Hello and welcome to my humble entry to the "Creation Museum" carnival, celebrating the opening of Ken Ham's lifework: a 60,000 square foot, $27 million complex designed by Paul Mitchell, architect of such other counterfactual whizbangs as the "Jaws" and "King Kong" rides at Universal Studios.
This "museum" relies heavily on that staple of real museums everywhere: the life-size diorama. But in these dioramas, strange things are happening: tyrannosaurs graze contentedly amid groves of trees, just a few feet from groups of frolicking children. Adam and Eve, naked but tastefully concealed behind the lush vegetation, ruminate on the knowledge of good and evil, and we all know how well that turns out. "Evolution" is shown destroying all that's good and familial and Christian; it comes swinging into a happy home in the form of a giant wrecking ball, reducing the walls to rubble and revealing a teenager "looking at pornography on his computer." (Somehow, though, I doubt there is any actual pornography visible in the actual exhibit. Pity--it could only make it more interesting.) And of course, as Ham writes, "The Creation Museum establishes the foundational history to show people that marriage is only between one man and one woman, that abortion is killing a human being, and that the gospel and Christian morality are based on the true history found in the Bible." (Really, wouldn't it be remarkable if the "museum" came to any other conclusion? Seriously, guys... try saying something surprising sometime.)
There are bound to be oodles of people who know real things about the real problems with Ham's version of "science" weighing in on this carnival, so I'll address it from a different perspective: that of a secular homeschooler.
Unsurprisingly, Ham's organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) comes out strongly in favor of homeschooling. (For one thing, there's no viable public school market for textbooks with titles like "God's Design for Chemistry" and "Evolution Exposed.") Also unsurprisingly, the Christian homeschool blogosphere is very excited about the museum's opening, as this post (which claims the museum is located in "Cincinatti" and that it cost "$25 million dollars") makes clear.
And here we go again. Homeschooling must be a form of indoctrination, and its primary purpose must be to make our children in our own images. Homeschooling parents work diligently to protect their children from the world's evil influences, be they naughty words on TV or insufficiently pious biology textbooks. AiG states that the top three reasons that parents homeschool "include the parents’ desire to instill a biblical worldview in their children, the biblical responsibility that parents have to teach their children, and the poor moral (and learning) environment in many public schools."
This perception of homeschooling is perpetrated by both right-wing organizations such as HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association... a creepy bunch of bastards they are) and by (oh, how it pains!) my fellow loony liberals who have bought into the idea that public education is always the best thing for every child and that teaching your own kids is tantamount to child abuse. Absent from any media discussion of homeschooling are the families who homeschool to allow their children to take joy in (and responsibility for) learning, to escape the bureaucracy and standardization of public schools, to simply spend their days together as families have done for millennia.
As part of our process of mostly-joyful homeschooling, one topic that's come up again and again is evolution: the pure wonder and beauty of the idea, the amazing history told by fossils and DNA evidence, the bittersweet notion of each species' brief time in the sun followed by the inevitable curtain call of extinction. We started with the boys' seemingly innate fascination with dinosaurs and soon expanded it to include the Cambrian Explosion, the Permian Extinction, the evolution of birds from reptiles and the slow confused frequently dead-end process of hominid evolution. We've by no means covered everything--come on, they're barely-six and barely-eight--but the fascination is already there. The spark has been lit.
At this age, learning comes (when uncoerced) as a series of firework-like explosions. Each new concept touches off another string of explosions, a chain reaction that's perceptible as it goes on inside their heads (usually as a barrage of questions). Not being a scientist, I can only imagine that scientists get a similar feeling when they feel themselves getting close to figuring out a Really Big Idea--wow! what if this? and this? and hey, these things work together like so! I know I get something similar when a piece of writing finally starts to gel, and suddenly it's as if my brain is having trouble keeping up with itself as the ideas come faster and faster and start tripping over one another. It's one of the purest and best feelings, and I get to watch it happen to the boys every couple of weeks.
It's this sense of wonder that organizations like AiG and facilities like the Creation Museum threaten most. The idea that everything worth knowing can be sandwiched between the covers of a single book. The concept that there is some evidence that must not be examined, some ideas that must not be explored (remember how Adam and Eve got into all that trouble?). The belief that one's own morals and prejudices are so perfect that one must pass them down intact to one's children or risk the wrath of God.
My children learn at home because it's where I think they can stretch their minds the furthest. Other homeschoolers, sadly, teach their children at home to make sure their minds stay sealed shut. AiG, the Creation Museum and its whole legion of allied organizations survive--and make tons of money--preying on the fear of going astray. I think the most fascinating flowers grow where you can't reach them from the well-trodden path.
(That said: should our travels ever take us within a couple hours' drive of the Creation Museum, we'd definitely make a field trip of it. We could play an exciting game of "Spot the Fallacy" and maybe follow it up with my older son's favorite pastime, "Where's the Evidence?" If only the tickets weren't $20 per adult... yeowch!)