Sunday, May 02, 2004

The Times on Creationism Here at EvolutionBlog we spend a lot of time trolling the web sites of brain-dead, right-wing ignorance peddlers. But sometimes we seek out more nourishing fare, and for that purpose we have often found the New York Times helpful. Sure, they've had their problems, but as newspapers go we've always considered them among the best.

And then they published this article, headlined:

Darwin-Free Fun for Creationists

It's an astonishing piece of pro-creationist puffery. Here's an excerpt:

Robert and Schon Passmore took their children to Disney World last fall and left bitterly disappointed. As Christians who reject evolutionary theory, the family scoffed at the park's dinosaur attractions, which date the apatosaurus, brachiosaurus and the like to prehistoric times.

“My kids kept recognizing flaws in the presentation,” said Mrs. Passmore, of Jackson, Ala. “You know the whole `millions of years ago dinosaurs ruled the earth thing.”

So this week, the Passmores sought out a lower-profile Florida attraction: Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park and museum here that beckons children to “find out the truth about dinosaurs” with games that roll science and religion into one big funfest with the message that Genesis, not science, tells the real story of the creation.

Kent Hovind, the minister who opened the park in 2001, said his aim was to spread the message of creationism through a fixture of mainstream America, the theme park, instead of pleading its case at academic conferences and in courtrooms.

Mr. Hovind, a former public school science teacher with his own ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, and a hectic lecture schedule, said he had opened Dinosaur Adventure Land to counter all the science centers and natural history museums that explain the evolution of life with Darwinian theory. There are dinosaur bone replicas, with accompanying explanations that God made dinosaurs on Day 6 of the creation as described in Genesis, 6,000 years ago. Among the products the park gift shop peddles are T-shirts with a small fish labeled “Darwin” getting gobbled by a bigger fish labeled “Truth.“

Lovely. Suffice it to say that Hovind's theme park is intended for very young children. The Passmores' children only noticed that Disney World was making certain claims that were different from what their parent's were telling them. Hopefully, when they reach their teenage years, they will notice that their parent's are idiots.

Kent Hovind is well-known for being unusually stupid, even for a creationist. The ever-useful website TalkOrigins has everything you need to know about him here. The article later notes that even some creationists find Hovind's standards of scholarship a bit weak:

The man who calls himself Dr. Dino is also controversial among creationists, some of whom say he discredits their movement with some of his pseudo-scientific claims. Mr. Hovind got into a dispute in 2002 with Answers in Genesis, when he took issue with an article it published called "Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use." One such argument was that footprints found in Texas proved that man and dinosaurs coexisted; Mr. Hovind said he considered the argument, now abandoned by many creationists, valid. Mr. Hovind said he gave 700 lectures a year and that 38,000 people had visited his park, at $7 a head. According to a map that invites visitors to pinpoint their hometown, most come from the Florida Panhandle and from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In fairness, the article does go on to mention some of Hovind's recent legal troubles, though it glosses over them rather quickly:

Dinosaur Adventure Land, tucked behind a highway lined with car dealerships in this metropolitan area of 425,000, sits next to Mr. Hovind's home and the offices of Creation Science Evangelism, which he said he founded in 1989. Mr. Hovind is well known in Pensacola, and even in a region where religious billboards almost outnumber commercial ones he is controversial. Escambia County sued him in 2000 after he refused to get a $50 permit before building his theme park, saying the government had no authority over a church.

Just last week Internal Revenue Service agents used a search warrant to remove financial documents from Mr. Hovind's home and offices, saying he was not paying taxes and had neither a business license nor tax-exempt status for his enterprises.

Mr. Hovind did not want to discuss the I.R.S. investigation, saying only, "I don't have any tax obligations."

It is troubling that the article takes a bemused tone, and makes no attempt to point out that Hovind and his ilk are promoting an especially dangerous sort of ignorance. If a holocaust-denier's theme park ever opens up, look for the Times to provide similarly fawning coverage.


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