Creation “Science” “Museum”

Well, yet another monument to human stupidity has opened its doors to the paying public. It reminds me of the Mencken character in Inherit the Wind: “Darwin was wrong — man is still an ape, and his creed is still a totem pole.”
Modified newspaper front page

Ken Ham’s Creation Museum has provoked the reality-based community to put fingers to keys. PZ Myers has collected their writings, providing a long, long list of links and excerpts. The National Center for Science Education has also collected reactions to Ken Ham’s museum.

Funnily enough, I just picked up a paperback copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2001), from a friend who’s jettisoning her fiction before moving to California, sunny land of graduate schools. In this novel, Gaiman presents his own theory of American roadside attractions:

“It’s perfectly simple,” said Wednesday. “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or. . . well, you get the idea.”

“There are churches all across the States, though,” said Shadow.

“In every town. Sometimes on every block. And about as significant, in this context, as dentists’ offices. No, in the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.” (pp. 117–18)

Makes you wonder if Ken Ham’s festival of flibbertigibits was built on an ancient Indian burial ground.

Go ahead, read through the Carnival. There’s some great snark in there, and good treatments of the facts.

They headed west, Reef propelled by his old faith in the westward vector, in finding someplace, some deep penultimate town the capitalist/Christer gridwork hadn’t got to quite yet. . . .

— Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day (2006)

9 thoughts on “Creation “Science” “Museum””

  1. Is there any sense in which Neil Gaiman is not totally frickin’ awesome?

    If, as apologists often declare, people really need their myths and their magic, why can’t they get it from him instead of those barely-literate tribespeople thousands of years ago? I mean, if I’m going to base my life on a book, I’d like it to be damned well-written. Evgeniy Onegin, maybe. Or Farewell, My Lovely.

    Or, Hell, American Gods is as good a pick as any, especially if you simply must have the fantastical. Nobody does the fantastical/metaphorical thing as well as Neil Gaiman does.

  2. I actually met Neil Gaiman back in the autumn of 2001. Late October, I think. (Whoops, no, it was early.) I should dig back into the e-mails I wrote then and see if there’s anything I can recycle into a blag post.

    I mean, it’s either that, or start posting my group theory lecture notes.

  3. I like “the reality-based community” too. The roadside attraction analogy is apt, minus the sinister aspect of Ham’s wanting to “reach” children while they’re very young. If I lived closer to it, I’d go and then try to write something along the lines of P.J. O’Rourke’s Holidays in Hell chapter on Jim and Tammy Bakker’s Heritage USA theme park that eventually crashed and burned. The “book” store had Bibles with names like A Bible Even You Can Read and The Bible in English Just Like Jesus Talked. The chapter begins:

    Weekend Getaway: Heritage USA January 1987

    My friend Dorothy and I spent a weekend at Heritage USA, the born-again Christian resort and amusement park created by television evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker, who have been so much in the news. Dorothy and I came to scoff–but went away converted.

    Unfortunately, we were converted to Satanism. Now we’re up half the night going to witch’s sabbaths and have to spend our free time reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards and scouring the neighborhood for black dogs to sacrifice. Frankly, it’s a nuisance, but if it keeps us from going to the Heritage USA part of heaven, it will be worth it.

    He later mentions that in the toy store the stuffed toys had names like “Born-Again Bunny” and “Devotion Duck.” It’s a fun little chapter. (If you’ve never read the book it’s worth downloading the cheaper version available elsewhere online. It’s very ’80s current events, but still good and snarky. Both my “Anglophile friend,” who had given me the book, didn’t mind the “Among the Euro-weenies” chapter, and he’s a world traveller. One can’t be easily offended.)

    Anyway, I had read the Esquire article about the Creation Museum when it was in its development. But yeah, I would love to see what goodies the gift shop will hold and other bizarreness I haven’t yet seen on TV. I think having protests there gives it too much seriousness…it’s so ripe for humor. Oh, but then, that’s so mean…

    Like Ted Haggard, they create the humor. Who are the dupes? ;-)

  4. Neil Gaiman is great. If you haven’t read Anansi Boys, I strongly recommend it. Plus the whole of Sandman, course, though that’s a lot less compact (and has a pretty weak beginning).

    Wasn’t the whole ‘reality-based’ epithet coined dismissively by someone in the Bush administration? Truly scary that they should consider reality so irrelevant.

    Now go on, post those group theory lectures :)

  5. Melusine:

    Your post is now freed.

    The phrase “reality-based community” was coined, or at least injected into the current discourse, by Ron Suskind’s 2004 article in the New York Times Magazine,Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush“. (Thanks to Jason Rosenhouse for reminding me of this etymology.)

    matt:

    Every time I see the title Anansi Boys, some part of my brain insists on reading it Anasazi Boys. (And did you see Anansi Bunnies?) I’d like to read it again, but my copy is back in Alabama. :-(

    For me, Sandman didn’t really get going until the episode in the diner (“He shows them the delights of belief. . .”).

  6. I think having protests there gives it too much seriousness…it’s so ripe for humor.

    For the record, and my own sense of integrity, I disagree with myself and feel that it was good that the protestors – Krauss, et al. – were there for the sake of news reporting. Plus the snarky plane banner was pretty funny. I’m still “amazed” that Adam and Eve are so smooth-skinned while living outdoors…I can’t even manage that indoors.

    Another note, when Heritage USA was open, 5 million people visited it in the previous year of O’Rourke’s chapter. The Bakker’s sex, drugs and misappropriation of funds, shady real estate deals, etc. scandals brought it down. But 21 years later, places like Holy Land Experience in Orlando exist as a 501(c)3 and it gets thousands of visitors a year. My sister teaches in Orlando, another sister in Tampa. A lot of Florida schools are in sad shape – too many students per class, etc. This is the stuff that really enrages me. I could visit Holy Land Experience and snark at it since I go to Orlando, but the gate price is $35. At Kennedy Space Center I paid $39 to have access to every exhibit, the Astronaut Hall, an IMAX movie, the Saturn V building, a bus tour by the VAB, the crawlers, the gantry with a view of the launch pads, and if the weather had permitted, I would have seen a rocket launch a satellite…for four dollars more.

    Despite the scandals of major evangelists they still keep coming…and coming. It’s Dawn of the Dead, but instead of malls and consumerism, it’s Creationism and consumerism. Biblical zombies…

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