An overview and review of the Answers in Genesis Creation "Museum" by Daniel Phelps President, Kentucky Paleontological Society
By now I'm sure you have heard about the recently opened "Creation Museum" in Northern Kentucky. When the museum was finally to open in the spring of 2007, I decided to visit and write a review. This was done so people who have not been to the "Creation Museum" will have some flavor of the place along with an account of some of the outrageous and remarkable pseudoscience presented by Answers in Genesis (AIG). The following is my account of the museum including a very brief history of its origin and evolution followed by a walkthrough of the various exhibits and features (warning, many spoilers ahead!) and, finally, a short discussion. Please note that I am not attempting to "refute" every claim made by the museum's displays. For answers to most creationist claims see Isaak (2007) and Scott (2004). The Talk Origins Index of Creationist Claims website, is an Internet version of Isaak (2007) and can be found here.
In the Beginning There Was Ham, Zoning Laws, Comedians, K-9's, and Politicians
A native of Australia, Ken Ham arrived in Northern Kentucky in 1994. Previously, he had worked for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) near San Diego, California. During his stint at the Institute for Creation Research, Reverend Ham developed a reputation for being a firebrand for the creationist movement. For example, his most popular book The Lie: Evolution is intended for adult readers, but features cartoons of "evolutionists" dressed as pirates with cannons shooting up a castle labeled "Christianity" (as Dave Barry says, "I'm not making this up!"). While at the ICR Reverend Ham was one of the ministry's most in-demand speakers; often putting a strong social commentary in his anti-evolution sermons. According to Ham, almost every ill of modern society can be traced to the widespread acceptance of evolution. Ham eventually decided to strike out on his own and start the Answers in Genesis (AIG) ministry. Soon after coming to Kentucky he was promoting his plans to build a "creation museum" with numerous dinosaur models. Reverend Ham rechristened dinosaurs as "Missionary Lizards," and claimed to have recruited them to fight the demons of evolution and historical geology. At first Ham's activity was not taken seriously, but almost overnight it became apparent that his organization was well funded and that numerous people were moving to the area to work for AIG. Ham brilliantly built a base of supporters and was very effective at raising money.
His initial plan was for the museum to be next to Big Bone Lick State Park (the birthplace of vertebrate paleontology in North America; a site famous for its Pleistocene mammal fossils). This met with considerable opposition from neighbors concerned about the future of the area as well as scientists and activists who were concerned about the local government giving support to a sectarian religious group confusing science and religion. Most disturbingly, AIG claimed it was the natural history museum called for in Boone County's long term development plan.
After an extensive zoning dispute and numerous hearings and legal proceedings, AIG was denied its proposal to rezone the property next to Big Bone Lick. Some of the zoning hearings were quite raucous and involved much more than zoning. I attended one meeting where afterwards an AIG supporter with a not too well-hidden small tape recorder up his sleeve would walk up to people obnoxiously asking questions like "Why did Stephen Jay Gould say there were no transitional fossils?" Pretty soon he had people, including myself, shouting into his microphone. I'm ashamed to say he did an excellent job of yanking my chain. Clearly future encounters with AIG were not going to be polite discussions of science, philosophy, or religion.
Soon, AIG had a ~50 acre site in a rural area off I-275, several miles west of the Cincinnati International Airport available for its museum. This time opposition to rezoning the property for their proposed use was much lighter, consisting mainly of local citizens concerned about the environment and sudden changes to a decidedly rural area with no infrastructure. Most scientists and skeptical activists stayed away this time since AIG's museum was no longer claiming to be Boone County's envisioned natural history museum. I'm sure most people considered AIG wanting to put the museum in this place without government endorsement a matter of free speech. AIG eventually was granted a zoning change for this new property with the caveat that they put together much of the infrastructure. They bought the property and began raising money for the "Creation Museum". After many years of raising money and dealing with ever increasing estimates of total cost, AIG began construction.
It was during this period that AIG posted my favorite name for their "Creation Museum" on their website. Some wags had already referred to the museum as the "Fred and Wilma Flintstone Museum." I liked this name, but have found one more appropriate. A December 15, 2003 posting on the AIG website went into considerable detail about what the museum would have to counter traditional natural history museums and eventually christened the "Creation Museum" with the far more appropriate name of "The Anti-Museum." Hence the title of this review.
In the months leading up to the grand opening things began to get odder than ever as the Anti-Museum received ever-increasing amounts of publicity. At one point comedian Bill Maher showed up with a film crew for his HBO program and succeeded in sneaking past AIG's security to interview Ken Ham. It wasn't very long afterwards that a really strange story came out. AIG asked for police powers from the Governor's office, supposedly so they could get special training and equipment for their security force (they were ignored). Previously, the AIG website had featured a story on the specially trained K-9 guard dog units that security had on site. Since I planned to review the Anti-Museum sometime during opening week, I began to feel apprehensive about my upcoming visit. Images of old news clips from the 1960's Selma, Alabama riots began to fill my imagination. Nice doggies.
AIG was able to take in more than $27 million for the Anti-Museum. Considerable national and international media attention was given to the grand opening on Memorial Day, 2007. AIG's outrageous claims about evolution and dinosaurs were often uncorrected in various newspaper stories. Television coverage made it seem as if there was no controversy at all about the claims made by the Anti-Museum. Whatever AIG lacks in science, it can certainly publicize itself.
