59. Faith Displayed As Science: How Creationists Co-opted Museums with Julie Garcia
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm UNLV dinner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started. There's a new tool in younger with creationist quest for scientific legitimacy, the museum over the past twenty five years, dozens of so called creation, museums have been built most of them in the US, barring the style of natural history, museums, and science centers, these public display spaces use the form and rhetoric of mainstream science to support a belief in the literal truth of the bible, including the creation of the universe in six days, about six thousand years ago on museum. Let's creationist speak directly to the people in unfiltered and unchallenged way, just by being able to put all this inside something that's called museum and use the sort of trappings of science, it really gives creationism that additional feel of legitimacy and credibility that it might not otherwise have this is Julie Garcia and her interest in both evolution and the people who vehemently deny. It led her to explore. Why museums are particularly well suited medium for creationist ideas. My name is Julie Garcia. I was formerly known as Julie Duncan at the time that I wrote my senior thesis which was called faith displayed as science, the role of the creation, museum in the modern American creationist movement Garcia grew up in Kentucky, and as an undergrad at Harvard. She decided to become a history and science, major at other colleges, that's known as history and philosophy of science, which is basically just the study of what science is, and why we trusted and what are different ways of knowing the world for me, part of the reason I had gone into it because I had always had a fascination with evolution. And I had also had a corresponding fascination with wise Sony people so vehemently, didn't like Evelyn. And why so many people? To the point of thirty forty sometimes fifty percent in certain holes believe in creationism. I was prompted to write this thesis when in probably two thousand six or so I heard that in my backyard in Boone county, Kentucky answers in Genesis, a creationist organization was going to be building the largest creation museum in the world known as the answers in Genesis, creation, museum, a twenty seven million dollar facility over many acres about ten minutes from my house to answers in Genesis, creation, museum, also known as just the creation museum opened in two thousand seven in its first year. It reported four hundred thousand visitors I eventually decided coming into the summer of two thousand eight before my senior year that I would spend that summer traveling to back home to Kentucky to visit the creation museum there and three other creation museums around the. S the creation evidence museum in Glen, rose, Texas dinosaur adventure land, and the related creation, museum in Pensacola, Florida and the institute for creation research, which is near San Diego, California. So that's kind of how it all started. And, and I spent the summer two thousand eight visiting those and talking to people and, and learning about the four different idioms Garcia chose these four museums for their stylistic differences, and for their geographical diversity and each one, she viewed the exhibits and talk to the founders and staff, then analyzed highlighted the messages in methods common to all of the museums, there was some trepidation before I went because I was worried that by disclosing that I was not a creationist that they would assume that I was out to write a smear piece on their museums, which, honestly, when I read my thesis, now I think there are certain things that I would now phrase differently that came off snark. Earlier than I think I would write them now but everyone was very kind to me and they were all very eager to show me everything that they had built. And they were very proud of it. I came away from it thinking, you know, these, these are very, nice people with whom I just disagree. But that's the thing that kind of stuck in my mind. The most is that everyone. I talked to was very nice, and obviously very faithful and believe completely in what was being shown in the museum's too. I did feel uncomfortable seeing all the children there. It's one thing I've Asli for adults to decide what they believe and do whatever they want with those beliefs and feel very strongly about them and, and teach them to others. It was just a little troubling to MIR disheartening to see young children. Very impressionable learning things that I personally consider to be contrary to science undoubtedly contrary to. Established mainstream science. But of course, that's kind of the purpose of these museums amphora for museums, heavily featured dinosaurs either in audio neutron ick form or as fossils, this is not just because of the time, compression of geological ages present in young earth creationism, it is also because dinosaurs, attract the public, particularly children to these museums. The founder of the answers in Genesis, creation, museum, Ken ham calls dinosaurs. Missionary lizards for their attention getting power. Yes, I did feel some discomfort seeing kids being kind of explicitly told. Hey, these dinosaurs were alive, six thousand years ago. And people were riding them like an answers in Genesis. They actually have a triceratops toward the end of the Newseum with addle on it, and you can sit on it, and take a picture, and it's, it's not a joke. It is a representation of what the museum says, you know, would've been a typical. Pre-flood diorama, where humans were living together with dinosaurs. All of them basically said in different ways Dr Hoven from guidance sword. Bench Linden, Florida and an ham from answers in Genesis both. Very explicitly said, the, the purpose of using things like dinosaurs is to attract the children to bring them in, you know, then again with distance now I can acknowledge that that is true of secular museums, too. That's why we're all fighting over who's going to buy for several