This article by Catherine Tsai on ghastly creationist museum tours is getting syndicated all over the place, so I’m getting lots of mail from people complaining about this dreck appearing in the local paper. Basically, there is a group, Biblically Correct Tours, that is parasitizing museums, leeching money off people and leading them on tours through the museums while coughing up idiotic religious interpretations of their contents. It’s not just lying about the age of the earth, either; it’s accusing scientists of deep evil.
The tours are not all fun and games, with the guides claiming that evolutionist thinking supports racism and abortion. This happened on a recent NCAR tour, when Carter told a dozen children and their parents abortion was an act of natural selection carried out by humans.
Other tours suggest Hitler was playing his version of survival of the fittest by favoring whites, and note that museum dioramas of early humans have black “subhumans.”
“My contention is evolution kills people,” Jack said in an interview. “It’s not that evolutionists don’t have morality, it’s that evolution can offer no morality. Ideas have consequences. If you believe you came from slime there is no reason not to, if you can, get away with anything.”
One interesting comment is from one of the tour guides who is spewing this nonsense.
Carter, who has a degree in biblical studies, admits feeling somewhat intimidated when he first gave tours, knowing scientists were listening. “I used to think, ‘What are they thinking? Are they going to come out and correct me?'” he says.
I don’t think he needs to worry. Most people will simply ignore other people saying stupid things—why, it would be rude to correct misinformation—and even the people behind these museums make excuses for them.
Teri Eastburn, an educational designer at NCAR, said she would never engage in such discussions during a tour. She said the complex welcomes anyone, but notes in-house tours only espouse scientific views of the world.
“We try to explain it using evidence that we find in the natural world, whereas religion is dealing more with spirituality, ethics and morality, which science does not deal with at all,” she said. “It’s different ways of knowing. How people reconcile the ways of knowing is an individual choice.”
I would direct your attention to the quote a couple of paragraphs above, where the clueless twit from Biblically Correct Tours is telling people that the science of evolution is tied to abortion and Hitler and killing people. If religion is involved with “spirituality, ethics and morality”, this is a clearly a case where its influence is pernicious and vile. A museum is a place that is supposed to be dedicated to informing and educating the public (yeah, and making money…), and this is a case where a contemptible group is perverting its purpose to misinform and miseducate (and make money for itself.) I would consider it an obligation of the staff to speak out against it, not to make excuses.
That nice article by Matthew Nisbet I cited earlier has a fourth point: GOING ON THE OFFENSIVE IS GOOD. This is an excellent example of a place where the public and scientists and our institutions ought to be going on the offensive: when one of these tour groups goes through, and some biblical studies major babbles stupidly and misstates a scientific fact, everyone around him should turn around and shout, for the benefit of the group, “THAT’S NOT TRUE!” Make ’em sweat. Make the tour groups realize that all these smart people visiting the museum are looking at them like they’re a mob of dumb hicks and gomers, if they aren’t willing to listen to legitimate scientific explanations. And take the time to tell them what those scientific explanations are—they’re far more interesting and satisfying than the Biblically Correct Nonsense the guide is giving them.