A Tale of Two Museums: Part 2 — The Creation Museum

The Creation Museum

This past Saturday Elizabeth Schiltz of the Philosophy Department and I took our First-Year Seminar students on a long drive to the infamous Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. It was a beautiful day and we had a good time, if you set aside the intellectual travesties and pseudoscientific contradictions of the place. Our Wooster students were very polite and inquisitive, and they had many observations after we left the premises. The museum is uber-slick and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. We were on their property and grateful that they are willing to share their story and facilities with anyone who pays admission and follows the rules. Still, we felt both astonished and oppressed by the place.

The scene above is just inside the entrance of the museum. The juxtaposition of an animatronic dinosaur and a happy child tell us much about the philosophy and science of the organization: this is not a museum in the traditional sense. Dinosaurs with people is one thing — the dinosaur not eating the child is another!

Elizabeth’s First-Year Seminar section is titled “On the Meaning of Life“. Her students have been working through worldviews and why people hold them, so this trip was most appropriate. My First-Year Seminar is on “Nonsense and Why it is so Popular“. It is obvious why we were here!

The Creation Museum has been reviewed many times by scientists and other skeptics. (Here is a detailed account of a visit.) I am just presenting our impressions here with a few photographs.

One of the first displays in the Creation Museum is this life-sized diorama of two paleontologists excavating a dinosaur skeleton. (Geologists should note how important they are to the creationist worldview.) The scientist on the right is a traditional evolutionist; the older man on the left is a heroic scientific creationist we meet several times later in displays and videos. Both are looking “at the same facts”, but they have different “perspectives” and reach wildly different conclusions. From the start we saw a surprisingly post-modern view of science — it is all in the presuppositions of the observer with the “facts” as just a text for subjective analysis.

Especially to a geologist, the time scale of creationists is bizarre. At the Creation Museum the old Archbishop Ussher chronology is used, giving the first year of the Universe as 4004 BC. Here you see the timeline combined with the “7 C’s of History“. A literal reading of Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) is essential to the Young Earth Creationist view of Christian salvation.

An irony much noted by our students is that throughout the Creation Museum the displays denigrate “human reason” and elevate “God’s Word”, yet they appeal to human reasoning in every display of “evidence” and argument. Here we see the peculiar creationist view of “evolution within kinds” which allows for “microevolution” but not the appearance of new kinds of life. (Yes, there is a very fuzzy definition for “kind”.)

We all agreed that the models for Adam and Eve were … well … hot. They were so well done that, in this case especially, we felt like we were intruding on intimate moments. Just above this happy pair, out of view, the snake awaits with his temptation.

After their disobedience to God and their Fall, Eve and Adam look far less babelicious. Here they are making a bloody sacrifice for their Original Sin. Lots more blood and angst follows.

The Flood of Noah gets a lot of attention, of course, at the Creation Museum. Among many other things, it is used to explain the fossil record and the current distribution of life. I suspect the museum designers also derive a bit of pleasure from the idea of sinners dying in misery and despair as a small remnant of the righteous survives.

A critical part of the message in this museum is that the “evolutionary worldview” has brought much pain and destruction to our civilization. This elaborate and rather odd display shows the concept of “millions of years” destroying a church building. (Just think what billions of years would do!) Again, note the threat of modern geology to the fabric of God-fearing society.

Dinosaurs are a huge part of the Creation Museum’s program. Because kids love them so much, the Answers in Genesis people call them “missionary lizards“. (I don’t know which is most offensive: calling them missionaries … or calling them lizards!) The dinosaur models are, like their human equivalents, spectacular. Their star T. rex looks a bit overweight, but otherwise the reconstructions would pass in a real museum. The information on the signs, of course, is another story. Note the approximate date for the Upper Jurassic and that they ate meat only after the Fall. (Before that there was no death on Earth and thus no predation.)

Most disturbing is the effect of an institution like the Creation Museum on the education of children. This display makes sure you get the point that kids are at last hearing the real story outside of their corrupting public schools. The museum caters to home-schooled children for their “science” components, as well as to many private Christian schools. We often overheard parents and teachers telling their students “what we believe”. I caught a couple conversations describing a fallacious view of evolution (using the classic “I don’t know why there are still monkeys if we evolved from them” argument) that will likely go unchallenged in that child’s life. Very sad.

At the end of our experience we visited the outdoor portion of the museum with beautiful gardens and, to our delight, a petting zoo! This was the best way to discharge the tension built up during our visit: playing with innocent goats, feeding llamas, and watching albino peacocks display. All products of a long evolutionary history despite whatever stories we tell.






