|Established||May 28, 2007|
|Location||Petersburg, Kentucky, US|
|Type||Creationist apologetics ministry|
|Owner||Answers in Genesis|
The Creation Museum, located in Petersburg, Kentucky, is operated by the Christian Creationist apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG) to promote a Young Earth creationist explanation of the origins of the universe based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative.
The 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) museum cost $27 million—raised entirely through private donations to AiG—and opened on May 28, 2007. In addition to the museum proper, the facility also houses a special effects theater, a planetarium, and a gift shop, and serves as the headquarters of AiG. The museum employs approximately 300 people; all permanent employees must sign a statement of faith affirming their belief in AiG's principles. In August 2013, AiG officials estimated that almost 1.9 million people had visited the museum, with yearly attendance surpassing 250,000 in each year of the museum's operation. Since its opening, the museum has added a petting zoo, a zip line and sky bridge course, an Allosaurus skeleton, and an insect collection.
Consistent with a Young Earth creationist worldview, the museum exhibits depict the coexistence of humans and non-avian dinosaurs, say that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old, and dispute the idea that life evolved into its current forms. The principles of the museum contradict the scientific consensus that evolution is a scientific fact. Scientists and educators have expressed concerns that the museum misrepresents science and could have a negative impact on science education. Proponents of other religious beliefs about the universe's origins—including Old Earth creationism, theistic evolution, and intelligent design—have been critical of the museum, saying its rejection of scientific consensus damages the credibility of Christianity and its adherents. Tenets of Young Earth creationism nevertheless enjoy substantial support among the general population in the United States, contributing to the museum's popularity.
Both supporters and opponents of the museum have generally praised the aesthetic quality of its displays—which include representations of biblical people and events, animatronic dinosaurs, videos, and explanatory signage. Some critics have noted significant discrepancies between the museum's models and presentations and the geological and fossil record. Museum professionals like Gretchen Jennings have said that, because of its "lack of valid connection with current worldwide thinking", the Creation Museum does not fit the formal definition of a museum and should not be referred to as such.
The Creation Museum's displays and exhibits portray a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative, the Young Earth creationist viewpoint advocated by Answers in Genesis (AiG), the creationist apologetics ministry that owns and operates the museum. It says that God created the universe and everything in it in six 24-hour days, approximately 6,000–10,000 years ago. This contradicts the current scientific consensus that the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old and that living organisms descended from a common ancestor through evolution. According to the AiG web site, the purpose of the museum is to "exalt Jesus Christ as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer", to "equip Christians to better evangelize the lost", and to "challenge visitors to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord".
While the museum's displays contradict scientific consensus, a Sunday Independent columnist said in 2007 that "there are plenty of Americans ready to embrace Ham and support his museum", citing the fact that the $27 million museum was entirely privately funded, and a Gallup public opinion poll showing that almost half of Americans agreed with the statement "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years."
AiG Executive Director Ken Ham said, "I want to make it clear that we don't want to be known primarily as Young Earth Creationists. AiG's main thrust is on biblical authority. Believing in a relatively young Earth is a consequence of accepting the word of God as an infallible revelation from our Creator." While the intelligent design movement is often associated with creationism, in a 2005 interview with The Kentucky Post, Ham said of the movement, "They are not a Christian movement, they are not about the Bible. It's not even against evolution, not really, because they don't tell you what that intelligence is. It could open a door for Muslim belief, for Hindus, for New Age. We are telling you unashamedly that the word of the Bible is the way." In 2006, AiG Communications Director Mark Looy told the Post that intelligent design advocates "want nothing to do with us".
Robert C. Newman, a member of the American Scientific Affiliation and co-author of What's Darwin Got to do with It? A Friendly Conversation about Evolution, identified three major creationist positions: Young Earth creationism, Old Earth creationism, and theistic evolution. According to Newman, Young Earth creationists "hold to a literal view of Genesis 1, interpreting the days as 24-hour days and putting the age of the earth only in thousands of years", while Old Earth creationists "hold that the earth, created by God, is billions of years old and that God intervened at various times to guide the process of creation" and theistic evolutionists "[hold] that God guided the process of evolution without miraculous interventions".