By opening day AIG counted numerous regional politicians, including US Congressman Geoff Davis, among their supporters. Kentucky's intelligent-design-supporting ordained Primitive Baptist minister Governor Ernie Fletcher (he is also a physician, an engineer, and a former fighter pilot. Sort of a Fundamentalist Buckaroo Banzi but with much lower approval ratings.) did not appear at the opening ceremony himself, but he did send George Ward, Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ward made much of AIG's unverified claims of 250,000 visitors a year and the supposed economic impact of the Anti-Museum. AIG's web site quotes him as saying "On the tourism side, it's going to be a great complement to what we have at Big Bone Lick State Park," ... "I envisioned when I was here (nearly a year ago) that every Christian school … is going to have a field trip to the Creation Museum, and we're really happy to have those visitors."
Opening day also saw numerous protestors organized by the local secular humanist Free Inquiry Group (FIG) under the title "Rally for Reason". As many as 200 protesters were present. Most scientists and others in opposition stayed away from the protest, realizing any publicity would benefit Ken Ham's media hype machine.
Two online petitions were circulated. One put out by DefCon, a national organization whose goal is to "defend the Constitution," protested the ideology promoted by the Anti-Museum. It drew thousands of signatures from the general public. Far more important was the petition pointing out the Anti-Museum's scientific inadequacies and its negative effect on student's education which was circulated by the National Center for Science Education; it was limited to academics in the tri-state area and drew almost one thousand signatures.
In response to the protestor's information, AIG posted some incredible responses on their website. One of the oddest was this response to scientists that pointed out that dinosaurs and humans were separated by millions of years of earth history:
"For a person to make the claim that humans and dinosaurs did not coexist, they would have to be able to see all history at exactly the same time, which would make that person omniscient and omnipresent, qualities of God. So, when someone says emphatically that humans and dinosaurs did not exist together in the past, that person is claiming to be a god, while calling God Himself a liar, or, at best, deceptive."
These, at the very least, are not the views of reasonable people.
I was apprehensive about going to the Anti-Museum because of my previous encounter with AIG supporters, Ham's rather rabid books, and the paranoia with which the AIG's website seemed to ooze. Therefore I convinced a young woman who happens to also be a paleontologist to agree to go with me with her camera just in case there were problems. We decided to go and not to argue with the creationists, just to observe and record our experience. More specifically, Ken Ham had criticized scientists who had signed the petitions because they had not seen the museum yet, implying that the Anti-museum would be presenting something that had not been presented to scientists before. In preparation, I studied a compendium of creationist claims The Counter-Creationism Handbook (Isaak, 2007).
We went on May 31, 2007, arriving at about 1:40 PM. A very friendly security guard (no doggie!) waved us to a rather close parking spot. I only recall seeing one other guard the entire day. The lot probably would have held 200 cars and was 3/4 full.
There were swarms of volunteers in the museum. Many were teenagers, but there were also some that looked like retirees. Each volunteer had a uniform that featured an earth-tone vest with the Creation Museum logo. The uniform looks like something one would wear while photographing wildlife or participating in a natural history hike or a stereotypical paleontology dig. Unlike my previous experiences with AIG supporters at the zoning hearing, these folks were very friendly and anxious to answer questions. The slightest eye contact usually solicited a warm "hello".
The form for volunteering at the museum was really fascinating. It requires a very strict literalist "Answers in Genesis Statement of Faith" to volunteer. The statement of faith is very complete with little or no wiggle room. The oath includes what one would expect from AIG, such as a literal seven twenty-four hour day creation, with a literal Adam and Eve and Noah's flood being responsible for most of the earth's geology. Interestingly it also mentions rival brands of creationism such as the "Gap Theory" as a big no no.
I thought this final statement from AIG's "Statement of Faith" was especially enlightening as to the mindset that created the Anti-Museum:
"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. Of Primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information."
The volunteer application also requires two references with at least one being from a "Christian", a salvation testimony, a position statement on Creation, a church attendance question, background check, a hold-harmless waiver and release of liability, and a confidentiality agreement. Whew! Those nice folks had to go through all of that just to volunteer! I can understand the background check, but this appears to be overkill. I wonder how stringent getting on the payroll must be?
It was difficult to estimate how many other visitors were there at the same time as us. Judging by the parking lot I would say perhaps 500. Only occasionally did I have to struggle to photograph a display. The crowd at the creation museum was overwhelmingly white. Some families had what I would assume were adopted children of other and mixed races. I only saw one African American adult the entire day. Judging from the attire and cars in the lot, there were lots of middle-class families there. Surprisingly, there were a number of families that were probably Mennonites. The Mennonites could be recognized by their simple but neat, clean dress and the distinctive cap worn by the adult females. Since most Mennonites in Kentucky and southern Ohio are hard working farmers with a limited income and large families, their visit to the Creation Museum at this time of year represents an important investment of time and money.
Building and Entrance
The building housing the Creation "Museum" is beautiful and very well designed. The architects certainly deserve an award for the efficient use of space as the path one has to take as the tour winds about from room to room giving the illusion that the place is much larger than it actually is. Moreover, many portions of the museum boast top-notch quality in the construction materials used. The portion near the end of the museum tour, the "Palm Plaza," was still under construction the day we visited; it featured some rather expensive-looking stone work that was still protected by heavy paper, presumably before undergoing some sort of sealant.
The entrance and portico of the building has extensive glasswork and benefits from much natural lighting. In this area that leads up to the ticket window AIG had lots of information tables and free pamphlets, including information on how to volunteer and $5 discount coupons. Now that the initial crowds have diminished, this area could probably be put to better use. The entire area still had that "new car" odor.
In front of the ticket booth is a very nice composite wooly Rhino fossil from Siberia on loan to AIG from two of its supporters. I thought this was merely a cast when I first saw the skeleton, because only a thin strip of cloth blocked it off. This cavalier attitude towards a valuable specimen is rather remarkable for a museum, even this one. The mannequins of various biblical characters that appear much later in the museum tour were much more protected by railings and other security.
