New Creationist Museum Undermines… Religion

Despite its name, Boise’s recently opened Northwest Science Museum, is a Christian organization dedicated to disproving evolution. Even more so than the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which opened in 2007, the Northwest Science Museum employs a rhetorical strategy of changing the meaning of the terms “science” and “religion.” Just take a look at their enigmatic statement of purpose:

What is the purpose? To lead people to a better understanding of God by viewing His Creation and to show that creation science can explain the evidence we see in the world around us and that it is not just religion.

This statement not only seeks to appropriate the cultural authority of “science,” but to distance Creationist claims from the category of “religion.” In this sense, the Museum’s rhetoric is an index of the cultural baggage the term “religion” has taken on in a pluralistic society. For these Creationists, “just religion” is equated with preference and subjective truth while science is the domain of objective reality.

As Hemant Mehta points out, the Northwest Science Museum is not engaged in science because their views are unfalsifiable: According to the group’s statement of faith, no evidence will ever cause them to question their theories, which are based on scripture, and promotional materials claim that Creationism is “true science” while recognized science is actually the product of a conspiracy.

Spokesperson Stan Lutz claims to present “true science that has been hidden from the public” while Rick Deighton speaks of “censored science not shown in state-sponsored museums.” Ironically, the Museum’s website bemoans that the country is facing “a crisis of science literacy” reflected by poor state test scores–without acknowledging how the rhetorical maneuvers of Creationists deliberately sow confusion about what constitutes a scientific worldview.

Karen Armstrong has framed Fundamentalism as a confounding of mythos–a way of knowing that deals with meaning and the experience of being human–with logos–a pragmatic and empirical way of knowing. By pitting Genesis against scientific theories, Creationists have tacitly conceded to materialist claims that scripture is only of value if it is true in a historic and scientific sense.

By claiming Creationism is “true science,” the Northwest Science Museum ironically implies that only science is of any value. Meanwhile, the assertion that Creationism is not “just religion” represents a further condemnation of mythos as a form of meaning that is subjective and, therefore, irrelevant.

Joseph Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. His forthcoming books include The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle for Catholic Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Religion, Play, and Imagined Worlds (University of California Press, 2015).