Creationists visit awesome museum, intentionally learn nothing

Photo: NMNH

The Raw Story has a rage-inducingly depressing story about a field trip for the biology students at Liberty University to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington DC.

First of all, I love this museum. It hosts an overwhelming diversity of priceless natural treasures arrayed through its halls for your enjoyment and appreciation. It’s hard to imagine that the wealth of displays in the actual museum are only the tip of the iceberg for the Smithsonian’s truly enormous collections; both on-site and at massive off-site warehouses. No trip to the capital is fully complete without checking this gem out.

The NMNH also does a good job of stressing the central importance of evolutionary processes in shaping the full diversity of life on earth over billions of years. It sticks to the science and makes no excuses to appease the faithful; as any honest presentation of evolutionary biology should. However, what do creationist students, rigorously conditioned to believe fairy tales and un-think their way around reasonable evidence, get out of a visit to this very special and enlightening museum?

Apparently nothing.

Let’s take a look at some quotes from the students. Keep in mind these are prospective science graduates: Prepare to be overwhelmed by jaw dropping lapses in critical thinking and logic.

In reference to the date associated with this model of a Morganucodon ‘rat’ Lauren Dunn, 19, authoritatively states,

210 million years, that’s arbitrary. They put that time to make up for what they don’t know.

Objection, your honor! Projection and a baffling lack of critical self-analysis. Just because you choose to believe made up explanations for natural phenomena does not mean that paleontologists operate under the same absence of rigor. The Rhaetic strata where the earliest Morganucodon fossils are found have been accurately dated with a variety of techniques (ICS Upper Triassic timescale PDF).

Regarding the the same Morganucodon model, Nathan Hubbard, a MD hopeful, said,

There is no scientific, biological genetic way that this, this rat, could become you.

Yes there is. It looks something like this (Luo, 2007), and it is supported my mountains of peer-reviewed science. Also, why the revulsion at the prospect of being cousin to ‘this, this rat’? Morganucodons walked the earth for at least 50 million years during truly tough times. I’m proud to know I’m biologically connected to a surviving mammalian lineage whose rat-like progenitors somehow thrived alongside theropod dinosaurs. I wonder how Nathan would feel if I told him we are also related to tapeworms, dung beetles, jellyfish, and Treponema pallidum via ancient common ancestors.

Marcus Ross, a paleontology professor from Liberty says,

In order to be the best creationist, you have to be the best evolutionist you can be… [it can be difficult to convince people to take creationist beliefs seriously]. The attitude is when you are a creationist you are ignorant of the facts.

Please demonstrate otherwise…

He (Ross) says carbon-dating techniques that have been used to suggest the Earth is in fact billions of years old are simply not reliable.

*Facepalm* Carbon dating has nothing to say about billion year time scales; it is only useful on material up to around 60,000 years old. Other methods are used for much older time scales. So yes, my attitude will continue to be that you are ignorant of the facts. It’s either that, or you are lying, delusional, or a little of each.

Beyond the braindead quotes from the Libertines, this article about this field trip is a boatload of fail. It doesn’t challenge a single wild assertion from the creationists, explains evolution (befuddledly) in half a sentence, and states that creationism is, ‘an increasingly popular theory’. This article goes well beyond an equal-time treatment (which itself is useless when comparing science with bullshit) and gives creationism a special pedestal from which to drop their nuggets of inanity onto the The Raw Story’s readership.

The most unfortunate part about all this is that these Liberty University students allegedly have honest career aspirations. They want to be scientists, researchers, doctors, and professors; perhaps because of a true passion for science, or maybe as a means to leverage their faith on society. Regardless, they will be at a disadvantage. Beyond ignorance of modern scientific knowledge, they have not been taught to think critically. The scientific process that these students learn begins with a conclusion and then flails around impotently trying to support it with facts. That is not how research science works, it is antithetical to it.


5 Responses to “Creationists visit awesome museum, intentionally learn nothing”

  1. 1 Kirk March 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    In looking at the biology curriculum offered at Liberty U, there isn’t a class offered on evolutionary biology. How are students expected to be “the best evolutionist you can be” when the curriculum doesn’t offer the relevant course? [Rhetorical question.]

    There is, however, a required course, “History of Life”:
    “An interdisciplinary study of the origin and history of life in the universe. Faculty of the Center for Creation Studies will draw from science, religion, history, and philosophy in presenting the evidence and arguments for creation and against evolution [sic]. This course is required for all Liberty students.”

    You can discern for yourself whether or not such a course provides the requisite presentation of evolutionary biology as a matter of science.

    • 2 Mike Bok March 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

      I somehow doubt it. I imagine the students a force-fed the same repeatedly-discredited half truths about evolutionary biology that come out of creationists over and over.

      ‘Why are there still monkeys?’
      ‘Evolution is just random chance!’
      ‘It’s only a theory!’
      ‘Evolution is a humanist conspiracy to undermine God!’

      I wonder where a biology degree from Liberty can actually take you? I can’t imagine many people land in graduate research.

  2. 3 artistatexit0 March 23, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I live in Kentucky where another creation museum is located. Poor us, will we ever be able to live it down? In your musings on this topic, have you ever come across an article discussing how “creationism” confers any evolutionary advantage?

  3. 4 Mike Bok March 23, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Well, I think the point of creationism is that it tries to explain (via magic) the diversity of life without random mutation driven processes like natural selection or drift. They are unconcerned that creationism doesn’t confer adaptability or evolutionary advantage. It isn’t part of their ‘model’.

  4. 5 artistatexit0 March 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Sorry Mike, It was my weak attempt at humor! Of course, you are right, it isn’t a part of the model. Al

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I have moved.
Arthropoda can now be found here.

Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

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