Borders can’t contain persistent ignorance.
Yesterday, a creation museum opened in the US. In a few weeks, one will open in Canada. No, really.
The province of Alberta has the distinction of hosting both of the creation museums north of the 49th parallel. There’s the traveling museum of Creation Truth Ministries, and the Big Valley Creation Science Museum which will open this summer. Both of these awful websites pale in comparison to the Creationist 2.0 glory made available by their wealthier American cousin, Answers in Genesis.
This might remind you about the dismay in the scientific community when the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) denied Brian Alters a grant to study Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution’s ‘intelligent design theory’ on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers. The stated reasons:
The committee found that the candidates were qualified. However, it judged the proposal did not adequately substantiate the premise that the popularization of Intelligent Design Theory had detrimental effects on Canadian students, teachers, parents and policy makers. Nor did the committee consider that there was adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design theory, was correct. It was not convinced, therefore, that research based on these assumptions would yield objective results. In addition, the committee found that the research plans were insufficiently elaborated to allow for an informed evaluation of their merit. In view of its reservations the committee recommended that no award be made. [emphasis added]
When this hit the press, SSHRC’s Janet Halliwell characterized this as a “framing” problem, and later was compelled to say “The theory of evolution is not in doubt”. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it should be noted that the members of the SSHRC committee who reviewed the grant proposal were not biologists.
- Susan Bennett (Chairperson), English literature professor at the University of Calgary
- Lawrence Felt, sociology professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland
- Ruby Heap, history professor at University of Ottawa
- Gilbert Larochelle, human sciences professor at the Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi
- Ruth Rose, economics professor at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.
Coverage of the new Alberta museum is rare, and the timing suggests it is about providing a local angle to the news of last weekend’s creationist museum opening. Perhaps Canadians just aren’t interested in this, except as a commentary on how we might be different from Americans.
Given the political context – 3 Republican candidates for the presidential election do not believe in evolution! – the American museum has had more attention in the press. The New York Times treated it with kid gloves in its culture reportage, Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs. The Washington Post does a little bit better in its story about A Monument To Creation, but the strongest words come from an LA Times editorial, Yabba-dabba science, which begins:
Note to would-be Creation Museum visitors: the Earth is round.
Thank you, LA Times.
Some of the best and most critical coverage of this comes from the blogosphere. At Pharyngula, PZ Myers has a good round-up at his Creation Museum carnival. See also the posts at the Panda’s Thumb and Boing Boing.
I ask again: Can neurophilosophers out there tell me why people are so susceptible to this sort of nonsense?
After enjoying this comic about beliefs, consider a weekend exploring The Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. Take more time if you’d like to see more of Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Canadian Badlands.