Thursday, May 24, 2007

When it comes to judgement, NYT refuses to bend

New York Times (NY): Edward Rothstein of the Museum Review provides a relatively balanced review of Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum opening May 28th.

In the style of "some say, others say," Rothstein wanders around the hybrid natural museum/Bible fantasy land, marveling at the meticulous detail and cognitive dissonance. There is an exhibit depiction two prehistoric children playing in a stream while Apatosaurus innocuously dine on ferns near-by, a film that explains how Noah's flood carved the Grand Canon, and a chance to experience The Fall by passing through the comforting glow of Eden into the dark cement corridor of an ersatz urban slum.

Noting that the balk of the museum's exhibits is "a series of catastrophes," Rothstein summarizes the experience this way: "For the skeptic the wonder is at a strange universe shaped by elaborate arguments, strong convictions and intermittent invocations of scientific principle. For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the distortions of secularism and natural selection."

In a democracy rather than meritocracy of ideas, where every world view commands equal New York Times review space, Answers to Genesis is another well-funded fruit stand in the marketplace of ideas. But all world views are not reported on equally. While Scientology and its creation story involving the intergalactic warlord Xenu, a volcano, nuclear bombs, and Body Thetans, has been regarded with the puzzlement, disbelief, and amusement that it deserves, the Judeo-Christian Creation story has been caught in a laissez-faire limbo.

It is little wonder that in the last few years an angry deluge of scientific rebuke from Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett has come thundering down on the claims of creationism. If Answers in Genesis insists on using the language of science, it must withstand the scrutiny of science. But lecture circuits, think-tanks and museums like the one opening next Monday continue to knot themselves into such a tangle of science and Bible that perhaps Rothstein was right to dedicate a two-page article to observing its strange beauty rather than untangle the mess.

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