Righting America

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Galloping to Hell: Genesis: Paradise Lost | Righting America

by Susan Trollinger and William Trollinger

Genesis: Paradise Lost Movie. Image copyright Answers in Genesis (2019)

In our recent article at The Conversation, “At the evangelical Creation Museum, dinosaurs lived alongside humans and the world is 6,000 years old,” we made the point that there is very little in the way of science at the Creation Museum.

Not surprisingly, the folks running the museum do not agree.

Dr. Jason Lisle, who holds a PhD in astrophysics and now has his own online creation science ministry, wrote this in response (in 2008) to a comment from a visitor who said they were surprised that there wasn’t more science in the museum: 

Of course, there is plenty of science that confirms a biblical creation. . . . Much of this science is presented in the Creation Museum. Some of this science in the museum is very apparent (such as the information presented in the planetarium, or the Flood . . . geology room). But much of the science is “behind the scenes,” and you may not have noticed it (Righting America at the Creation Museum, 71).

In another 2008 Answers in Genesis (AiG) publication (The Creation Museum: Behind the Scenes!), visitors who wanted to see more creation science were directed to videos in the Wonders of Creation Room. 

In the Science chapter of Righting America at the Creation Museum, we do a rather exhaustive analysis (some may have found it tedious, and we don’t blame them) of all the placards, videos, dioramas, and so forth in these areas identified by AiG as presenting a lot of creation science. 

Quite honestly, we were surprised that most of the so-called science on display in the Creation Museum did not even pass AiG’s test for “real science.” AiG makes a big deal about the distinction between observational science (which is real science because it is observable and repeatable in the present) and historical science (which is not real science—evolution is their primary example—because it is about things that happened in the past that can’t be observed in the present). As we document in the book, it turns out that there is precious little (if any) observational science in the Creation Museum that actually “confirms” (AiG’s preferred term) a biblical creation. 

In November 2019, AiG unveiled new exhibits at the Creation Museum. Ken Ham (CEO of Answers in Genisis) boasted that they had completely renovated one third of the square footage of exhibits within the museum. We watched with much interest the “Walk through the Exhibits” video on the Creation Museum website. While some of the renovations were basically “upgrades” (Ham’s term) of the old exhibits such that the arguments, other renovations involved replacing old exhibits with new ones. And the aforementioned Wonders of Creation Room has been replaced by the Relevance of Genesis room, in which the Creation Museum designers have staged a converted urban warehouse within which an imagined artist has, among other things, painted images of Noah and other biblical figures on a brick wall. 

Given that the Wonders Room is gone, we wondered if the Creation Museum had found another place to offer up creation science. And we believe we have found it in the 4-D theater (it’s 4-D because in addition to the fact that the film is 3-D, the seats also shake such that viewers have a “4-D” experience). In the 4-D theater, viewers watch a shortened (22-minute) version (titled In Six Days) of the full-length (100 minute) film Genesis: Paradise Lost.

The executive producer of Genesis: Paradise Lost, which was shown in a few theaters last year, is Eric Hovind, who is the son of the infamous Kent “Dr. Dino” Hovind, and who is continuing in his father’s footsteps as head of Creation Today ministries. The film lists nine “featured doctors and scientists,” all of whom are familiar names in the tiny world of young Earth creationist experts, and includes AiG’s token female creationist,  Georgia Purdom. Also on the list is John Baumgardner, who later in the film is identified as “Geophysicist, Los Alamos National Laboratory” – which seems weirdly misleading, given that he left Los Alamos in 2004 to embark on a full-time career as a creation scientist.  

But of all the talking heads, Charles Jackson gets the most airtime.  Jackson, who regales viewers with stories about his victories in debates with evolutionists and atheists, proudly asserts that “I have four degrees, [while] most evolutionists I have met have only three. The film lists him as “Professor of Creation Science” at Liberty University. 

But it turns out that he is not a working scientist: his highest degree is an Ed.D. from the University of Virginia, he has taught at the grade school level, and while he apparently has taught an online course at Liberty, we can find no reference to him on the Liberty website.

Genesis: Paradise Lost is, in essence, a 100-minute Gish Gallop. Coined by Eugenie Scott, long-time director of the National Center for Science Education, the Gish Gallop (originally meant to refer to creationist Duane Gish’s rhetorical strategy) “is a technique used during debating that focuses on overwhelming an opponent with as many arguments as possible, without regard to accuracy or strength of the arguments.” 

