My Trip to the Creation Museum | The BioLogos Forum


(system) #1

A couple of weeks ago, senior editor Jim Stump and I road-tripped our way southward to Bullittsburg, Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum. Seeing as the origins debate is now our professional work, we decided that a trip to the Mecca of young-earth creationism needed to happen at some point. As the host venue of the famous Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate and the headquarters of the influential ministry Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum has quickly become the central symbol of conservative Christian resistance to mainstream science since it opened in 2007.

If the Museum had been open in the nineties, this probably would not have been my first trip. Growing up in a conservative Christian homeschooled family, I eagerly consumed young-earth creationist materials, captivated by images of dinosaurs living alongside humans and a global flood moving mountains and carving canyons. Neither my family nor my church was particularly dogmatic about their interpretation of Genesis, but in the world of Christian homeschooling, your curriculum choices are slim. If we had made this hypothetical trip to Kentucky, two things are certain. First, my 8-year-old self would have absolutely loved the museum. The place is packed full of dinosaurs, whether skeletal or wax or animatronic, and what young boy doesn’t love dinosaurs? Secondly, my family would have fit very well among the Museum attendees. The place was also packed full with large families, many of whom probably homeschool their children (as a former homeschooled kid, I have radar for these sorts of things).

But I wasn’t a young boy anymore when I rolled past the stegosaurus silhouette at the gate of the museum. My life since elementary school, as detailed before on this blog, has been a messy journey in and out of many perspectives on Genesis and science. My experience at the Museum was a compelling reminder why young-earth creationism captured my imagination in the past—as well as why I’m glad to have left it behind.

One of the most controversial claims of the young-earth creationist movement is that dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another, and the Creation Museum wastes no time defending that claim. Indeed, upon entering the museum’s main hall, one of the first sights is two fur-clad figures alongside several small dinosaurs. But the primary goal of the museum, as we quickly learned, is not simply to defend dinosaur/human co-habitation or the young age of the Earth or even a literal interpretation of Genesis. That’s a significant part of the museum’s presentations, but it is couched inside of a wider goal: providing a comprehensive worldview built around a view of the Bible as an authoritative answer book. Put differently, the ministry of Answers of Genesis is not first and foremost about Genesis—it’s about Answers.

All this is immediately clear as you enter the main exhibits of the museum. Before getting to the days of creation and the Garden of Eden and such, the Museum takes visitors step-by-step through the basis of its worldview. I quickly lost count of the occurrences of the phrase “Man’s Word vs. God’s Word”, applied liberally as a way of explaining how young-earth creationist scientists come to such radically different conclusions than all other scientists outside the movement. Evidence and reason, as the exhibits explain over and over, are not nearly as important as one’s presuppositions and biases—particularly related to how scientists view the Bible in reference to natural history. From there the history of the Bible is expansively portrayed, from its inspired origins to modern “attacks” on its authority (with the list of attackers including Galileo and conservative theologian B.B. Warfield). The ills of contemporary society are all explained by modern culture’s abandonment of God’s Word, in a part of the Museum made to look like a dilapidated inner-city alleyway—complete with graffiti and broken windows.

Before moving on to Genesis, the Museum invites visitors into the first of two large gift shops and bookstores, filled to the brim with materials on an expansive range of subjects, including education, spiritual warfare, politics, and “biblical homemaking”, mostly written by Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis colleagues. Once you’ve navigated your way past the book tables, you reach the main event. A panoply of visuals and videos usher visitors into the Genesis creation week, from the creation of the universe to plants and animals and finally people. The garden of Eden sprawls before visitors, full of lush plants, lions, dinosaurs, penguins, and—of course—Adam and Eve. The perfection of Eden turns into the chaos of the post-Fall world, where an animatronic velociraptor messily devours the carcass of a young dinosaur. Then Cain kills Abel, humanity grows more corrupt, Noah builds an ark, the Flood destroys almost all life, and so on. At every step, carefully-worded panels answer every conceivable question about the young-earth creationist interpretation of Genesis:

