Back to The Kil Report
The Skeptic Friend's visit to the ICR
By David Glück
Posted on: 4/5/2002
Several of the Skeptic Friends took a trip to the Institute for Creation Research's museum, and had some mimosa-fueled fun, including a photo op with one of the greats.
The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in San Diego has become ground zero for scientific creationism.
Briefly, scientific creationists believe that the Biblical version of creation is supported by science (theirs), and all other scientific explanations for human origins are lacking support which can be trusted. They believe their “theories” deserve a place in the classroom along side evolution, geology, astronomy, and any other science that deals with the distant past. Why? They say that as a theory, creationism can compete on the same level as evolution since no one has directly observed the distant past. In other words, a true scientific theory would require direct observation of an event that happened long ago. (Anyone ever heard of forensic science?) This is what creationists tell school boards and state legislators, and the scary thing is that this approach sells.
Right now, I’m sitting knee deep in pamphlets and brochures I took from the ICR, and I can tell you that their stated goal differs depending on what audience they are targeting. In a pamphlet called “Introducing the ICR,” which is clearly intended for distribution at churches and to the faithful, they write:
Because American society — especially our educational system — is dominated by evolutionary humanism.
Because the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, homosexuality, and many others) are evident all around us.
Because this rebellion against God and His laws stems from unbelieving scientists and educators undermining the foundational truth of creation.
Well, I’m not going to join the debate in this report. Not really. I have something more than a bias on the subject of evolution and creation which should be obvious. If you want to know more about the actual debate, I suggest you look at the Creation/Evolution pages or “A Few Words about Creation Science” found elsewhere on this site. You might also try one of our recommended links. The Talk.Origins Archive is always a good place to start.
The Skeptic Friends visit to the ICR
This was it! We were finally going to the Institute for Creation Research. The trip had been planned for a while. Larry flew in from Seattle, Athena from San Francisco and I drove down from Los Angeles. Bullum is a homeboy in San Diego. We met up in the lobby of the Comfort Suite Hotel where Larry and Athena were staying. Norma would be joining us later at the ICR. We hopped into the Bullimosine and headed east on the eight toward Santee, where the Museum of Creation and Earth History is actually located. But first things first. We had to have breakfast.
You don’t want to go on a fact finding tour (or a fiction finding tour) on an empty stomach. Trust me. Bullum took us to a Deli that was on the way. Having breakfast together gave us a little time to get to know one another in person. I had met Larry in December but until this morning Athena and Bullum were chat room friends of mine, only. We talked about our chat room, this web site and of course the ICR. I had a mimosa with my breakfast. When going to a place like the ICR (the lion’s den) with friends (who are suddenly not digital) I recommend a mimosa with breakfast. Trust me. Bullum picked up the tab and Athena bought a variety of cookies on the way out. They weren’t the best cookies in the world, as it turned out, but they looked good. You don’t want to visit a place like the ICR without, well, never mind…
The ICR is located in a small industrial park. Honestly, you could drive right by it and, if not for the sign, you might think you had just passed a plastic washer manufacturing plant. It’s a one story building of white and blue against a well-trimmed lawn, a few bushes and a small conifer of some sort. Up a few stairs (or handicap ramp if you preferred) over some rectangular columns against a painted blue stucco facade were the words “Museum of Creation Science and Earth History” and farther down the building “The Institute for Creation Research.” It was a bit of a let down, to tell you the truth. I had hoped for something a little more grand, given the nature of their work.
We waited a while for Norma. Naturally, we wanted to get inside but we had planned on meeting her in front at noon. We gave her until 12:10 and then went in without her…
We entered through tinted glass doors. On the side of a smallish lobby were various books for sale on the subject of creation science. Facing the door was a counter and behind the counter was a woman. She smiled and said “hello.” We said hello. She asked how many were in our party…
“Five. But one of us hasn’t arrived yet.”
“Are you an organization of any kind?”
Larry answered, “We are friends; we have a web site.”
“What’s the web site about?”
“It’s called ‘Truth and other Lies,’” I offered.
We hadn’t expected to be questioned at the door. It occurred to us that if we weren’t careful with our answers we might not get any farther into the museum. That may not have been the case but it didn’t seem like a good time to put that to a test.
“Do you believe in evolution?”
“I’m not comfortable with that question,” I answered.
(Now the truth is I don’t believe in evolution and could have simply said “no” to the question without lying. But then, I would have had to explain that evolution is not something I have to regard with faith. Evolution happens. If she had asked me how evolution happens I could have told her what I believe.)
She threw me a sideways glance but didn’t pursue that line of questioning.
“Have you ever heard of the Organization of Secular Humanists?” she asked.
“I see. They will be visiting us this month.”
“Can I have your web site address please?”
Larry and I exchanged glances and then Larry gave her the address. The questioning was over but with the site address in her hands I couldn’t help but think that we might be asked to leave at any moment. This worry stayed with me until we left. Later Larry told me he was thinking the same thing.
In retrospect, I think we wussed…
I signed their book and put myself on the ICR mailing list.
The entry to the main museum is down a hall with paintings on the wall that represent the first seven days of creation. There was a painting of a nebula or something, the Sun, the Earth… fishes. Under each painting was a leaflet holder full of a one or two page publication called Impact. As luck would have it these little reports were all over the museum. Most of these Impacts explain what current mainstream scientific thinking is on a given subject, usually, but not always, pertaining to an exhibit and how that thinking is in error. Their view is often presented in scientific jargon, sure to please.
There are placards on the walls explaining the exhibits. Bullum stopped in front of the exhibits pertaining to geology and while reading the placards said, “That is a lie and that’s a lie and this one is a lie and that’s the truth and, oh, here this is a lie.”
