Call me a masochist, but, for the last several years, I’ve made a point to swing by the creation science fair in Roseville MN.
The event itself, which is run by the Twin Cities Creation Science Association, has very little fanfare. In essence, it’s just a handful of well-dressed students politely posing next to a predetermined folding table. In fact, were it not associated with such a controversial topic, this fair would be positively uninteresting (much like the most high school science fairs, I imagine).
But the Creation Science Fair is almost never uninteresting. However, it’s not because the projects take an overtly creationist position, or because each poster board is trying to save your soul. They’re not. In fact the reason that I go to the fair has nothing to do with the student’s work, because the real exhibits are wearing denim skirts or faded pin-striped suits.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t carve time out of my precious Saturdays simply to have a laugh at someone else’s expense, I’ve got Jersey Shore for that. I go because seeing, first hand, how creationists intentionally blur the lines between science and non-science reminds me that we have work to do.
And, if this year’s fair is any indication, we have an insane amount of work to do.
Almost before I had the camera out of it’s bag, I was face to face with an aggressive woman dressed in a standard fundamentalist uniform. Without introducing herself, she started systematically tailgating me through the aisles. She would constantly lob questions from behind me as I moved from poster to poster.
Finally, we came across a presentation entitled “Dinosaurs And The Ark.” The board had obviously been put together by a very young child, and the matriarch of creationism wanted desperately to protect it. This woman, whose nametag read “Julie Von Vett,” ungracefully positioned herself between the camera and the poster board and began staring at me in a way that reminded me of my grandmother.
“Are you planning to post these pictures on PZ Myers’ website?” she finally blurted out.
Me: “Excuse me?”
Julie: “You know PZ Myers, don’t you?”
I explained that I had no relationship with Mr. Myers and that my being there had nothing to do with him. But, it was obvious that Julie’s mind was made up. By then she was grilling me like a cartoon drill sergeant. Who was I working for? Why was I there? Etc. Etc.
After several passive-aggressive attempts to trick me into admitting that PZ Myers had sent me on a secret mission to disrupt her event, or perhaps that I actually was PZ dressed up in some kind of clever disguise, a small crowd of people slowly formed around us. Within a few minutes, I was surrounded by several aggressive creationists, and each one had a separate theory about my associations and purpose.
The most interesting accusation that was brought against me (and PZ Myers, and all of his readers by association) was that I was specifically there to make fun of children.
Now, I think I speak for PZ and pretty much every non-asshole on earth when I say that we have no interest in making fun of children. In fact, if anything could be said about my secret purpose for being there, it’s that I genuinely care about those kids. Actually, in one very important way, people like me care about those kids far more than Julie Von Vett ever will; we don’t want to shelter them from reality. We want to train them to live in it.
If we’re being honest, it’s probably events like these that are keeping creationism alive. Not only are students encouraged to consult the bible throughout their project, but they’re also instructed to include a verse on their poster. It’s no wonder that young creationists are impervious to standard scientific arguments; they’ve been conditioned to think that the bible and science are entirely interchangeable.
And, what’s worse is that the event organizers force the students to cart this tripe out into public and, literally, put it on display. It’s brainwashing 101; now the students think that this type of thought process is entirely acceptable. Plus, if anyone shows up to the fair and actually interjects, creationists outnumber them 20 to 1. So, from the student’s perspective, anyone who doesn’t agree with them is in the minority, and therefore irrational.
Psychologically speaking, the Twin Cities Creation Science Association has developed a near-perfect curriculum for indoctrination. They can brainwash the kids publicly, because the number of denim skirts and faded suits provides a comfortable buffer from rational thought.
In less than 10 minutes, I was accused of lying, had my intelligence insulted, and was threatened with legal action by numerous people. The TCCSA’s reality buffer seems to be running on all four depressing cylinders.
At one point, after bragging about being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Julie pointed at a blank sheet of paper and ordered me to write my name on it. I politely obliged and explained to her that I had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I even added my email address for good measure. But this wasn’t good enough either. She read my name out loud adding a sarcastic emphasis to make sure that I knew she wouldn’t be accepting my phony ID.
Toward the end of the conversation, I asked her what part of my being there made her nervous? She tried to laugh it off, but before I could amend my question, she held up her finger and gave me an angry “Shh!”
As you might have expected, this signaled the end of my patience. I laughed and asked her how she ever expected to be taken seriously when she acts like an abnormally tall child.
As I walked away, Ms. Von Vett cupped one hand next to her mouth and belched “You’re one of them!” across the mall.
And, I suppose that I am, but it’s only because people like Julie never finished growing up.