Thursday, November 15, 2007

Check Your Brain at the Door

I stumbled across a photographic account of a visit to the Creation Museum yesterday. It is officially the most mind-boggling place on Earth The big animatronic dinosaur section of the CM, originally designed as the centerpiece of the whole thing and, I suppose, sold as the final answer to the problem of dinosaur bones existing on a 6000 year old planet seems to require the greatest suspension of disbelief. According to the various placards, dinosaurs didn’t actually live 65 million years ago. They lived in 2500 BCE. That’s slightly hard to believe. Although, now that I think about it, that would explain a few of the difficulties in the historic record that don’t see much in the way of the light of day. Here are a few examples off the top of my head: 1.) One of the lesser known military maxims of oft-quoted genius Sun-Tzu is, “The mark of strategic genius is in winning the battle without fighting. Especially when your enemy’s cavalry is mounted on velociraptors.” 2.) In the margin of the earliest recorded version of Homer’s Illiad, there’s a note from Patrocles the Editor in the Trojan Horse section that says, “Glad to see you got rid of that Trojan Brontosaurus. Everyone knows you couldn't fit one of those through the gates of Troy. They’re, like, huge.” 3.) The earliest Egyptian pyramids had large trap doors built in to the passageway. Most archaeologists agree that the hieroglyphs on the surrounding walls indicate they were tyrannosaurus traps, meant to keep the large carrion eaters from consuming the mummies of the Pharaohs and keeping them out of the after life. 4.) The Law Code of Hammurabi contains a long section on how hard a farmer is allowed to work a borrowed triceratops before returning it to its owner. So maybe we’ll just have to give this one to the Creationists. On the subject of dinosaurs, however, they actually seem to want it both ways. Some of the displays pictured seem to indicate that the dinosaurs all died out in the Flood, while others indicate that there were, in fact, dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. On some level I have to hand it to these guys. The sheer chutzpah of saying that dinosaurs survived the Flood when it would be much easier to say that they were all wiped out indicates that they most definitely have cojones. They also go to great lengths to explain how we have layered fossilized remains because of the Flood. God, you see, used the flood to kill everything on the planet in a specific order. First the Flood killed off all of those cute little single-celled organisms, then the small sea creatures (which couldn’t possibly survive a world-wide deluge...), amphibians, reptiles, saurians, and, finally, the mammals. While everything was underwater, God moved all the landmasses around (because how else did all the animals get on to the ark?). Finally, even with the now separated landmasses, people and animals again spread all across the world. They even managed to make it as far as Australia and the Americas over the course of the next, oh, twenty minutes or so. But wait. What about the fact that there were actually dinosaurs on the Ark? There must have been, since God told Noah to get all the animals, right? Some of these dinosaurs did exist, which we know because there aren’t any dinosaur bones anywhere near human bones. Dinosaurs, you see, were afraid of humans defiling their gravesites. They were so afraid that they buried their dead far from humans. Instead of digging six feet deep, they dug graves that were a couple of hundred feet deep. Then, due to the deep respect for the environment and archaeology that was built in to every dinosaur, they replaced everything dug out of the grave in the exact same place they found it. It’s perfectly logical if you only avoid thinking about it. From the silly to the serious, one of the displays made me quite angry. It was a, uh, timeline, I suppose, of the “7 C’s in God’s Eternal Plan.” The first four were Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, and Confusion. Let us reason together and walk through the implications of the idea that step 2 of God’s Eternal Plan was for people to screw up and Step 3 was punishment for said screw-ups. Then, to prove how loving God is, the steps after the part where God smites the people who followed the Eternal Plan involve Jesus showing up to let us know how loving God actually is. To offer a handy-dandy allegory: You go to a bar one night to kill time. While at the bar, you meet a guy named Bob who tells you that he recently got married. You ask him about how it’s going and Bob goes completely TMI. He tells you that he wasn’t sure up until the wedding day that his wife would ever marry him. Many years ago she was brutalized in a dark alley and left for dead. She already had some trust issues and wasn’t completely stable before