  • How did Adam name all the animals in the course of one afternoon? (Apparently, he just named some of the animals, despite the obvious and plain reading of Genesis 2:19)
  • If there was no death before the Fall, what did vultures eat? (They were made with the capability to eat dead things, but God only revealed that knowledge to them after the Fall)
  • Did Adam and Eve’s kids marry each other? (Yes, but even Abraham married his half-sister so it must not be that bad)
  • If the continents shifted as a result of the Flood, how did animals like kangaroos get from the Ark to Australia? (They floated there on uprooted trees, driven by ocean currents)

As Jim and I made the long drive back to northern Indiana, we agreed that the most striking feature of the Museum is its insistence on answering everything. Every possible question or mystery is defeated by a clear, simple presentation of the Bible’s message. Over and over, the Museum is insistent that the worldview presented by Answers in Genesis can answer all of life’s questions with different combinations of the same short, snappy, unassailable one-liners.

This led us to wonder why the young-earth perspective has to be presented this way. Instead of admitting that faithful Christians have come to different interpretations of the complex and mysterious Genesis text, Answers in Genesis insistently defends its interpretation as clear, plain, and simple—and labels any dissenters as “compromisers” of God’s Word. Instead of allowing any level of mystery in the question of death and suffering, they absolve God of all responsibility for human suffering with a single event in a primordial garden. Instead of acknowledging the mountain of scientific evidence against their young-earth, anti-evolutionary position, they confidently proclaim that “there is no evidence for evolution” (a direct quote from an AiG speaker we heard while there) and “today, geology confirms that many rock layers were deposited catastrophically” (as if the old age of the Earth is based on now-discredited science).

As young-earth creationist Todd Wood once notably mused, it does no credit to the movement to be so openly allergic to seeing their perspective as anything other than slam-dunk, black-and-white truth. In fact, it substantially weakens the cause. It allows young-earth creationism to be falsified not only by evidence against it, but simply by the complexity of the world outside of the movement! If kids raised on Answers in Genesis (AiG) materials go to public high schools or colleges (at least, non-AiG approved colleges), their faith is guaranteed to be shaken by their freshman science classes. Guaranteed. This isn’t because they will be immediately convinced that young-earth creationism is wrong (although that might happen), but because they will likely meet smart, polite, thoughtful individuals who present actual evidence for common descent of all life and the old age of the Earth and universe What will happen to these kids? Will they meet thoughtful and gracious Christians like Francis Collins (like I did in college) who will help them see science and Scripture in a new light, or will they just abandon their faith? Either way, we’re likely to see no end of the letters we regularly receive at BioLogos from confused kids who don’t know how to reconcile their faith with the clear conclusions of modern science (and aren’t given any help by their faith community beyond young-earth one-liners).

One of the goals of the Creation Museum is to convince Christians that a responsible engagement with our modern times involves addressing the tough issues related to science and faith. I heartily agree. Modern scientific discoveries raise serious and difficult challenges for the Christian faith, and far too many people have lost faith in God (and continue to lose faith) as a result of science. Answers in Genesis and BioLogos are both dedicated to addressing this crucial problem from the perspective of Christian faith, and I deeply respect the piety and passion reflected in the Creation Museum.

Yet the difference between BioLogos and AiG—beyond the obvious contrasts between what we think about science and Bible—is that BioLogos does not think that the tough questions related to science and faith can be neatly solved by broad generalizations or simple dichotomies. We don’t think that our perspective should be titled “God’s Word” and all others labeled “Man’s Word”. We don’t think that science can be neatly divided into “observational” vs. “historical”. We don’t believe that the problem of evil and suffering can be solved by dividing history into “pre-fall” and “post-fall”. And we don’t think that anything is gained by insinuating that the perspectives we disagree with are blind fabrications. These sorts of answers appear on the surface to tie the world together neatly, but they do not pass the test of deeper scrutiny. Even more disturbingly, those raised under the Answers in Genesis worldview are discouraged from questioning the validity of the answers, which suggests that the movement is far more fragile than its massive popularity would indicate.

