Monthly Archives: May 2007

prepare to (make) believe

Yesterday morning, about 9:30, my husband (henceforth referred to as D) and I reached the exit off I-275 in Kentucky (near Cincinnati) that leads to the Creation Museum, an offshoot of the organization Answers in Genesis. We were there to participate in the Rally for Reason, a gathering of reason- and science-minded individuals protesting the promotion of the creationists’ “young earth” myth as science.

I’ve included some of my photos here. You can see more on my Flickr page.

My personal desire to be part of the rally stemmed from my fear of the religious right’s attempts to force their beliefs on other Americans. School groups will probably be taken to this museum, where children will be exposed to the exhibits and propaganda as though they were equivalent to verifiable scientific truth — which they are not. I’ve read AIG’s pseudoscientific articles, and I’m appalled that so many Americans are willing to suspend all belief in the rational and instead contort the facts in their minds as much as necessary to fit into the narrow grooves prescribed by a literal reading of the book of Genesis.

So, there we were. As we approached the exit on I-275, we could see the museum from the highway. A police car was parked on the highway — the first of many, many police we saw. The Boone County police had clearly decided that they were taking no chances and that a continual presence was their best best at maintaining order.

When we reached the corner to turn to the museum, Rally for Reason volunteers were standing beside the road wearing orange vests; they directed us to the parking area about two miles away on the grounds of the First Farm Inn. (This is a lovely and elegant inn down a narrow, wooded country road. It was wonderful of them to let everyone park there.) We immediately noticed that most of the other cars were as decorated with stickers as ours. This must be more of a left-wing thing to do, because very few of the cars we saw entering the museum sported any stickers at all — lots of Christian fish symbols, and license plates reading 1Bible and GotJC, but not stickers. (The exception were a couple of cars that had stickers with an outline of a brontosaurus and the words “We’re taking dinosaurs back,” which I thought showed unusual cleverness.)

We were transported to the rally site in a van driven by a volunteer who travelled from Georgia. Shuttles ran all day as needed, so the distant parking wasn’t an issue. We took chairs and a bag with snacks and drinks. When we arrived it was clear that there weren’t as many people as I’d expected and hoped, but there were at least 100 coming and going throughout the day — enough to form a solid and constant presence along the road leading to the museum gates. I’m not sure whose land the rally was on, or if it was public property designated by Boone County. We were on a curve that people rounded just before turning left into the museum.

D is at far right:

The gates are topped with metal dinosaur outlines. However, there is no sign indicating that this is the Creation Museum, either here on the main entrance or outside the museum on I-275. I find this curious.

A table at the rally site provided materials for people to make signs. Signs were also available that had been made by representatives of DefCon and other sponsoring groups. (We made our sign at home.) Judging from the sign wording, the t-shirts, the pins, and so on, those in attendance were largely atheists (although not 100%). There wound up being at least four of us from our Unitarian Universalist church, and I would think there were probably people from the Cincinnati UU churches. (I’m curious what opinion of the museum is held by Christians who endorse evolution.)

We looked around at the materials on display, and then I joined the row on the road while D stood and listened to a speaker from Case Western Reserve. Various people spoke, some serious, some humorous. There was also 60’s-style protest rock from time to time, which provided an energetic backdrop for the sign-waving.

You can see the fence around the museum behind the tent:

Mostly, people were lined along the road, holding up their signs and waving at the cars driving by. Reactions from drivers were extremely mixed:

  • Some refused to offer any recognition that anything or anyone was beside the road, driving by with stony faces and eyes fixed straight ahead.
  • A few offered signs of agreement with us: thumbs-up, waving, horn-beeping.
  • Many looked surprised, or interested, or amused, or annoyed. (I could hear in my head the comments that some of the parents were undoubtedly making to the kids in the back seat about the godless, hell-bound heathens. My inner response was to want to beg them to please not brainwash their children into believing this mythological travesty.)
  • A surprising number of vehicle occupants — including drivers! — took pictures of us, both still and video. One man managed to drive the entire length of the rally with his video camera out the window, held with both hands; I’m not sure how he was steering. (Perhaps he let Jesus take the wheel.) Several times, large vans carrying 10-20 people went by, and almost every time the occupants were busily capturing us on film.
  • Several women offered to pray for us. One drove slowly past, pointing to each sign-holder in turn, saying “I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for you. โ€ฆ” Others shouted blanket prayer promises as they passed. Their prayers must have been busy last night.
  • And then there were the truly negative responses, offered almost entirely by men. One man shouted angrily all the way down the line, “You’re stupid!” Another, equally incensed, shouted, “You’re morons! You’re all a bunch of morons!” Both their faces were contorted with genuine rage; both were distracted enough by their fury that they missed the turn into the museum and had to turn around. Both were clean-cut, professional-looking, middle-aged men driving nice cars. Who are these intolerant souls who surround us every day, and what would happen to our country if their furious inability to accept dissent was allowed to take charge?
  • The most confusing response was offered by an African-American man who drove by shouting repeatedly at us that “Evolution is racism!” I’ve never heard such a statement before, and it makes no sense to me or D or others who were there.
  • The response that I found most annoying came from woman of about 50, riding in the back seat of a car, who looked straight at me and my sign, shook her head, and waved her finger back and forth at me as if she were chastising a naughty child. Astonishing. Who did she think she was — and who did she think I was?

As I mentioned earlier, the police were a constant presence, driving back and forth every few minutes. A pair of officers on horseback also made an appearance. And, interestingly, the Boone County Sheriff himself spent much of the morning on site. He was dropped off at about 10:00, and he mingled pleasantly with the crowd, talking with the organizers, doing interviews with the press, and keeping an eye on things. (He was wearing a suit with his badge on his belt, not a uniform.) Around noon, a couple of museum proponents arrived and began a heated argument with a couple of rally attendees. I was watching, and as the volume level increased, both sides got very much in each others’ faces, but there was no physical contact. A little later, we heard that the woman had reported to police that she had been “assaulted” by someone from the rally — and the Sheriff, who was there, immediately let his officers know that it simply hadn’t happened. My opinion of the law’s dealings with the event is entirely positive: They made the rules and expectations crystal clear up front, they maintained a neutral presence, they communicated continually with the organizers, and in general they did their job in a professional manner.

The other constant presence was the press. Camera crews were roaming everywhere, interviewing organizers, speakers, and attendees. Standing next to me on the road was a girl of about 10, whose parents were involved with the rally (you can see her in the picture above); she was holding her sign high and waving at everyone who went by. The press were fascinated by her, and nearly every camera crew took her picture; she was even interviewed by a film crew from Switzerland, of all places. (I have a cousin who lives there, so I may have shown up on her news channel!)

We stayed until about 1:00, and then headed home. No, I don’t think we changed any minds, but we at least reminded all the museum attendees that not everyone believes as they do. We were very glad we went, to add our dissenting voices to the crowd and to be reminded that there are others who think as we do, even in Indiana and Kentucky. ๐Ÿ™‚

where I’ll be tomorrow I’m planning to spend much of the day in northern Kentucky at the Rally for Reason, peacefully expressing my opinion about the opening of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art facility devoted to teaching creationism as fact and illustrating “scientifically” that the Earth is less than 5,000 years old.

Hundreds or perhaps thousands of similarly minded people will be there, listening to speakers, displaying signs, handing out literature, and making it plain to muscum visitors that not everyone believes as they do — and, in particular, that not everyone believes it’s appropriate to teach a nonscientific view of the Earth’s origin to our children.

If you agree, and you’re within driving distance, I urge you to come. If you’re too far away, please visit the resources at the rally’s website and express your support.

