By Miriam Raftery
October 2, 2011 (Santee) –At the Museum of Creation and Earth Science in Santee, free admission as part of national “Museum Day” drew a large crowd estimated at 1,500 people, according to The Christian Post. The event also attracted 23 protesters, who object to the museum’s openly religious teachings on the basis that they are “unscientific,” according to protest organizer John Viggiano.
During the occasion, the museum unveiled its latest exhibit, a “dinosaur garden.” Among other things, Viggiano objects to the museum’s claims regarding the age of the earth and the belief of Creationists that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth at the same time –a view not held by scientific experts or believers in Darwin’s theory of Evolution. One exhibit suggests that dinosaurs died off in mass because of the great flood described in the Bible.
Another controversial display is a human anatomy exhibit which includes stages of human life starting at conception, as well as details on various body systems, blood cells, DNA and more. While many of the details are medical in nature, the exhibit concludes that the complexity of the human body is “evidence of a Creator and not evolution,” tour guide John Nelson told the Christian Post.
Viggiano is a chemist at Scantibodies Laboratories, Inc. -- the same company owned by Tom Cantor, head of the Light and Life Foundation which owns the museum. An atheist as well as a scientist, Viggiano says his employer has thus far respected his right to free speech.
Protesters attempted to engage museum-goers in conversations, but Viggiano expressed disappointment that “people were generally uncurious about my science demonstrationa dn seemedt o have an almost instinctual aversion to anything Darwin or even to suggestions that people not take the Bible literally," he said, adding that he plans future events in other locations.
Still, he considered the protest a success. “We acquired five new members to the San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics because of the event and the curator of the museum even wants to have lunch with me to discuss my qualms with the displays,” Viggiano told ECM. “I am excited about the prospect of being able to change the museum so it is less unscientific.”
Although he believes that “almost everything needs to be changed” to be consistent with scientific views, Viggiano admits that it’s unrealistic to expect that to occur.
Asked what he hopes to achieve, he replied, “A good, inexpensive compromise…would be a disclaimer as one walks in saying that the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Institution, and lal other major scientific bodies do not share the views expressed in the Museum. Or that numerous court cases…have shown creationism to be a religious and not a scientific viewpoint. I’d be happy with that.”
Museum Day is sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum, which lists on its website participating museums that have agreed to offer free admission for the annual event.
What did museum staff think of the atheist’s peaceful demonstration?
Museum manager Jayson Payne told The Christian Post that the protest did not put a damper on the event, adding that he welcomes all community members regardless of their beliefs.
“We hope they come to the reality of a Creator,” he concluded, “and hope that their hearts will be softened by this event and future events.”