The rhino features a plaque stating that it was fossilized in the "Ice Age, which occurred a few centuries after Noah's Flood." And "At one time, the only rhinoceroses on earth were the ones who survived on Noah's Ark while a catastrophic Flood destroyed the earth (~2348 BC)." Apparently this specific date was the one given by Bishop Usher in 1658, not the most up to date science.
Four very friendly and cheerful ladies greeted the two of us at the ticket window and took our money and discount coupons. There was no waiting now that the Anti-Museum had been open a few days.
We paid an extra $5 for the planetarium show since little had been written about this part of the Creation Museum. The next planetarium show was scheduled for only about ten minutes after our arrival, so it was one of our first stops. The planetarium was small, but very nicely constructed with about 85 reclining seats; my big butt and long legs were comfortable. The floor featured a plush dark blue carpet with a motif of yellow stars, spiral galaxies, and ringed planets. The planetarium was less than half full at this 2 PM show.
The planetarium show "The Created Cosmos" could have been one of the best parts of the museum. The show was basically a 20+ minute trip across the universe showing its immense scale and grandeur; vaguely reminiscent of the classic short science film "Powers of Ten." It began with a voice-over of the Apollo 8 astronauts reading the Genesis account of creation followed by a well-done, realistic, almost three dimensional, view of the International Space Station orbiting over the earth. Overall, the special effects were better than one would expect for such a small planetarium. As the show progressed, the moon, solar system, nearby stars, stars with exoplanets, unusual stars, globular clusters, and ultimately galaxies and the large-scale structure of the universe were explored. Other than religious statements and odd references to "secular scientists" most of this could have passed for a good planetarium show.
However, as expected, a good bit of creation "science" was added to the mix. Several unusual claims were made, but not explored in much detail. It was almost as if they put together a good show and added weird stuff to please AIG's leaders.
When discussing the 200 or so known exoplanets, it was claimed that the fact that many of these newly discovered solar systems had hot Jupiter-mass planets close to the central star somehow refuted, or at least was a problem for, theories for the development of our solar system. In some sense this is correct, but it is not a problem for how science works. Until recently we only had one solar system to investigate, but now we have many more, so we have to revise our ideas. Apparently it is thought that revising one's ideas for new information is a weakness, when in fact it is one of science's central strengths.
It was also claimed that the existence of Blue Supergiant stars, such as Rigel in Orion, disproves the universe being billions of years old. Since Blue Supergiant stars go supernova after a couple of million years and we are supposedly not observing their formation now, then the galaxy could not be billions of years old as they would have all gone supernova by now. Later in the program, the supposed abundance of Blue Supergiants in the arms of distant spiral galaxies was mentioned offhand as evidence that distant galaxies are also younger than "secular scientists" claim. These were the only creationist claims in the entire museum that I had not heard before. These ideas were only briefly touched upon in the most cursory manner. If Ham's Anti-Museum is presenting something new to the scientific community this is it.
The show acknowledged that distant galaxies are billions of light years away. Instead of the usual arguments creationists make claiming the speed of light was greater in the past or that the light was created in transit, they mentioned very briefly ideas about gravitational time dilation of light. Since the show did not elaborate it was difficult to get the gist of the creationist argument. One suspects these arguments were put in to snow the audience.
The closing credits listed Dr. Jason Lisle as the writer of the program. Dr. Lisle has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He moved to Kentucky after his graduation to work for Answers in Genesis. He has yet to publish his claims about Blue Supergiants and time dilation of light in peer reviewed journals.
Entrance Area to the Anti-Museum Tour
This area has several displays of minerals (as yet unlabelled), various fossils, and live animals such as finches and poison dart frogs.
The fossils include a Solnhofen Limestone horseshoe crab fossil that died at the end of its trackway and a Green River Shale "fish swallowing a fish." The fish are attributed to a "post-Flood catastrophe."
Above this display is a sauropod dinosaur robot that didn't seem to be working – I had seen it move in recent television coverage. The sauropod didn't look very accurate, as the legs didn't seem to be the right length. There are also two robotic juvenile Tyrannosaurus near robotic children in a large diorama. Some of the sign labels in this are set the tone for what is to come. For example:
" Fossils the Biblical view –
Views about fossils have come and gone. But fossils do not tell us where these creatures came from or how they died.
Fortunately, we have another source of factual data – the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This book makes it obvious that carnivory, disease, and death, as seen in the fossil record came after sin. So the fossil record had to be formed after sin entered the world.
Genesis also gives an eyewitness account of a catastrophic, worldwide Flood, about 4,350 years ago, which covered the whole earth in water and destroyed the air-breathing animals on land. God sent this Flood during the days of Noah, as a judgement for mankind's sin. This Flood and its aftermath would have formed massive fossil layers all over the world.
God's Word holds the key to our understanding of God's World. Most fossils are a silent testimony to God's worldwide judgement."
Another sign in this area is the first introduction to the absurd claim that all animals were originally vegetarian:
"Design and the Curse –
Some animals seem to be specially designed to eat other animals (carnivory). We do not know exactly how meat-eating started, nor how long it took to begin, but we do know two things:
- All animals were plant eaters before Adam's sin. God said, "To every beast of the earth I have given every green herb for food" (Genesis 1:30).
- Everything in creation, including the plants and animals, was created "very good." God created man in his own image…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 27, 31).
The Bible teaches that suffering and death came as a result of Adam's sin. After the Curse, some animal may have simply changed their diet, and others may have been given special designs for eating meat. God could have introduced such designs after the Curse, or He could have revealed designs placed in the organisms at the creation.
