Ah, Missouri. Home of Dick Van Dyke, John Goodman, and people who seem to love to pronounce their own state as Missour-uh. Though I've never heard a suitable answer as to why that is, it's always a source of fun when teasing my girlfriend about her old stomping grounds. I'm from the big blue state of Michigan, which made my trip to Missouri to watch my girlfriend graduate from college last May all the stranger. Even though I'm Catholic, the high levels of religiosity in Missouri were foreign to me, but perhaps it's because I'm jaded. I'm from Michigan--God stopped caring about us and our high levels of unemployment a long time ago. Traveling along a long stretch of Southwestern Missouri's I-44 highway to reach Nixa led me to one conclusion: I didn't fit in. My one-day stint in tornado alley made me paranoid I was either going to have a Bible heaved at me or that a tornado would attack at any moment, or worse--a tornado would hit a Christian book store and launch an unholy salvo around my general person.
Seeing the Bible Belt definitely left an impression, and my girlfriend recently informed me that a creationism museum is being planned in Branson, Missouri, not far from where she grew up. The idea of a creationism museum, which teaches the world is only several thousand years old, has piqued my curiosity considering the overwhelming evidence that the earth is billions of years old. It would be like creating a museum which offered evidence that the earth is still the center of the universe and not the sun (which is now trademarked, by the way). I plan on building it in the foreseeable future since the earth has me on it, and I've always believed my mother was wrong, despite the overwhelming evidence, when arguing I wasn't the center of the universe (I'm accepting donations for the museum as we speak). I'm also selling t-shirts that read "I'm not narcissistic--you're just jealous."
So I decided to email Dr. Butterworth, president of the proposed museum, to ask some questions. One of the questions pondered whether he thought his museum's mission statement, which was a Bible verse about making "disciples of all nations" was at odds with the mission statement of the Smithsonian Institute, which states its purpose is to create an establishment "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Unfortunately, Dr. Butterworth's response was not what I had hoped. He responded to my email by informing me he didn't have time to reply to my email (I found it confusing, too). He did wish to comment that "we (the creationism museum) are very concerned to present only true empirical science to support our position." He then suggested I look at Dr. Ken Ham's website for "research information."
Ah, yes, Dr. Ham. A former Australian that moved to the States, Dr. Ham founded a creationism museum in Kentucky that has displays where children can ride dinosaurs, as Dr. Ham teaches dinosaurs and people coexisted even though all the major scientific evidence leads to the conclusion that millions of years separated the two.
When exactly the notoriously skeptical people within the "Show-Me State" of Missouri morphed into a bunch of Creationist Cathys, I'll never know. Disappointed with Dr. Butterworth's response to my email, I considered writing him back with a simple message: "I appreciate your reply. When your answers to my questions begin to evolve, let me know. Don't worry--I know evolution takes a long time." Still looking for answers, I decided to contact an old friend of mine with a perfect background in such matters.
Michael Martin earned a BA in biology from Kalamazoo College, one of the top nine private
colleges in America according to a Higher Education Data Sharing study. He has a Masters degree in Basic Medical Science, and is currently working on his MD at Wayne State University in Detroit. His uniqueness comes from his minors in history and religion, and also his experience as a presenter at the Detroit Science Center. And though he would deny it, he also has a thing for actress Carrie Fisher. Believe me, it's weird.
Michael is aware of the creationist museums that have sprung to life out of the mist in recent years, and he has mixed reviews. The purpose of a museum, he informed me, "is to present the most up-to-date facts on the subject in question in an interactive way." So, if someone happens to believe in creationism, a creationist museum like the one proposed in Branson, Missouri, would be a great place to go. However, he also made a point to note that any educational institution that presents highly contested facts as modern is "highly dubious," and should someone visit such a museum they should be aware "their (the creationist museum) facts are highly contested by the rest of the scientific world."
When the Branson creationism museum opens in the future, I plan on making the trek with my girlfriend. I've seen how much college students love to ride mechanic bulls while under the influence at bars. I can only imagine the endless possibilities of those same intoxicated students paying me money to ride a mechanical dinosaur, and it seems my plan is working. When I asked Michael if he would be interested in visiting the museum as well, even the future doctor couldn't contain himself. "I wanna ride the dinosaur!"
Scott Janssen is a graduate student, blogger, and all-around drain on society.
Author's Correction: Previously I had cited a wrong source. The American Council on Education did not list Kalamazoo College as one of the top nine private colleges in America -- the Higher Education Data Sharing study did. I apologize for the mistake and inconvenience.