What I Learned at the Creation Museum and the Secular Student Alliance Conference

There are plenty of posts explaining what’s inside the museum and the real science behind all the deceptions. You can read those elsewhere.

Outside the science, I managed to come away from the weekend learning quite a bit:

  • Cats that give me allergies are evil.
  • I have been focused too long on atheist license plates as a way to display your beliefs. I completely ignored the possibility of promoting your beliefs on the backs of trucks!

    IMG_0313

    Indiana is scary.

  • I always knew PZ bore a resemblance… :

    IMG_0314
  • The Creation Museum has a presentation called “Men in White”:

    IMG_0315

    One friend offered this explanation: “If you learn any real science during your museum tour, they zap you at the end and make you forget it.”

  • I’ve never enjoyed Twitter as much as I did while going through the museum. Granted there was little wi-fi access inside the museum, it was easy to catch up on what was happening, live, while reading the #creozerg feed.
  • Best part about the museum: The gift shop. It’s a storehouse of humor.
  • Books in the museum gift shop are incredibly un-politically-correct. I don’t know what this subtitle means, but I don’t think it’s a Poe:

    IMG_0318

    I’m sure there’s some wacky Biblical explanation behind this… but are the fundamentalist Christians trying to make people dislike them?

  • When writing about Life in the Great Ice Age, a book cover with lots of green grass doesn’t convince me of its accuracy:

    IMG_0319
  • What is the purpose of rainstorms? According to this Creation Museum book, reason #1 is that God wants to punish people:

    IMG_03201
  • The other best part about the museum: The clothing worn by our group.
  • Check this out:

    DSC00008

    Alli‘s shirt reads “Science is Awesome!!!” Her left sleeve indicates where she bought it from: the Creation Museum, during a previous visit.

    Yep. How’s that for irony?

    Alli said the shirt was no longer being sold during this more recent visit… maybe the staff realized that science doesn’t help their cause. Or maybe they just ran out of the shirts because the atheists bought them all.

  • You can be told to turn your shirt inside-out when it reads “There’s probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”… but Jason‘s shirt went surprisingly unnoticed:

    DSC00012
  • Carl Sagan would have been appalled by this joke of a “science museum”:

    DSC00013
  • You know you’re a math nerd when you see Mark‘s shirt as I did, solve it, and then giggle in amusement while others stare blankly:

    DSC00036
  • When several dozen atheists march outside the museum to see a special ceremony just beyond the entrance gates, it totally freaks out the Creation Museum security guards.
  • I’ve been asked: What do we gain from visiting the museum when much of its content is already online? Why give money to the museum? Several things.

    300 atheists can go back home with a first-hand description of what the museum is like and how many lies are contained inside of it.

    They are motivated to educate others about rational thought and the scientific method — a motivation you probably can’t get when you just read about this museum from afar.

    There will be a plethora of blog postings, Twitter messages, and media mentions about how atheists went to this museum. Those messages contain examples of the absurd theories this museum says are accurate. The reach we have is really immeasurable.

    Our admission costs were (unfortunately) a drop in the bucket for the museum. Even on the day we went, we were only 12% of the daily attendance. To give them some money in exchange for exposing their lies and motivating atheists to fight against unscientific ideas is well worth it, I think.

  • The Secular Student Alliance decided to forego several hour-long talks and instead have shorter 20-minute talks at the conference (with a couple exceptions). This was an awesome idea. We’re *totally* doing this again in the future. It’s much better than my experience at other conferences, when in some cases, I realized 10 minutes into a talk that the boring speaker had another 30 or 40 minutes to go… thankfully, the SSA had great speakers and the sessions flew by.
  • Atheists often talk about gaps at meetings, like the Gender gap (lots of men, few women) and the Age gap (lots of old people, few students). But we rarely talk about the Race gap. There was only one black person attending the conference (one other spoke) and very few Asians. We need to find a way to fix this problem and get more minorities involved in our movement.
  • It’s probably not a good idea to schedule a talk on “How to get people to attend your meetings” at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday.
  • PZ Myers has a very strong sense of awareness about how influential he is, what he means to other atheists (especially younger ones), and how to connect with his audience. Despite his “bad guy” reputation online, he is incredibly nice in person. The disconnect between those two personas may be larger than anyone else’s I can think of.
  • PZ reads every single one of the comments on his blog. I’m amazed (though not very surprised) by that.
  • PZ’s philosophy in a nutshell:

    DSC00056

    Don’t take “mockery” the wrong way. The idea is that if you can convince people that religious beliefs (e.g. a cracker being the actual body of Christ, the Earth being only 6,000 years old, etc.) are ridiculous, we’ll be able to be more effective at getting people to think rationally. Debating and calling the other side nasty names aren’t as powerful.

