The motto of the Creation Museum is "Prepare to Believe." Perhaps a better one would would have been "Prepare to Have Your Wacky Delusions Validated."
Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum lies* about 20 miles from downtown Cincinnati, in northern Kentucky. I visited it on Jun. 5, 2007.
The links with link to photos I took there. Click on the image to see a full-size version.
The first thing I noticed was the entrance fee: $20 per adult, plus $5 for the planetarium show. Ouch! I guess they need to recover their costs from credulous fools (and occasional skeptical fools like me).
By the ticket booth is the skeleton of a wooly rhino . The sign underneath it reads:
the pair of rhinoceroses on the Ark diversified into perhaps 200-300 species in the first couple centuries after the Flood.
Clearly, not only do these people believe in evolution, they believe in hyper-fast evolution, the kind that can produce a new species of rhino every year, on average. One is reminded of the Haggunenons from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who
have the most impatient chromosomes in the Galaxy. Whereas most species are content to evolve slowly and carefully over thousands of generations, discarding a prehensile toe here, [...] hazarding another nostril there, the Haggunenons would have done for Charles Darwin what a squadron of Arcturan Stunt Apples would have done for Sir Isaac Newton.
In the main hall, just a few meters away in the main hall, a display entitled "Diversity in our back yards" shows representatives of different kingdoms that can be found in an ordinary garden: plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and says ,
There is not enough time—even in billions of years—to get such differences by small steps from a common ancestor.
I'd love to know how it is that evolution can proceed quickly enough to produce hundreds of species of rhino in a few centuries, yet cannot produce plants, fungi, animals, and, bacteria in ten million centuries.
Another display shows ancient and modern dragonflies, sand dollars, mollusk shells, etc. illustrating how little they've changed over the years. So presumably evolution is very fast, except when it's slow, except when it stops altogether. Or maybe it's just the rhinos.
Kent Hovind likes to say that rat poison is 99% good food, because you need to give rats something that's mostly good in order to get them to eat the 1% that'll kill them, just as textbooks are 99% true to get kids to accept the 1% lies.
The people who put together the planetarium show must have kept this principle firmly in mind, because with just a few short excisions in the narration, I would love to show it to a child of any age. It starts by zooming out from the location of the museum to show the earth, then the earth-moon system, then the inner and outer solar system. It shows the size of a cube that would contain the solar system, and how many thousands of those cubes you would have to stack to reach our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, noting along the way how the constellations change.
It proceeds to show some of the different types of stars, and how much larger some of them are than our own sun. The narrator also points out that a) no one has ever seen a star form, so clearly mainstream astronomers don't know how it happens, and b) blue stars burn much hotter than the sun; therefore, they use up their fuel more quickly, and can't be 14 billion years old; therefore, the universe is young.
The movie proceeds farther outward than any other film of this type that I've seen, showing the Milky Way and various other galaxies (pointing out that spiral galaxies can't be be billions of years old because the spiral structure would have been destroyed), clusters of galaxies, and finally the large-scale structure of the universe, with filaments of clusters of galaxies. Truly heady stuff with beautiful CGI renderings, the sort of thing that makes you think, "Wow, what an amazing universe we live in."
The film then zooms back in to the Earth, Powers of Ten-like, while the narrator tells us that the crown jewel of that unimaginable immensity is the Earth, the only planet with beings made in God's image. In other words, it's just like the Total Perspective Vortex:
it shows its victim the entire unimaginable infinity of the universe with a very tiny marker that says "You Are Here" which points to a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot.
Only Zaphod Beeblebrox is reported to have survived the Vortex unscathed [...] When it showed him the "You Are Here" marker, Zaphod correctly interpreted the Vortex as simply telling him that he was the most important being in the universe.
|Upper Level||Lower Level|
The main part of the museum starts at #7, "Slot Canyon". Note that the layout doesn't allow you to go from room to room at will, as in a normal museum, but makes you follow a fixed path in a particular order. This had to be a conscious choice, but I haven't yet decided whether this is because this museum is actually a presentation that doesn't work if you see it out of order, or because the visitors are likely to be right-wing authoritarians who like being told what to do and where to go. Perhaps it's some of both.