Does BioLogos have its own “one-liners”? Absolutely. One of our most frequently used is that we search for truth in both God’s Word and God’s World, expecting to find harmony. But as we make a point of explaining, “harmony” does not mean that the points of mystery and tension disappear. On many questions, we respond, “we don’t know.” Those seeking neat and clear ways in which Scripture and science merge at every point are likely to be disappointed by our perspective. But we’re OK with this. BioLogos is made up of individuals who have been redeemed by Christ, worship our great Creator God, and humbly seek God’s truth in Scripture and nature. All of us—our brothers and sisters at AiG included—see through a glass darkly, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, and we know that there are many things that will evade our human understanding until the full revealing of God’s new and restored creation. But in the matters we can understand by God’s provision and grace—such as scientific study of God’s creation, past and present—we have a responsibility to speak honestly and carefully. May God give us all grace to do so as we seek to serve him.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/my-trip-to-the-creation-museum

(Brad Kramer) #2

Thanks for reading my reflections. I’m happy to answer any questions or comments about my trip, or my thoughts on Answers in Genesis and the young-earth creationist movement.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

This post reminds me of a blog post I refer some of my homeschooling friends to sometimes which has a picture from the creation museum that always makes me laugh. Moses next to Saruman. Did you get your picture with him by any chance? That would be one for the scrapbook.


(Brad Kramer) #4

Nope, I didn’t get a picture with Saruman. I did order Noah’s chili and an Eden salad in the cafe. I considered ordering a pre-Fall burger but didn’t want to blow my cover. :hamburger:


(Dcscccc) #5

the option that dino and human co-existed isnt so impossible. we actually find a stone carving of stegosaur-like animal:

http://creation.com/did-angkor-really-see-a-dinosaur

and a sauropods-like drawings.

we even found a dino DNA date about dozens milion years. even when experiments show us its impossible.

the first primates are also date about 80 milions years according to the molecular clocks. so even a ape-like animal can co-exist with dino.

according to this logic the coelacanth never lived in the past 60 milion years because lack of fossils. but we know he exist because he living today. so the lack of fossil mean nothing.


(Greg Carlet) #7

Thanks for sharing your experience!

I, too, was raised believing in young earth creationism and evolution is “evil”, etc.

I have kids of my own now and am so thankful to have found BioLogos and have a resource to go to when I have questions.


(Cory Taylor) #8

This led us to wonder why the young-earth perspective has to be presented this way. Instead of admitting that faithful Christians have come to different interpretations of the complex and mysterious Genesis text, Answers in Genesis (AiG) insistently defends its interpretation as clear, plain, and simple—and labels any dissenters as “compromisers” of God’s Word.

You might be interested in this paper, exploring that same question in the context of conservative Evangelical and conservative Muslim high schools: https://www.academia.edu/14630123/Why_Worry_about_Evolution_Boundaries_Practices_and_Moral_Salience_in_Sunni_Muslim_and_Conservative_Protestant_High_Schools


(Brad Kramer) #9

@gcarlet Glad you enjoyed the article! It sounds like you and I have had similar journeys. Excited to hear that BioLogos is a good resource for you. Ever considered writing out your own story? If you’re interested in seeing it published, please contact me at brad.kramer@biologos.org.

Brad


(Jennifer Heberling Krausz) #10

I have some serious concerns about evolution theory, such as the large gaps in the fossil record, the Cambrian Explosion, etc. Even the young-Earth creationists’ critique of carbon-dating resonates with me enough to make me question its accuracy. However, it also doesn’t seem possible to me that Earth could only be 7-8,000 years old either. The thing that bothers me about your description of your trip is how the museum organizers seemed to have answers for everything. That’s always suspicious. In my view, God is so great that we humans will not ever fully understand the way He created the world. I hope I will always have questions that I can’t answer in this life.