AiG's stance in favor of Young Earth creationism has garnered criticism from individuals who adhere to Old Earth creationism or theistic evolution. In a press kit released in connection with the Creation Museum's opening, geologist Greg Neyman, founder of the Old Earth creationist organization Old Earth Ministries, wrote: "Those who will benefit least from the museum are the non-Christians, who are firmly grounded in their belief through modern science that the Earth is billions of years old. They will see the museum, and recognize its faulty science, and will be turned away from the church. This will increase the already widening gap between the unchurched and the churched. This gap is the direct result of young Earth creationism." Neyman also wrote that "today, the church is comprised of many individuals who accept an old Earth" and "is already moving away from young Earth creationism". Roman Catholic theologian John F. Haught, a theistic evolutionist, claimed the museum would cause an "impoverishment" of religion, adding, "It's hard for me to come up with a single reason why we should be doing this... It's theologically problematic to me, as well as scientifically problematic." Theistic evolutionist Michael Patrick Leahy, editor of the online magazine Christian Faith and Reason, argued that the museum "makes all Christians who don't accept evolution look stupid", "undermines the credibility of all Christians", and "gives the growing movement of militant atheism... an easy opportunity to misrepresent all Christians as 'irrational'". Lisa Park, a professor of paleontology at University of Akron was particularly disturbed by the museum's depiction that war, famine and natural disasters are the result of a belief in evolution. She said: "I think it's very bad science and even worse theology... and the theology is far more offensive to me. I think there's a lot of focus on fear, and I don't think that's a very Christian message... I find it a malicious manipulation of the public."
Before the museum's opening, about 2,000 educators signed a statement written by the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DefCon) calling the museum part of a "campaign by the religious right to inject creationist teachings into science education". The National Center for Science Education collected over 800 signatures from scientists in the three states closest to the museum (Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio) on a statement calling the museum's exhibits "scientifically inaccurate materials" and expressing concerns that students who accept its premises as scientifically valid would be "unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level" and "need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in the specific areas of science misrepresented by Answers in Genesis". Lawrence M. Krauss, who signed the DefCon statement; Eugenie Scott, executive director of NCSE; and Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, each told the Associated Press that AiG was within its rights to open the museum, but expressed concerns about its effects on science education. "We're not talking about free speech. We would not protest the museum. However, we are concerned that we not mislead young people inadvertently or intentionally about what science is showing," Leshner said. Krauss has called on media, educators, and government officials to shun the museum and says that its view is based on falsehoods. Krauss cited science's ability to make testable predictions and its requirement that the results of those tests be accepted as fact, regardless of previous beliefs.
From the time AiG was founded in Florence, Kentucky, in May 1994, ministry officials planned to open a museum and training center in the area. In an ABC News interview, AiG founder Ken Ham—a native of Queensland, Australia—said, "Australia's not really the place to build such a facility if you're going to reach the world. Really, America is." In a separate interview with The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul Sheehan, Ham explained, "One of the main reasons [AiG] moved [to Florence] was because we are within one hour's flight of 69 percent of America's population." The museum is located in Petersburg, Kentucky, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Planning and approval
In 1996, AiG petitioned the Boone County government to rezone 40 acres (0.16 km2) of land near the intersection of U.S. Route 42 and Kentucky Route 338 from agricultural to recreational use to facilitate the construction of what was then called the "Genesis Park-Museum and Family Discovery Center". An organization called Concerned Citizens of Boone County argued that the offices and mail order business proposed as part of the center were inappropriate for the rural location proposed for construction. The secular humanist organization The Free Inquiry Group claimed the rezoning and construction conflicted with a portion of the county's comprehensive plan to build "a proper museum" at Big Bone Lick State Park, an internationally known geological site containing fossil remains of mastodons, sloths and giant buffalo located 4 miles (6.4 km) from the proposed site. The Free Inquiry Group also expressed concern that the museum's promotion of a creationist worldview would undermine the exhibits at Big Bone Lick. In October 1996, the Boone County Planning Commission recommended approving the rezoning by an 9–4 vote after Answers in Genesis' agreed to limit the museum's hours of operation and construct buildings with designs that blended in with the surrounding countryside, but the Boone County Fiscal Court voted 4–0 against the proposal in December.
In June 1998, AiG announced plans to seek rezoning of an alternate 47-acre (0.19 km2) site south of Interstate 275 in Boone County from residential to industrial. The proposed project included the ministry's headquarters, an educational center, and the renamed Creation Museum of Natural History. AiG noted that rezoning the area from residential to industrial was consistent with the county's 25-year projection. The Kentucky Post reported that, "The public comments on the proposal steered clear of the religion-vs.-science debate that generated much of the opposition in 1996", but county officials expressed concern that building public water and sewer infrastructure to support the site would attract further growth to the rural area. In response, AiG proposed to construct an on-site well and package waste water treatment plant. AiG also agreed to change the entrance to the facility from Deck Lane to Bullitsburg Church Road, limit its development to 25 acres (0.10 km2), and submit a proposed building design so planners could review how well it fit in with its proposed surroundings. Following these concessions, the Planning Commission's zone change committee recommended approval of the rezoning by a 3–2 vote, but the full commission rejected the proposal by a vote of 9–5. After the Boone County Fiscal Court unanimously refused to overturn the Planning Commission's ruling in November 1998, AiG filed suit in the Boone Circuit Court. AiG Executive Director Ken Ham explained the rationale for the lawsuit: "The county had told us weeks ago we would have to provide that infrastructure, so we agreed to that, and now they say they can't rezone the property because it doesn't have "necessary" infrastructure in place... This is a type of Catch-22 and shows the clearly arbitrary nature of their decision."
