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July 27, 2004

Mirror Museums

Creationism strikes me as the most innocent of the popular unscientific beliefs. Unlike, say, the current fact of human biodiversity, evolutionary events a million years old have no significant implications in politics or daily life. Thus creationists get to take a stand for their pet belief that costs them almost nothing in terms of cognitive dissonance. If creationists were opposed to the scientific mindset in general, they'd be refusing to get their children innoculated or sticking forks in electrical outlets. Instead, they have their own mirror-universe science--complete with museums.

See, for example, this recent puff piece on the ICR's Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California. There's also a Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, another one under construction in Petersburg, Kentucky, and even a mobile museum.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what's deconstruction?

Razib adds: Please see my comment in Haloscan...if we are going to lecture people on facing hard truths, I don't think poo-pooing what are supposed to be easy truths sets a good example.

Jemima responds: Yes, there is some collateral damage caused by creationism (of whatever variety), but its impact on other human beings is minor compared to, say, deaths from malaria caused by misinformation about DDT. Nor is creationism as dangerous to the true believer himself as misinformation about vaccination. It's not a hard truth in my book unless it has significant implications in the real world, and Homo erectus dancing on the head of a pin does not.

Razib responds to the response: Hm...I had several friends in high school ask me "why people aren't evolving now." Since evolution had never happened in the past (in their mind), it couldn't happen in the present or future. This is nonsense in light of the reality of selection sweeps as well as the possibility of relaxed selection leading to a "mutational meltdown" (W.D. Hamilton worried about this, it's not all quackery). Evolution is happening now. In theory many Creationists accept microevolution, but in practice their problems with macroevolution work their way down the chain.

Evolution is not just paleontology, it has relevance today! For example: imagine a scenario where an individual undergoes gene therapy where the source of the exogenous genetic material is non-human (I have a friend who is thinking about writing a book about this sort of thing in the future). Of course, the Religious Right and Luddite Left will cry abomination! But, if you understand evolution, you know that:

1) Tthe boundary between species is more fluid than commonly thought.
2) The eukaryotic cell (ergo, multicellular life) is the result of symbiogenesis between various prokaryotic unicellular organisms deep in our evolutionary past.

Creationists who live in a static universe of absolute "kinds" with extinction and creation only by godly fiat are going to be difficult to calm down by pointing out this reality. They simply don't buy the science, the Good Book has all the answers.

Posted by jemima at 12:53 PM