The first room has a diorama of two paleontologists , one gray-haired and avuncular, the other Asian and bent on his work. In an audio loop, the kindly paleontologist explains how he and his colleague see the world from different points of view; he sees the world through the lens of the Bible, and so comes to a different conclusion. The obvious question is, "since you know that you have an inherent bias, what are you doing to minimize it, so that you don't come to false conclusions?" This question is not asked.
On the walls are displays of fossils—trilobites and their fossilized prints , Lucy , etc.—along with questions like "How did this creature live?" "How did the creature behave?" There is no attempt to answer these questions, or even to ask, "What do you think?" The implication is that no one can figure out the answers to these questions; you have to look them up in a book.
The Starting Points room (#10) continues the "different perspectives" theme: a series of posters contrasts "Starting with human reason" and "Starting from God's word". The obvious message is "You can't figure things out on your own, so don't even try." The subtext is that scientists who don't agree with AIG came to their conclusions by presupposing their conclusions.
Of course, this also strongly suggests that the folks at AIG realize on some level that assuming their conclusion is what they themselves do, and think that everyone thinks the same way.
If I may lapse into Edward Tufte mode for a moment, I'd like to note that a number of posters show trees contrasting the "human wisdom" and "God's word" histories of life. Both are the same size, which fails to show just how wrong YECs are about the age of the earth: if the diagrams are six inches tall, and the "God's word" one represents 6000 years, then a "human wisdom" diagram showing the history of life on the same scale would be 55 miles tall.
Similarly, one poster shows a 6000-year timeline of the YEC history of the world , while a neighboring one shows a long ribbon with "Big Bang", "evolution of chemicals", "evolution of stars", "evolution of life" (thus lumping many different fields under the heading of "evolution"). Again, if the YEC timeline is 6 feet wide and represents the entire history of the universe, then on the same scale the "human wisdom" poster would be over 2500 miles wide, roughly the distance from New York to San Francisco.
This same poster, by the way, pooh-poohs the notion that "the present is the key to the past", which is ironic, considering how YECs like to illustrate flood geology with references to Mount St. Helens.
Another poster asks, "Do different starting points matter in our personal lives?" and lists questions like, "Why am I here?", "Am I alone?", "Why do I suffer?", thus promoting the noble lie that AIG's religion has comforting beliefs (if you ignore things like the fear of being tortured forever for thinking the wrong thing), and therefore should be believed.
The next room has dioramas of Isaiah, Moses, and David ; John and Paul peering into the empty tomb; and Paul writing epistles. Presumably the message is that bronze-age nomads are a more reliable source of information than modern scientists and historians.
The next room shows a history of "attacks on the Bible ", including the Scopes trial . It also includes a scene of Martin Luther nailing "Here I am, I can do no other" to the church door, and praising his attitude of "Scripture alone—the ultimate authority is God's Word " (sola scriptura). Another tenet that is quickly jettisoned whenever the Bible proves inconvenient.
Graffiti Alley is built as a dirty back alley, with magazine stories about Terri Schiavo, Columbine, gay teens, school prayer, etc. on the walls. Along with the neighboring "Culture in Crisis" room (where we see teens surfing for porn and churchgoers interpreting the Bible metaphorically ), it purports to happen when society abandons the Bible (never mind the many studies showing a strong negative correlation between societal health and religion).
Next comes the Six Days of Creation Theater, which shows a short film in which the narrator reads the first creation story from Genesis, which the film illustrates.
The Wonders of Creation room (#17) shows various beautiful and marvelous aspects of the world, and attributes them to God, without justification.
