Monday, July 03, 2006

Creationists are such buzz kills

So I was all excited about the Haviland Meteorite Festival. I thought it was neat and keen that the fun folks of rural Kansas were stepping up to celebrate their scientific heritage. Some kettle corn, a few rides, some fireworks, a little talk about ancient rocks, and all would be well.

Unfortunately, Davin in the comments (and Dr. Myers) had to burst my bubble by actually pointing me to the program for the festival. Instead of a celebration of the glory of the universe and our little slice of it, the event has been infiltrated by creationists. The festival will screen three creationist movies – including Privileged Planet, the film that got the Smithsonian into a tizzy, and another that is a "biblically based, family oriented video."

The article describing the new meteorite find and mentioning the festival doesn't mention that, while the discoverer of the meteorite is excited that it's billions of years old, the festival honoring it will feature "Steve Miller, Member of Creation Research Society" running a stargazing session. I'm guessing he won't be chatting about the billions of years this meteorite took to form, or even the tens of thousands it's been sitting in the ground.

Now, it's not all bad. Dr. Denton Ebel of the American Museum of Natural History will be there to talk about jis work on meteorites, and Wichita State University's Dr. David Alexander will be discussing his work as an astronomer. I doubt either will feel obliged to fudge the ages of things to fit anyone's religious worldview, and we can hope that a few people will come over to the tent with the scientists.

I called Gail Zook, a member of the Festival Committee in her office at the Haviland City Hall. She explained that Steve Arnold, a commercial meteorite collector from the area, knew Dr. Ebel and Dr. Alexander and at his suggestion the committee invited them out to talk. Zook told me that committee member Marlene Lofgren was familiar with the Creation Research Society and offered to invite someone to offer (as Zook explained it) "both sides of view" on "how this all came to be." Lofgren apparently contacted Steve Miller, who offered to bring the movies to screen.

The city is funding the event, though the committee has sold advertising in programs, they've got a raffle, and a local helicopter operator is donating the profits from helicopter rides to the organization. I've got a call in to Dr. Stimpson, the guy who found the meteorite, but he left a message saying he'd be out driving his magnet around all afternoon looking for more meteorites. Ms. Lofgren is out of town due to a family emergency and couldn't be reached for comment.

Update: Corrected spelling of a name.

Update 2: More interviews and background here.