Paleontologists Tour “Creationist Disneyland”

August 14, 2009

Displays at the Creationist Museum—such as those portraying humans coexisting with dinosaurs—provoke mixed emotions among the evolutionarily enlightened. (Photo by Joe Nickell)

A group of scientists (from the 9th North American Paleontological Convention, held at Cincinnati) capped off their conference by taking a tour of the Creation Museum at Petersburg, Kentucky (a place I have previously visited with my wife, Diana Gawen Harris—see photo). It seemed like a fun idea, but the scientists came out more frightened and offended than amused. See Britt Kennerly, “Paleontologists brought to tears, laughter by Creation Museum,” online at news.yahoo.com . . .; accessed June 30, 2009.)

Jere Lipps—a University of California, Berkeley, professor of geology, paleontology, and evolution, as well as a CSI Fellow—aptly dubbed it “a monument to scientific illiteracy” and “Like Sunday school with statues.” He did caution, “This is a special brand of religion here. I don’t think even most mainstream Christians would believe in this interpretation of Earth’s history.”

Indeed, Howard University anatomy professor Daryl Domning said: “This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it’s just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science. It’s not your old-time religion by any means.” Lisa Park, a professor of paleontology at the University of Akron and a Presbyterian Church elder, agreed: “I think it is very bad science and even worse theology.” She added, “I think there’s a lot of focus on fear, and I don’t think that’s a very Christian message.”

The museum—an impressive 70,000-square-foot, 27-million-dollar edifice—is sometimes disparaged as a “creationist Disneyland.” It supports the “theory” of creationism propounded by fundamentalists from a literal interpretation of the Bible. The museum’s displays argue that belief in evolution can lead to moral relativism and social decay, even natural disasters, famine, and war.

As one walks among the displays—animated dinosaurs juxtaposed with humans, for instance, or a monumental scene of Noah building his fabled ark—one is struck simultaneously by two contrasting impressions: the professional quality of the physical displays on the one hand, and the scary ignorance behind their content on the second. Clearly, some people have not evolved as highly as others—by their own choice: namely, starting with a dogma and working backward to the evidence.

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