At the end of this room is the "Creation of Adam" section, which showed Eric Linden, contributor to Bedroom Acrobat (not porn, but still risqué). Had I known that the Creation Museum would get their knickers in a twist over this, I would've taken a photo of the video.
There's a toothless dinosaur of some kind eating what looks like a pineapple, with a sign explaining that before the fall, no animal died, and that they were all vegetarians.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever
The plaque under the Tree of Life quotes a truncated version of Genesis 2:9, one that omits the part about God planting "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Otherwise, I suspect, someone might ask how Adam and Eve were supposed to know that it was wrong to disobey God by eating of the fruit.
Further down, we see Adam and Eve bathing in a pool under a waterfall, a passage that doesn't appear in my copy of the Bible. Whether this is intended as mild church-approved eroticism, whether AIG hopes to make a few more bucks from pennies thrown into the fountain, or whether they just needed to fill that corner, I won't venture to speculate.
And then everything goes wrong…
There's a model of the serpent , with extra scales, making it look particularly evil, and more like a fantasy illustration of a dragon than an ordinary snake. But like any normal serpent, it lacks legs and feet, which raises a question about Genesis 3:14: what was the point of cursing the serpent with "upon thy belly shalt thou go"? Isn't that already the way the serpent had been moving around up until then?
There's also no mention of the fact that, as far as the Bible records, the serpent always told Adam and Eve the truth.
The next display shows Eve offering Adam some fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Bible doesn't say what sort of fruit these were, and AIG chose to depict the fruit as some sort of berry, rather than the traditional apple.
In the photo, the reflection in the glass shows a door with a dozen or more locks. I'm not sure what this represents. It may be a symbolic representation for being locked out of Eden. Or it may be the room where they keep all the super-secret evidence for creationism. I don't know.
We then come to a diorama of Adam and Eve , in anguish, standing above a dead, bloody, and skinned animal from the skin of which God made clothes for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Presumably God forgot that instead of killing the animal, he could have used the cotton that he'd created just a short while ago.
Then again, the sign underneath the display explains that the animal was sacrificed to "cover" Adam and Eve's sin, adding that such a sacrifice can only "cover" sin, but not remove it (for that, I think you have to sacrifice a god). There is no explanation of what "cover" means in this context, or how killing an innocent creature can in any way compensate for someone's misdeeds, but apparently it became necessary.
Fundies like to quote Romans 5:12 ("by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin"), but tend not to point out that God was the one who killed the first creature.
Clearly, the world that AIG's God built was not what one might call "fault-tolerant". Perhaps if God had made time in his schedule for a code audit before going live, we'd still be living in Eden.
In Corruption Valley, we are greeted with an animatronic dinosaur similar to the one in the garden, earlier. But this time, it has sharp fangs and has just killed a smaller dino. Signs underneath speculate as to how certain features of living beings arose:
A row of signs speculate as to the origin of some Bad Things that had now appeared in the fallen world:
A diorama shows Cain standing over the body of his brother Abel, whom he just murdered.
A sign asks, "Where did Cain get his wife? " and answers that he married his sister. Rather more column-inches are devoted to explaining that due to the Adam family's perfect genome, incest was not a problem (with a few snipes at gay marriage, extramarital sex, and "People who do not accept the Bible as their absolute authority" in passing).
Another sign explains that Abel pleased God, while Cain was evil and had a "rebellious heart". Unfortunately, the Bible does not mesh well with AIG's view of the world, so the text carefully tiptoes around Genesis 4:3-5, which clearly says that God liked Abel's animal sacrifice, but not Cain's plants:
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
A diorama of Methuselah in his tent, with an audio loop about how God keeps his promises.
A diorama shows three animatronic workers sitting around, talking about how foolish Noah is to build this boat. God will kill them in the flood.
Two women sit in a room, weaving baskets. God will kill them in the flood.
Signs explain techniques used to construct the ark, such as monocoque planking (courtesy of WorldwideFlood.com, who collaborated with AIG on this display). Beneath the sign, an animatronic carpenter saws off trunnels (wooden nails). God will kill him in the flood.