The terms of all of the commissioners on the Boone County Fiscal Court expired in January 1999, and the new members of the court agreed to negotiate with AiG to settle their litigation. As part of those negotiations, AiG agreed to refile its rezoning request to change the designation from residential to public facilities, a lower-impact designation than industrial. The Kentucky Post reported that the fiscal court received 562 letters and a petition with 2,670 signatories supporting the revised proposal. In March, the zone change committee again recommended the change by a 3–2 vote, but the Planning Commission rejected it by a vote of 8–6. The Fiscal Court overturned the Planning Commission's decision in May by a 3–1 vote.
In June, a group of property owners near the proposed construction site filed suit against the Boone County Fiscal Court and AiG, charging that fiscal court commissioners met with AiG officials outside the context of a public meeting and that Commissioner Robert Hay should have recused himself from the vote because he had a conflict of interest by virtue of appearing in promotional materials for the museum. AiG countersued, seeking to recover its legal costs. In February 2000, a circuit court judge dismissed the claim against AiG. Announcing that his clients would not appeal, attorney Jay Fossett explained, "they don't have the same war chest as Answers in Genesis".
In May 2000, AiG announced that it had completed the purchase of the rezoned land for an undisclosed price and expected to begin construction on the "Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center" in March 2001. At the time, AiG planned a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) museum, which they believed would cost $14 million and open by mid-2002. In June 2000, the ministry selected the Cincinnati-based firm of A. M. Kinney Associates as lead architect for the project, noting that the firm would donate "a significant portion of its services". At a March 17, 2001, groundbreaking ceremony, AiG announced that it had raised $4 million for the museum's construction. The Kentucky Post reported in May 2001 that a Michigan-based construction company had donated its services to excavate the construction site.
After independent studies projected that more patrons would visit the museum than AiG had believed, plans for the museum were altered, expanding it to 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) and pushing the cost estimates to approximately $25 million. AiG staff moved into the Creation Museum's office space in late 2004. In January 2007, AiG responded to favorable visitor projections by adding another 10,000 square feet (930 m2) to the museum at an additional cost of $2 million. The changes included adding 7,000 square feet (650 m2) to the museum lobby, doubling the size of the cafeteria, and redesigning two exhibits to occupy two stories of the building instead of one. On April 1, 2007, AiG officials reported that they owed no debts on the facility's $27 million construction cost but noted that they needed to raise an additional $3 million to cover other costs such as increasing staff. All funds for the museum were privately raised.
About 5,000 of the museum's charter members were given preview tours of the facility in the week before it opened to the public on May 28, 2007. The opening date was chosen to draw in visitors on vacation during the Memorial Day holiday. Approximately 4,000 patrons visited the museum on opening day, and the event was covered by both national and international media outlets. The Orlando Sentinel wrote that the majority of the media coverage had a "mocking" undertone, similar to that found in reporting on the 2001 opening of Orlando's Holy Land Experience theme park. In a blog post on the AiG web site, Ham called the opening "not just a historic event in America, but a historic event in Christendom". About 200 protesters attended a Rally for Reason organized by Edwin Kagin, the Kentucky state director of American Atheists, at a farm across the road from the museum. The Rev. Mendle Adams, pastor of St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Cincinnati, also attended the rally, saying, "my brothers and sisters in the faith who embrace [the creationist] understanding call into question the whole Christian concept" and "make us a laughing stock". An airplane flew over the museum pulling a banner with the words, "Thou shalt not lie". Kagin told the Cincinnati Post, "We acknowledge fully their absolute right to teach anything they want. They can teach things fall up if they wish. But we don't want people to think no one cares, no one opposes this."
During the week of the museum's opening, AiG ran a 30-second television commercial promoting the museum in six metropolitan areas: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus, Dayton, Lexington, and Louisville. Although groups from churches and Christian schools were anticipated as visitors, Ham said the museum would not try to attract tour groups from public schools, explaining, "I suspect by intimidation and threats of lawsuits, I doubt whether public school students, as an official tour, would come." Steve Rissing, a biologist and board member of Ohio Citizens for Science, said that a lawsuit over separation of church and state would be likely if public schools used public tax money to bring students to the museum.
The Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau used the museum's opening as part of their overall strategy to appeal to the "religious meeting market". Julie Calvert, vice-president of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimated that meetings with religious sponsors accounted for 20 percent of the conventions held in the Greater Cincinnati area in 2006. Tom Caradonio, president of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of a group of 20 religious group planners who toured the area in early 2007, "I think every single person looked at it and said there would be some way they would work in [a visit to] the Creation Museum." In 2007, the bureau reported that a record $325 million in visitor spending—a 23 percent increase over the previous year—and attributed the increase to the region having more attractions, including the Creation Museum.
