Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dinosaur World: Science of Fiction?

I was going over my daily reading list and found an interesting piece of information pointed out by PZ Myers on his Pharyngula blog:
You can imagine how some people who had no idea felt; they'd been reading the articles to their kids, who are enthusiastic about dinosaurs, and suddenly, boom, they discover that the authors are idiots. And idiots with a religious agenda. There is nothing about any of this nonsense in their About page; similarly, Wikipedia and none of the other reviews on the web mention that this is a creationist attraction. Sneaky!

Since my son has been to this place with his school at least once (it was a while ago, but still), I felt I needed to do some quick research. I do want to make sure that he gets the best education possible, and not some one's ideological version of how the World goes around.
The announcement from July 25th seems to be gone from their Web site, or I just can't locate it. Browsing around, most of the information appears to be factual to a layman in a field of paleontology, like myself. However, poking deeper and downloading some of the educational materials for parents and teachers, I did find it interesting that you can't find any information about how old all those dinosaurs are. The only exception, where I actually saw a date was from the Kentucky Field Trip Curriculum, which states:
One exhibit in the museum is of a fossilized turtle. Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles, first appearing about 200 million years ago. The first known turtles appeared on Earth in the late Triassic Period, so they are older than many of the well known great dinosaurs! Turtles have evolved into more than 250 species, including about 180 species of freshwater turtles, 60 species of tortoises, and 8 species of sea turtles, with new species still being discovered.
This was also the only place I could find the word "evolved", but maybe I did not look hard enough. There is plenty of "adaptation", and "change", but "evolution" seems to be absent in most of the materials.
However, in the same document I also found this little tidbit:
There are many theories regarding why dinosaurs became extinct. One includes a catastrophic event such as a meteor or a flood that would have instantly changed the world.
A flood? I do not remember that theory, but maybe I have to brush up on my paleontology.

Finally, in "A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO DINOSAUR WORLD", the last paragraph states:
Dinosaur World hosts field trips for groups of homeschoolers and students from church schools that teach a literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation. The informative plaques in the park present general facts about the dinosaurs. There are very few “millions of years ago” references.
For more information about creation science, see Science Partners (consultants for home-school and other education programs)
So, in my opinion, this place is NOT about teaching, but about business, and business only. They are trying to make sure that everyone is happy, without pretending it is real science. I wonder how they reconcile facts with "very few references" to the real time scales. It is probably a good place to skip when you driving by on I-4 in Florida (or any of their other locations). Much better to head down to MOSI in Tampa, where you and your kids will most likely get the real science and facts behind our natural world.