March 24

If you are looking for a spring break attraction for the little ones, Disney and Universal Studios have a new rival: the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Here, you can roam through 70,000 square feet of exhibits like Noah’s Ark, dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden and a special-effects movie on the creation of the world in six days. Reading accounts of the museum— I have not visited— it sounds like a sophisticated display of the beliefs of creationists: Darwin was wrong; public schools are hiding the truth on how the world was created; the earth is 6,000 years old. It also sounds like it delivers its message with a dose of fun: zip lines, cool displays of Noah’s Ark, the ever popular draw of dinosaur models and a petting zoo.

As creationists have pursued more sophisticated marketing and political tools to promote their alternative theory, scientists have been using more sophisticated methods to probe the origins of the universe.  Researchers of the Bicep2 Project at the South Pole recently detected ripples from gravitational waves at the moment of the universe’s creation.  This finding supports the “cosmic inflation” theory of a big bang in which, in an infinitesimal fraction of a second, the universe expanded from nothing into the infinite reaches of space. It also supports the theory that there may be multiple universes.

I wonder how Alvie Singer,  the kid in “Annie Hall” who seemed so disturbed by the fact that the “universe is expanding,” would feel learning that the universe is not only expanding but also that it did so in a billionth of a billionth second and created not one, but perhaps multiple universes, all infinite. These are concepts that stretch our comprehension capacity beyond its limit for many of us. But not for creationists.  They seem to feel that anything that challenges a literal reading of the Bible’s version of creation will fundamentally undermine the rest of their faith. That’s why they have been so aggressive in trying to pass legislation to mandate the teach of creationism in public schools, in supporting school vouchers so that schools are not free to teach evolution at all, in demanding equal time on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new show on the cosmos and in building a theme park that speaks to their beliefs.  To this secularist, that fear seems unwarranted. The mind-blowing science of our universe’s creation can summon faith just as readily as challenge it.