  • If the Secular Coalition for America‘s Executive Director Sean Faircloth stays in his position for a long time, his greatest gift to our movement could be influencing one of our own to run for Congress. The students had wonderful things to say about him after he spoke and I wouldn’t be surprised if others eventually decide to follow in his footsteps and run for public office.
  • The Secular Student Alliance (of which I chair the board of directors) ran a very efficient conference, all thanks to our two staff members, two interns, and a few volunteers. I think we put on a really excellent conference (but I’m biased). You can tell me if I’m wrong.
  • One down side to the SSA’s work is that it’s very hard to raise money for our organization when the people we serve (students) are the least able to give us donations. Look at this chart:

    Opportunity

    That’s how big we’re becoming. I don’t know how many groups we’ll end up having in 2010. It’s amazing and scary all at once. Scary because we may not be able to support all these groups.

    Look at the SSA’s cash flow:

    Obstacle

    It may look like a lot of money, but that money pays for two full-time staffers, interns, an office, travel grants to students, project grants to our groups, speakers’ travel fees, etc. At the rate of growth we have, we need at least one other campus organizer on the payroll. At the very least, we need to keep our current staff and pay them what they’re worth (we don’t do them justice). We need your help to be able to provide services like this conference and campus group support. Please consider making a contribution if you have the means..


  • Delphine

    Many east Asians are already agnostic or atheists. However, most are apathetic towards religion.

    My entire family, except my father, who couldn’t make up his mind whether he’s a deist or a Buddhist, are agnostic/atheists. However, my mother and my siblings simply can’t care less.

    If I haven’t had one of my best friends sob in my face and tell me I’m going to hell for not believing in her god, I would probably be apathetic too.

  • Pseudonym

    For the benefit of those who don’t get the reference in that book, it’s this:

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

    I still don’t get it, though. The standard interpretation of this verse has always been a statement against racism, sexism and so on. The book title seems to go against this.

  • Mau de Katt

    Well, I’m not a math nerd… so what does the T-shirt say?

  • http://lepokitka.net lpktk

    It says 69. :)

    At first I was expecting 42, though. :)

    Edit: Stupid me. I forgot the question mark. Now that 69 makes more sense. :)

  • Laura

    I’m not the least bit surprised that truck was seen in Indiana. When I went there this summer to visit my boyfriend, just about every car had an “In God We Trust” license plate border. Even my heathen sweetheart had one! Apparently it’s just what they give everyone at the dealer.

    Indiana can indeed be a scary place.

  • http://woodpigeon01.wordpress.com Colm

    28 * Integral(2,1) x dx = 42.

    I would put an exclamation mark after it, or better still, a smiley…

  • pollux

    Great article!! To a Dane, this is truly flabbergasting… In Denmark we’re so secular that God not only is dead, he’s passé.

    Have you heard of the card game that mocks religion via merits of philosophy and science?

    Check it out: http://www.opus-dei.co.uk

    (made by Danish producers, in perfect English though!)

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    That’s not an American flag on the back of that truck. The outer stripes are red, not white! And the stripe under the blue canton is white, not red! Vexillogical blasphemy!

  • TXatheist

    Semi-truck related-I was following one about 4 years ago that had a website and phone number of a xian org that would come to your school and teach xianity. So I called and they said sure they’d be happy to come to a public school and give a 3 hour lecture on the bible as actual history. I apologize but I can’t remember who the org was.

  • Brian

    The T-shirt says 69?, lol.

    I’ve never seen that before. Math can be sexy.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    “Indiana is scary.”

    A truer statement has never been spoken! :P

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Weren’t you upset he was saying that Indiana was smelly or something, Jennifurret?

    Hemant, can the SSA accept donations from outside of the country? I think it’s a great cause, and I don’t particularly care much about tax deductions.

  • Another Atheist

    As far as advertising our beliefs on trucks, I occasionally see a big white truck in my area. Plastered across the side (like 6 ft tall) is a photograph of a bloody aborted fetus, probably 4 or 5 months along. The image makes me sick every time I see it, which is the effect they are going for I guess. What could we come up with to contradict that one?

  • jemand

    I actually was given that ice age book when I was probably 13! It actually increased my skepticism because I was fascinated by it and loved the idea it presented, then mentioned it to my grandfather and he said “yeah, I don’t believe there was an ice age. That doesn’t really sound biblical to me.”

    And pretty much that just sounded ridiculous to me and then I started looking at the rest of it and it started to look ridiculous too and 10 years later here I am a “militant” atheist!

    LOL

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant, can the SSA accept donations from outside of the country? I think it’s a great cause, and I don’t particularly care much about tax deductions.

    Veritas (and others) — Yes! We can absolutely accept donations from outside the country. Thanks in advance for anything you can give.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Sweet. I’ll do what I can then.

  • Double-E

    Interesting take on the SSA Conference – saw a different point of view that you might find interesting // The Thomas Society

  • zoo

    Secular Planet:

    That’s not an American flag on the back of that truck. The outer stripes are red, not white! And the stripe under the blue canton is white, not red! Vexillogical blasphemy!

    Odd. I only glanced at the picture while I was reading through (we have tons of these sorts of trucks around), but actually looking at it I would think the average person would at least get the feeling something’s not right about it, even if they can’t put their finger on it. It’s not like we never see flags.

    As for the trucks, there are all kinds of them around here. The latest I saw was one I see fairly regularly with “It’s a child not a choice” plastered on the back, because, you know, I asked for a random truck company’s opinion on the matter.