Carnivores appear to help keep the fallen world functioning despite the effects of the Curse. For instance, carnivores often improve the overall health of animal populations by taking out the weakest and the diseased."
Also to introduce the "Biblical" timeline promoted by the museum is a display of the Seven C's of Creation – Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consummation.
Slot Canyon and Ranger Station
Oddly, this area features a large exact replica sign of a Grand Canyon National Park sign complete with a National Park Service, Department of the Interior "Arrowhead"-shaped seal. Considering some of the recent controversy with the National Park Service denying that they promote creationism at the Grand Canyon, it is strange that they would grant permission for their sign and insignia to be reproduced in this setting. Perhaps AIG is using this without the National Park Service's permission.
The "Ranger Station" features a photograph of Mt. St. Helen's with a short looping video claiming the formation of deep canyons in the unconsolidated ash there showed the Grand Canyon formed by a similar process.
Dinosaur Dig Site and Starting Points
This area features mannequins of two paleontologists excavating a Utahraptor. The creationist "paleontologist" mannequin is styled after the actor that appears in several of the video productions shown later in the museum.
At this point the Anti-Museum starts promoting a strange sort of mushy-headed relativism in which creationism is claimed to be at least an equal to science. A nice robotic Utahraptor is labeled with an evolution sequence where the dinosaur dies and is buried in stream sediments contrasted with a creationist sequence where the poor critter dies in the Flood. The Anti-Museum makes a big deal of reaching different conclusions for the same evidence because of different starting assumptions explanations of evidence based on "Human Reason" are contrasted with supposedly equal explanations based on "God's Word". Besides the Utahraptor, there are similar displays for the Universe (cosmology), the origin of plants and animals, the origin of apes and humans, the origin of coal, the origin of rocks, and earth history. Spurious phylogenetic trees for plants and animals are included in several of the displays; apparently the creationists were too lazy to copy phylogenetic trees out of a science book. Interestingly, the creationist version of biological history has considerable divergence before and after the Flood. They refer to these as Evolution trees vs. the Creation "orchard". Apparently, humans are the only creature with no branching of their lineage. The diagrams imply that creationists accept a great deal of evolution before and immediately after the Flood (except for humans of course).
Biblical Authority and Biblical Relevance rooms
The next section features mannequins of the prophets Abraham, Moses, and David for the Old Testament, as well as people rolling aside the stone covering Jesus' empty Tomb for the New. In spite of the detail, this display is a bit dull. I'm apparently not the first to point out that Moses looks a lot like comedian Bill Maher. Perhaps this was revenge for his ambush comedy interview of Ken Ham mentioned above. Or was this by divine design? The waxy-looking mannequins are followed by several panel displays concerning various attempts to – "attack," "discredit," "replace" and "poison" the Bible. Apparently the latest attack is replacing the six days of creation with millions of years. There is a video and some art work on the Scopes Trial in this area.
For reasons I cannot fathom this is followed by a bunch of information about evangelical minister Charles Templeton becoming an atheist after becoming a theistic evolutionist. There is a cheesy painting of Templeton as a gravedigger with a nearby tombstone marked "God is Dead". Apparently, AIG is REALLY PISSED at Rev. Templeton.
One of the displays in this section is a partial 300-year-old Torah scroll smuggled out of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Somehow it ended up here. One would think AIG could find a synagogue to donate this to.
This area is purposefully nasty and grubby and includes a garbage can and old newspapers (is this art?) and a cute fake mouse that might make someone go "eek." One wall features newspaper story clippings of the Columbine Massacre, 9/11, gay rights, prayer out of school, and various crimes. Another wall has graffiti saying "Today Man Decides Truth" with "Truth" marked over and replaced with "Whatever". This is the start of the section promoting the Fundamentalist social agenda of the Anti-Museum. This all comes off as rather silly and offensive to anyone who does not share AIG's theology. Worst of all is that this is boring. Most of the other visitors just seemed to drift through here.
Culture in Crisis
This section is devoted to AIG attacking non-Fundamentalist Christians. A video has a minister preaching theistic evolution and an old earth to a bored flock of adults and kids playing with their I-pods and other distractions. In other videos in this room the boy who was just squirming in church is rolling a joint and surfing the net for porn. His T-shirt has a frowny yellow face plus a beer equaling a happy Wal-Mart face. In the next video the teenage girl from the church is reading her positive pregnancy test on the phone to Planned Parenthood. One can almost hear the vacuum noises of the abortion clinic and hellfire-a-coming. One wall is a church wall being destroyed with a wrecking ball labeled "Millions of Years." This is really getting silly! We had to stay in this section a while waiting for the previous showing of the film in the next section to end.
Time Tunnel and Six Days of Creation Theater
The time tunnel is a narrow black hallway full of little white light bulbs. It is meant to be a time machine to take us back to the Creation (alas the one 6000 years ago, not 13.7 Ga.). After the cheap-ass tunnel there is a pretty multimedia panoramic presentation of the reading of the first Genesis account of creation with video of various plants, animals and nature scenes. Other than the occasional insertion of a dinosaur, pterosaur, or other extinct animal to remind you that this is a creationist production, this was a pleasant enough film.
Creation of Adam/Adam Naming the Animals
Unfortunately, I didn't pay too much attention to the short video on the creation of Adam. It was revealed about a week after our visit that the actor who played Adam is an individual named Eric Linden. Apparently, Mr. Linden is a more talented performer than the Creation of Adam film gave him credit for. His other performances include a website named www.bedroomacrobat.com. AIG was scandalized by this development and yanked the short video. Oddly, nothing has appeared on the AIG website about the incident. I thought they were proponents of the rule of all publicity is good publicity. I guess there is a naughty bits exception to this concept.
