As Salon.com's Gordy Slack reports, the Creation Museum dismisses evolution as the driving force of natural history and posits instead that:
1. The world was created on October 24, 4004 B.C at 9 a.m., which makes the planet not more than six thousand years old, as opposed to the billions of years put forth by scientists.
2. History should be divided into the "Six C's:" creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, and the final C, consummation, "which isn't given much time or space in the exhibits because there still isn't consensus on just how the apocalypse will come down or who goes to heaven and when," says Slack.
3. Evolutionists got it all wrong. Humans and dinosaurs existed in the same time frame, and didn't evolve 60 million years apart. There's absolutely no evidence for this, but so what? "They all had to exist at the same time because they were all made on the same day," says one of the museum's founders.
4. Before the Fall, all animals were vegetarian, so there was no predator or prey in the Garden of Eden. And plants didn't have thorns either, because they had nothing to be defensive about. The Great Flood was responsible not only for scattering the fossil record everywhere but for the world's present-day topography. The Grand Canyon, for instance, is supposed to have been carved in a matter of days as the floodwaters receded away.
5. God himself dispersed Noah's descendants throughout the world by introducing new languages, thus the tumult. "The ensuing C--for--Confusion theme is represented through a gritty and menacing back alley postered with newspaper headlines about the rise in abortion, drug use, homosexuality and teen suicide."
"At the ribbon cutting, Ken Ham, the rugged-faced CEO and president of Answers in Genesis, the nonprofit ministry that built the museum, tells an enthusiastic crowd that the Creation Museum will undo the damage done 82 years ago when Clarence Darrow put William Jennings Bryan on the stand in the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn. 'It was the first time the Bible was ridiculed by the media in America, and that was a downward turning point for Christendom,' Ham says."
As it happens, playing on Broadway today is a revival of the play inspired by the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, "Inherit the Wind," written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. It stars Christopher Plummer as the Darrow stand-in Henry Drummond and Brian Dennehy as Matthew Harrison Brady, the Jennings Bryan character.
The Scopes Trial came about when a young teacher in Dayton, Tennessee was sued in court for teaching evolution in public high school. It became, by broad consensus, one of the great courtroom battles of the century as the agnostic Darrow rose to John Scopes' defense and the Bible-thumping Jennings Bryan took up the cudgels for the prosecution.
Both were spectacular orators, with Jennings Bryan himself having been a three-time nominee for President of the Democratic Party (yep, the Democratic Party; now it's the Republicans that count Christian fundamentalists as their power base).
Scopes lost the case and was fined $100. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Creationists; Darrow, denied by the judge every opportunity to present scientists who could vouch for the soundness of Darwin's evolutionary theory, decided as a last-minute gamble to put Jennings Bryan himself on the stand as a Bible expert. The resulting interrogation, done al fresco because the overheated courtroom could not accommodate the mammoth crowd, is still regarded as one of the finest demolition jobs ever done by a trial lawyer on a hostile witness.
Clarence Darrow cross-examining William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes Trial (photo: Smithsonian Institution)
The linchpin of Darrow's assault was Jennings Bryan's insistence on the immutable truth of the Bible. The Bible was to be interpreted literally, exactly as it was written. Darrow pounced on this and asked the most knotty questions: When the Bible said Jonah was swallowed and then regurgited by a whale after three days, how was that possible? Did Joshua really shoot an arrow at the sun and made it stand still? If Adam and Eve were the first people on earth and Cain was their first son, where did Cain get his wife? Since the Bible said the sun was made only on the fourth day, how was evening and morning like in the preceding three days?
With each new stab by Darrow, the hollowness and ignorance of Jennings Bryan's position became more and more apparent. By the end of it, the stentorian orator had been exposed as a sham, and Jennings Bryan would die only a few days after the trial, a shrunken, broken man.
(The best book on the trial and its implications is Edward J. Larson's "Summer For the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion." I asked a friend to buy me a copy from the US a couple of years ago, and reading it cleared up one big myth for me: that Darrow had asked Jennings Bryan to explain how the serpent moved and looked like before God sentenced it to crawl on its belly for corrupting Eve. Oo nga naman, paano ba? But no mention of it in the book, so it was probably a later embellishment.)
The play "Inherit the Wind," first performed on Broadway in 1955 and earning Tony Awards for its stars Paul Muni and Ed Begley, fictionalized this titanic encounter of law, faith, science and ideas into what the New York World Telegram & Sun hailed as "a tidal wave of a drama." A 1960 movie version saw two superlative actors, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, slug it out onscreen (see their climactic showdown on YouTube here). And now Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy, two of Broadway's top-tier thespians, are engaged in the Big Brawl.
Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy in the new Broadway revival of "Inherit The Wind" (photo: Sarah Krulwich/NYTimes)
At the heart of the Scopes trial, and "Inherit The Wind," is the question of freedom to think for one's self, to arrive at empirical certainties free from the dictates of blind faith or received wisdom. Faith itself is not the culprit, but its triumphalist, intolerant practice. Scopes, you could say, was an unexpected Galileo, persecuted for proclaiming plain truth to obscurantist power.
BRADY: Is it possible that something is holy to the celebrated agnostic?
DRUMMOND: Yes! The individual human mind. In a child's power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "Amens!," "Holy, Holies!" and "Hosannahs!" An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters! But are we now to halt the march of progress because Mr. Brady frightens us with a fable? (Turning to the jury, reasonably) Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You've got to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man behind the counter who says, "All right, you can have a telephone, but you'll have to give up privacy, the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote, but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline! (Thoughtfully, seeming to look beyond he courtroom) Darwin moved us forward to a hilltop, where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.
BRADY: We must not abandon faith! Faith is the important thing!
DRUMMOND: Then why did God plague us with the power to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one faculty which lifts man above all other creatures on the earth: the power of his brain to reason. What other merit have we? The elephant it larger, the horse is stronger and swifter, the butterfly more beautiful, the mosquito more prolific, even the simple sponge is more durable! (Wheeling on BRADY) Or does a sponge think?
BRADY: I don't know. I'm a man, not a sponge. (There are a few snickers at this; the crowd seems to be slipping away from BRADY and aligning itself more and more with DRUMMOND)
DRUMMOND: Do you think a sponge thinks?
BRADY: If the Lord wishes a sponge to think, it thinks.
DRUMMOND: Does a man have the same privileges that a sponge does?
BRADY: Of course.
DRUMMOND: (Roaring, for the first time: stretching his arm toward CATES [i.e., Scopes]) This man wishes to be accorded the same privilege as a sponge! He wishes to think!
[Applause. The sound of it strikes BRADY exactly as if he had been slapped in the face]
"You have but a dim notion of it who have only read it," wrote H.L. Mencken of the real Darrow's spellbinding performance. "It was not designed for reading but for hearing. The clangorousness of it was as important as the logic. It rose like a wind and ended like a flourish of bugles."
This was in 1925. Strike one for Darwin and enlightenment then. Today, there's the new Creation Museum--and recent polls showing that "40 percent of all Americans would feel at home with the views put forth" by this museum.
I wonder how we Filipinos feel about Creationism versus evolution. Your thoughts?
[P.S. Clarence Darrow was an agnostic, not an atheist. But this post is for you, Benj.]
[photo 1: Monica Lam]