Coffee House Poetry

May 23, 2007

Ham Roast

Filed under: Controversies, Science — JavaElemental @ 3:01 pm


There are people who believe that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. And what this is, plain and simple, is a psychotic reaction. These people are stone-cold-fuck nuts. I can’t be nice about this, because these people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary.
– Lewis Black

     en Ham of Answers in Genesis is opening a creation museum. It’s going to be depicting scenes of Adam and Eve strolling around with dinosaurs, in Eden. I’m not making this up. Now, this is not exactly a new thing. Christian fundies have been beating this drum pretty much since they dug up the first dinosaur bones. In fact, this isn’t even the first museum. Crazy people have been slapping up creation museums in their spare rooms and back yards for years. The difference is that formerly, creation museums longed to aspire to the kind of quality that a backwater rural carny sideshow dredged up, whereas Ham’s museum is gigantic (60,000 square feet) and expensive ($25 million). And pretty. Go see the pictures.
     So, why is this museum such a big deal? Well, because the aim of the museum is not necessarily religious in nature, which would be one thing. Its sole aim is to disprove the theory of evolution.
     Christian fundies have been arguing this creation vs. evolution thing since Darwin came up with the idea, and kids, it’s getting tiresome, okay? And it’s one thing for the fundies of American to be sticking with the “evolution is wrong and evil” thing, but when most Americans are questioning evolution, something has got to be said.
     Part of the problem with Americans is our basic scientific illiteracy. I honestly think that part of the problem stems from the fact that “theory” in the common vernacular means, at best, an educated guess, whereas the scientific definition of the word “theory” is much more strict: “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” (Def. #2, American Heritage Dictionary.) Most people hear the words “theory of evolution”, and somewhere in the murky depths of the chunk of brain which deals with speech, they’re translating the word “theory” into “guess”, because that’s what they’re most used to the word meaning. And shoot, since it’s just a guess, you don’t have to put much weight in it, do you?
     The theory of evolution is much more than a guess, though. We’ve been working on this idea for a century. By now, it’s pretty rock solid. Granted, we’ve made a few mistakes, and we’ve added to and refined this theory. It’s changed a bit over the decades as we learned more and understood things better. In essence, though, we’ve got evolution nailed down.
     Despite that, creationists argue their cause. They cannot stand the idea that Genesis might not be literal. For example, have a look through the AiG FAQ. Here’s AiG’s geology article, which argues for a Biblically correct young Earth.

A common argument against the Bible involves varves — rock formations with alternating layers of fine dark, and coarse light sediment. Annual changes are assumed to deposit bands with light layers in summer and dark layers in winter. (. . .) But the assumption that each couplet always takes a year to form is wrong. Recent catastrophes show that violent events like the Flood described in Genesis can deposit banded rock formations very quickly. The Mount St Helens eruption in Washington State produced eight metres (25 feet) of finely layered sediment in a single afternoon!

     This argument might sound good to those who don’t have much of a grounding in science, but it doesn’t account for the fact that the geological column is chock full of all sorts of interesting bits and pieces that can only be accounted for by large quantities of time. For example, the varves are full of different kinds of muds and soils, different microscopic organisms, foot print impressions, raindrop impressions . . . in short, each layer is filled with things that could only have happened if the layers had been created over time, not all at once, during a big flood. (TalkOrigins.com, CH550.)
     That example isn’t an exception — all creationist arguments share this theme in common. They look good to someone who doesn’t have much of a science education, but if you dig into them a bit, they come right apart. And these are the arguments that Ken Ham’s museum will be presenting to the public — presenting in a big, flashy, pretty, animatronic sort of way, no less.
     The “big deal” comes from the fact that we Americans are notorious suckers for flash and dazzle, and mostly poorly educated in science, to boot. So you put up this museum, full of false arguments and bad science, arguing against good science, and you’ve got a recipe for further misleading plenty of Americans.
     Oh, who cares? You ask. What does it matter if we believe or don’t believe evolution? Does it really matter to my night-shift job running a diner if I think the world was created in seven days 6,000 years ago, or if I think the world was created over billions of years due to the pressures of natural selection and so forth? It’s the “am I actually ever going to use trigonometry in real life” argument. Well, yes. Yes, it really does matter. Yes, you really are going to use it.
     Hey, how often do you use Purell’s hand sanitizer? Or antibacterial soaps, Kleenex, counter cleaners, and so on? Guess what? Every time you do, thanks to evolution, you might be helping to raise a new generation of bacteria that can survive those sanitizers and cleaners. Cool, huh? Not really. How about a kitchen full of bacteria that Clorox Kitchen Cleaner doesn’t kill? Does that sound cool, too? It’s evolution. It happens, and if you don’t know it’s happening, you could cause yourself some serious problems.
     It’s important for us to know about and understand science, and evolution, and allowing Ken Ham and his deluded ilk to strike a blow against science and evolution, without mustering some kind of response to it, is nothing but bad news.
     If Ken Ham wants to have a religious museum, that’s fine. This is America, and he’s allowed. But when he wants to have a religious museum that bluntly states that facts of science are wrong, and only religion is correct, then it becomes our duty to speak out against that, and help educate the general public.

     (Picture credit: AiG)

7 Comments »

  1. Actually, the raindrop impressions are proof that it had to have formed quickly. In case you hadn’t noticed, raindrop impressions are pretty fragile — the next raindrop might wipe it out, a passing animal might step on it, and if the ground ever dries out, the soil will blow away in the wind. So if it isn’t buried and lithified pretty quickly, it won’t be preserved.

    PS: Antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with evolution, in the molecules-to-man sense.

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