I went to the Creation Museum a couple of weeks ago. It’s in Hebron, KY–naturally. The reason for it is to explain, so if you go, be ready for some explaining. There’s a lot of explaining.
Don’t, however, expect the explaining to make much sense beyond the very basic. Here’s the very basic: Creation was Created by God, it took six days, and on the seventh He rested. Then things went badly in the Garden, and then things kept going badly, and then Noah put two of all kinds of animal on the Ark–like dinosaurs.
The Biblical Literalists behind the Creation Museum are really, really eager to explain why Biblical Literalism is literally true. Seriously true. Much of the effort is directed toward framing. Somewhat more than half of the museum’s displays are geared toward comparing the Biblical Literalist frame with the science frame.
Now, a relativist presentation is all well and good. I mean, seriously, whatever gets you through the day, and if that’s a tale about God and the Adam Family, and the Fallen World? Cool. But the Creation Museum does it without admitting that’s what it’s doing. And that’s why the explaining doesn’t make much sense beyond the very basic. Let me take another stab it it, with more detail.
Biblical Literalism makes the claim that the story in Genesis is The Truth. But, and it’s a big but, but it wants visitors to understand that it’s a story, just as good as the story science tells. Get it? Science tells a story.
That’s where the Creation Museum falls down. It wants visitors to accept the Biblical starting point as a legitimate way of getting to the truth about the origins of things, and that it’s legitimate in a way that’s equivalent to accepting science as a starting point.
Same facts, but different views.
What the Creation tales from Genesis are legitimate about is getting to a Truth of the World. I mean, if that’s your cuppa Joe. It’s not mine; not much, anyway. I happen to quite like the story of Abraham waylaying the three visitors on their way to smash Sodom, and bargaining with God to save as many lives from God’s wrath as he can.
But, to be clear, Bible stories are not equivalent to the story science tells. Here’s why: science does not tell stories. It looks at the world, proposes falsifiable hypotheses, tests them, tests the results, and so on. It’s actually this whole method. It relies on math, and includes the likelihood that today’s results will be proven incomplete or even false. Eventually, what the science has determined gets out into the world, popularized, and at that point narratives about what the science demonstrates are told. These look a lot like stories, since they are.
But the stories are not the science. I don’t think science gives us meaning–or help us much in making meaning of our lives. Science can, I think, give a frame for making meaning, and religious beliefs can give a frame for making meaning. And I think that’s a Unitarian Universalist way of thinking about things; which is to say the meaning you make in your life rests within a frame, a perspective on the world. The frame through which you experience the world helps you find your life’s meaning. But the making of meaning through your perceptions of the world is separable from the activity of discovering the actual operations of the world.
The Creation Museum pretends that stories about science are the science, and that science’s stories are less authoritative than the Bible’s stories. More about how it goes about this project in a future post.