Earstwhile reviewing-flatmate Pasty and I headed off to a lecture by Dr John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society at Bath University on Thursday. The lecture was entitled ‘Humans Riding on the Backs of Dinosaurs‘, and had been organised by the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL.
The lecture was actually an interested and rather gently critical look at the twenty-seven million dollar Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky USA. I’m not going to give a serious review of the lecture, because it’s not really my area (at all!), but I have to give him serious support for managing such a benign and objective analysis of the museum, despite the fact that he obviously is not a Creationist.
Knowing a few members of the audience, I observed quite a good mixture of people. In fact, there must have been more than a hundred attendees, and I saw a couple of clusters of palaeontologists and archaeologists. Troyer is a good presenter, relaxed and informal, with a very enjoyable presenting style.
The lecture was very engaging and open minded, starting with some really useful background on the current battleground between secularists and creationists in US public schools, and the current legal situation. Troyer then went on to show images and footage shot at the Creation Museum, and to discuss and explain them. The focus of his interpretation was within his own interests as a researcher into death, but although slightly unexpected it appeared to be a useful way of approaching such a large and dauntingly political subject.
Interestingly, as my secondary supervisor pointed out in the questions at the end, it’s a museum without any objects. It’s filled with dioramas, but they have no actual artefacts. Everything is fabricated for the museum. How strange is that? So to call it a museum rather seems silly – it’s more of an ‘experience’ anyway.
One of the major points I took away from the lecture is that the only thing holding School Boards back from requiring that Creationism be taught in the Science classroom as the ‘truth’ about how the world was created, is the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The important being the ‘establishment of religion‘ bit, which unbeknown to me refers to establishing a religion as the state religion. So far all the judges who have tried test cases have stated that to teach Christian religion in the science classroom is to establish Christianity as the religion of the US. Hence a no-go.
It seems such a fragile thread by which we hang.
In other news, apparently in a phone-poll in 2009 the question “Is Obama the Antichrist?” was large answered in the negative… except for over 10% of respondents who weren’t sure! Fantastic!