The next display is of Adam (I assume modeled after Mr. Linden) naming all the animals. His arm is around a lamb (hmmm…I thought this was religious symbolism, perhaps it means something else now). A label reads in part:
"Adam named only "birds", "cattle", and "beasts of the field" – probably the only animals closely associated with man and "not beasts of the earth" or "creeping things". If the created kinds correspond to modern families, as many creation biologists believe, then Adam named fewer than two hundred animals. Naming all these animals would require only a few hours, at most."
For some reason the Biblical account left out the approaching Ankylosaur. The display also included a really poorly reconstructed Iguanadon eating a cycad tree model. The artist must have read that Iguanadon had pebbly skin texture and gave him giant platy pebbles unlike what skin impressions really reveal about this dinosaur. The cycad plant is so bad that it looks like a giant pineapple. I guess this will get the kid's attention after all the boring mannequins and theology-related text.
Tree of Life/Adam and Eve in Waterfall
The next part of the exhibit was fun for me. It featured Adam and Eve from the waist up standing in a pool next to waterfall. Above all of this is what must be the Tree of Knowledge, complete with a big nasty serpent. Eve is some babe, although her hair strategically covers her breasts. She looks a lot like the comedian Sarah Silverman. The artists that designed some of the figures may not be as fundamentalist as they averred when they were hired. I suspect they watched a lot of the cable channel Comedy Central.
Cave of Sorrows/Corruption Valley/First Murder/Methuselah's Tent
More mannequins of Adam and Eve depict her giving Adam the forbidden fruit – not an apple. The fruit looked more like a white grape or a gooseberry. We get to see a case with a cool, really evil-looking model of "The Serpent." I read somewhere that his scales are made of pumpkinseeds.
This is followed by a darkly lit disturbing display of Adam and Eve with skinned animals and wearing fur clothing for the first time. The skinned animals were rather creepy. I almost expected Hannibal Lector/Anthony Hopkins to be in the background doing a voice over saying "Well, Clarice - have the lambs stopped screaming? They would be tasty with some fava beans."
All Hell almost literally breaks out now. There are photographs of disease, people crying, stacks of skulls from Pol Pot's Cambodia, women in painful childbirth, tornadoes, carnivores, war, and the Hiroshima bomb mushroom cloud.
The area called Corruption Valley now depicts Adam and Eve in a more bucolic setting. Eve is now pregnant and crops are in the field. There are lots of plaques contrasting pre-sin/post sin world. Apparently before "The Curse" there was no death, venom, scavengers, struggle for existence, carnivores, disease, "cosmic aging," "cosmic pain," conflict, poisons, weeds (!), burdensome work, and suffering. Almost as amazing as these claims is the reality that there is a plaque for each one of them. I wonder what percentage of museum visitors bother to read all these.
The first murder is depicted as Cain slays Abel with a bloody rock. The Cain mannequin looks like a combo of Charles Manson and one of the BeeGees. This is very trippy hippie looking stuff.
This section also treats us to a large sign telling us what we have all been dying to know: "Where did Cain get his wife?" This sign has more text than just about any other in the entire Anti-Museum. Part of it reads:
"Genesis 5:4 teaches that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters, So, originally, brothers had to marry sisters. Before jumping to conclusions, realize that:
- All humans are related. So whenever someone gets married, they marry their relative.
- One of the most honored men of the Bible, Abraham, was married to his half sister. It wasn't until much later that God instructed the Israelites not to marry close relatives – a principle we follow today.
- When close relatives marry today, there is an increased likelihood of deformities in the offspring because of the mutations (mistakes) that have accumulated in the human race since Adam's sin. The closer the relatives, the more likelihood that such people will have similar mistakes. If these mutations are inherited in offspring from both parents, then there is an increased probability of major physiological problems.
- The farther back in history one goes (back towards the fall of Adam), the less of a problem mutations in the human population would be. At the time of Adam and Eve's children, there would have been very few mutations in the human genome – thus close relatives could marry, and provided it was one man and for one woman (the biblical doctrine of marriage), there was nothing wrong with close relatives marrying in early biblical history.
- In present usage, the word incest includes both the marriage of close relatives and any sexual activity between close relatives who are not married. Sexual activity outside of the bounds of marriage, whether between near relatives or not, has been wrong from the beginning. Marriage between close relatives, however, was not a problem in early biblical history.
Since God is the One who defined marriage in the first place, God's Word is the only standard for defining proper marriage. People who do not accept the Bible as their absolute authority have no basis for condemning someone like Cain marrying his sister."
Yes, but could their offspring play "Dueling Banjos?"
An animated figure of 969 year old Methuselah follows. One would think this would be interesting after all the boring plaques, but it wasn't.
Noah's Ark Construction Site
An entire wall is taken up by a reconstruction that supposedly is 1% the size of the Ark. According to one plaque, the Ark was 510 feet long and 51 feet high. I really loved the animated figure with the Yiddish accent. He sounded a lot like the comedian Jackie Mason or Mel Brooks. I almost expected the figure to say "Oy Vey! That schmuck Ken Ham made me sit on this wooden bench all day and now my tuchus has a splinter in it!" Sadly, all of Noah's building helpers for the big boat are soon going to drown. I guess labor always has been expendable.
Voyage of the Ark/Rainbow Covenant/Cave Experiment
There were numerous scale models of the Ark in this area. As expected there was a model showing the animals lining up to board the Ark. The next display had the Ark afloat with a few mountaintop islands with stranded sinners hanging on. While waiting for their inevitable drowning, the tiny people are being stalked by two tiny tigers. We are also treated to models of the Noah family sitting down to family dinner. Alas, Genesis doesn't provide any dialog for this occasion. The final model Ark is on Ararat with the rainbow above it. Various plaques drill into the audience that the Flood was global and not some second rate pussy local flood. We also learn in this section that the present is NOT the key to the past.
