Monday, August 10, 2009

P.Z. Myers on the Creation Museum

P.Z. Myers has written a review of his trip to the Creation "Museum" with nearly three hundred atheists from the Secular Student Alliance, and it's probably the best summary of what's wrong with the Creation Museum I've read to date. He points out that it's not like a real museum, promoting exploration and discussion, it's more like a theme park ride.


Mark said...

But with your reputation of trying to be fair in reporting on the creation/evolution debate, do you actually believe the Creation Museum preaches racism (as PZ viciously claims)? The museum teaches the very opposite, and its exhibits mirror our teachings found on our site of -- Mark Looy, Creation Museum

Jim Lippard said...

Here's what P.Z. Myers said:

"With complete seriousness and no awareness of the historical abuses to which this idea has been put, they were promoting the Hamite theory of racial origins, that ugly idea that all races stemmed from the children of Noah, and that black people in particular were the cursed offspring of Ham. If they are going to reject science because of its abuses, such as eugenics, they should at least be conscious of the evils perpetrated in the name of their strange cultish doctrines, I should think."

The photograph of the exhibit shows the descendants of Ham going to Africa.

Your exhibit doesn't appear to offer the clarification that your website does--and if that's the case, it appears to have left the door open to the inference that Myers drew. Your website does appear to be explicitly anti-racist.

I'm willing to give you the same benefit of the doubt that Rich Trott gave to Henry Morris (though I'm not sure it was entirely merited in that case)--but what do you say in your displays that clarifies the issue, and how have you reacted when those who have drawn the conclusion from your displays that it supports racist views? I'm sure that you've had visitors with such views...

BTW, it's nice to have an AiG visitor commenting under their real name. I know I've had a few in the past using pseudonyms, which is OK with me, but I appreciate the transparency.

Jim Lippard said...

BTW, also note Myers' further reply.

It's also worth noting that the biblical curse makes no sense--Canaan is the one who gets cursed for the fact that his father Ham sees his grandfather Noah naked. But the unethical concept of the biological transmission of moral guilt is pretty firmly entrenched in the Bible.

Jim Lippard said...

It is ironic that Christians claim to support and require an objective and absolute standard of morality, yet biblical morality says that one and the same act--abortion (by ripping open the belly of a pregnant woman), infanticide, slavery, incest, rape, murder, and genocide, for actual examples from the Bible--is deeply evil if done by human free choice, yet is completely good and right if done at the command of God.

If biblical morality was really the basis of our law, then "God told me to do it" would become a serious defense, to be verified by prayer and religious feeling, sort of like the "spectral evidence" standard of the Salem witch trials.

Ktisophilos said...

Slavery was ubiquitous, not just something that "whites" did to Africans. Indeed, the word "slave" comes from Slav, a "white" race often enslaved. White Europeans were the victims of an Islamofascist slave trade exceeding that of the Middle Passage.

Dr Thomas Sowell, who by the way is black himself, points out that Africans were enslaved not because they were black but because they were available. And because Europeans could not cope with the tropical diseases, these slaves were captured first by other Africans (so maybe Obama should pay reparations for slavery because of what his Kenyan ancestors might have done ;)).

This ridiculous "curse of Ham" crap was a rationalization of the practice long after it was established. It was only in America, not in other places like Brazil which also had African slaves, for the simple reason that America was founded on "all men are created equal". So they had to think of some way around this ideal, while Brazil didn't have to.

Of course, there was no curse on Ham anyway, since it was on Canaan, and not the slightest evidence that this curse involved dermal melanism. The Canaanites were olive complexioned!

Furthermore, Sowell points out:

"The anti-slavery movement was spearheaded by people who would today be called "the religious right" and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover, what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.

"Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today's intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn't fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened."

Jim Lippard said...

Ktisophilos: Religious people were divided between abolitionism and pro-slavery positions; freethinkers tended to be mostly abolitionists. You're certainly correct that slavery wouldn't have been abolished without religious support; that's a simple matter of numbers.

There were prominent freethinkers who advocated abolitionism (and women's suffrage). Robert Ingersoll, William Lloyd Garrison (not an atheist, but critic of Christianity and probably a deist), "Obadiah Dogberry" (Abner Cole, early critic of Mormonism), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ernestine Rose, etc.

The ubiquity of slavery and the fact that there were religious people who opposed it are no defense to the fact that biblical morality says nothing against the institution, and that the Bible shows God giving orders which include the taking of slaves. Anyone who believes that God really ordered those things must either hold to a moral view that slavery is sometimes morally acceptable, or that God sometimes commands things that are immoral.

Ktisophilos said...

Jim: "freethinkers" historically loved the ancient Greeks like Aristotle who taught there were “natural slaves”. This page on 18th-century racism documents the thought of such Endarkenment notables Hume and Voltaire (pseudonym for Fran├žois Marie Arouet):

“David Hume (1711–1776) — Scottish philosopher and historian,

‘I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all other species of men, to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complection than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences … Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men.’
[‘Of national characters’, in Essays: Moral, Political and Literary]”

“Voltaire opposed slavery on political grounds, yet he believed that blacks were born to be slaves, and deserved to be.

‘As a result of a hierarchy of nations, Negroes are thus slaves of other men … a people that sells its own children is more condemnable than the buyer; this commerce demonstrates our superiority; he who gives himself a master was born to have one.’ [Essai sur les moeurs (An Essay on Universal History)]”

Conversely, Wilberforce and his colleagues opposed slavery precisely because of their evangelical faith. Their pro-slavery opponents often told them to keep their faith out of politics! In their opposition to slavery, they were following constant church tradition, as Rodney Stark documents here and in his book For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery. He points out:

“The problem wasn’t that the [Church] leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened.”

As for that 19th century village atheopath Ingersoll, it's likely he got his abolitionism from his minister father:

“Robert's father was the Presbyterian minister John Ingersoll. By all accounts a stern, uncompromising parson, John Ingersoll preached Abolitionist sermons so fiery that in the 1830's, even Northern congregations found his preaching excessive.”

Rev. Ingersoll was just one of a huge number of American Christian voices against slavery.

As for the Bible teaching slavery, this presupposes that the term corresponds to the Antebellum South stereotype. In reality, the type of slavery in America was the result of kidnapping, expressly forbidden in Scripture. Also, under biblical understanding, President Obama's cabinet would be called his “slaves”.

The pro-slavery minority in the church were doing just what you praise theistic evolutionists for: compromising the Bible to fit with the current fashion.

Jim Lippard said...

Ktisophilos: Obama doesn't own the children of his cabinet members, but in biblical slavery, masters own the children of their slaves.

The Bible also endorses selling one's daughter into slavery.

I don't dispute that there were religious abolitionists and that they were instrumental in the abolition of slavery in England and the United States. I don't dispute that there were non-religious advocates of slavery.

What I do dispute is that the Bible's advocacy of slavery is moral, and your rather weak attempt to justify it by claim that biblical slavery has a narrower meaning that precludes kidnapping. I am curious to see where you find that; the Bible certainly endorses taking slave captives from conquered cities, as well as separating slaves from their families.

And surely you don't defend the Southern Baptist Convention's split from the Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery (the Southern Baptists not only favored slavery and white supremacy, most Southern Baptist churches refused to admit blacks as members through most of the 1960s). Not until 1995 did they issue a resolution recanting their racist origins.