The Wild Watermelon Sky: A Day at the Creationism Museum
I ask you: “What color is the sky?”
You say: “Wild Watermelon. Always has been. Always will be.”
I say: “Fuck off. It’s been blue since day one.”
You say, grinning: “Wild Watermelon.”
I say, “But you know it’s blue! And you know everyone says it’s blue. Nitrogen and oxygen and water vapor and all that.”
And you say, “Well. Let them see blue.”
I say: “Well, look at the sky and you tell me that shit is Wild Watermelon one more time.” And I’m getting angry.
And you say: “To tell you the truth, I don’t even need to look. I just know.”
And I say: “For the love of David Koresh, look at the sky.”
And you say: “Ok. If that’s what you really want.” And you look. “Yep. Wild Watermelon. Shhh.”
Petersburg, Kentucky. Pop 620.
The parking lot is full at the Creation Museum. The hum of motorized scooters punctures the farmy rural silence of Petersburg. They have come. The elderly have come. And some unelderly. Children and mothers and fathers. And me. And my dad. We have come to see the Wild Watermelon Sky.
A friendly security guard waves us through. We step into the museum, ducking under a stately brontosaurus. A stately and provocative brontosaurus.
It has been my dream for some time to see that brontosaurus.
The Creation Museum was built in 2007 by Ken Ham, a wily Australian fundamentalist Christian as an answer to “science.” It’s a shrine to Young Earth Creationism (YEC)—the belief that the earth came into being 6,000 years ago.
I’d never heard anything about this before. I learned about billions of years. Mainstream. Type “age of earth” into Google and a big, brash, somewhat presumptive 4.543 billion years takes up the whole screen. But, you can’t live your life believing the sky is blue just because you see blue up there and because most everyone says they see the same thing. Imagine if Copernicus did that. Or Columbus. Or Scopes.
But, look, in all honesty, I can’t read an ice core sample. Who am I to assess the reliability of dendrochronology? Am I 4.543 billion years old? Nah, I’m in my mid-twenties. How could I really know?
Where you fall on the question of terrestrial origin seems to come down to who you trust—who tells the best story.
After paying a blatantly steep 30 smacks for my two-day pass to the Creation Museum—we skip the extra 30 bucks for Ark Encounter (a “life-size” re-creation)—and head in.
Passing Noah’s Café, I quickly realize that my dad and I are the only ones here at the museum in a—let’s say—ironic capacity. This is a FUBU museum for the YEC community. I’m the guy in Fight Club faking it through the testicular cancer victims support group. Hunter S. at the anti-drug convention hours after licking a dose of Adrenochrome. I immediately have an overwhelming feeling of paranoia. They will find us out. They know we believe that the earth is 4.543 billion years old. They probably all have guns, I think. They must right? Think about it. The correlation coefficient between between motorized scooter use and gun ownership is known to be +0.8.
But, we’d already driven out to Petersburg and had just thrown a combined three Tubmans on this shit. I try to look cool—like the newest leaf in a 6,000-year old family tree.
In we go.
The museum is broken into the Seven C’s—Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation.
We begin, naturally, with Creation—a six-day event, I learn. I discover that my “great, great, great to the nth” forefather was a man named Adam, my foremother a lady named Eve. Fine. OK. Yes, I’ve heard this before.
To the credit of the Creation Museum, they do present the facts of Man’s Word right there next to God’s Word (for purposes of debunking Man’s Word, but still, they don’t hide it). You won’t find this gesture reciprocated in our hallowed Museums of Natural History.
The argument for Genesis is essentially that Man’s Word is unreliable, Man’s data is often imperfect, and the real kicker, you weren’t there when it happened so fuck you. All true, if you really want to get technical about it.
In Corruption, we learn about how our great grandfather Adam ruined everything. Everything was perfect before Adam’s sin, so the story goes. And then he ate the fruit. Then things were terrible. Forever. Hamm seems to blame Adam for everything bad that’s ever happened to anyone.
Interspersed through the different C’s are ominous appeals about the moral decline of America. Porn, gossip, drinking, Norma McCorvey etc.
In Catastrophe we learn about the great flood and how the Grand Canyon is only a few thousands years old. I had just been at the Grand Canyon, consummate temple of geology, the week prior. There you can find exhaustive information dating the large hole to millions of years. Who to believe?
Honestly, after Catastrophe, I’m worked up. I’m finished. I’m in a Figure Four Leg Lock Submission Hold and I have to tap out. I can no longer take it. I cannot handle another C.
“Can we get the H out of here. I don’t think I can handle Confusion.” I whisper to my pops.
He nods and leads the way.
We eschew Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consummation and head out through the Dragon Hall Bookstore—full of anti-Adam propaganda and CD-ROMs. I quicken my pace.
As fate would have it, Ken Hamm, the creator himself is speaking in Legacy Conference Hall. I take a deep breath and glimpse in. Ken is perched on a stool, speaking calmly about moral responsibility. The room is bursting with Young Earth Creationists—mostly old, but many children. As I peep in, I swear Ken turns his head my way, catches my gaze, and smiles. Did he just wink?