The museum also has an actual experiment going! They have set up a small "cave" to show dripstone formations can form rapidly. This is not difficult to do, such soda straws and small stalactites can often be found where carbonate-rich water drips in parking garages and highway overpasses. Interestingly, this would seem to be an appeal to the idea that the present IS the key to the past.
Flood Geology Room
The Flood is explored in depth in this part of the Anti-Museum. Here we get sizable helpings of old fashioned creation "science" Flood geology.
Several short videos comparing the formation of the Grand Canyon to the formation of canyons in the unconsolidated ash of Mt. Saint Helens are in this area. An Australian geologist in a video claims that folds in sedimentary rocks proved the folds formed before the sediment was lithified. He must have missed structural geology class the month or so where the physics of rock deformation was discussed.
Many of the displays are wall plaques insisting on the global nature of the Flood and comparing the sedimentary record to the catastrophic events at Mt. St. Helens (but on a much more massive scale). We "learn" that the "the Flood required only a few months to deposit about 10,000,000 cubic miles of gravel, sand, and mud."
The creationist version of "catastrophic" plate tectonics was most amusing. Apparently the continents moved really rapidly during the Flood. The creationists apparently think the Precambrian supercontinent of Rodinia was the pre-Flood world. The Late Paleozoic supercontinent of Pangea then forms under water early in the Flood. After the "fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" Pangea breaks up under water. Somehow the earth and life survived the enormous amount of energy released during this one-year planetary resurfacing.
Equally absurd is the Anti-Museum's explanation of the fossil record. A series of small plaques and displays illustrate their version of catastrophism, all mentioning that this occurred 4350 years ago. Almost all of the fossil record is explained by having it reflect a pre-Flood ecological zonation of different plants and animals that becomes catastrophically buried. To the Anti-Museum's credit it did not make claims of out of stratigraphic order fossils or promote old chestnuts like the Paluxy River "footprints" as genuine.
Paleozoic sedimentary rocks are depicted as forming catastrophically in underwater environments, although many terrestrial environments, including tidal flats, soils, and desert dunes are well represented in the Paleozoic. Another biggie in Flood geology is having Pennsylvanian coals form from floating forests that are catastrophically buried. There is a really nice mural of a "floating forest" on one wall. Most Mesozoic terrestrial and marine environments are also depicted as forming under water. One plaque reads "as the sea level rose, flood waves reached farther and farther inland. Ecosystem after ecosystem of plants and animals were carried out to sea and buried." An accompanying cartoonish diagram depicts a dinosaur walking underwater with its mouth open and leaving footprints.
It is implied, although not directly stated, that most Cenozoic sediments are post-Flood. Apparently, post-Flood drainage and catastrophes are responsible for most landforms. Interestingly, it is claimed that there is only one "Ice Age" with the great ice sheets forming rapidly and not by any modern process. Thus the ice cores of Greenland and East Antarctica do not record past climates. This is a convenient way to dodge much of the evidence for Pleistocene to Recent climate change.
The modern distribution of plants and animals is depicted as resulting from a dispersal from Mt. Ararat and simultaneous rafting of vegetation on post-Flood ocean currents. Apparently, there is a good deal of post-Flood evolution going on; of course, the e-word is not used. Instead we are told about the variation built into each "Kind," rapid change, and hybridization. A sequence starting with the "Ark equid," and ending with the modern horse are filled in with the extinct Miohippus, Merychippus, and Pliohippus. This is a really confused accounting for the fossil record of the horse, requiring the entire Cenozoic to occur very soon after the 2348 BC Flood.
The presence of a marsupial-dominated vertebrate fauna in Australia must really worry the creationists. A most remarkable explanation is given: "marsupials, which have pouches, can nurse their young while moving. That may explain why on each continent [marsupials] were the first mammals buried and preserved after the Flood."
Confusion at Babylon
Creationist pseudoscience does not end with the Flood; it just begins to meld with pseudohistory.
"Human reason," and presumably evolution, gets blamed for racism, genocide, and abortion in a series of displays that continue the Anti-Museum's social commentary.
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. This is basically insane, outdated 19th Century quack anthropology, but no one else seemed to notice. Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Cro-Magnon are claimed to originate from these refugees from Babel and became cave dwellers.
Three C's Room/Last Adam Theater
The Three C's Room is about Christ, the Cross, and the Consummation. Most of the displays did not seem to be completed. We were sort of rushed through the Three C's, as the next showing of the "Last Adam" movie was about to begin. As one enters the Three C's Room you are handed a blank plastic "coin" that is your admission ticket to the movie. As you enter you have to give the "coin" back. I wasn't sure if there was some symbolic reason for this, or if they were just keeping tabs on seating space.
The "Last Adam" movie was ostensibly about Jesus Christ. It began with a talk by the "creation paleontologist" actor whose likeness had appeared in the "Dinosaur Dig Site" early in the museum. While holding a replica of a Tyrannosaurus tooth he had supposedly just excavated, he related how his study of creationism and Noah's Flood confirmed Biblical inerrancy. The video was very much like an infomercial in that it was a relentless hard sell and included dramatic testimonials from actors (Mary and a Roman soldier). Mary related a very bloody story about the tradition of sacrificing a lamb and how her son ended up being similarly sacrificed. The very macho Roman soldier tells about how he was so terrified by the events surrounding crucifixion and resurrection even though he, as a Roman soldier, "feared nothing." I kept waiting for him to say something along the lines of "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." The Roman soldier reminded me of an acquaintance who tells horrific Vietnam combat stories, but who I later found out had never been in the military. It was most fascinating and disturbing to see religion sold in the same way as diet pills, male enlargement creme, baldness cures, and the Bass-O-Matic ™. I thought this really made AIG look bad. I can't help but think that my Christian friends and relatives would be insulted to see their religion promoted in such a Ham-handed way. On the other hand, my friend told me that the Mennonite woman seated on the other side of her quietly wept during certain parts of the video.