Following this standard young Earth creationist strategy, Paradise Lost gallops along at a breakneck pace from one claim to the next.  In just one 10 minute and 30 second segment, the film’s talking heads “cover” (an absurd word in this context) all of the following topics:

  1. The Big Bang 
  2. The Creation of Stars
  3. Black Holes, and Gravity Waves
  4. First Law of Thermodynamics
  5. Second Law of Thermodynamics
  6. Spontaneous Generation
  7. Scientific Naturalism
  8. The Starlight Problem, and Light Years
  9. The Bible Teaches that God Stretched out the Heavens
  10. “Red Shifts,” and the Expansion of the Universe
  11. The Bible Teaches that the Earth is Round
  12. The Stretching out of Time
  13. Spiral Galaxies, and the Question of Galaxy Smearing
  14. Short Period Comets and Long Period Comets
  15. The Sun and Nuclear Fusion
  16. The Density and Magnetic Field of Mercury
  17. The Magnetic Field of Mars
  18. The Magnetic Field of Uranus 
  19. The Magnetic Field and Heat of Neptune
  20. The Magnetic Field and Atmospheric Nitrogen of Pluto
  21. The Retrograde Rotation, Magnetic Field, and Surface Features of Venus
  22. The Dissipating Rings of Saturn

630 seconds, 22 topics. On average, 28.3 seconds per topic. It is a quintessential Gish Gallop.

Of course, Genesis: Paradise Lost is not presented in the context of a debate. If for some inexplicable reason mainstream scientists watch this film, they can pick apart each of the film’s arguments at their leisure. 

But the film’s target audience is not the scientific community. As is the case with the Creation Museum in general, the film is aimed at evangelical laypeople. And these evangelical viewers will come away from the film with no understanding of, say, gravity waves and red shifts and galaxy smearing and the retrograde rotation of Venus, which of course means that they will have absolutely no ability to evaluate the argument that gravity waves and red shifts and galaxy smearing and the retrograde rotation of Venus help prove that the Earth and Universe are but 6,000 years old. 

So what is the point of this film? 

It’s simple. The goal is to use the barrage of information and incomprehensible arguments to reassure evangelical viewers that there is lots and lots and lots of science that supports young Earth creationism. Evangelicals do not have to understand it. They just have to believe that “real science” confirms their Truth.

Punctuating the film’s Gish Gallop are completely unsubstantiated assertions such as these: 

  • “we have science, it’s really on our side,”
  • “the scientific evidence does not confirm evolution and millions of years, it confirms what Genesis says,”
  • “Genesis passes the scientific method; evolution doesn’t,”
  • “creationists are finding more and more ammunition in the new scientific data,”
  • “we actually have an immense amount . . . of evidence of dinosaurs and man living at the same time,” and
  • “it’s the unbelievers that have a problem, not us.”

So if true science is really with the young Earth creationists, why do so many people believe in evolution and an old Earth? The talking heads in Genesis: Paradise Lost answer that it is because the American people have been “brainwashed” and “conned” by secularists and atheists. In language eerily reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy, they spin out a gigantic conspiracy theory:

The secularists, the atheists, they took control of science. They took control of all the science journals, all the university science programs. They have taken over the museums, they have taken over the state schools, they have taken over the universities, the textbooks, the public schools in every country. The secularists really have control of the educational system, and they want their religion of secularism, of atheism, of naturalism forced upon the students. They use political pressure, they use scare tactics, they use the ACLU, they will intimidate school districts and take away their autonomy that’s given to them by the Constitution . . . They hijacked science, and they convinced the whole world that science is only possible within an atheist worldview (emphases ours).

They, they, they.

Fortunately, “they” are going to get their appropriate reward in the end.

The last 10 minutes of the film transitions from the Gish Gallop to standard fundamentalist fare, particularly, the reality of Hell. With great enthusiasm, evangelist Ray Comfort describes the Judgment Day that is coming:

Every time we sin, we store up His wrath. It’s going to be revealed on the Day of Judgment . . . You will have to give an account to God for every idle word you have spoken. Every deed done in darkness will be brought out into the light. And if that happens on Judgment Day, and you’re found guilty, [here Comfort pivots to look directly at the camera] the Bible says you’re heading for Hell.

According to the film, this judgment was prefigured by the Flood: God slaughtered once, and He – with all that stored up wrath – will do it again. 

The talking heads make much of the fact that Noah’s Ark served as an ark of salvation – people just had to choose to get on board. Given AiG’s claim that there may have been as many as twenty billion people on Earth at the time of the Flood, it is absolutely baffling that the film points to one boat as a sign of hope. 

Or perhaps not baffling at all. In the end, Genesis: Paradise Lost, the Creation Museum, and AiG are all about the horrific slaughter and everlasting torture of their perceived enemies. There is a reason that the final chapter of Righting America at the Creation Museum is entitled “Judgment”:

The museum’s controlling and repetitive narrative of disobedience and punishment, especially with its judgment for America, for the West, for all humanity is forthcoming, and with it the rescue of a faithful remnant and eternal damnation for the rest of humanity . . . They [will] be cast into a hell where they will endure eternal, conscious torment (emphases added).

They. And we know who they are. 

(Most of) us.