A House of Sand and Fog

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October 12, 2009 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by Karl Giberson. You can read more about what we believe here.

A House of Sand and Fog

I recently finished a tour of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky's Boone County, just a few minutes from the Cincinnati airport. I had a wonderful time. It was a glorious day and the grounds, with their many water features and delightful winding paths, were welcoming, on par with similar exhibits at Disney parks, minus the characters in entertaining costumes. Perhaps because the weather was so nice, attendance was down and I was able to wander free from jostling crowds or noisy teenagers. I also got to park close to the front entrance, where a friendly guard took my picture against the first of many dinosaurs that visitors encounter in the museum.

An inviting deck reaches out over a small pond at the edge of the museum and I wished that my family were there to enjoy lunch with me on the picnic tables. I probably would have ordered "Noah's Chili Dog" or some such biblically inspired fare; my daughters and my wife would order salads. On an afternoon like this, I could relax in such a setting for hours.

Inside the museum everything was well-organized. Friendly personnel answered questions, sold me a pass and a book, and directed me where to go. The other visitors were mainly families comprised of well-behaved children and attentive parents.

The exhibits were appealing, some bordering on spectacular. Animatronic dinosaurs waggled their heads at me; well-lit dioramas and small theaters laid out the story; and a modest planetarium supplemented the program with astronomy and cosmology fare. I attended two shows in the planetarium.

The Creation Museum's story unfolds in a natural order as you walk along a winding corridor. It is organized according to the "Seven C's of History": creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation. The story is remarkably coherent: God creates a world that is shortly corrupted by sin--visible in the "Cave of Sorrows"--which he finds intolerable and responds with the catastrophe of the Flood. After the flood, sinful humans arrogantly begin work on a tower to reach into the heavens, so they can be exalted like God. This building project--the infamous Tower of Babel--upsets God again so he confuses human language. A monolingual human race is now partitioned into languages and cultures and spreads around the globe, in a diaspora some four thousand years ago. Christ then appears, dying on the cross to save the sinful human race, and departs with a promise to return at the end of time to consummate human history by rescuing the faithful and taking them to heaven.

This is the full story of the Creation Museum, where displays of dinosaurs and paleontologists are followed by ones with Moses and Paul, the two formative intellects of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Martin Luther also has space in this museum, calling Christians back to the Bible after they ran off course during the medieval era because, I guess, they were Catholics.

The message of the creation museum is clear--too clear in fact. None of the ambiguities that make science, biblical studies, history or theology so interesting are present. There simply aren't any real questions in this slick packaging of all-that-matters. The earth is a few thousand years old, the flood of Noah was worldwide, Jesus' mission was simple, and fundamentalist Protestantism is the way to heaven. The English text of the Bible, read in the most natural way, is the ultimate guide to truth, with secular science and history simply filling in a few gaps around the edges. I didn't encounter a single display with any ambiguity or even nuance. Even the astronomy shows were clear-cut. Mainstream scientific ideas that didn't contradict the Bible--like the distances to the planets, or the brightness of the stars--were presented as simple facts. Ideas that challenged the young earth picture, like the formation of stars over billions of years, were presented as shaky ideas championed by "secular astronomers", irresponsibly arguing for the reality of events they have never seen occur.

Almost every bit of the "science" in the creation museum is completely wrong, thoroughly refuted by mainstream science. Much of it was refuted by Christian naturalists two centuries ago. The Creation Museum is truly a house built on sand and filled with fog. But the happy families strolling through the "seven C's" have no way to know this. They have no reason to doubt that this is real science. In fact, this is better than real science, since it interweaves so nicely with their religious beliefs. They will leave the Creation Museum energized in their faith that, in ways they probably won't recall, their Christian worldview is intellectually robust, and aligned with our most advanced understanding of the natural world, the Bible, and history.

Some of those well-behaved young people so enchanted by the dinosaurs may retain their beliefs into adulthood, but many will not. The ideas on display in the Creation Museum are thoroughly at odds with contemporary understandings of both the Bible and science. These ideas will come crashing down around them if they get even a modest amount of education. I enrolled in an evangelical college as a young earth creationist, took a few courses in science, one in the Bible and one in philosophy and--crash!--my creationism came tumbling down around me. The structure on display in the Creation Museum is thin and brittle, carefully and precariously built on a foundation of sand. It can withstand little more than the most superficial challenge; a modest bit of education will demolish it.

