I will be participating in an historical workshop at the University of Manchester on the intersection of “Science, Religion, and Entertainment Media” in June 2014. I am proposing the following paper. Comments are welcome.
“The Battle over Cosmology in Recent America: Intelligent Designers, Science Communicators, and the Home Schooling Movement”
Since at least the Copernican revolution beginning in the sixteenth century cosmological issues have been hotly contested between the various types of knowledge—especially scientific and religious knowledge—but in the latter half of the twentieth century in the U.S. divergences over beliefs about cosmology have intersected in ways not perceived earlier. Much of this is the result of efforts to foist “young Earth creationism” on all scientific knowledge regardless of religious ideals, secular emphases, or scientific training and expertise.
Not a little of this is related directly to cosmology. The National Air and Space Museum receives several complaints each week over our discussion of the Big Bang such as this one from several years ago: “There is a disservice you’re committing by making this ‘collision theory’ out as ‘the way’ the universe, the earth and the moon were created. It is only a theory as is the extinction of the dinosaurs and evolution of birds on earth. Either make it more clear that this is only a theory or introduce another theory such as ‘Creation’ and let the visitor leave educated in truth and not in theory.”
Such ideas have been promulgated rather haphazardly in the past, but in the last thirty years the efforts have been more organized, sophisticated in both packaging and communication, and increasingly aimed at educational systems. Where public school systems have been much in the news, the home schooling movement has quietly been educating a generation of children in theories concerning cosmology, young Earth creationism, explanations of biblical miracles, etc., using a range of textbooks, DVDs, speakers, guided visits to museums, and other processes.
This presentation will focus on science communication concerning cosmology, especially the Big Bang and the age of the universe (the subject I know best), and the assault on scientific theory through the home school movement and restructured and specialized museum experiences (such as the Creation Museum in Kentucky).