About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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17 Responses to A Tale of Two Museums: Part 2 — The Creation Museum

  1. Pingback: Student Presentations! (December 5-9) | Nonsense! (And why it’s so popular)

  2. Ken Ham says:

    Remember–“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). These professors from Wooster College in Ohio may mock at the Creation Museum and totally reject what is taught from God’s Word (and substantiated with observational science)–but they and the students they brought heard God’s Word, and heard the gospel. We need to pray for them and claim the Scriptures, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

  3. Stephen Perry says:

    “I suspect the museum designers also derive a bit of pleasure from the idea of sinners dying in misery and despair as a small remnant of the righteous survives.”

    The above quote by the author shows their distaste and “presuppositional” stereotype of Christians. To the contrary, true Christians hold the same view as God when He said, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

  4. Zach says:

    HAHAHAHA. Man, quoting scripture to prove god exists is like quoting the Illiad to prove Achilles existed. You are taking the text of the myth, a mutilated and many-translated text if you have King James’ version, and using it to say that the myth is true. Written word existed because of the oral tradition. THAT was developed to impart a moral code, not a factual historical account. Such an account would be impossible. Aside from ripping their religion off of many other religions of the period when Christianity was born, taking religion too literally undermines the spirit of the text. Geology does not support the idea of dinosaurs living with humans, alligators aside. These are falsehoods, used to promote a ridiculous proposal. Other than that it is very amusing. Good Luck.

  5. Mary says:

    The author of your blog demonstrated the truth of your position that people interpret the finds according to their presuppositions. He offered no proof that you were wrong; he simply believed you were, and thought his students should, too, just like that!

  6. 1Watt.Hermit says:

    A well written report on the visit. May I suggest you next have your students watch the documentary series The Flintstones.

  7. Mark Looy says:

    Much could be written about the critique of our Creation Museum. First, we thank Dr. Wilson for the good words he had about the quality of our museum’s exhibits, as well as the friendly professionalism of our staff.

    Ironically, for a museum critique, it is not a real critique. Rather than refuting the claims presented in the museum, Dr. Wilson merely engaged in hand-waving; he did not present reasons why we are wrong. He just said we were wrong.

    Now, to the corrections that need to be made. First, we do not teach that salvation in Christ requires a belief in the historicity of the book of Genesis. Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. For Dr. Wilson to suggest otherwise is totally misrepresenting our museum. Also, Dr. Wilson mused that some of our museum artists may have received some pleasure in depicting the death of people during the Flood of Noah’s time. On the contrary, our museum designers—out of a sincere concern for people—have presented the hopeful gospel message throughout the museum. Dr. Wilson has unwittingly proven our point, namely, that biases (or presuppositions) shape how we look at things. Because he already possesses a negative stereotype about biblical Christians, Dr. Wilson claims to know something of the “heart” of our Christian artists.

    Dr. Wilson also misrepresents our teaching regarding the use of human reason in how to study the world around us. In our museum, and in a very prominent exhibit (one of the first in the museum), we declare that “reasoning is God’s gift to humankind,” yet we recognize that He has instructed us to use the Bible as our ultimate starting point (Prov. 1:7). Furthermore, we acknowledge the verse: “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) . So yes, we can use human reason, which the museum display clearly teaches — contrary to the review’s assertion.

    It’s a shame that Dr. Wilson apparently was not able to meet our staff geologist, Dr. Andrew Snelling. Would Dr. Wilson consider holding a public debate on the Wooster campus with Dr. Snelling?

    As a former evolutionist (until I used whatever critical thinking ability I was blessed with), I encourage readers of this website to visit the Creation Museum (near the Cincinnati Airport) themselves and see whether or not Dr. Wilson is accurate in his conclusions.

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  16. John Vann says:

    I really enjoyed this review. You were quite polite though. If you have any training in science (let alone geoscience) or even scientific reasoning, the creation story and timescale has zero credibility: it is just plain ridiculous. Engaging in scientific debate with creationsits is futile, because they start with the answer and seek the evidence, the reverse process (i.e. science) holds no interest to them, and is at least dangerous, and most likely blasphemous. “if it’s God’s word it is true’ is not a good starting point for a logical discussion. That “millions of years wrecking ball”, is a type-example of why this museum is solely an exercise in primitive propaganda, and utterly divorced from what a museum should be. Convincing children of this rubbish in the 21st century is a sort of mental child abuse.

  17. Mark Wilson says:

    Thank you, John, for your kind words and perceptive analysis. I understand that the Creation “Museum” people have changed some of these exhibits, so this post is now of historical value!

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