A STAKE in the Sand
Origins Exhibit opens at SAU.
By Chantal J. Klingbeil and Gerald A. Klingbeil
Worldview is the ultimate mobile device. It’s on 24/7 and filters everything we come into contact with.
At the Biology Department of Southern Adventist University (SAU), Tennessee, U.S.A., faculty decided to combat the idea that you check your religious convictions at the door of the science lab. They wanted to put a stake in the sand, and so they moved the conversation into the hallways.
In the Beginning
INTERACTIVE: The displays at the Origins Exhibit are meant to engage its visitors on several sensory levels.
While the idea of the Origins Exhibit came to the faculty, the first $50 of funding came from a student: “I know what you teach, and I am so glad you teach these aspects on origins. I’m only a student, but here are 50 bucks; do something with it.”
Academic life went on with inconveniences as the exhibit grew on the hallway walls of the Biology Department over the next years. Discussions between faculty, feedback from students and others, and funding from interested individuals all helped to make the Origins Exhibit a unique experience.
Step by Step
The exhibit is divided into three main parts that complement each other and should be visited in sequence. Entering the building, you suddenly find yourself exploring the intricacies and beauty of the human cell. From there the exhibit expands, focusing upon the geologic column. At this point your head is probably reeling with the big questions of science and origins. The final section of the circular hallway exhibit is not tightly packed arguments and evidence but includes a vision of the beauty and aesthetics found in nature.
The exhibit, officially opened on April 15, 2012, is not intended to be the definitive proof of creation. Intelligent design is offered as a valid scientific theory in contrast to the undirected chance-based assumptions of evolution that permeate most scientific discussions. Part of the final section introduces the concept of worldview and probability. This is more than a good scientific debate or argument. What you believe, you discover in the exhibit, affects your decisions—and decisions have eternal consequences.
Attracting More Than Dinosaurs
Apart from the captive audience of biology majors, other SAU students love catching a quick glimpse as they come to take a biology class. Local K-12 schools and homeschoolers have also been attracted by the exhibit. During a biology faculty campout a student shared that the exhibit had been a major factor in his journey from atheism to becoming a strong Christian Adventist. Biology seniors, during their exit interviews, unanimously highlighted the positive impact of the exhibit on their perspective of origins.
The Origins Exhibit is not just about old bones, rock formations, and the question of long time periods. The issue of worldview penetrates every discipline, and professors from different faculties have been challenged to think about the philosophical implications of origins in their fields. Keith Snyder, chair of the Biology Department and coordinator of the exhibit, makes an important point: “We can collect data, we can collect fossils, we can look at layers, we can look at all kinds of things, but it’s still inferring what happened.”
The opening of the exhibit doesn’t mark the end of the vision. Faculty dream of establishing an online Origins Center that would help disseminate important creation research in a language accessible to middle and high school students. The SAU Origins Exhibit is only one piece in a bigger mosaic. Around the world, Ad-ventist colleges and universities are using creative methods of communicating the biblical perspective of origins. Knowing where we came from is essential for our understanding of the future and meeting the One who spoke us into existence.
Chantal and Gerald Klingbeil write from Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A., where Gerald serves as an associate editor of Adventist World and Chantal is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Their three daughters, Hannah, Sarah, and Jemima, ask many questions about origins.