In August 2007, Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, criticized the bureau for describing the museum on its web site as a "'walk through history' museum that will counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture". The bureau initially defended its use of the language, saying that they used whatever language was supplied by each attraction featured on the site, but Phelps complained that, as a tax-supported institution, the bureau should not use language that claimed museums intended to turn people against religion. Within a week of the complaint, the bureau had updated the museum's description on the web site to read, "A walk through history via the pages of the Bible—exploring how scripture provides an eyewitness account of the beginning of all things."
AiG had projected that the museum would have 250,000 visitors in its first year of operation, but ministry officials said that number was achieved in just over five months. In October 2007, the Kentucky Department of Transportation erected four signs along highways near the museum bearing Kentucky's "Unbridled Spirit" logo and directing motorists to the museum's location, prompting concern from some residents about the separation of church and state. The Cincinnati Post reported that AiG paid $5,000 each for the signs, which are available to any "cultural, historical, recreational, agricultural, educational or entertainment center" in the state that attracts at least 10,000 visitors per year in a rural area or 70,000 visitors per year in an urban area. The Post quoted Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as saying it was a "close call" as to whether the signs violated the separation of church and state.
To deal with the larger crowds, AiG proposed adding 663 new parking spaces to the 500 already available at the museum, moving the museum's highway entrance, and adding canopies to the front of the building. The expansion—projected to cost about $500,000—also included the construction of a 14,400 square feet (1,340 m2) maintenance building and a 19,200 square feet (1,780 m2) lake to capture and hold runoff from the overflow parking area, preventing it from polluting nearby Garrison Creek. The Boone County Planning Commission approved the plan after AiG agreed to do a traffic study of Bullitsburg Church Road and construct a left-turn lane if necessary, paint the maintenance building to blend into its surroundings, and not use the area under the canopies as a stage for outdoor performances. In its first year of operation, 404,000 people visited the Creation Museum.
On April 26, 2010, AiG recognized a Dayton, Ohio, man as the Creation Museum's 1 millionth visitor, presenting him with a gift basket and a lifetime membership to the museum. In 2012, Cincinnati CityBeat reported that, from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, Museum attendance had dropped to 254,074, a 10 percent drop from the previous year and the fourth straight year of declining attendance. AiG officials cited the poor economy and high gas prices as reasons for the decline. On July 1, 2012, the Museum raised admission prices by $5 to $29.95 per person. In June 2013, AiG senior vice president Mike Zovath told the Lexington Herald-Leader, "We're pretty happy with the way attendance is playing out," noting, "The 250,000 number has been our business model all along, and we've exceeded it every year." In August 2013, Ken Ham estimated that attendance at the museum since its opening was approaching 1.9 million.
Displays and exhibits
The Creation Museum proper encompasses 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2). In its 78-seat planetarium, visitors view a presentation written by AiG's staff astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle that presents creationist cosmologies as alternatives to the Big Bang Theory of the origins of the universe. In the 200-seat theater—which features special effects such as seats that vibrate and jets that spray the audience with mist—a film depicts two angelic beings who proclaim, "God loves science!" Outside the main structure is a 5-acre (0.020 km2) lake. When the museum opened, the exterior grounds contained approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) of walking trails, but by the end of its first year in operation, AiG had added additional trails. The museum includes a restaurant and a medieval-themed gift shop.
In her 2013 book, Sensational Devotion: Evangelical Performance in Twenty-First Century America, Jill Stevenson, an associate professor of theatre arts at Marymount Manhattan College, wrote that "In my own experience, the Creation Museum prompts more questions from friends and colleagues than any of the other venues I examine in this book. It is not simply the museum's antievolution message that fascinates people. Even more compelling is how the Creation Museum actually conveys that message. By coupling the physical form of a traditional natural history museum with a radical community-based agenda, the Creation Museum empowers and gives public voice to a community that perceives itself as threatened, disenfranchised, and misrepresented by mainstream culture."
Writing in the journal Argumentation and Advocacy, authors Casey Kelly and Kristen Hoerl point out that "[t]raditionally, a museum's identity has rested upon its display of objects presented as material evidence of the natural and human history of our planet", but note that "physical remnants are not available as evidence for events described in the Book of Genesis ... Consequently, the Creation Museum demonstrates the materiality of creationist thinking through its display of objects that are, by and large, created for the museum or manufactured recently." Because many of the articles on display at the Creation Museum are manufactured, the Guardian called it "quite possibly ... one of the weirdest museums in the world".
Gretchen Jennings, editor of Exhibitionist, a bimonthly journal published by the National Association for Museum Exhibition, wrote that creationist museums like the Creation Museum are not museums at all, and said that if they applied for accreditation as museums, their applications should be denied. As of 2014, no creationist museums have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). National Center for Science Education (NCSE) director Eugenie Scott characterized the Creation Museum as "the Creationist Disneyland". Writing for the NCSE, Daniel Phelps called the Creation Museum "the Anti-Museum", while PZ Myers called it "Ken Ham's fabulous fake museum" in a 2007 post on his Pharyngula blog; other mainstream scientists derisively dubbed it the "Fred and Wilma Flintstone Museum". In a 2013 blog post, Ken Ham responded to such criticisms by writing that the Creation Museum is a true museum, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary and the AAM's web site.
