I, like any number of people raised in the era of field trips, have visited many museums in my life. Some were devoted to art, others to history, and still others to science. Until a short time ago, however, I had never been to a museum that taught a literal translation of the Bible as science. The Creation Museum, located in the outskirts of Hebron, Kentucky, teaches that the Earth was created in seven days, that the Universe is roughly 6000 years old, and that dinosaurs and humans lived side by side. Despite my total disagreement with the museum’s teachings and my objections to several aspects of the museum, I surprisingly found my experience there to be one of the best I’d had in years.
The most striking aspect of the Creation Museum at first glance was its sheer size. Its all-glass facade rose dozens of feet above the surrounding landscape, dwarfing the gardens, lakes, and petting zoo that comprise the museum’s grounds. The large number of cars, representing states from Michigan to Tennessee, indicated that even on a rainy weekday, plenty of visitors came from all over to visit the museum. Built at great cost by Answers in Genesis, an organization that promotes young earth creationism, the museum is filled with exhibits, theaters, animatronic dinosaurs, and even houses a planetarium. While these are things that typify an average museum, the content itself is what separates this museum from most others.
The museum illustrates the creation of life as the Bible tells it, starting with two humans and a few hundred “kinds” of animals, birds and fish, along with the planets, moon, stars, etc. There is even a walk-through Eden exhibit, showing Adam naming each creature, from cat to pachycephalosaurus. Not every species we see today is represented though, and this is where the term “kind” mentioned earlier comes into play. The museum states repeatedly that animals were created “after their kind” as written in Genesis, and that today’s diverse species are descended from these original kinds. This aspect of the museum was the most surprising to me. The museum actually supported natural selection, claiming that rats and capybaras came from the same original creatures, but adapted over time into their present forms. Despite this seeming acquiescence to evolution, the museum makes it quite clear that it in no way supports claims of billion-year time scales or the slow march of life from complex organic molecules to humans.
The museum is just as much an indictment of evolutionary science as it is an argument for creationism. It scoffs at such ideas as mutations adding genetic information and planets forming by accretion around stars. However, in doing so, it tends to step too far and chooses to mislead or speak blatant untruth. The museum includes statements that there are no examples of expanded supernovae (Kepler’s Supernova is a good example), that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not fit in an environment without drugs (if this were true, multi-drug resistant staph could not spread) and that scientists have never observed stars being formed (the Orion Nebula is a well known center of such formation). Deceptions like these have no place in a museum, and call into question the legitimacy of many other statements made throughout the building. So how, even after being disgusted by the inclusion of such inaccuracies in the museum, did I find the experience to be quite enjoyable?
Simply put, I learned more from this museum than most others I have been to because I went in with a skeptical mind. I took mental notes of claims made in exhibits or presentations and researched them later. I looked into the criticisms the museum had made on evolutionary theory and researched answers that scientists had for these criticisms. I even researched scientists who have made contradictory claims to certain tenets of evolutionary biology. The thing about such criticisms and contradictions is that science welcomes them. Whether a criticism of established ideas is proven or disproven, it strengthens our knowledge of what we are trying to understand. This is why I hope that visitors of every museum, be it the Smithsonian or the Creation Museum, come out asking questions.