Creationist Museum up and running

After years of planning and fund-raising among the faithful, the Creation Museum has finally opened in Kentucky (Los Angeles Times, May 31).

The 5600 square metre museum cost US$27 million and brings, says the LA Times, new standards of high-tech polish to anti-evolution arguments and takes creationist tourism to a new level.

Patrick Marsh, who worked on the Jaws and King Kong attractions at Florida’s Universal Studios, is largely responsible for the slick animatronic dinosaur displays, which feature Velociraptors cavorting among buckskin-clad children in an innocent and vegetarian pre-Fall world. Actually, this is a puzzle: creationists maintain that Adam and Eve didn’t have children until after the Fall-by which time Velociraptors would not have been vegetarian. Dinosaurs are everywhere in the museum.

“Kids are fascinated by them,” said Ken Ham, the Australian-born president of Answers in Genesis, who has spearheaded the museum project. “We like to say, ‘You’ve captured them for evolution, and we’re going to take them back.'”

Organisers are expecting to attract 250,000 yearly visitors, who will pay US$9.95 to $19.95 for a ticket.

While the museum undoubtedly has a constituency, many are unimpressed. “This is to science what Joe Camel was to health-a crass marketing ploy that cynically preys on the impressionable minds of children,” said Clark Stevens, the co-director of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, a group that advocates science education and the separation of church and state.

The museum maintains that after Noah’s Ark ran aground in Central Asia, the surviving animals repopulated the other continents by floating across the oceans on the “billions of trees” uprooted by the great deluge.

Assertions like that makeCleveland University physicist Lawrence Krauss laugh out loud. “Any child knows that when they make up a story, and unfortunately make up the facts, they have to make up more and more excuses to justify those facts.”

Meanwhile in the Coromandel…

Before we start laughing at those crazy people in Kentucky, we might consider a report in the NZ Herald (June 2). The Dinosaurs Aotearoa Museum Trust is working with Wellington’s Weta Workshop to create life-sized dinosaurs for a 40ha theme park and museum, probably on the Coromandel Peninsula. Trust founders Darren and Jackie Bush operate a Wellington business called Dinosaurs Rock, which runs geology programmes for schools, presenting both evolution and the biblical view that the world was created in seven days about 6000 years ago.

Mr and Mrs Bush are New Zealanders who spent 20 years in Australia. They would not say whether they believed in evolution or creationism.

Their trust’s objectives are to develop “a forum/facility where different world interpretations of science are presented without bias in the light of development of scientific knowledge”. Sounds like the old ‘equal time’ argument all over again. But whether they can come up with the $30 million they want for this project remains to be seen.

Scientologists too

The Church of Scientology, at least, is not short of the ready cash needed to achieve its real estate aspirations (NZ Herald, June 6). In a move intended to boost their image and presence in this country, the church has bought a prominent Auckland building for $10 million. The Whitecliffe building, perched above the Southern Motorway at Grafton, will have room for about 100 church staff who are expected to move in and run courses on the teachings of its founder, L Ron Hubbard. It was formerly occupied by the Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, which has fitted the building out with art studios, a library, darkrooms, seminar rooms and a lecture hall. Built in 1929, the building has a Category Two listing with the Historic Places Trust.

“The building was not on the market and they had to pay a premium to get it,” said Kevin Richards, a spokesman for the real estate consultants who handled the sale.

Church spokesman Mike Ferriss said the Scientologists had a philosophy of restoring heritage buildings which was “about creating links from the past into a stronger, brighter future.”

‘Snake oil’ farmer still defiant

A farmer whose fertiliser product was labelled snake oil by a judge remains defiant after being ordered to pay fines and costs totalling $272,499 (Dominion Post, June 2).

The Commerce Commission, who brought the case against Ewan Campbell, signalled further court action, saying it was considering a civil case to recover customers’ losses incurred from the use of his product, Probitas.

It estimated the loss of production by Probitas’ farmer-clients in the first year alone to have totalled $5 million. But Campbell, who did not attend the sentencing, said the case against him was “a load of tripe” and “legal trickery”.

Campbell said the commission had failed to produce any farmers who felt defrauded. “If we’ve caused so much harm, where are they?” he asked. Many of his 1000 clients had increased their farm income by more than $100,000 from the use of Probitas, he said.

Farmers and horticulturists pay $300 to $350 a tonne for Probitas, which is based on a silica conditioner that Campbell says activates the electrical and magnetic processes in the soil, releasing locked up nutrients otherwise unavailable to plants.

But soil scientist Douglas Edmeades told the court there was no scientific basis for the way Probitas was supposed to work. “Silica is one of the most inert minerals on Earth and it is beyond the realms of probability that the mode of action they are claiming is correct,” he said.

Judge Russell Callander said Campbell’s claims about his product had been proven beyond reasonable doubt to have been misleading and deceptive. “The real science shows that farmers were clearly taken in and misinformed by the representations and this, ultimately, would be to their detriment.”

Student leader repays $6000 psychic hotline bill

The lure of telephone psychics has claimed another victim (see article, p7). Victoria University Students Association acting women’s rights officer Clelia Opie was sacked from her position after making almost $6000 worth of phone calls to a psychic hotline (NZ Herald, May 22).

Her dumping came after it emerged she had been making calls to 0900 numbers from phones in the student union building, the student magazine Salient reported.

Her predilection for fortune telling was exposed after a bizarre evening at the student union offices when another association member went on an alcohol-fuelled graffiti-scribbling rampage. Ms Opie was on the phone making lengthy expensive calls to 0900 numbers and refused requests from suspicious association officers to hang up.

Association president Geoff Hayward described the fallout from the evening as the worst day of his presidency. Ms Opie was removed from her post-which she had been co-opted into after an elected member resigned-three weeks later.

Oh baby, what art thou?

The Waikato Times (June 30) had fun with a reader’s question about how to predict an unborn baby’s gender. Before getting down to the serious answers (ultrasound, amniocentesis), and after warning that sceptics might as well skip straight to these bits, it described what it called “the two biggies”.

The first of these, the shape test, holds that if the mother’s belly is pointed the baby will be a girl; if it has a more “sideways” appearance it will be a boy. For the ring test you rub a ring belonging to the mother over one of her fingers, then suspend it above the palm of her hand, or above her belly, preferably using a hair from her own head, and observe its movement. If it swings side to side, the baby will be a boy; if it circles, the baby will be a girl.

Another theory eliminates the need for any testing, checking or scrutinising. “Put simply, if you, um, do it with the lights on you will have a boy. Why? We have absolutely no idea.”

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