Studies continue to reveal that many Christian young people lose their faith in college, even in Christian colleges. But when that faith is in ideas thoroughly refuted two centuries ago, it is no wonder. Evangelicals need to embrace contemporary science and see it as God's wonderful unfolding of creativity. Only if we can learn to do that can our young people go off to college with a faith that won't come crashing down as soon as they learn a bit of science and can see through the fog of young earth creationism. Our worldviews need to be built on the rock of a firm foundation, as Jesus advised, not on sand.


Karl Giberson directs the new science & religion writing program at Gordon College in Boston. He has published more than 100 articles, reviews and essays for Web sites and journals including Salon.com, Books & Culture, and the Huffington Post. He has written seven books, including Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.


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Brian Guiley - #4901

February 19th 2010

Good Day Mr. Giberson,

Thank you for your article.  I appreciate your descriptions of the grounds and representation of the message of the Creation Museum, which is accurate to the best of my knowledge.  I have not visited, but have a great desire to.  I did want to ask, as you have indicated that the “science” of the museum is easily and redily refuted, what specifically you are referencing.  You imply much, while providing little in detailed response.  I have reviewed much of the material provided by Answers in Genesis and find their diligence and devotion to reason considerable, providing specific response whenever possible to questions or disputes of “facts” and their interpretation.  I understand you do not agree with their perspective, but would prefer specific arguments rather than general denunciations. 

Thank you for your time and thoughts,
B G


David Evarts - #58300

April 21st 2011

Hello, Brian, Johann and Lisa. I’m taking it upon myself to answer here.  Many of the answers you seek may be found in the questions section of the Biologos page.  I have, however noticed that the questions page deals mostly with theological questions.  I assume that this is mostly due to the assumption that a reader of basic geology, biology and physics texts will be able to independently see the holes in many of the “scientific” statements put forth by Answers in Genesis and like groups and that those who have read the works of  the Christian natural historians from a couple of hundred years ago would have the same background.  It can also be frustrating to continually answer science like arguements that have been previously refuted.  But, I’d like to offer you some ideas on reading from Christian authors who are scientists who have answered the charges of organizations such as AIG directly.  Please keep in mind that young earth creationists seem to change their scientific arguements frequently, while circulating back through previously discredited arguements, so it can be difficult for any published work to cover all of the current arguements.

-Finding Darwins’ God -  Kenneth Miller (as a scientific witness in several creationism in the classroom trials, an Orthodox Catholic and Biologist, he is annoyed enough to directly answer many of the charges of young earth creationists)
-Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence
 Ted Peters and Marinez Hewlett
-The Language of God - Francis Collins
-The Counter-Creationist Handbook - Mark Isaak
-Darwinism Defeated? A debate between Phillip E. Johnson and   Denis O. Lamoureux
-Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought - David Livingston

Most of these authors are working scientists who would have to discard most of the tools succesfully used in modern science, if natural selection and descent with modification were not true, in the same way the chemists and physicists would need to discard most of their tool box, if atomic theory were not true.

You also might check out the web site http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/evolution/christian_evolutionists.html
as they are more direct in confronting the science like arguements of young earth creationists.

On the secular side there are any number of publications, many including authors who are Christians, that directly debunk young earth creationist statements.

Blessings to you, as you think through these issues.  I am one of those whose faith was temporarily lost when I realized the young earth teachings of my childhood were false and mistakenly thought that the Bible and Christianity were thus also false.  It ca be difficult to recover from unhealthy church trends.  Fortunately, I was able to eventually work it through and realize that I did not have to unthinkingly accept each new interpretation of the Bible, such as the young earth doctrine, in order to be a Christian.  -David


nedbrek - #58303

April 21st 2011

Hello David,
   After reading Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God” I came to the conclusion that Miller is dabbling in Open Theism.  Polkinghorne, a guest here, seems to outright endorse it.  Would you agree?


David Evarts - #58307

April 21st 2011

I’m not familiar with the term “Open Theism.”  Can you define that one for me, please?  While you’re at it, can you illustrate for me how Miller’s theology or science fits with Open Theism.  Thank You. 


nedbrek - #58392

April 22nd 2011

It is perhaps best stated by Greg Boyd (from the Wikipedia page on Open Theism) - That God does not know the future, because “the future does not exist to be known by anyone”.  Although I believe Polkinghorne phrases this in terms something like God choosing not to make use of His access to the future.

The best example from Miller’s “Find Darwin’s God” is right at the end, pages 238 and 239.  Here he says:
“The freedom to act and choose enjoyed by each individual in the Western
religious tradition requires that God allow the future of His creation
to be left open.”
And:
“Given evolution’s ability to adapt,... sooner or later it would have
given the Creator exactly what He was looking for - a creature who, like
us, could know Him and love Him” (regarding the question as to whether God meant to specifically create man, or if man is merely the accidental product of evolution).


