August 19, 2007


Americans are flocking to a hi-tech Creation Museum where man and dinosaurs frolick happily together ( 19 August 2007)

The Museum of Natural History in New York this is not. Welcome, rather, to the Creation Museum, a $27m facility that opened in May – to a veritable onslaught of enthusiastic visitors – on a 49-acre site in northeast Kentucky close to Cincinnati. There is no shortage of references to Darwin, whose teachings about evolution most of us are familiar with and more comfortable accepting. But the clear purpose is to demolish not celebrate them. You get the idea of where you are also when you learn that the folk behind it are the founders of a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis.

Theirs is a seductively simple, if controversial, thesis – that to solve the eternal conundrum of where we come from we need look no further than the first book of the Old Testament. And their contention here is that there is nothing scientists can throw at us – in paleontology, geology or astronomy – that will disprove this. Indeed, the point of the museum is to demonstrate that the more we consider the clues to our origins found by scientists – and there are a dozen thoroughly respectable sounding ones on the museum's own staff – the more they fit better with the Genesis version of creation than with Darwin's.

"We all have the same facts," explains one video in the museum showing two men working side by side to unearth a dinosaur fossil in the desert. One is a Darwinist, the other a creationist. "We are merely interpreting the facts differently, because we are coming from different starting points." No kidding.

The blurb on one exhibit bears the headline: "God's Word versus Human Reason". It's the latter you shouldn't trust. "The Bible is the word of God," explains Ken Ham, the museum's principle founder. The promotion of creationism has been his life since giving up teaching in Australia and he says he has no fear that one day evolutionary scientists will come up with something to shatter his young Earth beliefs. "I can stand boldly and tell you that that will never happen. They will never find something that will scientifically disprove what is the clear teaching in the Bible." Such conviction must be comforting.

Many of us will find the postulations of the museum and of Ham far too fantastic to take seriously. Nor would we be alone. About 50 protesters gathered outside its gates on opening day in May holding signs aloft excoriating Ham. He says the Ark was lifted by the flood a mere 4,500 years ago or thereabouts and dinosaurs were among the cargo. (Forget all you know about the massive creatures roaming the Earth 65 million years ago.) And if both the Bible and all other legends omit to mention dinosaurs living alongside humans, it is because the word was only invented 130 years ago. But myths are full of dragons. (One exhibit points to the depiction of a dragon on the Welsh flag.) Dragons and dinosaurs are but one.

But wait at least one second before dismissing Ham as a crackpot. For starters, his is about the slickest museum you are ever likely to visit. It has an interactive cinema that tells the creation story according to Genesis, with wind gusts in the auditorium, vibrating seats and squirts of water, as well as a state-of-the-art planetarium. Its animatronics are worthy of a world-class theme park. In fact, the principle designer also helped build exhibits for Universal Studios in Florida.

Something else impressive: the construction of the museum was funded entirely by private donations; it doesn't carry one dollar of debt.

In other words, in a country where the evolution-versus-creation debate is alive and raging, there are plenty of Americans ready to embrace Ham and support his museum. A recent Gallup poll in this country showed nearly 50 per cent of people accepting the notion that, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

Quackery, of course, but at least it's the quackery of the majority, not the fringe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2007 3:13 PM

Wouldn't quackery of the majority be worse? If you base some loony belief on some other loony belief, people have two chances of realizing it's loony; a loony belief based on something substantial might prove a superior lure.

Posted by: Just John at August 19, 2007 3:30 PM

The majority's loony belief is based on the truth, unlike the marginal's.

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2007 6:49 PM