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Skeptics visit the "Museum of Creation and Earth History"

Dr. Karen Bartelt
Dr Bartelt is an Associate Professor of Chemistry
at Eureka College, Eureka, IL 61530.

Talk.Origins Archive


On a pair of walls leading away from the Greek exhibit, purported 18th and 19th Century creationists stare (forever, perhaps) at 18th and 19th century "evolutionists". One-dimensional and inaccurate portrayals of 18th and 19th Century scientists, educators, businessmen are clearly designed to create a dichotomy: creationist/evolutionist = good/evil.

Rousseau, Descartes, and the Enlightenment lead the way to the wall of "evolutionists". Of Rousseau it is said that he "believed in a truly machine-like universe with no room for a Creator", and that "He helped set the stage for the triumph of secular humanism and evolutionism in France." Descartes "believed that reason alone could find the answers to everything", and "...man and the universe were merely mechanisms, although he also professed belief in God." According to the ICR, "The humanistic elements which had arisen during the Renaissance came to flood tide during the Enlightenment...There have at least been two experiments with 'enlightened' human governments, the French and Russian Revolutions. They both ended in dismal failure." and "The most influential religion among many of these scholars was deism."

With that kind of an attitude about the Enlightenment, I began to wonder why the ICR blew such a great opportunity to let their patrons know about one other Deist and child of the Enlightenment -- one of our own Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson held religious views that were attacked by a multitude of clergy, including the Rev's Timothy Dwight (president of Yale and Jonathan Edwards' grandson) and Cotton Mather Smith. Among Jefferson's "sins" were his rejection of all miracles, including the Biblical account of a universal flood. Jefferson revered the "simple precepts" of Jesus, and constructed "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" from portions of the New Testament, omitting birth accounts, miracles, and references to the resurrection. Some of his other writings make him a perfect candidate for a spot right next to Rousseau:

"The day will come when the account of the birth of Christ as accepted in the Trinitarian churches will be classed with the fable of Minerva springing from the brain of Jupiter." (letter to John Adams, 1823; all Thomas Jefferson quotations are from Foote 1947)

"Shake off all the fears and servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in the seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God, because if there be one, he must approve of the homage of reason rather than that of blindfolded fear...Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness, but the uprightness of the decision." (letter to Peter Carr)

On the teachings of Jesus:

"...fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible. They have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught..." (Syllabus)

It was no surprise that Charles Darwin was depicted negatively and his contributions to science were downplayed. The ICR's biography of Darwin noted that "Darwin's only college degree was in theology," and that not only did he not originate the theory of evolution "but he did not even originate the idea of natural selection". None of this is totally inaccurate, but certainly is not a complete description of Darwin's major contributions to science. For instance, Darwin did originate the idea of natural selection in 1844, but did not publish his essay on the subject, and in 1858, received a manuscript from Alfred Russell Wallace, who had independently conceived the same mechanism. This spurred Darwin into publishing his results, and both papers were read at the Linnean Society about a month later (Futuyma 1986:6). Though his college degree was in theology, Darwin had for years been a collector and a naturalist, and had ventured on a 5 year circumnavigation of the globe aboard the Beagle, collecting plants, animals, and fossils from many exotic locations. It was also noted in the display that Darwin "started out believing in Creation and the Bible", then became a believer in the geologic ages and "progressive creation", then "quit believing in Christianity and became a theistic evolutionist", finally ending his life as "either an atheist or agnostic." All of you progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists take note of the loaded language here. Finally it is said of Darwin that, "He came at just the right time to be a catalyst for a revival of ancient paganism." Again, note the ICR's propensity to link paganism and evolution.

Darwin is flanked on one side by Alfred Russell Wallace, who is described as "not only the co-discoverer of evolution...but was one of the founders...of modern spiritism...a pantheist and a socialist...He spent many years among animistic tribes in the jungles of Malaysia and the Amazon." Apparently Wallace wrote down most of his theory of natural selection during a bout of malaria, to which the ICR responds "...if Wallace had not experienced what he called his 'fit', Darwinism may never have happened."

On the other side of Darwin is Charles Lyell, who the ICR says "popularized the false notion that the present is the key to the past" and "...was bitterly opposed to Christianity and especially the Biblical chronology." This is a real hatchet-job on Lyell, who did not accept Darwin's theory of evolution for many years, instead interpreting the evolutionary pattern in sedimentary strata as evidence that "...God had performed a number of creations over the billions of years of earth history, replacing animals that had gone extinct with newer forms (MacPherson 1998)."

All three of these biographies are short on the scientific achievements of these men, and long on language intended to paint these scientists, and, therefore, their science, as anti-Christian.

Evolution is linked to cruelty in business via Andrew Carnegie who "got rid of theology...and found the truth of evolution" (quote attributed to Carnegie), and "...ruthless developer..." John D. Rockefeller, who was a "staunch theistic evolutionist." Under a very large, almost Hitler-esque portrait, the contributions to education of John Dewey are noted: "...promoter of the 'progressive' education movement. The underlying assumption of progressive education was that the child is simply an evolved animal and must be trained as such." His connections to humanist associations are also described.

As with the exhibits related to ancient history, all information is presented with an extreme bias and a concerted effort to link the theory of evolution to other concepts unpopular to fundamentalist Christians: humanism, socialism, and paganism.

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