With science and religion doing ever more battle in the classroom, public interest in creationism and evolutionary theory are at an all-time high. (At least since a certain trial about a certain teacher and certain monkeys, right here in Tennessee back in 1925, that is.) For the most part, however, creationism is found almost exclusively in churches (and now, on the Web), while evolution enjoys the freer domain of classrooms, textbooks, and museums.
While there have been biblically themed science museums before, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky (just outside of Cincinnati and a mere 490 miles from Memphis), is the world's largest and — inaugurated in May — the newest.
Boasting 130 stationary and animatronic figures, 52 educational videos, a special-effects theater, a state-of-the art planetarium, and designs by the architect of Universal Studio's theme park King Kong and Jaws rides, this facility is on par with some of the best museums in the world in terms of collection, resources, and size. But unlike almost every other museum at this level, this one not only insists on the factuality of Adam and Eve but suggests that they co-existed with dinosaurs. Think The Flintstones, though Adam probably did not use a brachiosaur as a crane or a ceratosaurus as a timeclock.
The $27 million Creation Museum is an extension of Answers in Genesis, a ministry founded by author/broadcaster Ken Ham in 1994 as a means of reconciling scientific questions and phenomena with, well, answers in Genesis. According to Genesis, and as illustrated in the exhibits of the museum, the Earth is only about 6,000 years old, not billions, as traditional science would suggest. The Earth was also created in a single day, as was light, the waters, the animals, etc. Noah did exist and did build an ark, and a globally catastrophic flood did occur roughly 4,300 years ago — as did the plate tectonics responsible for our continents and the fossilization of dinosaurs and other organisms.
The compression of the fossil record from millions to thousands of years and the co-existence of dinosaurs and man will rile most scientists. Questions logically arise: How did a Tyrannosaurus rex and a goat peacefully live side by side in that big boat for so long? Where did Cain get his wife? Wouldn't he have been marrying his sister? The answers are simple: All creatures were vegetarians until after the flood. Marrying your sister was okay back then, because there was no possibility of genetic mistakes; humans were perfect. (And besides, there wasn't anybody else!)
For skeptics, a team of scientists from accredited universities is on hand to answer questions about geologic ages, carbon dating, mineralogy, and astrophysics. But make no mistake. This museum is a component of a ministry, and each exhibit illustrates sections of the Bible. And, while the ministry is scientific by nature, it is not to be confused with the recent Intelligent Design (ID) movement.
ID suggests that an intelligent designer is responsible for the creation of the universe but leaves open the question of who that designer may be: God, Buddha, George Burns, whoever. The Creation Museum makes no bones about it (pun intended): The creator is God, the father of Jesus, and the scientific record is inextricably linked to a literal interpretation of Genesis and part of a master plan that begins with creation and ends with the consummation of all evil and corruption. (For further reading, see the Bible's exciting conclusion, Revelation.)
Open-minded visitors will be surprised by the respectful tone that is taken of traditional science. In fact, for each biblical explanation of a geologic event, the traditional scientific explanation is listed alongside, in precise and nonjudgmental language. And even critics will have to admit that the presentation of the museum's materials is top-notch. The facility — at 60,000 square feet — is gorgeous. And while the robot dinosaurs occasionally move like — you guessed it — robots, you may easily find yourself creeped out looking into the eyes of a very real looking velociraptor. You may also be creeped out that that the same velociraptor lives in Eden and that Adam and Eve are skinny-dipping just a few feet away.