SANTEE -- Lord knows, I’ve tried to keep this space as scrupulously secular as possible. This is a mere lifestyle column, after all, not a theological debating society.
But after spending two pleasant days strolling the spacious halls of the Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the Museum of Man in San Diego’s Balboa Park, I figured, why not head east on Interstate 8 for 15 miles to Santee, where the Creation & Earth History Museum makes its case that the Earth is only 6,000 years old – 10,000, tops – not 4.5 billion, as the vast majority of scientists say.
The museum, affiliated with the Light & Life Foundation Ministries, has been an east San Diego County curiosity for 20 years, but it recently made headlines when the San Diego Museum Council denied it membership in the community marketing group. The council president told radio station KPBS that the Creation & Earth History’s membership application was voted down not because the museum dismisses all aspects of evolution in favor of a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, but because it didn’t meet “standards of care” for exhibits and animals on the premises.
But Tom Cantor, Museum of Creation & Earth History president, told the radio station, “It’s like we’re in Selma, Alabama, in the 1950s and I want to have a museum on black Americans. Do you think I’ll be accepted by the council of museums in Selma, Alabama?”
Cantor’s “prejudice against God” charge may come off a bit strident. But then, many might say the same is true with the very premise of the museum: that God created heaven and Earth in six 24-hour days. So, according to biblical chronology, life on Earth cannot possibly be 2.5 billion years old, as geochronological testing and radiometric dating by scores of scientists over many years show.
This “Young Earth” belief has been debunked for decades. In 2006, a statement issued by the Global Network of Science Academies, a coalition of 68 international organizations, affirmed evolution, the formation of the universe and whole big shebang.
Why pay attention to Young Earthers? Well, as late as 2011, a Gallup poll reported that 30 percent of U.S. adults say they interpret the Bible literally. As Cantor says on a video that plays in a loop in the museum’s gift shop, “And so the debate rages on ...”
Well, at least it does inside the walls on the single-story structure on a frontage road off Highway 67. Cantor, owner of a biotech firm whose headquarters are on the same grounds, bought the museum lock, stock and scripture from the owners of the Institute of Creation Research, which has relocated to Dallas. According to the museum’s literature, Cantor has added more scientific rigor to the exhibits.What he hasn’t changed is the eye-grabbing facade out front. Looming alongside a neon sign with “Creation Museum” in red letters is a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex, seemingly the very symbol of Earth’s prehistoric ancestry.
But once you step inside, visitors soon learn that dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark and existed alongside man (just like in “The Flintstones,” apparently) and only became extinct after the Great Flood. Other scientific assumptions are “set straight,” such as the explanation that the Grand Canyon is not 16 million years old but its age coincides with the (capital-F) Flood. Same with the Ice Age. The Big Bang Theory? Mere astral “phenomena” larded with faulty scientific hypothesizing.
The museum promises all the “real” facts will be explained in due time but, be warned, it requires lots of reading. The first seven rooms, naturally, give a blow-by-blow account of the six days of creation and God’s rest day, with numbered biblical “to do list”-type of jotted notes: “Day Two. 1. Division of primeval waters into two great bodies. ...”
Some serious questions are addressed. One sign reads: “What is Science?” The museum’s answer: “Science is organized factual knowledge based on observation – not naturalistic speculation.” In other words, because no one was around to actually document the Big Bang or take selfies during the ages upon ages of evolution, it cannot be proved and therefore cannot by believed. A nearby panel gives a list of “Evolutionary Religions” to be on watch against. Among them: “Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism.”
When the museum’s creationist scientists are unable give a definitive answer to a prickly evolutionary question, there’s always Genesis to invoke. A wing called “The Genesis Flood Explains the Fossil Record” shows a list of factors not to use to determine a fossil’s age. The four “nots” all are accepted by the wider geological community. The fifth bullet point: “ Do use the Word of God (The Bible indicates that most of the fossils must have been buried in one year, the year of the Flood)!”
All pretense of scientific rigor fades deeper into the exhibits. The “Fall of Man” room is meant to be shocking, with red filters placed over the spotlights and eerie music seguing into moans from tortured men and cries from babies. There’s a painting of a bitten apple, skulls behind glass, snakes and jungle sounds.
The most over-the-top exhibit comes near the end, when dueling walls show portraits of 18th and 19th century “Creationists” (north wall) and “Evolutionists” (south wall). Among the evolution proponents is Karl Marx, whose bio underneath his mug shot reads “he became an atheist and (according to some) a Satanist in college.” Meanwhile, on the Creationist wall, there’s a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Why? Because it’s deemed a creationist document.
The truly offensive display is saved for last. Titled “Consequences of Evolutionary Thinking,” it lists “The Nazi Holocaust” as the main consequence. Cantor is quoted as saying, “Darwinism provided Hitler with a scientific rationale for his perverted design to exterminate the race.”
Good thing the museum ended there, because it was time to leave. As I was making haste toward the exit, a volunteer behind the gift shop register, waved and said, “Hope you have a blessed day.”
Back on the freeway, I hit nothing but traffic.
Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis.