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Realizing the Goal - Creationist Museums

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow

  

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The recent debate about Creationist Museums sparked my interest. Creationist Museums apply scientific methods to prove the biblical account. The integrity of these methods are what many in the scientific community are calling into question.

The media had a field day with the debate, pitting paleontologist against creationist. I wasn't surprised by the vehement opposition of the scientific community, but by the hollowness of their argument. Rather than debating the evidence and the arguments presented in these museums, they negated the very rights of these museums to exist.

“Creation,” charged a paleontologist from Alberta on CBC radio, “has always had its venue in the church, why have creationists entered the scientific arena?1 “Museums are about open ended inquiry where you don't have the answers when you begin,” said Nica Lelli, Educator for the Metropolitan Museum. “These museums had the answers before they began and did their research to fit it together.“2

The media had a field day with the debate, pitting paleontologist against creationist
Needless to say, this attempt to shut down the opponent rather than address their arguments did not strike me as open minded.3

Creationist Museums are also being attacked by many in religious circles. They argue that supporting faith with scientific evidence undermines its status as absolute truth. It reduces faith to just another argument. Faith need not  be bolstered by science. It ought to be strong enough to stand alone. 

The Jewish Perspective

I believe that each of these arguments contains a kernel of truth and that each plays a role in the Jewish perception of creation. On the other hand, Judaism also poses powerful responses to each of these arguments.

Jewish mystics teach that G-d deliberately concealed himself from the world he created and that to protect his obscurity, he ordained that empirical science be powerless to detect him.4 Yet, he didn't want a G-dless world; he wanted us to seek him out despite our lack of evidence. He wanted us to peer through his deliberate veil of obscurity and embrace him. 

Creationist Museums are also being attacked by many in religious circles. They argue that supporting faith with scientific evidence undermines its status as absolute truth. It reduces faith to just another argument
On the other hand, G-d didn't want our embrace to be motivated by religious duty alone; he wanted creation itself to support a belief in its creator. He wanted to be visible through his handiwork despite the remarkable lack of evidence.5

Two things are therefore true. Scientific evidence cannot by itself lead to the definite conclusion that G-d's exists. If it did, G-d would have failed in his quest for a world from which he was concealed. It is equally true, that when we know what to look for we should be able to find empirical telltale signs of his existence. If we couldn't, it would be impossible to embrace a G-d we could not know.

Because empirical science doesn't easily yield its telltale signs of G-d's existence, acceptance of G-d must begin with independent conviction , a conviction we call faith. However, once we believe in G-d it is possible to embark on a tour of scientific exploration with the stated objective of finding G-d.6

The Debate

Returning to the debate, each of the arguments contains a kernel of truth. Faith doesn't require scientific support and the quest for such support weakens it. This is true. Our conviction in G-d's existence doesn't begin with science and shouldn't. 

On the other hand, it doesn't end with faith nor should it. Our duty to our creator is to ensure that he doesn't remain absent from his creation. It is incumbent on us to bring G-d out of the church and seek signs of his existence in his handiwork.

Footnotes

  • 1. CBC radio interview, “The Current,” hosted by Anna Maria Tramonti, March 30, 2007.
  • 2. Fox News interview, May 29, 2007.
  • 3. 3. To be fair, these particular comments were the exception rather than the norm. Nevertheless, I have yet to hear a single legitimate discussion of the arguments brought forward by Creationist Museums. Many scientists have assured us that creationist science is faulty, but these scientists never explain what makes it so.
  • 4. See Tanya, (R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813) Shaar Hayichud V'haemunah, chapter 4–6.
  • 5. We may not find proof of a creator, but we we should be able to find telltale signs that reinforce our faith in creation. We should also be able to refute any arguments that attempt to disprove G-d's existence.
  • 6. The one argument I cannot agree with is that, which shuts down debate. The argument that faith belongs in the church is faulty. Indeed, faith has always had its venue in the church. However, bringing faith into the museum and demonstrating that it doesn't necessarily conflict with science is a good thing. The argument that the science in creationist museum is faulty also lacks credibility in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with identifying the answer you seek before you set out to find it. It may not be an open ended method, but it is a legitimate form of exploration.

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