Touring the science museum, Bible in hand

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tour guides are bringing school groups into the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to offer Christian commentary on the exhibits. What do they have to say about evolution -- and what does the museum say about the guides?

DENVER (AP) -- They say there are two sides to every story. The folks at Biblically Correct Tours say they just want to make sure you get both.

The three main guides of B.C. Tours, based in Littleton, Colo., have been giving Christian-based commentary to school groups who book them for tours at public attractions like the state Capitol and Denver Zoo.

B.C. Tours also rolls through the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where they proceed to refute several exhibits, telling kids they didn't evolve from apes, the earth is 6,000 years old, and much like the Flintstones, humans and dinosaurs really did live together.

"Evolution is a philosophy or a religion. It's a step of faith. Is creation also? Yes," guide Rusty Carter says. "Which one is more scientifically accurate? You gotta answer that for yourself."

Carter has been with B.C. Tours from the beginning, when he, founder Bill Jack and Tyson Thorne put together their own comments on the Denver science museum's exhibit on Pharaoh Ramses II in the late 1980s. Instead of expressing awe at the treasures buried with him, Jack, Thorne and Carter criticized his material wealth.

B.C. Tours formally launched in 1997.

Public places like the Museum of Nature & Science say they welcome anyone, even with opposing views.

"I certainly disagree with what they're saying, but we welcome everyone to the museum," Chief Curator Kirk Johnson said.

We tagged along with Carter as he led about a dozen students from a private Christian school -- kindergartners through 8th graders -- and their chaperones through parts of the Prehistoric Journey exhibit Johnson designed. See what he said on his tour -- and see what Johnson had to say about it.

Carter says that according to the Bible, the Earth is about 6,000 years old, not billions of years old, as the museum contends.

Johnson: "If you spend any time at all looking at paleontology, the antiquity of the Earth becomes brutally clear to you. Most people don't spend time looking at fossil layers. The fact the planet is 4.5 billion years old is pretty believable. There's plenty of science to back it up."

Carter: "Here's a fish story of how the fish began from a single cell and evolved," Carter tells his tour group beside a panel labeled "Fish Story." Carter tells his tour group that God created everything once, perfectly able to survive, and that humans did not evolve from fish.

Johnson: "A watery habitat provides certain opportunities and certain challenges, so a fish is one type of animal that radiates and adapts to that environment. Reptiles did it, mammals did it, birds did it. The penguin is a very fishlike bird. Fish are a great example of evolution because of their diversity and how they show adaptation in a watery world. And other animals have become fishlike because they face evolutionary challenges."

Carter says evolutionists and creationists have different explanations for fighting. Evolutionists, he says, call it survival of the fittest, while creationists say it's all about sin.

Johnson: "The two dinosaurs he's talking about are two males butting heads over a female back in the bushes. They're fighting in the sense there's competition for a mate. It's what organisms do. They're interested in succeeding and getting the attention of the female. It doesn't have much to do with sin."

Carter says evolution supports racism and abortion, and can be used to justify genocide.

Johnson: "He is definitely speaking to something that was very much common conversation in the '20s, '30s and '40s: the co-opting of Darwinism for social purposes. That's something that's not accepted by scientists now."

"Racism and genocide are fighting words. He throws a gauntlet down there that's not warranted by the subject matter."

Carter says he doesn't mind having the evolutionist's perspective in a museum, as long as the creationist's views are also presented.

Johnson: "I was raised in a fundamental Christian background. I was one of those kids. That's some of the reason I don't mind these tours. Kids are seeing the debate being presented. ... Lots of kids in American culture don't hear it at all. Evolution has been scared out of the classrooms. You have kids in middle school who don't know much about religion OR evolution."

Johnson says that if the museum ever includes the creationist perspective, it would be in sections that deal with culture and beliefs, not in a science exhibit like Prehistoric Journey.

Carter says that he's trying to show that people have a purpose, and that their existence isn't a matter of random chance.

Johnson: "I can see his goal. It's not unreasonable to try to demonstrate there's a purpose to life. I'm not pleased he has to misrepresent scientists' work to do so."


Denver Museum of Nature & Science:

Biblically Correct Tours:

asap contributor Catherine Tsai is an AP reporter based in Denver.

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