that happened, so and the attack left her really screwed up. She managed to alienate everyone around her and push them away except for Bob, who calmly and patiently stayed by her side and gave her somebody to trust. Eventually she felt safe enough to trust him and decide to marry him and now everything was going along swimmingly. Bob would seem like a great guy, wouldn’t he? But then Bob leans in and whispers conspiratorially to you, “The thing she doesn’t know is that I was the one who raped her. It was dark, I wore a mask, she’d been drinking a bit before that. But I knew it was the only way to get her to dedicate herself completely to me.” It’s now becoming fairly obvious that Bob isn’t a great guy. He is, in fact, a horrible person. But Bob’s not done. He tells you that he’d already known his new wife before he attacked her. In fact, they’d been engaged. But one night he had told her he wanted spaghetti and she made lasagna. He got so mad that he kicked her out of the house. You’d recoil in horror, I’d hope. Bob isn’t a horrible person. He’s a monster. Who would do such a thing? Then Bob says one last thing. “The thing is,” he says to you, “I planned all of that out. From the moment I met her I knew exactly what I was going to do to make sure she would be with me.” “But weren’t you already engaged?” you would ask, assuming you could come up with some sort of coherent thought. “Yeah. But it was only the first part of the plan.” Bob is no longer a monster. Bob is now the closest thing on Earth to the God of the Creation Museum. Its little wonder the blog entry that accompanies the photo collection makes the most magnificent use of the word “horseshit” I’ve ever seen. Oh, and this entry and my previous entry on Answers in Genesis will eventually factor in to The Mythology Project. I’m just not quite there yet... Edit: Also, in the interests of, well, the fact that I'm an obssessive-compulsive type when it comes to this, my four-item list about the appearance of dinosaurs in ancient text contains a certain amount of the old adage, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good joke." More specifically, the one date I was able to pick out that the Creation Museum gave for the existence of dinosaurs (which seemed to be used for all of the dinosaur epochs, meaning the Jurassic, Triassic and Cretaceous Periods all occured at the same time. In the same year was 2348 BC[E]). In the interests of historical accuracy: The Egypt joke was right on. The Old Kingdom period happened between 2500 and 2000 BCE or so. This was also the time when the first pyramids were being built. They were generally step pyramids, but one of the first attempts at a smooth pyramid failed during this time, leaving the bent pyramid. Hammurabi and his law code showed up around 1700 BCE, so he was about 6 or 7 centuries late. By 2348, however, the Fertile Crescent had already been through quite a bit of history. Sargon of Akkadia had already started his dynasty by then and he was far from the first of the kings mentioned in the area. He was the first to create something like an empire, though. Homer's Illiad took place during the Myceneaen period, which ran from 1600 to 1100 BCE or so, making Odysseus about 8 or 9 centuries late. The Minoan Civilization, however, was around during the time that the dinosaurs supposedly lived. However, it was a toss-up between making a Minotaur = dinosaur joke and making the Trojan Brontosaurus joke. The latter was a lot funnier. Sun-Tzu was, like, 2000 years too late. But, c'mon, you can't tell me that the idea of ancient cavalry riding in to battle on velociraptors isn't funny. In sorta-real history, there was some form of Chinese civilization at the time. The first Dynasty was still a couple of centuries off in the future, but there was something there and it was sophisticated enough that we at least know some of the legends. One of the unifying themes (if you can call it that) of the legendary pre-Dynasty Chinese history, ancient Sumerian culture, the Minoan Civilization, Egypt, and, for that matter, the Bible, is that there is no mention of dinosaurs. There are mentions of god-kings, half-man, half-bull creatures, giants, sea monsters and all kinds of crazy crap, but dinosaurs just don't come up. This seems kind of unbelievable if you give credulity to claims of dinosaurs being around during the Bronze Age. Oddly enough, there are many myths that center around catastrophic floods, from Greece and Sumeria to China. If the widespread incidence of flood myths explains the Noahic Flood and the Flood and dinosaurs actually exist in the way the Creation Museum would have you believe, it stands to reason that Bronze Age dinosaurs would have gotten mention somewhere. I plan on tackling the flood issue at some point during The Mythology Project, so more on that later.

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