Design and acquisition
In January 2002, AiG announced that Patrick Marsh would lead the design of exhibits for the Creation Museum. At the time, Marsh was design director for a Tokyo-based company that designed theme parks and resorts; previously, he designed the Jaws and King Kong attractions at Universal Studios Florida. Marsh said AiG officials initially told him of their plans for a small museum with an exhibit budget of only $6,000, but Marsh convinced them to aspire to more sophisticated exhibits that would cost "many, many millions more". Kurt Wise was hired as scientific consultant for the museum and also played a major role in designing the exhibits, including the 52 professionally made videos. Some of the exhibits used in the museum, including a 50-foot model of a rockfish, were purchased in a public auction from the Columbus Center, a science center in Baltimore, Maryland, that ceased operation in 1999. A private collection of toy dinosaurs and another containing 10,000 minerals are among the donated items displayed at the museum.
The Kentucky Post editorial board, lamenting the fact that the museum's premise contradicted scientific consensus, said that, "Answers in Genesis is a sophisticated operation, and it has built a state-of-the-art museum complete with animated dinosaurs, the latest in video technology, handsomely landscaped grounds and a large paid staff." Lawrence Krauss opined that the museum's exhibits were comparable to those of "very fancy natural history museum". He stated that "[On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best], I'd give [the museum] a 4 for technology", but added he'd also give it "5 for propaganda" and "As for content, I'd give it a negative 5." In his 2007 review of the museum for the National Center for Science Education, Daniel Phelps noted that some of the museum's dinosaur models reflected an incorrect or obsolete understanding of their physical appearance, including an Iguanodon whose skin texture differed from that indicated by the fossil record, an "outdated tail-dragging" Tyrannosaurus, and a cycad tree that looked like a "giant pineapple".
Non-avian dinosaurs are prominently featured in many areas of the museum. While some are animatronic, many were sculpted from fiberglass by Pennsylvania taxidermist Buddy Davis. Prior to the museum's opening, Ham declared, "We're putting evolutionists on notice: We're taking the dinosaurs back. ... They're used to teach people that there's no God, and they're used to brainwash people. Evolutionists get very upset when we use dinosaurs. That's their star." In his review of the museum for The New York Times, columnist Edward Rothstein opined, "It is a measure of the museum's daring that dinosaurs and fossils—once considered major challenges to belief in the Bible's creation story—are here so central, appearing not as tests of faith, as one religious authority once surmised, but as creatures no different from the giraffes and cats that still walk the earth." Near the museum's lobby, a diorama depicts two ancient age children playing near a stream, unmolested by nearby dinosaurs. The Henderson Gleaner noted that exhibits showing the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs which contradicts the prevailing scientific viewpoint that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years before humans evolved "earned the museum notoriety among skeptics and anticipation from believers".
In a May 2000 Associated Press report, Ham noted the drawing power of dinosaur displays, "Dinosaurs are incredibly popular. Kids are fascinated by them. So are parents." Kelly and Hoerl wrote that, "By adopting the formal structure of the nature and science museum, including the display of dinosaur fossils, the Creation Museum provides a site where Young Earth Creationists can take their children to "see the dinosaurs" without compromising their beliefs." Of a large Tyrannosaurus near the entrance of the museum, Looy said, "We call him our missionary lizard. When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel." Dinosaurs were featured prominently in AiG's 2012 billboard advertising campaign which targeted metropolitan areas in 25 states. Commenting on the ad campaign, Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education lamented, "I think it's a real shame that there aren't science museums that are competing in the same way, with the same sort of advertising with the same sort of budgets."
On May 24, 2014, the museum began displaying the skeleton of a 30-foot (9.1 m) tall, 10-foot (3.0 m) wide Allosaurus dubbed "Ebenezer". Over half of the skeleton, including a nearly-complete 3 feet (0.91 m) long skull with 53 teeth, was recovered from the northern Colorado portion of Morrison Formation. The Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation of Pasadena, Maryland, purchased the skeleton and donated it to the museum, and AiG paid an anonymous expert based in Utah to restore it before displaying it.
The museum is critical of evolutionary theory that links dinosaurs with the origins of birds. The second room of the creation museum for example displays a model prehistoric Utahraptor, stating that the species was featherless and had no connection to birds, referring to Genesis 1, which states that birds were created before the advent of land animals. Biologists and paleontologists pointed out that the discovery of a Velociraptor forearm bearing quill knobs, distinct structural parts of bones onto which feathers are anchored, provides further evidence that dromaeosaurs had feathers.