million dollars. The best specimen of T, Rex and so on, because we all know dinosaurs cell. But at the same time, given the counter narrative being told at these museums about dinosaurs and humans living together. Yes, I did feel some discomfort to why build a museum Garcia argues that there are three significant and interrelated reasons. The first museums are seen as credible. Museums really have a long. History in the US ads places of scientific research and public education in the twentieth, century. They were sometimes referred to as cathedrals of science this idea that they were buildings where we set for, you know, the best of human knowledge, and human endeavor, and everything that, that the collective knowledge of our species was placed in these, these buildings for everyone to see and to learn from so simply by attaching that phrase that word museum it just automatically gives what's inside the building a sheen in Fred ability, that otherwise wouldn't have if it were called a theme park or a bible center or something like that. The second reason also relates to the focus on dinosaurs. Museums are more entertaining than school, bible study, or bible school. It's kind of entertaining that a lot of teachers. Are going to like a lot of parents and teachers, they want an educational experience for kids. And so a lot of parents who might not want to spend the money to take kids to what they feel. It is kind of a frivolous day. The theme park can get behind the idea of taking them to a museum where they're going to be learning about science, and they're going to be learning wholesome things, and kind of bettering themselves now going along with that. The entertainment value is a decent amount of money. At least that's the time that I was writing my thesis. I know that evangelical were the primary audience for a market of about four billion dollars a year in the religious entertainment industry. The final reason going directly to the people number three. I think honestly might even be the most important of them, which is that a museum let's creationist speak directly to the people in. Unfiltered and kind of unchallenged way. And I think this is a large part of a larger movement away from what creationist had been doing, which was bringing these challenges in the court system. They in the sixties. Seventies eighties had suffered a string of kind of stinging defeats the court when things go right? A legal proceeding designed to get to the truth, and part of getting to the truth is subjecting, subjecting assertions to rigorous cross-examination and you have someone sitting up there, the judge who makes rulings about what is a good argument and what's not, and can keep certain evidence out and can rule on who qualifies as an expert. And those were things that weren't going well for. Creationist you know, after they lost a number of these cases, they started moving more toward this museum model. And I think that is because there is no cross examination in a museum in fact, there is no opposite point of view. If you don't want to give it, there's no requirement that you describe, how other people see evidence or that you respond to criticisms of the way that you are presenting your point of view, being able to go directly to your audience without a middleman is one of the main ways the media landscape more broadly has changed. There's now more space for viewpoints that used to be far outside the mainstream to directly attract their own audience, and it doesn't have to be on the level of a single institution. Either Garcia talks about guides to scientifically informed museums zoos and aquariums for sale in the creation, museum's gift shop. Meant to be used at these other institutions for alternative Biblically, correct interpretations of their displays. I know that in addition to those printouts that you can purchase through enters in Genesis in other sources. There are also some organizations that provide these tours such as a group called Biblically correct tours that does tours of natural history, museums. And my understanding of how these were is that essentially, it's an offshoot of this idea of the two model approach, which is the idea that evolution and creationism are two competing philosophies, and that they essentially look at the same evidence, but they just draw different conclusions. And so, by having a sort of Biblically, correct tour of the museum dis organizations, explain how creationism is not opposed to SCI this in their view. You because they know that Americans for the most part like science, nobody wants to be anti science. So if anybody disagrees about things like climate change, or Evelyn, h-, usually, the way that it is phrase is not. Well, I don't like science and I just reject science. It's more. Well, I take a different view of the science and, you know, there are two sides to the story and I follow this interpretation, and so on. It's not just that museum goers, like science Garcia points out that audiences tend to trust information more if it's presented in a high tech style. In her conclusion, there see a rights that it seems probable that in the years to come. We will see the construction of more museums, most likely in the high tech style of the answers in Genesis creation museum, which has proven to be quite lucrative now. It's easier for people through media like Twitter and through buildings like their own. Creation, museums to kind of claim the same sort of authority and have an impact that they otherwise might not have, you know, in the past, where they wouldn't they wouldn't have had that ability to get their message out this has been museum archipelago. You can find show notes and a full transcript of this episode at museum, archipelago dot com. If you liked this episode you can support the show and get some fun benefits like logo stickers and the bonus podcast feed by joining club archipelago on patriarch special, thanks to club, archipelagos, newest member and host of the excellent museums in strange places podcast. Hannah half man. Thanks for listening and next time. Bring a friend.