern and started proposing that, well, maybe “day” doesn’t mean “day,” even though that’s what it means in the rest of literature, and if the creation days are really zillions of years, then the commandment about keeping the Sabbath makes no sense. “Six days  shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not labor or do any work.” (Deuteronomy 5:13, 14) Huh? Work for six zillion years, and rest for one zillion? It just doesn’t work. If you try to bow the knee to Christ and Carl Sagan at the same time, you will tear yourself in two.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bread, with a Twist

People just love to distort the Bible, and nobody does it with as much smugness as members of the political left who post such things as this image and then sneer, "Yeah, those Republicans say they follow Jesus." The implication seems to be that Jesus would approve of an enormous Federal bureaucracy set up to provide food stamps. 
I wonder how many have read the accounts of Jesus' feeding the 5,000 by miracle-- or even know where the story appears. BTW, it's in Matthew 14 and John 6.
Here's what happened. A huge crowd followed Jesus out into the countryside, and it got to be dinner time. The disciples saw no way to feed them. "Send them away," they said. "You give them something to eat," Jesus said. But they had no money and no place to buy. Andrew observed that a boy had five loaves of bread and two fish, "but how far will they go among so many?" Jesus thanked the Father for the food and started passing it around. Every one of the thousands of people ate his fill, and the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. No human agency could give the people what they needed in this situation; only the Creator God could. Jesus multiplied the food with ease, just as He called life out of the earth and the sea and created Eve from Adam's rib. 
He'd been healing all sorts of illnesses, and now He was handing out food! Sounds pretty good. But these physical things were beside the point of Jesus' actions. See John 6: 14,15. "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, 'Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself." So much for government as the source of sustenance. I think it's plain that the people were mistaken in seeing Jesus as a permanent source of bread. They were quite ready to "create dependency," but that was not what Jesus wanted for them. This feeding was a one-time demonstration of His pity and power that represented something much more important than a full stomach. He explained later when the people asked  for (another) miraculous sign and mentioned the manna their ancestors ate in the wilderness. He said, "... it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.... I am the bread of life.... If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever."
This is not about setting up a welfare state. It's about faith, salvation, eternal life. Taking the story out of context and twisting it for political purposes is dishonest, dangerous and just plain wrong.
 More on this topic. "God and Gimme"