Visitors to the museum are directed through a sequential series of rooms. Kelly and Hoerl explain that "the museum constructs an argument chain in which claims from previous rooms provide support for subsequent claims". The first room in the sequence contains a diorama of two archeologists uncovering the skeletal remains of an indistinct creature. Two actors meant to represent the archeologists are displayed on television screens mounted nearby; one explains that he believes that the creature died in a local flood millions of years earlier, while the other surmises that the creature died in the biblical Great Flood about 4,300 years earlier. This room is immediately followed by a second room of placards explaining various natural phenomena using two distinct "starting points"—mainstream science and the biblical narrative, respectively. From here, visitors enter an L-shaped corridor that begins with mannequins representing the Old Testament prophets Moses, David, and Isaiah, while audio recordings of passages from the Book of Psalms are played nearby. Further down the corridor, placards detail historical arguments against a literal interpretation of the Bible and conclude that "The elevation of human reason above God's word is the essence of every attack on God's word." The walls near the corridor's exit contain existentialist questions such as "Am I alone?", and "Why do I suffer?", paired with illustrations of human conflict and suffering.
After leaving the corridor, visitors enter a room designed to resemble a decaying urban alley full of graffiti and littered with newspaper clippings about the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. An accompanying placard concludes: "Scripture abandoned in the culture leads to... relative morality, hopelessness and meaninglessness." In the final room in this series, video screens depict the purported results of abandoning a literal interpretation of the Bible. In one, a teenage girl is on the phone with an abortion clinic. In another, a teenage boy rolls a marijuana joint while staring at a computer screen; a narrator informs the viewer that the boy is looking at pornography. In the center of the room, a wrecking ball labeled "Millions of Years" damages the foundation of a church building. Nearby sits a wheelbarrow full of bricks meant to symbolize the reparative work of AiG.
The second series of rooms depict a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, arranged around the concept of "The Seven C's of History": creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation. At the entrance to this area, a flat panel television displays a CGI animation of millions of particles converging to create an adult human male, the biblical Adam. Subsequent creation dioramas show Adam naming animals in the Garden of Eden and Eve being created from Adam's rib. Accompanying placards maintain that the special creation of Adam and Eve conveys God's desire for families to consist only of opposite sex couples and their offspring.
The exhibit on corruption shows Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, resulting in the fall of man. Further exhibits depict the aftermath of this event: animals being killed to make garments for Adam and Eve, Cain killing Abel, and Methuselah warning of God's coming judgment. Black-and-white photographs also show examples of modern suffering, such as the Holocaust and the explosion of an atomic bomb. According to accompanying placards, after the fall, some animals became carnivores, and competition for resources drove some creatures to extinction. An April 2006 report in the Chicago Tribune noted that this area also features noxious odors and increased temperatures, and AiG General Manager Mike Zovath told the paper that the intent was to make it "the most uncomfortable place in the museum to show how original sin has corrupted the universe".
The catastrophe, an allusion to the Great Flood recounted in Genesis chapters 6 through 9, is represented by animatronic figures constructing Noah's Ark and an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to select frequently asked questions about Noah's Ark and have them answered audibly by an animatronic Noah. Kelly and Hoerl describe the interactive Noah as "remarkable", noting: "Noah is imbued with human affect and individuality, including complex physical features and detailed bodily movements; his speech patterns, facial expressions, and bodily gestures are in near-perfect sync with his eye, mouth, and head movements; and his hair, skin tone, and musculature closely imitates real human features." The catastrophe displays are further enhanced by CGI animations of the Great Flood covering the Earth as observed from both outer space and a period-specific settlement.
The post-flood world is presented in the next room as a time when man began to rely solely on human reasoning, resulting in confusion. Displays argue that dependence on human reasoning leads to racism and genocide, with one sign bearing a quote from Stephen Jay Gould noting that racism increased exponentially following the acceptance of the theory of evolution. A diorama claims that the Tower of Babel explains the dispersal of people after the flood and the rapid divergence of languages during that period. In his review of the Creation Museum, Daniel Phelps wrote of this exhibit, "Races apparently begin with Noah's sons and are dispersed after the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel. After Babel, Ham's descendants go to Africa, Shem's to Arabia and Asia, and Japheth's go to Europe. Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Cro-Magnon are claimed to originate from these refugees from Babel and became cave dwellers." PZ Myers, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, also commented on the exhibit on his blog Pharyngula after his August 2009 visit to the museum with more than 300 members of the Secular Student Alliance: "With complete seriousness and no awareness of the historical abuses to which this idea has been put, they were promoting the Hamite theory of racial origins, that ugly idea that all races stemmed from the children of Noah, and that black people in particular were the cursed offspring of Ham." In response, Ken Ham posted on his blog that "The 'Confusion' section (dealing the Tower of Babel) in the Creation Museum teaches that all the people groups on earth today are descendants of the three sons of Noah—obviously so, as Noah's family was the only family to survive the Flood," but, referencing the book Darwin's Plantation (since retitled as One Race, One Blood) that Ham co-authored, he adds, "dark-skinned people ("black" people) are certainly not 'the cursed offspring of Ham.' In fact, it is only one of Ham's sons who was cursed (and not Ham himself)—the younger son Canaan... And this 'curse' of Canaan has absolutely nothing to do with skin shade! We do not teach that 'all races stemmed from the children of Noah'—as we explain, there is only one race biologically of human beings (as we are all descendants of two people, Adam and Eve)—different people groups, but not different 'races.'"
