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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 13:09 GMT
Creation museum pushes 'true history'
By Matthew Wells
BBC News, Kentucky

Dinosaur creation
The museum's main designer has a Hollywood pedigree
A new hi-tech temple to fundamentalist Christianity is due to open in the heart of Middle America next May, aiming to provide the grandest riposte yet to Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Staff and supporters of the Answers in Genesis organisation call it the Creation Museum.

But secular scientists would take issue with the use of either word to describe the almost completed building that stands just a few miles west of Cincinnati, on the borders of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Wherever you stand on the debate, it is impossible not to be impressed by the effort that has gone into constructing the $27m (13.5m) museum, which hopes to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

"We have a planetarium to our left, and a virtually-finished bookstore.

"The museum is right under that archway there," said Mark Looy, vice president for ministry relations, standing in the foyer next to an animatronics dinosaur that is munching on a synthetic plant.

Playful dinosaurs

The museum's aim is to bring Genesis - the first book of the Bible - to life for all ages, and promote the belief that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

Dinosaur and child
Creationists believe humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time

Everybody who works at the museum has to sign on to the belief that the living Earth was created in six 24-hour days - rejecting the convention most scientists view as fact, that life evolved slowly over millions of years.

To hammer that point home, two smiling children clad in tasteful animal skins, work and play alongside a pair of baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"You go to some of the major museums and dinosaurs are their teaching icon," said Mr Looy.

"We're going to turn that on its head, and use dinosaurs to show that the Bible presents the true history of the world. We have people, and dinosaurs, together."

There is no mention of dinosaurs anywhere in the Bible, but for every sceptic, there is a committed Christian eager to listen and proselytise.

Alongside the nearly completed museum are the offices and warehousing of Answers in Genesis, which resemble any other medium-sized business complex in the vicinity.

Much of the material is given away free for educational purposes, but the weeks ahead of Christmas are the busiest of the year, as the gift orders pile up.

Even though the complex warren of exhibition rooms is a work in progress, enthusiastic visitors are already appearing.

Qualified staff

Colorado-based Dr Michael Sherwin was touring around with his family:

"I'm a pathologist... When I was studying genetics, it just seemed to me that if I consider one single cell to contain all the information I have to form me - I just don't see how that could evolve."

Ken Ham
The organisation's chief Ken Ham rejects intelligent design theory

Answers in Genesis prides itself on having many qualified scientists on staff, including Dr Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist by training, from one of Ohio's main universities.

She is concerned that many Christians do not accept the literal truth of the creation:

"It's foundational. If you can't believe Genesis, then why believe any other part of the Bible?

"You can't pick and choose, you can't say this part is right, and this part is wrong," she said, halfway through supervising an online tutorial in her office.

Australian-born Ken Ham is the president of the whole organisation, whose vision has driven the museum project.

He must be one of the very few evangelicals in the US to display a signed photograph of the cricketer Steve Waugh in his office, but touring through the labyrinth of rooms, it is clear what galvanises him most.

Intelligent design

He gives very lukewarm praise to the so-called intelligent design movement, which he sees as giving in to the temptations of evolutionary thinking.

But his attitude towards committed atheist scientists is surprisingly respectful:

"Everyone starts from presuppositions. For example, Richard Dawkins says there is no God: that's his starting point

"He'll admit that he has an a priori assumption of materialism, and we're saying we have an a priori assumption of the Bible."

The sophistication of the animatronics, artwork and modelling, would do justice to the most cutting edge theme park, and the main designer has a distinguished pedigree in Hollywood.

As a born again Christian, he was keen to offer his services, said Mr Ham.

Plant-eating dinosaur
The museum hopes to appeal to Europeans as well as Americans

Although professional construction workers are still on site, the cost of the project would probably be in the region of $100m (50m), if the voluntary effort had been accounted for, he added.

With polls consistently showing that about 40% of Americans believe God created man in his present form, sometime in the last 10,000 years, the museum could focus its efforts entirely on the converted.

Bu Mr Ham says: "We're thinking globally... We've already had indications from people in the United Kingdom and across other parts of Europe, that they're going to be coming here.

"What the Bible would reveal to us, no other book gives an account of the history of the Universe as this one does," he added.

Despite adopting the structure and technology of the most extravagant science museum, it remains that none of it is remotely plausible without first accepting Genesis.

Without taking that leap and rejecting centuries of scientific reasoning, it all resembles just another Disney-style magic kingdom.


SEE ALSO
A question of creation
15 Aug 05 |  Magazine
Scientists urge evolution lessons
21 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature

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