Saturday, August 27, 2005

Taking the Jurassic out of Jurassic Park


Adam, Eve and T. Rex
    Giant roadside dinosaur attractions are used by a new breed of creationists as pulpits to spread their version of Earth's origins.

    LA Times
    CABAZON, Calif. — Dinny the roadside dinosaur has found religion.

    The 45-foot-high concrete apatosaurus has towered over Interstate 10 near Palm Springs for nearly three decades as a kitschy prehistoric pit stop for tourists.

    Now he is the star of a renovated attraction that disputes the fact that dinosaurs died off millions of years before humans first walked the planet.

    Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark. The gift shop at the attraction, called the Cabazon Dinosaurs, sells toy dinosaurs whose labels warn, "Don't swallow it! The fossil record does not support evolution."

    The Cabazon Dinosaurs join at least half a dozen other roadside attractions nationwide that use the giant reptiles' popularity in seeking to win converts to creationism. And more are on the way.

    "We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group building a $25-million creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., that's already overrun with model sauropods and velociraptors.

    "They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people," he said. "Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star."

    The nation's top paleontologists find the creation theory preposterous and say children are being misled by dinosaur exhibits that take the Jurassic out of "Jurassic Park."

    "Dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden, and Noah's Ark? Give me a break," said Kevin Padian, curator at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley and president of National Center for Science Education, an Oakland group that supports teaching evolution. "For them, 'The Flintstones' is a documentary."

    ...The nearly 7-acre museum, low-tech theme park and science center embodies its founder's belief that God created the world in six days. The dinosaurs, even super carnivores such as T. rex, dined as vegetarians in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve sinned — and only then did they feast on other creatures, according to the Christian-based young-Earth theory.

    About 4,500 years after Adam and Eve arrived, the theory goes, pairs of baby dinosaurs huddled in Noah's Ark, and a colossal flood drowned the rest and scattered their fossils. The ark-borne animals repopulated the planet — meaning that folk tales about fire-breathing beasts are accounts of humans battling dinosaurs, who still roamed the planet.

    ..."Go to Disneyland, they teach evolution. It's subtle; signs that say, 'Millions of years ago' " said evangelist Kent Hovind, the park's founder. "This is a golden opportunity to get our point across."

    Carl Baugh opened his Creation Evidence Museum in the 1980s near Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, where some people said fossilized dinosaur tracks and human footprints crisscrossed contemporaneously. The Texas museum sponsors a continuing hunt for living pterodactyls in Papua New Guinea. Baugh said five colleagues have spotted the flying dinosaurs, "but all the sightings were made after dark, and we were not able to capture the creatures."

    Organizers at Creation Research of the North Coast in Humboldt County, Calif., dream of building their own reptile park but lack funding and acreage. So do leaders at Project Creation in Mount Juliet, Tenn., who would need to raise about $1 million to assemble 30 to 50 pterodactyl and brachiosaur replicas to mingle with live chickens and goats.

    ..."We like to think of [dinosaurs] as creation lizards, or missionary lizards," said Frank Sherwin, a museum researcher and author.

    A 50,000-square-foot Answers in Genesis museum and headquarters is under construction near the Ohio-Kentucky border, where the group hired a full-time dinosaur sculptor. When the facility opens in 2007, the lobby will spotlight a 20-foot waterfall and two animatronic T. rexes hanging out with two animatronic children dressed in buckskins.

    ...The pastor and the Kanters now hope to turn Mr. Rex's innards into exhibits about cryptozoology — the study of speculative creatures, such as Bigfoot — and creationism. They will somewhat mirror those in Santee, which takes visitors from Genesis to modern times with placards that say Darwin "came at just the right time to be the catalyst for a revival of ancient paganism" and that evolution birthed Communism, racism and Nazism.


Also in today's LA TImes is an interesting editorial by Rosa Brooks Not Your Daddy's Creationists. She points out an interesting shift in the religious right's rhetorical strategy from the Alan Bloom, William Bennett style moral absolutism of the 80s and 90s to the relativism of the 00s. Now creationists, such as John McCain and George III, plead, apparently without any sense of irony, that "in the interests of intellectual and moral pluralism, "alternatives" to evolution should get a fair hearing in schools."

1 Comments:

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