  • False Prophet

    If you’re curious, Ken Ham has a web page explaining the “Greeks” and “Jews” thing.

    If you’d rather be spared the vexing prose, basically it refers to Paul having more success as an early Christian missionary among the Jews because the concepts of monotheism and the Messiah were inherent to them, while the polytheistic Greeks had much more difficulty grasping the foundation of Christian doctrine (even though so much of Christian thought is plagiarized from the Neo-Platonists).

    Ham extrapolates this to the modern world by equating “Jews” to religious believers (or Real True Christians) and “Greeks” with people whose cognitive foundations rest on science, reason, skepticism, etc.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    Yet another reason to be proud of my Greek heritage, then!

  • http://thishumanist.wordpress.com Clare

    I think the way to get underrepresented groups actively involved in the atheist and humanist communities is for atheists and humanist individuals and groups to participate more in their communities and stop thinking about certain issues as niche issues and encourage everyone to think about them and contribute.

  • Kaye

    Great article, Hemant! Your article finally inspired me to get around to making a donation to SSA. Might not be much, but the single mother budget is pretty similar to the college student budget (none).

    It was great seeing you at the Museum!

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    “Indiana is scary”

    You don’t know the half of it, haha.

  • Siamang

    Um….

    There was grass during the last ice age.

    In fact, that’s what the Woolly Rhinoceros pictured mostly ate.

    I object to the little outfit that kid is wearing. Shirtsleeves? Bare feet? Thin leather? Clothing designed for modesty but not warmth?

  • strikefighter

    RE: the stupid ice age book:

    If the Creation Museum is all about the Biblically literal version of the Creation story, which supposedly happened about 6K years ago, then there was no ice age. As it ended about 4K years prior. But at least the front cover is ridiculously inaccurate. But then, science isn’t really their strong point, is it?

  • artiofab

    in re: strikefighter

    The YEC’s think an ice age happened after the Noachian Deluge. This ice age of a few hundred years has basically nothing in common with the multiple ice ages that real science says have been occurring on a fairly steady timetable since the Pleistocene. (or is it the late Pliocene? The Neogene is so not my strongest point…)

    Basically their job is to take everything that science says is real and bend it just enough to fit in their worldview. e.g. evolution happens but only within kinds. That all the hundreds of thousands of beetle species basically evolved in the last few thousand years gives them no worries because, after all, God did it.

  • grazatt

    jemand, (or any one how read it) What did the Ice Age book say? How did it reconcile the Ice Age with creationism? Did it mention Neanderthals at all?

  • artiofab

    Also …

    Even though the SSA represented only 12% of the attendance for that day at the Creation Museum, every dollar theose people get is another dollar they can spend fighting real science education in this country and any other country AiG is spreading its influence to.

    The North American Paleontological Convention fielded a smaller sized (70-80 person) adventure to the Museum a month and a half ago. It created press, obviously (NY Times even threw together an article about it), but the press is not going to slam creationists for their thinking. If anything, press pieces usually are either neutral or they push the argument of the creationists: that both sides look at the same evidence and data but because of different lenses, they come to different conclusions.

    So…these field trips don’t create good media, they give the Creation Museum more respect (secular scientists came here and said our displays are great), they give the Creation Museum a chance to play martyr (they mocked us and God and a family that drove here from Virginia was sad that they couldn’t teach their kids our ‘science’), and they give the people money. That’s poppycock. Any science or secular organization that gives money to the Creation Museum is basically financing the continuation of their own component of the culture wars.

  • artiofab

    PS

    Can University of Minnesota Professors’ Research Be Trusted?

    vs.

    I think we successfully poked him with a big stick

    Ham not only in no way counters what Myers is saying, but is willing to attack Myers’ character and the reputation of the University of Minnesota school system, mainly because Myers doesn’t have the same worldview and uses “vile language”. And yet Ham and his readers believe he comes off as the righteous and oppressed man.

    Ham and his minions are not interested in fighting fair. They are not interested in causing dialogue. They are not interested in opening minds. They are lying, through their teeth, for the Lord, to millions of people around the world. The SSA threw $2850 bucks and some recognition to these people.

    Great work?

  • DrGonzo

    Indiana can indeed be a scary place.

    Indiana has got nothing on Kansas.

  • #1 lurker

    You’re not going to run into many atheist black people. We’re a very religious, conservative group, in general, and even if you do find someone who self-identifies as atheist/agnostic/whatever, we generally have, you know, “other” social issues to worry about before being concerned with whether or not other people believe in Jesus Claus.

  • http://facebook.com/riggs.62 Michael Riggs

    Pseudonym, you are close. What they are referring to is:

    1 Corinthians 1.22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (NIV)

    The idea is that the Greeks are intellectually skeptical, but the Jews are already willing to believe, but only require a sign. In other places, Jesus is willing to give signs to unbelievers, but those seeking logical understanding rather than simple faith are farther away from the gospel.

    John 10.38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (NIV)

    The YECers tip their hands a bit here in showing that people with blind and (in their estimation) erroneous beliefs are closer to the truth than those who require proof for their beliefs.


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