The Creation Museum’s Allosaurus exhibit. Courtesy of creationmuseum.org
Along the highways of southwestern Ohio, backyard crosses and church steeples blaze brightly at night. In the heartland of America — where nearly three-quarters of adults are Christians — religion is a public matter, influencing politics and civil affairs.
Twenty minutes outside of Cincinnati, the Creation Museum is a $27 million world-class attraction that teaches visitors about the Old Testament’s account of creation. Behind its doors, dinosaurs walk with humans, and supercontinents break apart under a global flood. Answers in Genesis (AiG) — the Young Earth Creationist ministry that constructed the museum — emphasizes that one’s beliefs on creation have real-world impacts.
While science’s explanation of the universe’s origin constantly changes with new discoveries, AiG’s message remains the same: The Book of Genesis says that God created the world in six 24-hour days less than ten thousand years ago. Nearly 40 percent of Americans agree with this view, according to a recent Gallup poll. The Tory dispatched a reporter to investigate the Creation Museum and later interviewed Nathaniel Jeanson — a Harvard-trained biologist who works for AiG — to explain its features.
The Creation Museum began with a video exhibit of two scientists excavating dinosaur bones. One gregarious paleontologist in a Stetson hat said, “Today, we study the same fossils, we use the same techniques. But that doesn’t mean that we agree on what happened here.”
Although his colleague believed that the bones were fossilized over a long period of time, the first paleontologist explained that the Bible proves most dinosaurs died quickly during Noah’s Flood. “We come to different conclusions because we’re at different starting points,” he said, “I start with the Bible. My colleague does not.”
Posters in the following room contrasted conclusions reached when starting with “Man’s Word” versus “God’s Word” on subjects ranging from astrophysics to archaeology. “The Creation Museum was designed for people who know that the Bible is true but do not know what to do about science,” Nathaniel Jeanson said.
AiG’s speakers have brought their message to audiences across the world and often encounter similar questions, such as “Where does racism come from?” and “How did Cain get his wife?” The museum also provides biblical answers to these common queries.
Ultimately, though, the Creation Museum argues why people should adopt a literal interpretation of Genesis. “Questions in morals and politics,” Jeanson said, “all of it goes back to Genesis, and you can’t ignore it.”
It’s impossible to resolve debates over social policies without considering deeper, more fundamental disagreements. Jeanson said, “The questions that we need to answer are ‘Does truth exist?’ and, if so, ‘Is that truth in the Bible?’”
The museum’s next exhibit foreshadowed urban decadence in an American society that abandons scripture. Television screens showed the problems of an areligious world: the proliferation of drugs, envy, pornography, and teenage pregnancy. A flat voice in the background listed statistics indicating that society is on the verge of a breakdown. “Over 1.1 million marriages end in divorce,” it said ominously.
One diorama featured a life-sized wrecking ball labeled “Millions of Years” crashing into a church’s foundation. “If you’re dealing with two worlds — one based on scripture and one that’s not,” Jeanson said, “which one does society want to live in?”
AiG is primarily concerned about the worldviews to which people adhere. To them, science doesn’t necessarily conflict with religion. Instead, they believe science supports Young Earth Creationism. The problem, in their view, is that people are unaware of creationists’ findings. Jeanson said, “If you go through the public school system, you’ll never hear these hypotheses.”
The remainder of the museum told Genesis’ story of creation and displayed scientific evidence that allegedly supports it. Nude figures of Adam and Eve relaxed in the Garden of Eden with animals from around the planet and dinosaurs. One sign read, “Before man’s Fall, animals were vegetarians. In a ‘very good’ creation, no animal would die, so there were no carnivores.”
After eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve appeared battered and clothed. The original sin caused conflict, carnivorism, and genetic mutations to enter the world. Mankind’s further decline into sin lead to God’s judgement of the world in the form of a global cataclysm.
Noah’s Flood was a key component of the museum. Confirming its existence in the geologic record would refute many of science’s rejections of Young Earth Creationism. Following a walkthrough exhibit of Noah’s Ark — which the museum declared with unwavering certainty was 510 feet long and 51 feet tall — visitors looked at diagrams interpreting the presence of the Flood in geologic strata.
There was even a real dinosaur skeleton. One sign explained that all dinosaurs — except for those on Noah’s Ark — died in the Flood. For those that survived, it said they eventually, “died out due to competition for food, a post-Flood Ice Age, or other post-Flood catastrophes, or maybe even because people killed them for food or sport.”
Other signs around the museum asserted that cultures around the world had legends of dragons that resembled dinosaurs; therefore, they must be one and the same, giving further evidence of Noah’s Flood. Among those who fought dinosaurs were Roman armies, Saint George, and cowboys.
According to creationists, Genesis must be understood literally — including the presence of dinosaurs on the Ark — to avoid greater inconsistencies. Jeanson said, “If someone takes a different view of Genesis, you run into other problems textually, theologically, and philosophically.”
Jeanson’s own research uses mitochondrial mutation rates to determine a timescale for modern humans’ divergence from a common Homo sapien genetic ancestor. The question is whether a mitochondrial Eve lived 6,000 years ago or further back in time as indicated by the evolutionary model. His recent book, “Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species,” walks readers through his calculations that verified a young age for the world.
Not everyone agrees with him. Several scientists have written lengthy reviews in which they describe his research’s flaws. Evolutionary biology Ph.D. student Steve Sterley wrote, “Jeanson was using a mutation rate which was 35 times greater than [the] observed value.” At the end of his book review, Dr. Stefan Frello asked, “Would you trust an Atheist to teach your children about Christianity? If not — don’t trust a creationist to tell them about evolution!”
Despite frequent criticism, Jeanson does not capitulate. He said that Frello’s review actually bolstered his original claims, and that Young Earth Creationist, “literature thrive[s] in the face of criticism from well-qualified critics.
The Creation Museum’s final room illustrated how an evolutionary worldview causes suffering in the world. After people abandoned God’s Word, one sign read, “Human reason can be used to justify evil of every sort.” Consequently, Social Darwinism and moral relativism flourished, leading to racism, genocide, abortion, and euthanasia. A caption to a picture of a cemetery lamented of aborted babies, “Rather than protecting the helpless, we murder them.”
Contrastingly, another exhibit argued that a biblical worldview promotes love. “God’s Word says that all people after the Flood descended from Noah’s three sons,” a sign read. Differences in skin color and cultures were the result of the Tower of Babel splitting the human gene pool. Regardless of these superficial features, the museum maintained, “Every human is fully human, from conception to the end of life.”
AiG’s claims that evidence supports Young Earth Creationism have not gained traction in the scientific community. “You say 6,000 years in today’s culture, and you are vilified,” Jeanson said. He believes that strong stereotypes of creationists prevent people from fairly evaluating their views.
“So many people are not aware of this whole scientific enterprise,” he said, “we’re making new advancements and new strategies.” In some ways, the Origins Debate has greatly evolved since the days of Darwin. Creationists have realized that they must engage with science rather than sidestep it. But, to secular scientists, Jeanson and the Creation Museum are simply creating disbelief in their work.