A Visit to the Creation Museum

[Since we are all stuck at home right now and cannot visit museums, here is an updated version of a post about my visit to Ken Ham's sad excuse for one. I hope this helps fill a void until you can actually go there and see all of its wonders for yourself.]

Ken Ham's “unnatural history” museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is, as you probably know, devoted to a literal interpretation of the Bible. It claims to present evidence that the earth is about 6000 years old, that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, that there was a worldwide flood around 2350 BCE, and so on.

It is a bizarre experience from the moment you walk in.

One of the first things you come across inside is an animatronic display of a child next to a couple of velociraptors. (Dinosaurs are a big part of the attraction here, starting with the stegosaurus on the parking lot gate: the owners know it's a way to attract kids to the place.)

The velociraptor display is problematic, however, and not just because it's on the scientific level of The Flintstones. You see, according to the information presented in the museum, all creatures were vegetarian prior to the Fall: this means that lions could sleep with lambs and, apparently, children could play with velociraptors. It was the eating of the forbidden fruit that introduced hardship into the world, thereby turning some animals into predators. But of course, there were no children until after the Fall. How, then, could a child have a velociraptor for a pet? (Moreover, the child in this display is clothed, which is something no one would be before the eating of the forbidden fruit. As everyone knows, Adam and Eve started out as nudists.)

Once you get past the velociraptor display, you enter the main exhibits. Here, visitors are first informed that different scientists can view exactly the same data yet come to radically different conclusions: some see fossils and think they are millions of years old, others understand them to have been around no more than a few thousand years; some see the Grand Canyon and think it formed gradually, others see it and conclude it was the result of an immense flood; it all depends on what interpretation you bring to the data. As one sign puts it, “dinosaur fossils don't come with tags.” This is a big part of the museum's message, designed to make ignorant visitors think that the biblical interpretation is at least as valid as the scientific one.

Eventually, the claims go beyond merely leveling the field, and science begins to be presented as inferior to biblical authority. For, given that the empirical evidence is open to more than one interpretation, to truly know the past we need the evidence of one who was there and who wrote it all down. And that someone was of course God. In one of the displays, a boy is shown saying (by means of a speech bubble) that he's never heard any of this stuff in school!

The message that one can either trust fallible human reason or God's infallible word is repeated throughout. (The fact that one has to use fallible human reason to conclude that the Bible is God's word is of course conveniently ignored.)

Ignoring God's word is said to be the cause of the modern world's problems, and this leads to the next section, the “Culture in Crisis” exhibit — a dark, subway-like tunnel in which all the evils of the modern, Darwin-believing world are represented: there is lots of graffiti, and talk of teen pregnancy, infidelity, and abortions.

Visitors then go through a history of the world that takes them from the creation of light through the garden of Eden, the Fall (dramatically described as “the worst day in the history of the universe”), Noah's ark (where you can actually see dinosaurs embarking, as well as a couple of their babies inside — see picture on the right), the repopulating of the world after the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and finally a film (which I didn't bother to see) about “the last Adam,” Jesus.

Many of the claims made throughout are supported by nothing more than the authority of scripture. For instance, to the question, “did dinosaurs evolve from birds?” the hilarious answer given is that “God made birds on day 5 and land animals on day 6. Dinosaurs are land animals, so they were created the day after birds.” This is obviously something that all those scientists who believe birds are descended from dinosaurs failed to consider!

Other times, though, they try to provide more elaborate explanations. Mostly, these hardly make sense. For instance, the reason they give for why marsupials “were the first mammals buried and preserved after the flood” (for they are found in lower strata) and that, unlike most other mammals, they made it all the way to Australia, is that marsupials, “which have pouches, can nurse their young while moving,” whereas placental mammals, “which nurse their young in the womb, spread out more slowly.”

Often, the claims are just outlandish. My favorite is their suggestion that the super-continent Pangaea broke apart to form today's continents as a result of the Flood. That's some powerful receding water.

The burning question I most wanted answered was why there are no longer any dinosaurs. After all, according to Ham and his people, these creatures were taken aboard the ark, so they didn't all perish in the Flood, as I assumed they would say. One possible answer they give is that people “killed them for food or sport.” (Well, if I remember correctly, Fred Flintstone did use to eat dino burgers.) Another display, however, claims that there might still be dinosaurs around today that no one has yet found.

It must be admitted that the Creation Museum is rather entertaining for nonbelievers. It feels sort of like a cross between the Bible and the old Raquel Welch movie One Million Years B.C. But even though it is funny, it's also sad, especially when one sees the children who are taken there to be misinformed, and who will no doubt become confused when they are taught real science in school. If only they didn't have all those animatronic dinosaurs.

Franz Kiekeben is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of two books on atheism, The Truth about God, and Atheism: Q & A. He has also written for Skeptic magazine and published academic articles on determinism and on time travel.