As he perch-preaches, I wonder for a moment. Is Ken Hamm the world’s most ambitious troll? The whole museum seems like one gigantic monument to confirmation bias. Is it just a shrine to a sitting duck of an undertapped ideological market? Is he simply the most lucrative beneficiary of his enabling? Does he really believe the Grand Canyon is a geological fraud? Does Donald Trump really think babies are being ripped out of vaginas by the media and stomped on by Muslims as Hillary Clinton plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or some shit on a recorder? Or do people like them find the reader before they write the story? Is Ken Hamm even a believer?
Anyways. Yes. He must believe. And, staring into that hallfull of believers, I feel a very strange feeling:
Inside our schools the sky is blue. Inside our museums the sky is blue. But, inside that hall the sky is Wild Watermelon. Inside their homes the sky is Wild Watermelon. Inside their minds, the sky is Wild Watermelon.
I hurry outside.
I don’t like vindictive atheists. There is no point to that shit. Honestly, in most of the Western world, secularism is the big daddy. Real hardcore religion, certainly this kind of creationist stuff, has faded into the obscure shadows of Texas PTAs and Arkansan statehouses. Let’s be clear: most Christians do not believe in this Creation story ad litteram, as proposed in the museum. Piling on about “debunking Christianity” feels gratuitous. We get it. It’s done. Galileo died 400 years ago. Live and let live.
But, man. That museum.
When I left the Creation Museum, I felt empty. Yeah, being totally honest here, I did go to the museum with somewhat humorous intentions. But, I really did want to see what millions of people believed. I wanted to leave enlightened. I wanted to learn something about my fellow citizens, or at the very least, understand them in their natural habitat. But, I didn’t feel enlightened.
I wasn’t even confused. I was sad. And I felt stupiddder, like my brain had been sucked dry. Probably something like one would feel after reading The Complete Works of Myron Ebell. It was exhausting. Like spending three hours with a pathological liar. It was like reading a book called Why the Sky is Wild Watermelon because it isn’t Blue as opposed to a book called Why the Sky is Wild Watermelon. I was one big LoserSaysWhat referendum on thousands of years of human scientific research—an opportunistic nitpicking apart of science more than a championing of a belief.
It left me feeling like I’d just eaten a thousand Cheez Doodles while my eyeballs were Clockwork-Oranged in front of the BuzzFeed Twitter page—hollow, devoid.
Here’s the thing.
I say the sky is blue and you say it is Wild Watermelon. If you also say that the ocean is Wild Watermelon, the icon for Microsoft Word is Wild Watermelon, if your favorite flavor of Slushie is Wild Watermelon Raspberry and your favorite performing arts troupe is the Wild Watermelon Man Group, I understand. This is like blue vs. azul, blue vs. bleu.
But, that is not what this is. This is not potato—potahhto. This is potato—elephant.
And I do sometimes kind of wonder… what’s so bad about that? Using religion as an excuse to rape/kill/pillage/withhold wedding cakes is one thing, but using it as an excuse to explain the origin of life… who does that hurt? I am tempted to say, let this dude insist that the sky is Wild Watermelon. Let him tell his kids. Let him buy CD-ROMs about it. It’s his right.
But, here’s the real thing.
Our United States of America has a tenuous relationship with rationality/reason/logic.
Our rationality problem is so egregious that we make fucking museums glorifying it.
It’s a hardwired suspicion of rationality, brought about conflicting elements of our first amendment—don’t make laws prohibiting free exercise of religion vs. don’t fuck with free speech. Good laws, yes, I agree. But…
But, progress is a function of faith in scientific rationality—belief in the worthiness of testing stuff out and approaching each new test with nothing more than a hypotheses, preferably one whose success you are ambivalent toward. This, of course, presupposes the notion that one must be untethered to a doctrine, willing to change based on new and overwhelming evidence.
The Creation Museum blatantly, gleefully disparages reason. Be wary of rationality, it says. Rationality is bad. Now, on its face, someone believing that the (admittedly) progressive and innovative idea to create earth was conjured up by a supreme being in 4004 BC isn’t really all that harmful. But, the propagation that reason is not to be trusted is. It kills progress dead—technical progress and social progress. It enslaves people to inertia.
In many ways, I find this to be a basic existential element to modern hardcore religion. By now, reason and science are so overwhelmingly established, that the Ken Hamm’s have to spend their time playing Ministry of Truth circa 1984, batting away and vilifying logic. Instead of spreading the good stuff that’s in the Bible, it’s a constant defensive stance. It’s not only that you must have faith in a higher power, but also faith in the essential fallibility of reason and science (man). This latter faith is fundamental to accepting the tenets of the Creation Museum in the 21st century.
And I say, “Really? Still? Here look…” and I open my phone and I Google “color of sky” and up pops an emboldened “blue.”
And you say, “Enough. I already told what color I want the sky to—what color the sky is. Wild Watermelon.”
And I say, “Are you sure?”
And you say, “Why do you care anyways?”
And I say, “Why do you?”
And you say, “I didn’t until you did.”