Saudis Plan Desert Museum Showcasing Planet’s History

Most articles about this museum figure out a way to incorporate Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem into the article, if not the title itself.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery
. [not the whole poem]

The Guardian recently published this article about the planned Saudi museum:
http://environment.guardian.co.uk/conservation/story/0,,2115824,00.html

On barren desert in Saudi Arabia, British engineers and scientists are to build a stately pleasure dome five times bigger than Cornwall’s Eden Project. The vast, covered ‘garden of ages’ will re-create the 400-million-year-old history of our planet’s plants, trees and flowers.
The dome – near Riyadh, the capital – will cover more than 24 acres and become the world’s largest indoor garden. Plants from key botanical epochs will be grown and displayed in seven sections inside two interlocking, crescent-shaped enclosures.

‘Visitors will start their floral time walk at the Devonian period 410 million years ago,’ said Dr Paul Kenrick, a paleobotanist at the Natural History Museum, London, and the project’s scientific adviser. ‘In those days, no plants grew above knee height. So we will use mosses and lichens and grow them on rocks round huge artificial geysers..’
After that, said Kenrick, visitors will experience the Carboniferous period, the Jurassic Park consisting of light woods of coniferous trees; the Cretaceous era, when the first flowers flourished; the Zenozoic age when the first grasses appeared; and finally the Pliocene epoch, with riverbeds and light woodland.

The Saudi Royal family, rulers of Saudi Arabia, (I point this out because in other countries, say, England, the royal family are not the rulers) are proponents of hard-line Salafist Islam (also called Wahhabism). I have not been able to find out what the Salafist belief is about when the earth was created, but if the Qur’an gives any hint about how long ago the earth was created, that’s probably what a Salafist believes.

In America, we have lots of Christians who don’t believe in evolution but believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old. From Wikipedia:

Young Earth creationists believe that the Earth is “young”, on the order of 6,000 to 10,000 years old,[15] rather than the age of 4.5 billion years estimated by modern geology using scientific methods including radiometric dating. YECs typically derive their range of figures using the ages given in the genealogies and other dates in the Bible, similar to the process used by James Ussher (1581–1656), Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, when he dated creation at 4004 BC. Ussher’s chronology, published in 1650, has been subsequently revised many times, most recently in 2003 by Larry and Marion Pierce.[16]

Here’s one Muslim fellow who says evolution is bunk. Harun Yahya, a Turk, is a kindred spirit to the Americans who established the Creation Museum in Kentucky just this year. Their official website: http://creationmuseum.org/. Mr Yahya has a dazzling website all his own: http://www.harunyahya.com/. I mean it when I say “dazzling.”

Here’s an International Herald Tribune article about Mr Yahya‘s latest endeavor: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/18/healthscience/17book.php. He’s mailing his lavishly-illustrated 12-pound tome “Atlas of Creation” to scientists around the world, free of charge and unsolicited. In his book, Mr Yahya lays out the argument against evolution.

From the Guardian article:

Support for creationism is also widespread among Muslims, said Dr. Edis*, […]
“Taken at face value, the Koran is a creationist text,” he said, adding that it would be difficult to find a scholar of Islam “who is going to be gung-ho about Darwin.”

(*Doctor Edis, mentioned above, is a physicist at Truman State University in Missouri who studies issues of science and religion, particularly Islam. Dr. Edis grew up in a secular household in Turkey and has lived in the United States since enrolling in graduate school at Johns Hopkins, where he earned his doctorate in 1994.)

This just leaves me wondering about the Saudi royal family and the museum showcasing evolution. Is there going to be a big Muslim backlash?

1 Comment

Filed under arab, arabian, arabist, books, Islamic relations, Salafism, Saudi Arabia

One response to “Saudis Plan Desert Museum Showcasing Planet’s History

  1. I suspect that rather than the truckloads of bombs which feature in headlines, the Saudi royal objection would tend to show up as people simply not visiting the display.

    Less news-worthy — and to a certain mind-set, less impressive — but still a highly effective response to the Atheist creation myth.

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