I contemplated whether or not to admit this openly online, but I think it needs to be done for the sake of discussion and debate. I apologise to my fellow archaeologists and scientists, but I must confess….. I stumbled into a creationist museum.
Yes, I was actually stupid enough to be fooled into voluntarily walking into a creationist museum. In my defence, it was fairly well disguised and I was trying to be open minded when exploring a new area close to my new home. The rather cluttered front said “fossils for sale!” and had a small collection in the window – seemed harmless enough, so we decided to explore further. We walked inside and saw a rather odd looking dinosaur, a small shop, and a lone employee who invited us to tour the small (free) exhibit. Not bad, so we thought.The exhibit looked like it was built in the 1940s, and would have fitted in perfectly well with the set of some of the earliest Gerry Anderson productions. I immediately clocked the cast of the Neanderthal skull, and after that I wasn’t reading anything too in depth but just admiring the fossils – which, admittedly, there were plenty of. However, it soon became very apparent that not all was as it seemed.
The text was written in a very mid-1900’s type way, and the technology was crying out for an update – push the button and something in the display might move or make a noise, if you’re lucky. Then again, for free admission I wasn’t expecting a multi-million pound light show. Not exactly convincing me we’re looking at displays of the most up to date scientific discoveries here. We continued on, and around the fossils were some rather obvious clues that this wasn’t what we thought it was: a can of “primeval soup” with a creepy looking hand reaching out, a large replica tombstone which said “here lies the theory of evolution – RIP”, and at the very end some copies of a ‘journal’ trying to ‘scientifically’ prove stories from the Bible.
While the entire thing acknowledged scientific discoveries, such as DNA, it did the usual trick of trying to use this information to convince us that how none of these things could have happened by chance. It uses the fossils to try and show that nothing has changed over time, and therefore attempt to show that evolution cannot be right. This obviously displays a complete misunderstanding about what concepts such as natural selection actually mean.
I was absolutely infuriated that I had been able to stumble into such a place so easily. It had not been immediately apparent from the outside, and it was only on the way out that we saw the name of this so-called museum – the Genesis Expo, which is in Portsmouth Harbour. It hadn’t even occurred to me that these sorts of places even existed in the UK, and that was probably why my guard was down. I wasn’t expecting to have to avoid walking into such a place. Thinking about it I’m amazed that this sort of place can survive – particularly with free admission!
I find it disturbing that such people can abuse science in such a way to try and prove their own ideas, with absolutely no regard or respect for scientific rigour. If you want to read a religious text and believe that then it’s fine, but don’t try to bend science to make yourself feel better about your beliefs. Science and religion are complete opposite ends of the spectrum – like black and white, night and day. This so called ‘museum’ seems to insult both the scientific community and those who rely on faith, rather than science, to explain certain aspects of their lives.
Luckily the Genesis Expo is so poorly designed and executed that it is of absolutely no threat to anyone. I can’t imagine any child being interested enough to engage with the exhibit, and thankfully the online reviews show that the adults don’t seem convinced either (if you would like confirmation, feel free to Google). However, the ideas portrayed in this museum certainly are.
Perhaps I feel particularly strongly about this as someone who researches human origins, and has a love of human skeletal remains, cadavers, and generally anything death related. So I’m generally offensive to anyone religious on the grounds of my love of the Palaeolithic and the dead, but that doesn’t particularly bother me. And although I’m sure my love of science comes mostly from my father introducing me to the subject as a child, I’m also sure my religious secondary school trying to keep us away from topics such as evolution also pushed me further towards exploring science. It is probably for this reason that I feel strongly about how religion and science should be taught and approached. I love teaching people about what I do, but equally I am aware that what I research will probably offend certain groups and I do try to consider this in general conversation.
While I appreciate other cultures and religious groups have a different opinion, I am rather concerned by the discovery of this ‘museum’. I personally don’t want to see creationist museums on my doorstep, but perhaps I am just being protective of museums as a domain I see as an arena for science.
What do you think about the existence of this museum? Do you think they have a right to portray their ideas, or do you think this is just incorrect portrayal of scientific ideas which should be stopped?