If you ever wanted to visit a museum unencumbered by crowds and undistracted by children’s laughter, come to the Canadian Creation Science Museum in Big Valley, Alberta, Canada. It’s as quiet as a tomb. I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and highly recommend the museum as a place where you can take your time, take lots of pictures (I asked permission and was told, “Of course!”), and you may appreciate the gallant efforts that twist pseudo-scientific curios into biblical proofs.
The town of Big Valley is lovely. I liked it a lot. In a day or two, I’ll write about this small rural Canadian community with its steam passenger train and archeological ruins. But today, I’m focusing on the town’s unfortunate Creation Science Museum. Unfortunate for the town, that is.
When my two sons and I entered, we paid $13 to look around. I didn’t ask for the Family Discount, which the museum’s website says is for “A Father, Mother, and children” and obviously not for miscreant family arrangements. We gave our money to the nice lady at the cash register by the door.
Obviously bored, the nice lady was quick to run to us whenever we had questions. My first question regarded the first thing I saw as we entered. It was a genealogy chart that stretched from the ceiling almost to the floor.
“What on Earth does that have to do with Creationism?” The nice lady wasn’t sure. The chart mapped the direct descendants of Adam (Eve, too, I guess – though she wasn’t mentioned). Did you know that about 1,500 years after Adam, Noah was born? Did you know that Noah is the direct linear ancestor of all the English kings and Prince Charles? Well, that should surprise none of the Anglo-Saxon fans of the museum, but the guide in the museum was shocked when I told her that Osama bin Laden would also be a direct linear descendant of Noah. I suggested that she think about it for a moment. Then she remembered the story of how all the people except Noah and his kids were killed by the angry god in the flood. In her world, British kings have to be Noah’s spawn, as is everyone – they have no other choice.
According to the Flood narrative, in the past 4,350 years, 7 billion of us descended from Noah and his wife Gertrude (or whatever). “But you have English ancestry, don’t you?” she asked me. “No, I do not,” I said. Somehow race and English ancestry are tangled up in this Creation Science Museum. Then I saw the book with Hitler on the cover. (To be fair, Hitler was just selling a book that equated Darwin to Nazis. They weren’t openly selling Mein Kampf.)
I should have left, but I’d already spent $13. And there were another 15 minutes of displays to take in. There was evidence of creationism everywhere. Signs proclaimed Evidence from Fossils; Evidence from Geology; Evidence from Plants; DNA by Design; and, there were lovely photographs of Dinosaurs and Humans being cozy pals. We saw the Fossilized Teddy Bear, the Iron Pot Found in Coal, and, of course, the human leg fossilized in a cowboy boot. By the time we’d reached the proof that horses didn’t grow in size and “peppered moths” didn’t change colour, we had traveled about 30 metres in a loop that brought us back to the cash register.
Was that too fast for you? Then let us go back about 10 metres and take another look at the fossilized leg in the cowboy boot. It’s just an old boot with a rock stuck in it, but here’s how it’s described:
“It is commonly believed that it takes thousands to millions of years to form a fossil. In fact it is well known that fossilization can occur rapidly. [Wait a minute: one fact is “commonly believed” while its opposite is well known? How’s that work?] Above [behind the glass] is a cast of a modern cowboy boot that was found with a fossilized human leg inside… The flesh has apparently become petrified and the bones partially permineralized. The boot was manufactured around 1950 … and found in 1980. The leg was fossilized in less than 30 years!”
It’s just a rock in an old boot. There are two rocks at West Virginia’s Cooper’s Rock State Park which look like gigantic stone people kissing. Other rocks look like Bugs Bunny or fossilized legs in cowboy boots. Trust me, I’m a geophysicist. Rocks can take a lot of fascinating shapes.
The boot, manufactured by the M.L. Leddy Company, was found in Iraan, Texas, which abounds in light-coloured rocks. Mud may have leeched into the boot and hardened. Or maybe someone stuck the stone in the boot and sold it to the Creation Science Museum. We may never know.
On one poster near the exit, we are told that in matters of science, biologists and paleontologists “argue violently among themselves.” Violently? Really? – in the fashion of Irish Catholics and Protestants or perhaps Malaysian Buddhists and Muslims? Or maybe the biologists find heretical paleontologists guilty of witchery and burn them? I’ll be charitable and assume that the poster meant to say that scientists argue vigorously, not violently, and the poster was mistaken about this and nearly everything else printed on it.
Another recurring anti-science theme printed on the museum displays is the statement that scientists are constantly changing their minds about things, and that’s considered a bad thing by the Creation Science Museum curators. They imply that since science is dynamic, whatever we think today must be wrong. On the other hand, the Bible is set in King James’ English, unchanging, and therefore obviously true. Science is dismissed as faulty because it hasn’t come to final answers about everything. This lies at the troubled heart of many Creationists. Rather than thinking, reasoning, and evaluating, it’s much easier to believe that 3,000-year-old pronouncements made by a nomadic desert tribe are true. And then populate a one-room museum with dubious or fraudulent supporting curios.
As a matter of tribal honour, I would point out that Genesis was not “written by desert tribes” but the product of a repeated process of accreting, editing, and winnowing, each stage being the work of the intellectual class of a sophisticated urban/agricultural Iron Age culture
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You’re right, Paul. But I was thinking about the 40 years of alleged desert wandering at the time the rulz in stone were brought down from the mountain by my namesake.But if Genesis is the result of serious editing and winnowing, the editors and winnowers left some of their cosmological and chronological editing and winnowing undone. 🙂
Genesis seems to be written assuming a flat Earth resting on pillars, a solid firmament in which the stars are embedded, and waters above the firmament. But this is not negligence; on the contrary, I would guess that it reflects the consensus among Eastern Mediterranean thinkers around 500 BCE.
This is a subject about which I would like to know more, if you or your readers can point me in the right direction. Unfortunately, the popular discussion that I have met is bedevilled by those who want to deny that Genesis is written from such an antiquated cosmological point of view, and also by those who wish to ridicule Genesis, both groups being reluctant to examine it as a document of its time.
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You are probably right – a document of its time, written by thoughtful people. On the other hand, we can probably assume that there were political reasons to perpetuate known mistakes, even when those became apparent 3,000 years ago. It was likely ancient heresy to deny Earth’s flatness and supporting pillars even if some observations in ancient times suggested these were wrong. In the end, I think it’s fair to imagine that there was a similar amount of editing and introspective winnowing as is used these days by followers of other religious texts – i.e., very little to none.