There are those who feel that by rallying, we only give more attention to this sadly misinformed take on history and evolution. I suggest that you read this, written by the rally’s organizer. Some excerpts:

“Answers in Genesis” has managed to get world wide press for their fantasy presentations. The “Creation Museum” is being endorsed by official convention and tourist outlets for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Governor of Kentucky has expressed support for teaching Bible stories in public schools, and Boone County, Kentucky is giving breaks on laws and taxation, denied others, to the vendors of religious dogma. The temporary President of the United States has even opined that the jury is still out on evolution.

Foolish ideas can come dressed up, just as there can be dressed up fools. And the presentations of the “Answers in Genesis” ( outfit are well dressed indeedโ€”yes, this is a compliment to their marketing. But such well dressed ideas can deceive many to their great cost. Just ask some Germans and Italians whether they would rather their country had not been treated to, much less accepted, the dressed up ideas of Hitler and Il Duce.

If, given all of the publicity that has been generated, nothing supporting science and evidence is offered, the impression will be given to the public, the press, and lawmakers that no one objects, and that if fancy, growling, expensive, mechanized displays of dinosaurs and humans living at the same time, and sharing “Noahโ€™s Ark,” are presented as true, with no word to the contrary, then it must be so.

… The attitude that it is best not to give nonsense credit by opposing it can be quite dangerous. School boards and legislators might well conclude, without further information, that if scientists, teachers, and the public are not opposed to the well publicized idea of teaching Bronze Age myths as fact, then such misinformation is okay.

… And, if you think being outdoors in response to a threat to the foundations of knowledge is too much trouble, do not worry. Those who would establish a theocracy over us have promised to attack only when it is convenient for you, when it is not raining, when you can be warm, dry, safe, well fed, and have had plenty of time to engage in Liberal Angst over just what to do. Meanwhile, others will fight the American Religious Civil War and protect your freedoms for you.

pie time

Last night we went to a free sneak preview of the movie Waitress. I highly, highly recommend seeing it, if you’re lucky enough that it shows where you live; otherwise, be sure you watch it later on DVD. It’s a small, charming, quirky movie; the SRO crowd at the theater was enchanted throughout.

The lead character, Jenna (played by Keri Russell) is a “pie genius”: Throughout the film, as situations occur, she invents appropriate pies (“Falling in Love” pie; “I Don’t Want to Have Earl’s Baby” pie; etc.). When she thinks up the ingredients, you see a pie pan filmed from above, and her hands placing the fruit, or pouring the custard, or spooning the chocolate. Pies are on endless parade throughout the movie — I dare anyone to finish the film without 1) being hungry and 2) wanting to go home and bake a pie, even if you’ve never made one before.

My son really wanted to make a pie last night, but it was too late. He got up this morning raring to go (he’s now officially on summer vacation), and with some minor guidance from me on techniques, invented his own pie: homemade crust with fresh pears, peeled and cut up, plus a few sliced strawberries, covered with chocolate filling made from baking chocolate, sugar, and cream. He even made a lattice top. He’s calling it “I Shouldn’t Have to Go to School and Help Dad Clean Out His Classroom” pie. ๐Ÿ˜€

Isn’t it beautiful? What an excellent way to spend a morning with my son: conversation, food, and happiness.

fun with, umm, taxidermy

OK, let me start by saying that I love cute, cuddly little animals as much as — perhaps more than — the next person, and am free and easy with my utterances of “oooohhhhhh!!” when I see a puppy, a kitten, or any other fuzzy, adorable life form.

I must also be perfectly clear and acknowledge that I used to own a python, and we fed said python live mice and rats. I could never in the world kill an animal myself, but I willingly pitched rodents into the tank for the snake to dispatch in a relatively humane manner — until I reached a point where I just didn’t feel right doing it anymore.

I now follow these two somewhat incongruous statements with a warning that there’s a photo after the break showing a gadget that manages to elicit my strongest “oooohhhh, cute!” response while at the same time arousing the discomfort that caused me to find our python a new home.