Palm Plaza, Dinosaur Den, and Dragon Theater
After leaving the Last Adam Theatre, we were told that there were AIG staff on hand in the next area if we needed any "spiritual counseling." The Palm Plaza is a plush, well decorated area with replica palm trees and not quite completed stone work on the floor. The walls had a number of fossil displays, but most were not yet labeled. A cold drink/smoothie kiosk was at the far end, but not quite ready to open for business. Unfortunately, the Dinosaur Den section was closed until July 4. However, if we were willing to wait a few minutes the next showing in the Dragon Theater would begin.
The Dragon Theater features a short video on dinosaurs that absurdly argues they were in the Bible and were around until at least Medieval times where they were called dragons. Much of the narration is done by the same actor that played the paleontologist in the "Last Adam" video and whose likeness was used at the "Dinosaur Dig Site." Most of the film is taken up by a cheesy retelling of the legend of St. George and the Dragon. Widespread dragon legends in other cultures are also mentioned. According to artwork in the film, children in ancient Japan even had pet Stegosaurs. Creationist paleontologist Kurt Wise (a Harvard Graduate, who now works for the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY) tells the audience that Behemoth and Leviathan from the book of Job are likely to be dinosaurs. Wise also claims that dinosaur extinction was likely due to post-Flood climate change and the sudden rarity of certain gymnosperm plants that dinosaurs munched on before the Flood. This video is certainly the low point of Dr. Wise's career.
Children's Play Area/Answers Hall
This was a small area for kids to unwind in. It features a Triceratops with a saddle that the kiddies can sit on and have their photo taken. For some reason my friend would not get on the dinosaur's back and let me take her photo. This was an end of the displays, and a staircase led up to the bookstore.
Dragon Hall Bookstore
Dragon Hall is modeled on a medieval castle with various crusader shields lining the walls, a large model of a dragon, and a bas-relief sculpture of Saint George slaying a Baryonyx-like looking dinosaur/dragon. The bookstore had just about every tract, book, "technical monograph," CD and DVD put out by AIG as well as many other religious books by other publishers.
One of the DVDs was playing on a large plasma TV in part of the store. The video featured a minister railing against evolution at a church. No one seemed to be watching it.
I didn't notice many Institute for Creation Research books or videos. AIG now appears to be the country's leading creationist organization and has its own means of producing books and videos. For the children there were plenty of dinosaur-theme toys, and games. I was almost tempted to buy the pin that said "I know where fossils come from." Although there was a throng of people in the store, not that many sales were being made.
Special Effects Theater/"Men in White"
We only had to stand in line a few minutes for the Special Effects Theater's showing of the video "Men in White." On the way in the AIG guide told everyone that the show was a "satire" on the creation evolution controversy.
"Men in White" featured a realistic-looking animatronic young woman sitting at a desert campfire and pondering her place in the universe. In front of her and the audience was a panoramic movie screen. Two angels, Gabe and Mike (Gabriel and Michael?) in bright white overalls with wings and halos arrive to try to answer her questions. The special effects consisted of the chairs vibrating every time the angels flew by and water being squirted from a hole in the back of the seat in front of you every time there was a water scene (like the Ark floating in the violent Flood). After a while the special effects got annoying and we would find ways of blocking the water when we anticipated a squirt. I also got the impression that the chairs were more likely to vibrate when something really stupid was being uttered on the screen, almost as if to keep one from thinking too much.
At first this film appeared to be light-hearted and aimed at teenagers. The angels talked like California surfer dudes and were supposed to be really cool. After a while, however, it became one of the nastier attacks on science in the Anti-Museum. The show depicted high school biology teachers as atheistic, dim-witted, frumpy nerds who were astoundingly dogmatic and mean. The angels end up in the back row of a biology classroom and start asking questions and making statements that shoot down every answer the godless biology teacher attempts to present. The teacher ends up shrieking at the students (angels) that dare ask the creationist questions. This reminded me of the classic Jack Chick religious tract titled "Big Daddy" where a creationist student single-handedly out-argues a science professor (see http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0055/0055_01.asp).
In telling the audience that the earth was about 6000 years old and that Noah's Flood was 4350 years ago, the angels used some classic creationist arguments. We learned that Helium was leaking too fast from Zircon crystals for the earth to be old (see Isaak, 2007; or http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD015.html for a refutation). Also, the rate of salt entering the oceans was such that the oceans would be completely salt if the earth were really old (this confuses the residence time for sodium, not salt, in the seas with total accumulation, see Isaak, 2007; and http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD221_1.html). Another argument creationists rarely use anymore was presented: they claim that the earth's magnetic field is decaying at such a rate that if you extrapolated back more than 10,000 years, then the field would be too strong for life to exist (See Isaak, 2007; or http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD701.html). Another, more recent, claim was that red blood cells, veins, and other soft tissues had been recently found in a Tyrannosaurus bone (Isaak, 2007; or http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC371.html and http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC371_1.html). After all this bunk we were also (needless to say, erroneously) told that many scientists are coming over to the young earth view.
Far from being a satire "Men in White" was the typical mean-spirited anti-intellectual material that I had been expecting from Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham. Most of the rest of the museum had at least tried to be less strident, but this video took the cake. At several points, I thought my paleontologist friend was going to get up and leave.
