Evolution and Salt

My wife and I visited the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in August (aka the Permian Sea). I mention this because evolution, and the need to deny it, is in the news again.

One of the Republican up-and-comers, Marco Rubio  was asked how old the earth is. He answered that he didn’t know, and that it might have been created in seven days.

The scary fact is that he is not alone. According to the NPR article, forty-six percent, or nearly half, of Americans have a nonscientific belief about the creation of our Universe. My question is why? Why does your God deny you salvation because you accept some proven facts? But wait, it gets worse.

The Underground Salt Museum is an old, and still active, salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas. You can get the history of the mine from the website, so I will spare you those details.

Before you enter the mine, the museum guides show a short video describing how to use the hardhat, and an emergency breathing device. The hardhat is simple enough. The breathing device is a chemical canister that you activate if there is a fire in the mine. It creates twenty minutes of breathable air, includes a clothespin to plug your nose, and comes with a warning that it will burn your lips. A good thing, because if it’s getting hot, it’s working.

After you view the video, you enter a two-story elevator that holds fifteen to twenty people on each floor. The elevator brings you down a six-hundred-foot “mine dark” shaft to the mine.

The first large exhibit in the mine is an explanation of the geology that created the mine. The salt was deposited during the Permian period between 299 and 251 million years ago. (We know this; it’s a fact). At the time, the seven continents we know today were the supercontinent, Pangea, and the area I know as Kansas was covered by a salty inland sea.

Climate change and continental shifting created long years of drought followed by a few years of heavy rain. During the years of drought, evaporating water deposited layers of salt, that layers of mud covered during the rainy years.

While my wife and I were looking at the exhibit, a family of Holdermens walked past us. The two younger girls stopped to read the sign and learn about the geology of the mine. Their father said, “I don’t believe that stuff,” and guided his girls past the exhibit.

His tone was stern enough to make me look around and notice him. I wanted to say, “It takes a lot of faith not to.”

The evolution of Batman at the Underground Salt Museum
I am Batman

Other exhibits in the museum, include a large collection of Hollywood movies and memorabilia. Underground Vaults and Storage is popular with Hollywood and other large companies that need to keep their data for perpetuity. Items on display include Batman and Superman costumes, props from the movie Troy and Men in Black, and large steel canisters of film.

Science exhibits about salt, the geologies that create it, and its importance to life on this planet, occupy space between exhibits illustrating the mine’s history. My favorite exhibit about the mines history was the tractor that got its name from a popular Star Trek spaceship.

The tractor, was disassembled, brought down the six-hundred-foot shaft, and reassembled in the mine. When it broke down, they left it in the mine. Signs on many exhibits remind you that “what comes into the mine, stays in the mine.”

The mine has two train rides; one on a traditional track and one, called the “dark ride,” on a modern wheeled tram. While we were on the “dark ride,” the driver of the tram pointed out one of the fire extinguisher stations in the mine.

“Notice this fire extinguisher here, and that it is attached to a wooden frame. Before we could open the mine to the public, the Hutchinson City Fire Inspector said that we had to have fire extinguishers at so many locations throughout the mine. Never mind that until we built these wooden frames there was nothing in the mine that would burn.”

Never mind all those vehicles and trash left in the mine. The stop before the fire extinguisher was a draft wall. A wall created to prevent precious airflow from going down an unused shaft. Since what came into the mine, did not leave the mine, the miners used old wooden dynamite boxes, filled with salt, to create the wall. Several displays feature the dynamite boxes with paper bags of various explosives that miners used create the mine.

My wife asked, “What about those dynamite boxes, don’t those burn?”

“No,” the tram driver said, “there were no dynamite boxes down here. When we came down to this mine to open it for the public, we looked and looked for those boxes, but none were here. We don’t know where they went. Just assumed they had carried them out over the years. There was nothing in this mine that would burn.”

“What about the wall we just saw?” My wife asked.

“There is nothing down here that will create a fire hazard. In fifty years this mine has never had a fire,” the tram driver replied.

The next stop on the tour was a display of two wooden toilets. The mine did not have plumbing until it was opened to the public. The wooden toilets provided some comfort for the miners while doing their business over a hole. I asked my wife if she thought those wooden toilets would burn, she said, “Yea, those and the piles of trash we saw earlier.” I thought about the large rubber tractor tires on Voyager, held my emergency breathing device a little closer, and thanked the Hutchinson City Fire Marshal for doing his job.

I share this story about the wooden dynamite boxes that made up a draft wall (the ones that couldn’t be found) and the piles of paper and wooden trash (that would have never burned until the Fire Marshal required some fire extinguishers) because our tram driver’s claim was just as ridiculous as denying the age of the Universe or that evolution is real. 

The tram driver has a dogma that says government can’t do anything right, and the Holderman father has a dogma that says his God created heaven and Earth. For both men, any fact that doesn’t fit that dogma does not exist. Even when they are standing six-hundred-feet underground, and looking right at it.

I don’t understand it. I am certain my God does not require me to deny facts to be worthy of his salvation. Why on Earth would yours?


Troy Williams

Troy Williams is a technology and science fiction nerd. The Fundamentals, was his first work of science fiction and there are many more stories in The Fundamental’s Universe. At his day job, he is a web and application developer experienced at coding and managing projects as small as an individual’s website to large enterprise integrations.

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