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world’s happiest Golden Retriever

Want to make your Golden Retriever happy? Take her for a ride in a convertible. Even better, take her for a ride that ends at a park where she and your Black Lab can cavort in a creek. Sure, on the way back, my son and I were in the back seat with about 120 pounds of damp dog lying on and around us; but it was all good. ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo of Lily by my daughter

happy Mother’s Day! very special welcome to my mother, whose surprise Mother’s Day gift is a new Toshiba Satellite laptop. She’s been online for years, using WebTV. But that system has a tiny capacity when it comes to loading web pages, so she hasn’t been able to read my blog (and a log of other interesting online stuff).

Plus, WebTV uses the phone line, so whenever she’s online, we can’t get her on the phone. (OK, she lives next door, so it isn’t that huge a deal, but still.) We’ve hooked up a high-powered router to our computer, so she can benefit from our broadband wireless while kicking back on her bed (a bonus of her being so close).

To her, I say, enjoy your first computer. Have fun getting sucked into the black time-hole that is YouTube (and the rest of the Web). We’ll always know where to find you. ๐Ÿ™‚

I love you!!

primary goodies

I was the 76th person to vote in my precinct a little while ago. Indiana holds local elections and primaries today, and I had only a few choices to make on my ballot: which candidate to support for the Democratic nomination for mayor, and nominees for seats on the city council. Given the seemingly less-than-urgent nature of this election, I expect turnout to be maybe 10% if we’re lucky.

As always, I don’t understand why people don’t vote. It took maybe 15 minutes out of my day. It’s exciting, in a wonky sort of way. It’s one of the best benefits of living in the great democracy that is the United States. (It’s also a good way to distract yourself if your big, stupid golden retriever has just killed one of the baby robins that was born in a nest above your deck; and that you’ve been watching eat and grow for a couple of weeks; and that you were thrilled to actually see fledge, hurling itself bravely from the nest with the warbled encouragement of its mother, only to land on the ground and be immediately mauled by the big, stupid dog who would not come away or stop no matter how loudly you yelled.)

The most interesting part of voting today was the assortment of goodies I was handed by volunteers outside my polling place. I don’t think they’re allowed to say anything in support of their candidate, because as I walked to the door they approached me, mute and smiling, one at a time, holding out their tokens of electoral regard. Here’s the count:

  • bag (useful for holding everything) containing a comb.
  • 1 pencil (always useful).
  • 1 emery board from a former mayor who’s trying to get reelected.
  • 5 emery boards from the current mayor who’s also trying to get reelected (this seems like overkill to me, or compensation, or something).
  • 1 business card (booooring; this candidate needs to learn from the others).
  • The winner: a bag of Hershey’s kisses from a man running for city council, who owns a jewelry store and thus knows a lot about small metallic objects. The note with the candy reads “A Kiss for Your Vote.” The bag contains 9 kisses, so it’s possible that he’s encouraging vote fraud; but I’m choosing not to worry about it.

If I got all this stuff on the day of some piddly local races, imagine what they’ll be handing out next year during the presidential primary. Heck, I’m figuring Hillary Clinton should be good for at least 50 bucks.

geeky yet cuddly

My daughter has discovered a cool site called ThreadBanger that’s all about ways to make your own fashion. (Dyeing your old jeans in espresso and then distressing them with a cheese grater — that kind of thing.) Looking around the site last night, I discovered their list of the Top 10 Geekiest Yarn Creations on the Web. My daughter and I were soon oooing and ahhing and issuing those undefinable sounds that females make when they see a baby chick or a kitten.

As if the knitted memory stick cozy weren’t adorable enough,

scrolling down brought us to the crocheted Yoda hat and light saber —

and then, the piece de resistance: the knitted digestive system.

Truly, this is the kind of thing that just makes my day. ๐Ÿ˜€