An evil-looking animatronic Noah and another man talk about the ark. Unless the other man is Noah's son, God will kill him in the flood.
Inside the ark is a cutaway model of the ark , showing beams and decks. A sign says that at 510 feet long, "the Ark is tantalizingly close to the limits of wooden technology." According to Wikipedia, the longest well-documented wooden ship was the Rochambeau, built in 1865 and 377 feet long. However, "She was not particularly stable or seaworthy, even with her substantial metal components".
This room contains a series of dioramas illustrating the ark's year-long journey.
One sign explains that before the flood, the mountains were lower than they are today, so that less water was required to cover them. It was on top of one of these low mountains that the ark was built, to avoid"the devastation of early tsunamis". The sign does not explain where the enormous energy to raise the mountains came from, or how it avoided boiling the ocans away into space and burning the ark to a crisp.
Existing ocean water was supplemented by "the fountains of the great deep", but it is not clear what these are.
By some stroke of luck, the ark managed to find a perfectly flat mountaintop to come to rest on.
Posters and displays in this room offers pseudoscientific rationalizations for how a worldwide flood could have produced various geological features, or at least baffle enough people with technobabble to persuade them that someone, somewhere, has a good explanation.
Although the "Starting Points" room pooh-poohs the dictum that "the present is the key to the past", YECs are always happy to point to Mount St. Helens and the fact that it some its effects bear a superficial resemblance to other, larger geological features.
This poster reiterates AIG's belief that the flood was a worldwide one (presumably as a response to apostates who believe that the story in Genesis 6-8 is just an exaggerated tale of a local flood). A global flood was necessary because every single person was violent, every single animal was violent (to say nothing of the violent plants), and even the ground was bad. Bad ground! Also, God forgot to put the Creation under version control so he could correct such design defects.
Before the flood, there was only one continent, called Rodinia . Pangea formed and broke up later, while the surface was covered in water. No explanation is given as to where the energy came from to rearrange the earth's crust this way.
Rising water flooded coastal areas first and proceeded inland, which explains the order in which fossils are buried: sea creatures like trilobites in lower strata, and land creatures like dinosaurs in higher strata. It is well known that whales and dolphins are mountain dwellers, that ferns like the ones found in low geological strata can often be seen on the beaches of Oklahoma and Wyoming, while flowering plants like oranges and apples can only be found in landlocked areas like Florida and Maine. And of course, humans hate the shore and always live as far from the ocean as possible.
The flood created enormous lakes, which then broke through the surrounding rock and carved the Grand Canyon . Perhaps someone at AIG will be kind enough to provide us with photos of canyons with nearly-vertical walls carved by the Mississippi and Missouri floods of 1993.
Volcanic activity during the flood also created "hypercanes — continent-sized hurricanes which lasted for centuries", like Jupiter's red spot. Fortunately, as Noah's descendants repopulated the earth after the flood, they never ran into these hurricanes. Or if they did, they were wise enough not to record them.
The mystery of how Noah was able to fit all of the animals on the ark, especially large ones like horses, has a simple answer: Noah actually took a pair of Hyracotheriums on the ark. Miohippus, Merychippus, Pliohippus, and Equus all evolved later .
In Genesis 49, Jacob uses horses and riders in a metaphor. According to Lambert Dolphin, Jacob was born 1992 years after the flood. So all of this evolution must have taken place in less than 2000 years, or 27,500 times faster than the 55 million years that mainstream paleontologists claim.
Other animals underwent rapid speciation as well . Dogs, coyotes, wolves, and foxes all arose from the pair of canids that Noah took on the ark, showing the incredible variety God put into that pair's genome.
Of course, as dissimilar as dachshunds and foxes may seem, the differences between humans and chimpanzees are even greater, so we can't possibly be related to them.