I was busy collecting every copy of Impact I could lay my hands on instead of taking notes. Not taking notes for the purposes of this report turned outto be a mistake. To be honest, I do remember a model of the ark, a Babylonian temple, a portrait of Blaise Pascal, and this and that about other religions. The only silly science I personally took note of was a placard that suggested that many scientists believe Australopithecus to be just another ape species. There was no mention of the different species of Australopithecus and nothing about Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) at all. They also had what looked like a small plaster cast of footprints taken from the famous Laetoli site. The significance of these footprints (and what concerns the ICR) are that they were made by completely bipedal hominids, and they have been dated at around 3 million years. Most anthropologists believe that they are that of an adult and child A. afarensis. (I honestly can’t remember if they mentioned afarensis at the Laetoli exhibit.) The cast was of two not very good prints, a large one and a small one. There was no way to see the stride of the animals that made these prints. The curators of this “science” museum ask if these prints might not have been made by some other animal…? Naturally, without any previous knowledge of the Laetoli site and without the help of a photo of the site (which clearly shows the stride of these animals) the answer is “yes.”
(The ICR is notorious for quoting reputable scientists out of context. They even sell books and CD ROMs with nothing on them but scientist’s quotes, taken out of context, to be used as a “powerful tool” when debating evolutionists. It’s no wonder that the ICR’s critics sometimes call them the “Institute for Quotation Research.” Is it then not surprising that they would present actual physical evidence, in their museum, with the context removed? For God’s sake, they are shameless liars.)
There were pictures on the wall of Mount St. Helens. The idea here was to make a point about catastrophism, a creationist explanation for the rapid geological changes that had to occur for the Earth to be as young as they say it is. It also explains how the “Flood” had such a dramatic impact on the geology of the planet that all geological science that doesn’t take the Flood into consideration is in error. For example, things like radiometric dating must be viewed in light of the Flood. Unfortunately for the scientists at the ICR there is no evidence that a flood of biblical proportions ever occurred.
There was a call over the P.A. system. A movie about the ICR’s work in the Grand Canyon was about to begin. We went. Again the point of the movie was to show how the layers of fossil and sediment in the canyon could be interpreted as proof of a worldwide flood. More catastrophism. I was finding it hard to stay awake during the movie. Eventually I gave up and walked out. The rest of the clan followed. On the whole I’d have to say that, as in Hollywood, if the dialogue is not believable then at least spruce the film up with special effects. Big expensive ones. Some gratuitous sex and violence would have helped, too.
Norma had arrived just before the movie began. She had some family with her. Apparently her son was anxious to meet Larry because he clocks in somewhere around 150. Norma’s son wanted to hobnob with someone as smart as he is. The rest of us monkeys went back into the main part of the museum.
A very blond family was touring the museum now. The father was explaining the significance of the exhibits to his children. I felt sad for those kids. In fact, I was getting more and more depressed by the minute. It was one thing to be with skeptics looking at this place. We could look at all of this and laugh. But to see people actually getting their science from this place, real science and not the hogwash they teach at school, that was depressing.
The whole museum is rather small, and we soon found ourselves back in the lobby. I decided to browse the book section of the lobby. I found one that was of interest to me called Teaching Creation Science in Public Schools. The author is Duane Gish, a well-known creationist. I don’t really care what these people believe but I do care about science. I care about my son’s education. And I care about the separation clause of the First Amendment. The idea of teaching creation science in public schools as an “alternate scientific theory” to evolution is, in my view, crazy. So I thought it might be a fine idea to read the enemy handbook on the subject. I took the book to the lady at the front desk. As I was paying for it I asked her if Dr. Gish ever drops by. She said he does come by often but has not been here today. I was barely outside with the book when she came running out to tell me that Dr. Gish was here if I would like to meet him. I hurried back inside.
I walked up to Gish and said that I had been following his career for years. I produced the book I had just purchased and asked him if he would sign it. He was only too happy to do so. I told him that I had read the transcripts of a few of his debates with evolutionists and that he was among the best I had heard at debating the creationist side. All of this was true. What I didn’t tell him was that I thought he was completely wrong. I wasn’t about to get into a creation debate with the ICR’s point man. In any case, he seemed so pleased to be recognized that I didn’t really want to spoil the moment.Larry suggested that I pose with him for a few pictures. I asked, and Gish replied that he would be happy to. We all went outside, and as Gish and I posed for the camera, Larry and Norma clicked away. He was a pleasant man with a broad smile that seemed to come naturally. I think he was genuinely enjoying the picture taking. Soon enough it was over. Gish went back inside and we made our way back to the cars.
That little bit of weirdness left us somewhat stunned. I have to admit, there is a part of me that thinks we failed. We had the chance and we said nothing. It’s not as though our little rag-tag group of skeptics would have brought Gish over to our way of thinking, or he to ours. But I do wish we had at least told him, as if he couldn’t guess by our looks, that we were not fans of his in the usual sense…
After our visit to the Institute for Creation Science and the Museum of Creation and Earth History, we went to the Natural History Museum of San Diego to decompress.
It wasn’t until I sat down to write this report that I realized, to my own horror, how little I actually took in at the ICR. While it was mildly interesting to see the ideas of these scientific creationists presented as exhibits, the message was an old one. A boring one. I apologize if my description of the museum is rather vague but that’s how I remember it. It could be that the mimosa at breakfast wasn’t such a good idea after all…
Special thanks to Dawn for her help on this report.
SFN Fan Mail Related to this Article:
Read or Add Comments about this Article