#11

Brad, thanks for your thoughts. I only live 20 minutes from the Museum, but have never been able to bring myself to supporting them with the admission fee. I came to a personal faith in Christ in college over 30 years ago and was involved with IVCF which laid the groundwork for my faith. I am a biology teacher at a Catholic school and am grateful for the balanced approach of the Catholic Church when in comes to the interpretation of Scripture and science. It grieves me how AIG puts an unnecessary wedge between faith and science.


(Larry Bunce) #12

If the Amish were like the AiG folks , they would be trying to get laws passed to ban everything invented since 1850, instead of living quietly the way they do in their own communities.
Today there is a good piece about Ken Ham on the God of Evolution wwebsite
<www.Godofevolution.com>


(Brad Kramer) #13

Hi @Cory_Taylor, thanks for sharing the paper. I’ve recently been learning a lot about Muslim beliefs in regards to faith, science, and evolution, and I find the similarities/dissimilarities between Christian and Muslim resistance to evolutionary science to be fascinating. It’s really about the question “how now shall we live?” in an increasingly secular world. I actually have a lot of respect for young-earth creationists (of any religious stripe), and I think many of their concerns deserve good answers.


(Brad Kramer) #14

@Jennifer_Heberling_K hello old friend! :wink:

I had questions and doubts about exactly the same things (fossil record, Cambrian explosion, carbon-dating, etc.) for a long time. It turns out that I was never given good explanations of the science behind these things, which led to an exaggerated sense of how big the “problems” actually are for evolutionary science. I also didn’t fully understand what scientists meant by the “theory” of evolution. Many of the Christian materials I read while growing up made evolution seem like a string of guesses held together by speculation and atheism. This isn’t even remotely correct. One of our most important tasks at BioLogos is correcting these misconceptions. Speaking of which, here’s some BioLogos articles on those questions:

http://biologos.org/questions/fossil-record
http://biologos.org/questions/cambrian-explosion
http://biologos.org/questions/ages-of-the-earth-and-universe

Amen! :smile: And I would add that if our version of faith involves answers to everything, then I worry that the definition of faith is not quite in line with what I understand from Scripture.


(Brad Kramer) #15

@stachowskik thanks for reading the article. Sounds like you have a very interesting story. While I am not Roman Catholic myself, I’m inspired by how well they have navigated these questions. Protestants need to ask themselves honestly why these issues are so much different for them.

I have many good friends who are either graduates or current staff members of IVCF. I have a huge amount of respect for the ministry.


(Brad Kramer) #16

Hi @Larry_Bunce!

It’s interesting to note that AiG actually is far less political (in the sense of wanting to legislative Christian beliefs) than past young-earth creationists. They don’t want their viewpoint taught in public schools. They are quite happy to be the “faithful remnant”. In that sense they are somewhat like the Amish, although they use a lot more electricity. :electric_plug: I lived in Lancaster County, PA, for a number of years, so I’m very familiar with Amish beliefs.

I will check out the God of Evolution piece. Thanks for mentioning it.


(Jeffrey Guhin) #17

Thanks for reading my paper! I’d love any thoughts.


(Michael Farrens) #18

Very good article. I sometimes see poor examples of evidence, but they seem to do a fine job. I am not a huge fan though of arguing creation in this manner. I prefer to rely on scripture being holy and true as prime evidence. Creation evidence is good for growing faith but not beginning faith.


(Jennifer Heberling Krausz) #19

Thanks, Brad, I will check those links out. Unlike many organizations out there, I sense that BioLogos does not really have an “agenda” other than seeking answers to honest questions. Take care, it is fun following you on Facebook and the blog here.


(Patrick ) #20

Jennifer,
I just finished reading a new book that lays out the latest findings on the fossil record, the Cambrian explosion etc. The book is “A New History of Life” by Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink. It was really eye opening for me as so many new discoveries have been made in the last few years about the origins and evolution of life on earth. Truly in awe. I hope you enjoy it.
Patrick


(Dcscccc) #21

hi jennifer. its importent also to read the creation view about fossils, carbon deating and so on. creation scientists have very importent claims. check this site for more information:

http://creation.com/