Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Visit to the Creation Museum

So this weekend we packed up the car to finally visit the Creation Museum, a building dedicated to the position of a group called Answers in Genesis that evolutionary theory is wrong and that the Bible explains all one needs to know about the 6000 year old earth. Now I have been highly critical of the organization behind this museum. I think the hardest thing for me is that the focus of the organization and of course the museum is to take the Torah text of the Book of Bereshit (Genesis) and make it their own, decide what it means, and build a tradition around. Any questioning of their vision is met with accusations of being either brainwashed by atheist science or closed minded. Now I have no problem directly with people who want to take the Torah try to build a theology around the words, but when someone takes a sacred text from one tradition, twists it for their own, and then tell everyone they have the only answer, I tend to be upset. So I will begin my story with the full admission that I walked in with bias. I was not disappointed.

From the first display I was met with both a lie about science (saying that scientist view the world through evolution and thus discount everything else) and admitting that what they are doing is not science while calling it science. You see the theme of the museum is that both evolutionary biologists and the rest of the scientific world and they look at the same evidence, just have different starting points. The starting point of the people who run this museum is that the Bible as they read it is completely infallible, accurate and 100% true. So anything that contradicts the Bible must be wrong. Of course this is not science, as anything that is discovered in science that contradicts evolutionary theory would be studied to see if it could replace the current ideas in part or whole. Darwin's theory has been refined over time. But the simple fact that evolution exists and there is a theory that explains it is not the end of the discussion. For those who see the Bible as the end of the discussion fail to take reality into account. One example is the idea of thorns found among dinosaurs. Since Genesis 3 seems to suggest that thorns only came into existence after the fall of Adam so any dinosaurs found with thorned plants means dinosaurs existed at the same time as people. Thus no millions of years old. This is just ridiculous as a way of trying to do science. But there it is.

But what I found most disturbing is the political message that the horrors of the world are the direct result of evolution and science being taught in the schools as opposed to their brand of religion. At one point I turned a corner to come face-to-face with a poster that included a picture of a lynching of a black man and piles of dead bodies from Nazi death camps. The image was to suggest these two events would not happen if we all embraced their brand of religion. However, history clearly shows that the KKK saw itself as religiously mandated and the Holocaust (the Shoah) had its roots in European Anti-semitism that was fueled by the Church. But ignoring all the horrors of history that were clearly the result of Christian aggression made me sick.

The museum also uses some Jewish imagery to suggest that Judaism would back their position, including a video of an apparent Rabbi discussing the meaning of the word "yom" day in Genesis. Throughout Jewish tradition the Bible is seen as poetry to help explain the unexplainable. Even great sages and rabbis argued that Genesis was to be understood at a deeper level, not just the words on the page. Evolution does not truly stand at odds with the vast majority of the way the Jews have understood Judaism.

Over all it was a good trip but I think it is disturbing to me to see so many people not understand basic science and those that do are ridiculed as close minded. We will see what the future holds. I have always believed that the universe is a puzzle that we have been given to tools to unravel. The Bible is not the stopping place but the beginning place. We must now go and study.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When a Man loves a Man

The General Assembly in Indiana wants to pass a Constitutional Amendment that would outlaw same sex marriage. Now this is already illegal in Indiana by law but the push for an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman is fear that the law might be struck down by a court. I find that to an interesting argument as if the law is so bad that it might not hold up in court truly questions whether the law should exist in the first place. But more so I am struck by the lack of good arguments for defining marriage as such. I mean there is the religious argument but that shouldn't enter into the civil discussion. Basically what this law and amendment will do is have the government decide what kind of contract two consenting adults can enter into. Beyond religion, I see no rationale reason for denying the right of marriage to the person of their choice to anyone who happens to love someone with the same physical appearance.
Now the religious argument is powerful, but not always fully formed. Too often the argument relies on "The Bible says so". When talking about the passage in Leviticus that is a hollow answer. Jewish Biblical tradition would, in almost all cases, look for deeper meaning than the literal words on the page. In fact the deeper meaning is often the more prominent view of the text and this is clearly seen in a Jewish understanding of the famous "eye for an eye" text and the not quite so famous "do not place a stumbling block before the blind". For many centuries Jews view the text of the Torah as a lesson, not to be merely read as a document of fact, but as a poem giving one a deeper understanding of live we live. To think the Torah text is simply to be examine on one level is to assume William Carlos Williams had a remarkable wheelbarrow and so...

In a society that understands that love is not about morphology but about emotion, that we can't simply rely on the 3000 year old text to define all of morality, and that even if we could our country was founded on liberty from any kind of specific set of understanding of a creator or that creator's vision for us, we must all stand together and say outlawing same sex marriage and writing it in our Constitution is not who we are as Americans. Someone said the other day that in 50 years students will look at today as the time we debated the silliness of same-sex marriage. Let's not let history laugh at us to harshly.

Why Hate Crimes Laws Are the Right Thing To Do

Indiana is one of a handful of states without a hate crimes (or bias crimes) law.  For many legislative cycles a bill was killed by the Re...