Sunday, September 23, 2007

We're taking back the dinosaurs

For those of you who thought the Creation Museum was a hoax when I wrote about it previously, you are right. It's run by Answers in Genesis, and it's all a very sincere attempt to convince the gullible that their fondest wishes can come true, even retroactively. Whuh? People living in harmony with dinosaurs, for example. Really? Oh yeah. That and much, much more. If you can believe it, it must be true...

Holy feathered velociraptors, Batman!

The bumper sticker proclaiming "We're taking back the dinosaurs!" (from whom, the paleontologists?!) was particularly funny this afternoon. We saw this bit of Creation Museum advertising when we were on our way back from seeing some scientific propaganda suggesting the moon landings weren't faked. And some really creepy stuff about how the Earth is more than six thousand years old. Sigh. And the Chabot Space and Science Center seemed so "family friendly" when we were looking at their website...

All joking aside, Chabot is a great place. It is friendly to kids of all ages, and we particularly liked the Discovery Lab. Even the cafe was a great experience. The whole thing reminded me of the Adler back in Chicago, except on a smaller scale and aimed at a slightly younger audience. Also better maintained, what with lower traffic and all. This is a place we could visit more often, in spite of the longish trip up to the East Bay. It doesn't hurt that our Tech Museum membership gets us discounted admission at Chabot as well. (And don't tell Elise's crusty old grandpappy, but it shares parking facilities with a regional park and an archery range.)

We took in a planetarium show about the solar system which was aimed at kids slightly older than Elise. It was a pretty good time. ("Mom! My pants look light blue in here! Why?" Oh, your questions make your parents so proud, little girl.) We talked a lot about how Grandma Char used to fall asleep at planetarium shows when I was a kid (Elise agreed it would be a great place for a nap), and we enlisted her help to wake us up if we started nodding off. She did so by hollering occasional responses to the show, Dora style.

"That's NEPTUNE! It's almost OVER! The movie is ALMOST OVER!!!!!"

She was mite disappointed to discover that this was an older show which included Pluto as a planet, and couldn't figure out why they'd indulged in this nonsense. We've talked about how people used to think Pluto was a planet, so Elise's disappointment was more of a "Get with the times, guys," rather than, "How could you get it so wrong?" That's my girl! Also, forty minutes is a long time for an almost-four-year-old to sit still and stare at the ceiling. Even if it's a cool ceiling.

I was impressed by how much they could pack into a 40 minute show. I was also impressed by how behind the current research a relatively new production could be. It wasn't just Pluto's classification as a planet rather than a dwarf planet that made parts of this planetarium presentation "old news". It was the dated images of Mars and the disappointingly sparse images of the outer solar system. And forget mention of Neptune's warm south pole and all of the cool new stuff we now know about Mars. We're learning so much so quickly from the likes of Cassini and so many others. How amazing and awe-inspiring.

My tie-in/wrap-up here is that I'm really glad it was "We're taking back the dinosaurs" rather than "We're taking back the solar system," or "We're taking back the universe." Is it just easier to co-opt history and biology than it is to disavow physics? Or is this being done regularly now and I'm just reading the wrong stuff? I want to know, even though I suspect I probably really don't want to know.

Sorry about the mess of links in this post. There was so much fun stuff to which I could link! (But watch out for this last one-it contains "adult" aka sophomoric language.) Sometimes I fantasize about writing stuff on Wikipedia, apparently.


Anonymous said...

actually the people who would disavow biology; as in humans and dinosaurs coexist, are ignoring a big chunk of physics. How do they explain those carbon and potasiun argone dates if not by screwing with atomic physics?

P.S. Stay away from the archery range. There lies pleasure.

Roni said...

Love recent chain of posts-they're Rational-tastic!

I've found that truth is not something that simply exists as statement of fact, but is, in fact, an evolutionary byproduct of bad logic. I had one of my classes watch the film "Mississippi Burning" for their film study unit last term. One student wrote in his exam essay that the main theme of the film was "Rasicm" with a capital R and that this was important to his understanding of the film because the main characters had to use teamwork to end Racism in America forever. Whuh? I didn't know that the film wasn't about a specific Civil Rights case from 1964, but instead a chronology of how racism was wiped from the American social landscape in one felled swoop by two white guys. Fascinating!

This wasn't too far from the dozens of essays I read from most of my classes on the various films each age level watched. Many of the guys took one person's view on a historical topic and elevated it to truth, creative license or historical accuracy be damned. If it won Oscars it had to be accurate, right? I try to teach my students to be a little skeptical and seek information on their own. It only sinks into a few of them, though, and I wonder if this is the beginning of a logic process that many will take into adulthood and use to strike up their own websites and museums and pamphlets.