Wednesday, December 5, 2007

C-J vs. Young-Earth Creationists

Since Sunday, there's been a bit of a brouhaha in the C-J over "science" and the new young-earth "Creation Museum" in Northern Kentucky.

It started with an op-ed in Sunday's Forum section by James Willmot-- a former science teacher and lab director who lives in England. I don't have an axe to grind in favor of young-earth creationism. (Scripture can be interpreted to yield either young-earth or old-earth views.) But Willmot's essay was an embarrassing (attempted) hatchet job.

On Tuesday, the CCO of the CM, Mark Looy, responded-- along with four other letter-writers. (I'll blog on their replies separately.)

I'll reproduce excerpts from Willmot's op-ed piece and then intersperse my comments.

There is a great educational injustice being inflicted upon thousands of children in this country, a large percentage of whom come from the Kentucky, Ohio and, Indiana areas.

After this opening sentence, I thought he was going to talk about the government's expensive, ineffective, and monopolistic provision of elementary and secondary education services-- especially to those in the lower and middle income classes. Alas, he has other (much smaller) fish of injustice that he wants to fry.

The source of this injustice is a sophisticated Christian ministry that uses the hook of dinosaurs, the guarantee of an afterlife, and the horrors of hell to convince children and their families to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. The tax-exempt ministry, Answers in Genesis, and its new $28 million creation museum in Boone County has become the de facto source of science information to thousands of Christians who are throwing away reason and 500 years of scientific inquiry and replacing it with ignorant dogma.

-Oh, that "injustice"...okay! ;-)
-No one believes in a literal interpretation, so he must mean a relatively literal interpretation.
-Tax-exempt. Is that another way of saying non-profit?

If adults want to believe...then they have the right to do so. What I object to is that thousands of children, particularly the growing number of Christian home-schooled children in this country, are visiting the museum in droves...

I hope Mr. Wilmott doesn't have kids-- since I'm sure I'd have a number of objections to the manner in which he raised his children!

These kids are learning that despite a fossil record that clearly shows a progression of simple life forms becoming more complex life forms over billions of years...

Really, it clearly shows that, huh? I guess it depends on how one defines "clearly" and "shows". If it's so "clear", why would there be any debate-- among evolutionists about the way in which this so clearly happened OR from those who don't believe evolution currently provides a comprehensive explanation ("show") for the origins and development of life?

Instead of learning that the process of natural selection, over 3,800 millions of years, has changed populations of organisms into the approximately 10 million species (conservative estimate) that inhabit the Earth today, they are taught the "poof" theory of creationism.

Apparently, Mr. Willmot prefers the hand-waving multiple poof theory of evolution as a comprehensive explanation-- to the hand-waving single poof theory of creationism. I agree with his earlier statement applied here: "He has the right to do so."

...a pseudo-natural history museum to convince well-meaning, hard-working people that science is not to be trusted, that the theory of evolution is evil and that belief in scientific theories of our creation leads to barbaric behaviors.

Not quite.
-Trust science, just don't always trust scientists.
-The theory of evolution is evil? It depends on what you mean by evolution. But even in its distorted extension, it'd only be as evil as any other erroneous or over-confident inference.
-And belief in science leads to barbarism. Huh?

One other change needs to occur to keep home-schooled children from being misled by creationists. The Kentucky home-school statutes are terribly vague. In fact, science education is not even mentioned in the regulations...These statues should be changed so that science education, real science education, is a requirement in all home schools.

Mr. Willmot is a very smart man. From the comfort of his home in England, he's able to infer all sorts of things about the museum without apparently seeing it. And he knows a lot about Kentucky home-school statutes. But he also seems to have a lot of faith in the government-- more reason to doubt his wisdom in matters of science.

If a student is never taught the scientific method and how science is the best method we humans have of collecting unbiased, factual information about the natural world, and instead taught that blind obedience to an ancient text is all that is needed to lead a happy, meaningful life, how can this child ever expect to make informed, science-based decisions as an adult?

I agree. But it's not "clear" how that's related to his op-ed piece.

Two of the letter-writers also blow up Willmot quite effectively. Although a good critique of the Creation Museum and its presentation of science may be available, unfortunately the C-J wasted a lot of ink on his rant.


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