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PHILOSOPHICAL AND SCIENTIFIC: The lobby of the Creation Museum.

Museum with a message

Science | The controversial $27 million Creation Museum tells a story both subtle and sublime

Issue: "The yoot vote," Aug. 4, 2007

A tour of the Creation Museum, a place where dinosaurs and children play side by side, where poison is harmless, and where every animal from tiger to Tyrannosaurus eats only plants, is more than a lot to swallow. But ever since its opening outside Cincinnati in northern Kentucky in late May, the Creation Museum (open seven days a week) has been drawing thousands of visitors with its assertion that such a world existed-if only briefly-and in the recent past.

That proposition is yours to consider as you walk through an exhibition of the first chapters of Genesis, where detailed dioramas bring to life stories long confined to flannel graph: God creates a perfect world in six days-Adam and Eve disobey-creation is cursed-life has been hard ever since. Within an ornate setting of the Garden of Eden, where a life-size Adam is naming the animals and fingering Eve's hair not far from a 28,800-leaf tree of life, what may have been two-dimensional history for even Bible believers becomes 3-D.

From Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden, visitors move rapidly from good to evil, from life to death. Adam toils over his crops in "Corruption Valley" and museum-goers are hissed at by something that looks like an angry Velociraptor. In a corner a lifeless Abel lies stretched out on the ground. Signs explain the origin of such philosophical problems as disease, "survival of the fittest," burdensome work, and unrighteousness-all replete with Scripture texts.

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"What we've lost from this nation is biblical authority," Ken Ham, the co-founder and president of Answers in Genesis (AIG), museum sponsor, told WORLD. He describes Genesis chapters 1-11 as the foundation of Christian doctrine, the gospel, and the Christian worldview. "It's important to help people to have answers to evolution and 'millions of years,'" he said, which he believes has attacked the credibility of the Bible.

Ham says the Creation Museum seeks to put those answers in not only philosophical but scientific terms. So physical explanations accompany scriptural texts to support young Earth creationism. Take the Noah's flood exhibit: Visitors walk through a full-size portion of the ark and view its water-tight walls (an example of sophisticated Greek shipbuilding techniques) and hydrodynamic design. One room is dedicated to explaining the geological impact of the flood, which had the potential to lay down rock layers and carve canyons in a matter of days.

Reasonable as it all may seem, it's no secret that the museum's perspective is controversial. Though all exhibits were checked by scientists with Ph.D.s in their field, the museum blatantly incorporates biblical presuppositions-that is, rejecting the tradition of methodological naturalism that has come to give science its agnostic flavor. Not surprisingly, the museum has attracted a small army of enemies, critics who say its exhibits are "documented lies."

"What they really mean is that they disagree with our view on origins," Ham says. "What they're saying is that science only explains things by natural processes, which is really the religion of atheism."

But Ham admits that the museum's primary message is not scientific. The dioramas, the videos, and the text along the way are intended to lead visitors to God's solution to man's problem, that if the first Adam left man broken, the last Adam can make him whole. In that, the museum's greatest achievement may be its most subtle: crediting Jesus Christ as Creator.

Creating litigation headaches

On the sidelines of the attention and controversy the Creation Museum has stirred since its May opening, its sponsor has been involved in another dispute.

Creation Ministries International (CMI), the onetime Creation Science Foundation which museum head Ken Ham helped found in Australia three decades ago, filed a lawsuit against Answers in Genesis (AIG) for damages related to the distribution and copyright of Creation, a CMI magazine distributed for several years in the United States by AIG but abruptly dropped when Ham's U.S. organization launched its own magazine in 2006.

"To us the magazine issue is ethical and moral, primarily," Carl Wieland, managing director of CMI, said in an email message.

Wieland and the CMI board of directors hold that AIG acted dishonestly by dropping Creation without informing subscribers that the magazine was still in publication. AIG has filed with Peacemakers Ministries, a Christian conflict resolution organization, and both sides are in discussion about a possible set of arbitrated meetings.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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