Field Trip to the Museum

The Solar System Tour at the Perot Museum of Nature and ScienceThere’s a new museum in Dallas: the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Technically it’s the building that’s new, and like many museums these days its architecture (which resembles a sedimentary outcrop) has apparently been controversial. But according to Evolutionary Eye Candy in New Dallas Museum, that isn’t what the ICR doesn’t like about it. Brain Thomas writes:

ICR employees visited the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas in late 2012. The big block-shaped building that The Dallas Morning News called “brash and breathtaking” had been under construction for several years. Its promoters advertised it as a place where visitors could receive strong doses of much-needed evolutionary teaching.

I haven’t seen any of this advertising – Mr Thomas does not link to it – but I am quite sure that, at very least, this was not how it was phrased. This warping of reality is present throughout Brian’s account, which continues:

Secularists maintain that their doctrines are underrepresented in places where belief in young-world creation still has a foothold. The $185 million museum, named after the wealthy Perot family who underwrote much of the construction cost, is filled with a barrage of evolution-soaked displays.

I don’t know whether the first claim here is true, but I really doubt it. Instead, we complain about the fact that young Earth creationism still has said foothold, though that is neither here nor there. Creationists, for their part, like complaining about all the money that doesn’t go to them – hence the $185 million comment. Creationists have museums of their own, but they are amateur affairs. We looked at the Creation and Earth History Museum only a couple of weeks ago, while I hear that Answers in Genesis’ more famous Creation Museum is losing visitors. Given the number of people in the US who believe in this stuff that would seem quite odd, but creationism is a small and stale field and thus not great for attracting repeat visitors. Thomas is hinting instead at conspiracy, though he’s not about to go out and say it.

Immediately after paying for entrance tickets, visitors ascend a giant escalator straight to the fourth floor. On the way up, a lone sign with no accompanying display or context reads, “The earth is 4.6 billion years old.” Apparently, the exhibit architects and content directors took seriously their task of indoctrination.

Every sign has context: a pity that Brian couldn’t provide us with a picture. If the museum really was out to indoctrinate its visitors that is not how it is done – and charging a fee at the door is probably counter-productive as well here.

All four of the main museum floors represented evolutionary time with at least one visual or interactive display. Interesting facts and artifacts from Texas also featured prominently throughout the museum, but evolution and its overinflated timeline took the main stage.

Only four floors? We’re definitely looking at amateur-hour ‘indoctrination’ here.

As is often true with new museums, visitors to the Perot Museum are challenged to find anything but long-refuted arguments used to promote evolution. Among the debunked duds was a giant poster of the Laetoli footprints, complete with an artist’s rendition of a completely fictional and strikingly naked ape-man family. The scientific reality about the prints found in in volcanic ash from Kenya is simply that people with fully human bare feet walked there during the post-Flood Ice Age.

Is he claiming that you can find better arguments in old museums? I don’t think so. Anyway, we’ve seen the Laetoli footprints before: here’s some further information.

One wall, called “Evolution’s Attic,” described useless human body parts that are supposed to be evolutionary leftovers. Visitors can read about how the uselessness of the appendix confirms evolution. But amazingly, the last sentence admitted that the human body does use the appendix, a small sac that retains a cache of useful gut bacteria. The usefulness of the appendix is a function of its design, and design requires a designer.

The concept of vestigiality – of which the appendix is an example – does not mean that the organ is “useless.” Instead, it is the original function that is not being preformed. The organ may become degenerate as the selection pressure that would keep it in its original state ceases to operate, but it may also retain or develop a secondary function. If the organ were to be designed from the ground up for this other function, such as the preservation of bacteria in case of diarrhoea, it would probably turn out differently to equivalent structures in other animals where the old function is preserved. To take another example, while it’s true that we need the muscle attachments provided by the tailbone, it doesn’t have to have the form of what is clearly the fused vertebrae of the base of a tail. But it is, and that’s evolution for you.

The Perot Museum is packed with whizz-bang displays, interactive exercises, and attention-grabbing effects. Some of them review legitimate science, but many of them merely promote evolution. Printed text is minimal, tailoring the experience to younger audiences. These tactics, combined with repetition of evolutionary dogma, is set to successfully indoctrinate hordes of young visitors.

Think of the children! Brian has more to say about these poor sufferers:

It was sad to watch over 20 busloads of children pouring in through the museum’s doors, knowing that they were about to hear and experience lies purveyed as truth. They certainly received the evolution message, regardless of its utter lack of support from laboratory science, historical science, or philosophy.

20 busloads is a lot of people – how long was Brian there for? It must have been a school trip.

The lack of evidence claim is cited to Four Scientific Reasons That Refute Evolution, an Acts & Facts article covered here. Brian concludes:

Wouldn’t it be excellent if an equally impressive museum existed in the region that displayed some of the most convincing and understandable scientific evidence for creation?

Is the ICR thinking of starting one? It would be very small, that’s for sure – the goalposts for ‘impressive’ are low in that case.

I can’t really do much with this article, as I haven’t been to the museum myself and can only go by Brian’s description. The last time we saw a similar article I could at least point to a better picture of the exhibit in question, but I can’t even do that this time. Somebody should go look – from a certain, warped perspective Brian’s review is positively glowing!

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3 thoughts on “Field Trip to the Museum

  1. Hey, just wanted you to know that the “has apparently been controversial” link in the first paragraph is a little broken. It needs an http:// in front. =)
    Also I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I’ve been reading your blog for almost (possibly even over) a year now. Keep up the good work! My dad is a creationist, so I enjoy reading your refutations on the ICR articles, which usually include the types of arguments he often makes.

  2. I’ve just emailed the ICR as follows (this was before seeing and reading Peter’s post in response – so any agreement with him is not contrived but arrived at independently):

    http://www.icr.org/article/7232/

    ICR propaganda about alleged museum propaganda and indoctrination.
    “The scientific reality about the prints found in volcanic ash from
    Kenya is simply that people with fully human bare feet walked there
    during the post-Flood Ice Age”. A pack of LIES.

    The new article also refers back to this previous piece of misleading
    claims – in order to bolster its attack on the new museum:

    http://www.icr.org/article/laetoli-footprints-out-step-with-evolution/

    This was footnote 1 with the earlier article:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21775326

    When this Abstract called the Laetoli G-1 footprints ‘modern’ ie human-
    like, it was NOT suggested that they were not – contrary to previous
    understandings – over 3 million years’ old. The fact that a bipedally
    walking hominid living over 3 million years’ ago left human-like
    (rather than ape-like) footprints is NOT ‘out of step with evolutionary
    history’ at all.

    But Ken Ham’s Creation Museum should note that Mr Thomas wrote:
    “Australopiths were very likely able to “walk” on two legs (i.e., they
    were bipedal), but they were probably better-suited for living in
    trees”. Despite another footnote referring to the kind of bipedalism
    employed by Australopiths, Thomas’ comment “the uniquely human gait
    that characterizes the Laetoli tracks” misrepresents the facts ie it
    seeks to prove that a Homo sapien really made the tracks so they must
    be ‘recent’.

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