The final three C's—Christ, cross, and consummation—are presented in a single room where visitors wait before entering a theater to view The Last Adam, a film where actors representing Mary, the mother of Jesus, and an unnamed Roman soldier describe their experiences during the crucifixion of Jesus. After the Seven C's area, a video introduces the next section of the museum by stating that "Scientists are developing a series of models to explain how the Flood and its aftermath could have shaped the world today." Large fossils displayed in glass cases are purported to have been formed as a result of the Great Flood. Large placards illustrate geological models developed by creation scientists at AiG, the Discovery Institute, and the Institute for Creation Research. After viewing a display claiming that the Grand Canyon could have been carved in a matter of hours by receding flood waters, just as volcanic mudslides carved canyons in softer rock in the aftermath of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, chemist William Watkin declared, "Everything they said about sediment deposition, about Mount St. Helens … anyone in first year geology would say 'wrong from top to bottom'".
The tour continues in the "Dinosaur Den", which contains models of dinosaurs with attached signage explaining their lives and features from a young Earth creationist viewpoint. The Dragon Theater, the last exhibit space on the tour, posits the relatively recent extinction of dinosaurs and speculates that Medieval dragon legends may have been inspired by actual encounters with dinosaurs. Visitors exit the tour through the museum's gift shop, which contains both souvenirs and AiG print and multimedia publications. The gift shop generated $5.6 million in gross revenue in 2011.
In 2008, AiG added a petting zoo to the museum's exterior grounds. AiG added an exhibit about natural selection, the process by which changes that give members of a species a survival advantage become more prominent within the population of that species, in 2009. The exhibit features models of finches, the birds Charles Darwin observed before proposing the theory of evolution in 1859. Models of bacteria and live blind cave fish are also part of the exhibit. Ken Ham stated that creationists accept that natural selection allows species to change over time, but disagree with the scientific consensus first posited by Darwin that it allows one species to evolve into another.
A 2013 expansion project added a bug exhibit, a zip line and sky bridge course, and a lobby display suggesting that ancient stories of monsters and dragons may have been accounts of human encounters with dinosaurs. The bug exhibit features a collection of beetles, butterflies, and other bugs that were donated by a museum supporter. An animatronic character dubbed "Dr. Crawley" tells visitors that, due to the variation and complexity of bug species, they could not have evolved naturally but must have been created by God. Of the zip line course, Zovath explained, "It should be three to four hours of non-stop fun for visitors. We're also going to have some information about the different trees and plant species, so there will be a little bit of educational value as well, but it's mostly an adrenaline rush." John Gerner, a leisure consultant, told the Associated Press that the expansions "are actually in line with what we would see at a science museum".
Programs and events
In addition to exhibits, the museum hosts a variety of special programs and events. Many focus on creationist concepts or more broadly on Christian themes and teachings, but others feature special interest topics like photography and archery. There are also designated days that target special populations such as "Deaf Day" (featuring closed captioned video presentations and American Sign Language presenters and interpreters) and Día Latino (Latin Day) featuring presentations in Spanish.
Some of the museum's events have met with controversy. In December 2008, the Cincinnati Zoo discontinued a promotion offering discounted tickets to its "Festival of Lights" and the museum's "Bethlehem's Blessings" performances after three days, citing "numerous complaints". AiG decided to continue offering the discounted price on its "Bethlehem's Blessings" tickets and Ham promised, "Our museum will continue to promote this excellent zoo on our website and also in the printed material we pass out inside the museum." On February 11, 2011, the museum denied two men and a woman entry to its after hours "Date Night" event at which Ken Ham delivered a presentation about the Biblical view of love and marriage. One of the men said that his date was another man who would arrive later. Communications Director Mark Looy said that the event was for heterosexual couples only, but that the group would be welcome to return to the museum during regular business hours, so long as they "don't make a disturbance", referencing a blog post made several weeks earlier by the man who had not yet arrived at the museum, expressing his desire to "send the most flamboyantly gay couple imaginable to this dinner".
One of the most publicized events at the museum took place on February 4, 2014, in a debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, about the question "Is Creation a viable model of Origins?". Ham challenged Nye, a science educator known for the television series Bill Nye the Science Guy, to come to the museum to debate about Young Earth creationism. CNN's Tom Foreman moderated the debate. The museum's 900-seat Leagacy Hall was sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale, and an estimated nearly 3 million people viewed the debate online. C-SPAN rebroadcast the debate on February 19. Publicity generated by the debate spurred fundraising for AiG, allowing construction to begin on the Ark Encounter, an AiG theme park intended to center on a full-scale interpretation of Noah's Ark.