Parts Unseen and Missed
Viewing for future creationism watchers will have to include the soon-to-be-opened Dinosaur Den room. The map provided by AIG shows that the room is not that big, so it will be interesting to see what dinosaur models they put in it. Since we had been at the Anti-Museum for a little more than three hours, we skipped Noah's Café and the outdoor walkway in front of the large pond. From a distance it was apparent there were several outdoors dinosaur models there including an outdated tail-dragging Tyrannosaurus.
And I forgot to notice if the Adam and Eve mannequins had belly buttons.
The Anti-Museum was, obviously, not like most museums we had ever encountered. Even if one could ignore the egregious content it was interesting that the "museum" lacked several things one would expect to see in modern natural history museums. First, there was nothing in the museum that could be considered interactive. Most museums have hands on activities for kids and adults. Some are computerized and encourage the visitors to think for themselves about what they are seeing. The Anti-Museum, in contrast, leads the visitor on a definite path and if you disagree with it, well your status as a Christian is shaky at best. It is Ken Ham's way or the Highway to Hell.
Also, a good portion of the museum was boring. I suspect that very few visitors bothered to spend the time reading all the plaques with Bible verses and AIG's literal interpretation of them. Likewise, the same can be said of the various Biblical figure mannequins and models of Noah's Ark. Since they are charging almost $20 for this, I wonder how much repeat business they will get.
The absurd claims made in the Anti-Museum are no threat to science. However, I'm not sure how much of a threat the Anti-Museum is to science education. It might have an effect on local public schools where supporters of the "museum" may be sending their children. Teachers may start avoiding evolution and geology in this part of the state, but they probably are already doing this. Most fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers are already teaching their children creationism, so the museum may at worst strengthen the message the kids are getting at home. Some of the claims, such as the vegetarian Tyrannosaurus and other carnivores are so absurd one wonders how many of the children (or adults) are really going to accept it. There is a lot of scientifically valid information available on dinosaurs in books and on the Internet. Creationists are really going to have to go to great lengths to shelter their children from this information.
Reasons to see the Anti-Museum
There are a few valid reasons to see the Anti-Museum. If you go, try to make the most of things by taking lots of photos you can use to show others. Atone for your sins by spending a greater amount of money at a real natural history museum. Here is my list of reasons to actually go:
- Shock value: Bring colleagues that don't think creationism is a problem to see this. Note the look on their face when they realize that not only do people believe this, but that they have spent almost $30 million dollars on the nonsense.
- This is what creationists really believe: Creation "scientists" usually only attack evolution without stating their alternative. If you debate creationists and are sick of them only presenting misguided attacks on evolution, then you can visit the Anti-Museum and have a record of what the creationists actually believe. Use the information found at the museum to put them on the defensive about the Ark and the Flood and vegetarian velociraptors.
- You have a perverse or unusual sense of humor: Although a critic of creationism, I wanted to go to the place from the moment I realized it would someday open. I feel almost guilty about this; it is the same emotion one has when one slows down to watch a gory automobile wreck. I don't know why the creationist museum is comical, but it is, and on a number of levels. Perhaps we should not analyze this too much. E. B. White (1954) once said, "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." But then maybe we should…
Reasons not to see the Anti-Museum
Here are two good reasons to avoid the Anti-Museum.
- Financial support of AIG: Turning money over to the Anti-museum only helps AIG spread its misinformation about science. Science education and rational thought are already in too much trouble in the United States. There is no sense in supporting pseudoscience at its worst.
- Money better spent on real museums or other educational venues: Most public museums are short of money and need all the help they can get. Wouldn't you rather spend your money on something that reflects reality rather than the bizarre fantasies of Ken Ham?
The Creation Museum or the Anti-Museum as it has christened itself, is one of the weirdest accomplishments of the creationist movement. It is unique because of its size and cost: although there are many small "museums" that also promote creationism, the Anti-Museum is by far the largest and best funded effort. Its success or failure will gauge the market for old-fashioned "scientific" and Biblical creationism, especially at a time when intelligent design creationism is perceived as a more dangerous threat to science education. Hopefully the above overview shows that it is no threat to science, but may hinder regional science education and science literacy.
I thank the lovely BH for accompanying me to the museum. She will always be my special Creation Museum Pal for sharing this strange experience. George Weems and Rick Schrantz looked over some of the statements about astronomy in the planetarium, but any mistakes are my own. Eugenie Scott, Carrie Sager, and the crew at the National Center for Science Education were most helpful. It was Eugenie that suggested I blow the extra $5 on the planetarium – a big raspberry to her.
Ham, K., 1987, The Lie: Evolution, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 185 p.
Isaak, M. 2007, The Counter-Creationism Handbook, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, CA, 330 p.
Scott, E. C., 2004, Creation vs. Evolution: An Introduction. Greenwood Press, 296 p.
White, E. B., 1954, "Some Remarks on Humor." In The Second Tree from the Corner. Harper, New York, p. 174.
Web Sites Cited
Talk Origins Index of Creationist Claims: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html
The Anti-Museum: http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/museum/2003/12/15/the-anti-museum/
Creation Museum Wants Police Power: Asks Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher for Special Permission. http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070223/NEWS01/702230373
Kentucky Commerce Secretary George Ward's comments: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/05/28/boone-county-boon
Reply to protestors on dinosaurs: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/06/04/reason-three-fossils
Jack Chick Tract Big Daddy: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0055/0055_01.asp
Leaking Zircon argument: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD015.html
Sodium in the sea: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD221_1.html
Magnetic Field: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD701.html
Blood and Soft tissue in Tyrannosaurus: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC371.html and http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC371_1.html
Revised on April 2, 2009, to clarify a reference to homeschoolers.