Skeptics have often asked how kangaroos managed to make it to Australia, and only to Australia, after the flood. Now we know: marsupials have pouches, which allow them to nurse their young while migrating .
Other plants and animals crossed oceans by clinging to rafts made of logs uprooted by the flood and floating on ocean currents.
All the movement of the earth's crust during the flood caused enormous earthquakes and volcanoes , which the Bible writers were wise enough not to record, so as not to upset us. The fact that God was able to allow sunlight through this cover of smoke and ash to create a rainbow (Genesis 9:13) makes it a double miracle.
Homo erectus, Neanderthal, and Cro Magnon people were actually refugees from Babel who took shelter in caves, where they made stone and bone tools and artifacts, dug fire pits, and conducted ceremonial burials. However, within Noah's lifetime they had already begun to "quickly build remarkable civilizations." From cave-dweller to Babylon in one generation. That's pretty good.
Reprising a theme from the "Starting Points" room, a poster explains that according to the Bible, all humans are siblings and of "one blood". Whereas trusting "human reason" leads to such things as racism, genocide, abortion, belief in evolution , and, one may safely assume, dancing.
I would be interested in seeing AIG's explanation for why the deeply religious southern states clung to slavery so hard as to secede from the union; why so many of the iconic events of the Civil Rights struggle took place in the Bible belt; and why Hitler was able to use the Bible to support the Holocaust.
Recall, too, that the Bible doesn't say a single word against slavery. In Exodus 11:4-7, God kills all the firstborn of Egypt (both human and animal) "that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." In Numbers 31, the Israelites slaughter the Midianites, capture the women and children and burn the cities, after which Moses chews them out for letting the boys and women live. In Matthew 10:5, Jesus tells his disciples to stay away from the Gentiles and Samaritans. Romans 16:17 says to avoid people who disagree with your religious views, and 1 Corinthians 6:17 says to stay away from "unbelievers". According to Titus 1:12, "The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies." And so on. On the whole "love your neighbor" front, the Bible is clearly a mixed bag at best.
At the end, there is another short film, "The Last Adam", which is supposed to be the culmination of the tour. It is basically a retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus as told mostly from the point of view of a Roman soldier. A woman also tells of how her family would sacrifice a lamb every Passover (with shot of bloody blade) to "cover" their sins (how this is supposed to work is never adequately explained). The film compares Jesus to that sacrificial lamb (showing lots of blood on the cross, though fortunately no squirting).
It's nowhere near as bloody as Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, but I think there's about as much blood as can be allowed under a G or PG rating.
I didn't linger for refreshment in the Palm Plaza.
There are several rooms opening off of the Palm Plaza room, including a chapel, a children's play area, and what appeared to be a conference room, though when I was there, they were all still under construction.
The gardens to the south are worth strolling through. There are topiary geese , sea serpents , and T-rexes , and much care was evidently given to constructing attractive waterfalls . There are covered picnic areas large enough to accommodate several hundred people, I estimate, as well as an archery range and outdoor play area for children. Construction was still going on, so there will probably be more facilities in the future.
While I was strolling around the gardens, I noticed cars parked in the back of the museum, so I decided to go see what was there. Besides, I like taking pictures of interesting buildings, and the texture of the rear walls looked interesting to me. Besides, there was more topiary back there.
I was intercepted by a security guard who wanted to know what I was doing there. When I said I wanted to take some pictures, he said that there were only administrative offices back there and, without actually coming out and saying that it was forbidden to go there, made it quite clear that everyone would be much happier if I just turned around and went back. He did let me take two pictures from where I was standing, though. And I got a shot of him later.
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Thanks to Brian Miller for the phrase "Emolution mashup".
* Thanks to philip brown and louann_m for clarifying the verb in the second paragraph:
It's a perfectly legitimate verb usage to cover both what someone does and where he does it. John teaches at X High School, Jane works at Y building, the museum lies 20 miles from Cincinnati.