NY Times museum review Creation museum
- Re-visiting the "How to deal with creationists" thread....
Museum Review | Creation Museum
Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
PETERSBURG, Ky. - The entrance gates here are topped with metallic
Stegosauruses. The grounds include a giant tyrannosaur standing amid the
trees, and a stone-lined lobby sports varied sauropods. It could be like
any other natural history museum, luring families with the promise of
immense fossils and dinosaur adventures.
But step a little farther into the entrance hall, and you come upon a
pastoral scene undreamt of by any natural history museum. Two
prehistoric children play near a burbling waterfall, thoroughly at home
in the natural world. Dinosaurs cavort nearby, their animatronic
mechanisms turning them into alluring companions, their gaping mouths
seeming not threatening, but almost welcoming, as an Apatosaurus munches
on leaves a few yards away.
What is this, then? A reproduction of a childhood fantasy in which
dinosaurs are friends of inquisitive youngsters? The kind of fantasy
that doesn't care that human beings and these prefossilized
thunder-lizards are usually thought to have been separated by millions
of years? No, this really is meant to be more like one of those literal
dioramas of the traditional natural history museum, an imagining of a
real habitat, with plant life and landscape reproduced in meticulous
For here at the $27 million Creation Museum, which opens on May 28 (just
a short drive from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky
ssions/kentucky/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> International Airport), this
pastoral scene is a glimpse of the world just after the expulsion from
the Garden of Eden, in which dinosaurs are still apparently as
herbivorous as humans, and all are enjoying a little calm in the days
after the fall.
It also serves as a vivid introduction to the sheer weirdness and daring
of this museum created by the Answers in Genesis ministry that combines
displays of extraordinary nautilus shell fossils and biblical tableaus,
celebrations of natural wonders and allusions to human sin. Evolution
gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated
Outside the museum scientists may assert that the universe is billions
of years old, that fossils are the remains of animals living hundreds of
millions of years ago, and that life's diversity is the result of
evolution by natural selection. But inside the museum the Earth
ml?inline=nyt-classifier> is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were
created on the sixth day, and Jesus is the savior who will one day
repair the trauma of man's fall.
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. Fossils, the museum teaches, are no
older than Noah's flood; in fact dinosaurs were on the ark.
So dinosaur skeletons and brightly colored mineral crystals and images
of the Grand Canyon are here, as are life-size dioramas showing
paleontologists digging in mock earth, Moses and Paul teaching their
doctrines, Martin Luther chastising the church to return to Scripture,
Adam and Eve guiltily standing near skinned animals, covering their
nakedness, and a supposedly full-size reproduction of a section of
There are 52 videos in the museum, one showing how the transformations
wrought by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 reveal how plausible
it is that the waters of Noah's flood could have carved out the Grand
Canyon within days. There is a special-effects theater complete with
vibrating seats meant to evoke the flood, and a planetarium paying
tribute to God's glory while exploring the nature of galaxies.
Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost
becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and
narrative. Its 60,000 square feet of exhibits are often stunningly
designed by Patrick Marsh, who, like the entire museum staff, declares
adherence to the ministry's views; he evidently also knows the lure of
secular sensations, since he designed the "Jaws" and "King Kong"
attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.
For the skeptic the wonder is at a strange universe shaped by elaborate
arguments, strong convictions and intermittent invocations of scientific
principle. For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of
relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the
distortions of secularism and natural selection.
The Creation Museum actually stands the natural history museum on its
head. Natural history museums developed out of the Enlightenment:
encyclopedic collections of natural objects were made subject to ever
more searching forms of inquiry and organization. The natural history
museum gave order to the natural world, taming its seeming chaos with
the principles of human reason. And Darwin's theory - which gave life a
compelling order in time as well as space - became central to its
purpose. Put on display was the prehistory of civilization, seeming to
allude not just to the evolution of species but also cultures (which is
why "primitive" cultures were long part of its domain). The natural
history museum is a hall of human origins.
The Creation Museum has a similar interest in dramatizing origins, but
sees natural history as divine history. And now that many museums have
also become temples to various American ethnic and sociological groups,
why not a museum for the millions who believe that the Earth is less
than 6,000 years old and was created in six days?
Mark Looy, a founder of Answers in Genesis with its president, Ken Ham,
said the ministry expected perhaps 250,000 visitors during the museum's
first year. In preparation Mr. Ham for 13 years has been overseeing 350
seminars annually about the truths of Genesis, which have been drawing
thousands of acolytes. The organization's magazine has 50,000
subscribers. The museum also says that it has 9,000 charter members and
international contributors who have left the institution free of debt.
But for a visitor steeped in the scientific world view, the impact of
the museum is a disorienting mix of faith and reason, the exotic and the
familiar. Nature here is not "red in tooth and claw," as Tennyson
asserted. In fact at first it seems almost as genteel as Eden's
dinosaurs. We learn that chameleons, for example, change colors not
because that serves as a survival mechanism, but "to 'talk' to other
chameleons, to show off their mood, and to adjust to heat and light."
Meanwhile a remarkable fossil of a perch devouring a herring found in
Wyoming offers "silent testimony to God's worldwide judgment," not
because it shows a predator and prey, but because the two perished -
somehow getting preserved in stone - during Noah's flood. Nearly all
fossils, the museum asserts, are relics of that divine retribution.
The heart of the museum is a series of catastrophes. The main one is the
fall, with Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge; after that
tableau the viewer descends from the brightness of Eden into genuinely
creepy cement hallways of urban slums. Photographs show the pain of war,
childbirth, death - the wages of primal sin. Then come the biblical
accounts of the fallen world, leading up to Noah's ark and the flood,
the source of all significant geological phenomena.
The other catastrophe, in the museum's view, is of more recent vintage:
the abandonment of the Bible by church figures who began to treat the
story of creation as if it were merely metaphorical, and by
Enlightenment philosophers, who chipped away at biblical authority. The
ministry believes this is a slippery slope.
Start accepting evolution or an ancient Earth, and the result is like
the giant wrecking ball, labeled "Millions of Years," that is shown
smashing the ground at the foundation of a church, the cracks reaching
across the gallery to a model of a home in which videos demonstrate the
imminence of moral dissolution. A teenager is shown sitting at a
computer; he is, we are told, looking at pornography.
But given the museum's unwavering insistence on belief in the literal
truth of biblical accounts, it is strange that so much energy is put
into demonstrating their scientific coherence with discussions of
erosion or interstellar space. Are such justifications required to
convince the skeptical or reassure the believer?
In the museum's portrayal, creationists and secularists view the same
facts, but come up with differing interpretations, perhaps the way
Ptolemaic astronomers in the 16th century saw the Earth at the center of
the universe, where Copernicans began to place the sun. But one problem
is that scientific activity presumes that the material world is
organized according to unchanging laws, while biblical fundamentalism
presumes that those laws are themselves subject to disruption and
miracle. Is not that a slippery slope as well, even affecting these
But for debates, a visitor goes elsewhere. The Creation Museum offers an
alternate world that has its fascinations, even for a skeptic wary of
the effect of so many unanswered assertions. He leaves feeling a bit
like Adam emerging from Eden, all the world before him, freshly amazed
at its strangeness and extravagant peculiarities.
The Creation Museum opens Monday at 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road,
Petersburg, Ky.; (888) 582-4253.
Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA
CCC Metro TLC
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- I want 27 million to create a museum of how *I* think the world should look-
heavy sigh- Mike Pavlik
************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com
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