The museum employs about 160 people with another 140 working at the attached Answers in Genesis headquarters. To help the museum's mission to evangelize, a chaplain is on staff for visitors in need of spiritual guidance. Each permanent employee must sign a statement of faith indicating that he or she believes in young Earth creationism and the other teachings of Answers in Genesis. These include "Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation", "the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman", "the great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event" and "no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record". When applying for work a written statement of one's beliefs is required along with résumé and references.
In 2007, The Kentucky Post reported that the Creation Museum employed between 10 and 20 security guards armed with .40 caliber Glock handguns and three certified law enforcement canines. When asked about the level of security, AiG Security Director Jeff Hawkins commented, "You try to raise the level of security according to the level of the property you're protecting... We really feel that we will be a high-profile cultural property, which requires a different level of security... You try to strike a balance between providing a good, safe environment and not overdoing it, and not underdoing it." Prior to the museum's opening, AiG requested that the Boone County Sheriff's Department grant its security force additional police powers. AiG officials said the grant was necessary to give their guards access to additional training and equipment; they maintained that the ministry did not seek arrest powers for their guards and that they would allow the sheriff's department to specify which additional powers would be given. Sheriff Mike Helmig denied the request because the officers did not have the training required of his department's law enforcement officers. AiG said the decision illustrated their point—their guards could not access the training without being granted police powers, and they could not be granted police powers without the training. After being refused by the sheriff's department, AiG petitioned then-governor Ernie Fletcher to grant the additional powers, but received no response.
In the media
A three-part documentary titled The Story of God, hosted by Robert Winston, aired on BBC One in December 2005. The third part of the documentary featured footage of the museum during its construction, as well as brief interviews with Ken Ham and Patrick Marsh. After these interviews, Winston states, "It was alarming to see so much time, money and effort being spent on making a mockery of hard won scientific knowledge. And the fact that it was being done with such obvious sincerity, somehow made it all the worse." The documentary also featured excerpts from an hour-long debate between Winston and Ham over the relative merits of creationism and evolution that was aired on radio station 700 WLW in Cincinnati.
In February 2007, a crew filming footage for comedian Bill Maher's anti-religious documentary Religulous toured the museum, and arranged for Maher to interview Ken Ham without Ham knowing in advance that Maher would be the interviewer. Communications Director Mark Looy told the Associated Press, "Ken is not upset. It's just that the crew that came here never told us that Bill Maher was a part (of the interview)." On his blog, Ham characterized the interview: "[T]hough respectful in one sense, most of his questions were just mocking attacks on God's word." In an August 2008 interview with Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein, Maher said he used similar tactics to secure interviews with other people shown in the film: "It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it 'A Spiritual Journey'."
In July 2007, the radio show This Week in Science, broadcast by the University of California, Davis, published a website promoting a fictional "Unicorn Museum", a parody of the Creation Museum. According to the Unicorn Museum web site, "... many Christian adherents still maintain that the Bible is a wholly accurate historical account. By focusing on the more implausible aspects of this reputed infallible document, the Unicorn Museum seeks to illustrate the $27 Million charade that is the Creation Museum and highlight the intellectual laxity that characterizes Creationism and Intelligent Design."
A 2008 episode in the first season of the TLC reality series 17 Kids and Counting (now known as 19 Kids and Counting) features the Duggar family's trip to the museum, including a personal tour they were given by Ken Ham. Jim Bob Duggar, the family patriarch, said, "We wanted to bring our family here to teach our children about creation and to show them all these great exhibits of how the world was created, and also to reinforce to them the fallacies of evolution and how it was impossible for this world just to all happen by chance." The Washington Times reported that the episode's airing "sparked reaction on both sides of the cultural debate" on Internet message boards.
On the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, in February 2010 Vanity Fair magazine published British critic A. A. Gill's negative review of the museum under the title Roll Over, Charles Darwin!, with photographs by actor Paul Bettany (who had portrayed Darwin in the film Creation). Jill Stevenson noted that although most press coverage of the museum occurred around its 2007 opening, continuing coverage in Vanity Fair and elsewhere "tesif[ied] to people's ongoing curiosity about the venue."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Creation Museum.|
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What is truly awe-inspiring about the museum is the task it sets itself: to rationalize a story, written 3,000 years ago, without allowing for any metaphoric or symbolic wiggle room. There's no poetic license. This is a no-parable zone. It starts with the definitive answer, and all the questions have to be made to fit under it. That's tough.
- Ken Ham responded on his blog: "The same mocking tone he uses against Cincinnati is the same he used against the Creation Museum. It is a good point for all of us to understand that his lack of research in understanding Cincinnati as a city, with its world class symphony orchestra, famous zoo, etc. was also applied to the Creation Museum." Ham, Ken (February 21, 2010). "Vanity Fair writer snubs nose at Cincinnati—Again". Answers in Genesis. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- Official website
- Answers in Creation Press kit critical of the museum
- National Center for Science Education Reactions to creation "museum"
- Pharyngula: The Creation Museum – a compilation of blog reactions to the museum