David Evarts - #58431

April 22nd 2011

Interesting.  While I think it’s clear that God uses the seemingly randomly based processes (or self-sustaining systems he designs), such as climatology, the movement of electrons, mutation and recombination and seldom intervenes in an obvious way in order to allow us free will, I like to think that God is not only aware of the desired outcomes, but quietly tweeks the system in small ways to nudge it where he intends it to go.  At least, I like to beleive this is true for his most special projects.  I can imagine God being fully aware of the multiplicity of eventual outcomes and gently nudging this or that particular promoter sequence to a spot where it will be expressed.  Of course, this is based on the assumption that the future does exist or at least that it can be read by an infite mind. 


nedbrek - #58441

April 22nd 2011

There’s a lot of issues at work.  I think people are coming the problem of reconciling death before the Fall and common descent and having a lot of problems.

On top of this, you have some pretty poor theological foundations (e.g. Arminianism), which is influencing their thoughts.  This leads to statements like “God creates the world in an evolutionary manner in order to preserve human free will” - which you see a lot (Miller, Polkinghorne, Collins, etc.)


Johann George - #5637

March 2nd 2010

Brian Guiley has encapsulated my thoughts exactly as I read Mr Gilberson’s article. 

I too, would like to see specific arguments rather than general denunciations. It is, after all, a “scientific debate” with both factions able to role out impressive “scientific” facts, e.g. the RATE study in the case of the Creationists which is real observational, measurable science. We are past the stage where dissenting opinions can summarily be wiped off the table.

Until Mr Gilberson has the knowledge and ability to explain the origin of life,and before that the origin of the starter elements needed for life, and before that the origin of energy required to form the elements, his “knowledge” of unseen events spanning alleged millions of years, must ever remain speculative.

History is replete with the failures of deductive as opposed to observational, measurable science e.g.Scurvey, Pellagra, Beri-beri etc. With these dread diseases the minority scientific position was eventually proved to be correct.


Lisa - #55647

March 25th 2011

I would love to have further references for where to turn for information refuting the perspective at this museum.  I am a Christian and the more I learn about this particular organization, the more I am prodded to learn more details about other possibilities.

I want my kids to encounter nature and science with open eyes and open minds.  More specifics about the exhibits and the scientific arguements against them (particularly by Christian naturalists) would be appreciated.


David Evarts - #58308

April 21st 2011

Hi Lisa, a simple example, off the top of my head, is that the museum places dinosaurs and humans at the same time.  They do so deliberately, as a short human history requires dinosaurs and humans to have lived at the same time. Most Christians gave up on the theory of the immutability of species shortly after discoveries of dinosaurs became common, because the theory (at that time) required that God would not have made species that would become extinct.    But, the young earth movement in the last couple of decades have proposed that, while dinosaurs existed that they existed at the same time as humans.  They explain the geological evidence of stratification by suggesting that the great flood mixed up the fossils and that somehow remains of different types of species were deposited in different discrete layers of sediment from the flood.  This is unlikely for a number of reasons, but far more problematic for them is that many different types of dating also show a huge time span between dinosaur species and human or human like species.  There’s a good article here on the different types of dating, how they are done and why they are reliable, repeatable and consistent.  Thus, a naturalist, a chemist, a physisist or a geologist without a dog in the fight would equally tell you that the evidence is very solid that dinosaurs and humans were not existant at the same time, although some species that are much like their fossil ancestors who were around during the time of the dinosaurs do exist today, such as ferns, cycads, etc..  Read on.  I hope you enoy becoming familiar with some of the wonders of creation.   I often think that it is a shame that American kids have such a limited understanding of science, precisely because the miss out on seeing what a beautiful and dynamic set of systems God designed.


Jason - #63679

August 6th 2011

I agree with the posters here that the article is completely lacking everything. Johann hit the nail on the head. Again, I’m not sure most long agers, theists or not, actually thoroughly read yec material and the philosophical nature of the debate. If anything is read, they skip straight to see what “evidence” is presented so it can be refuted from their perspective. It’s all I read on all these sites and in the books. “Science”, history, philosophy and religion are treated as distinct subjects when dealing with the history of the universe. They say they are “related” but only in the sense of how one affects the other and that “science” is the ultimate intellectual authority guiding them all to the truth. That’s the real “Sham.” :-(


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