US Museum to Show God Created the World: Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden
In the heart of America's Midwest, an Australian is building the world's first museum based on the idea that the creation of the world as told in the Book of Genesis is based on fact. There will be electric models of biblical figures, tableaux of the Garden of Eden -- and lots of dinosaurs. In a museum whose motto is "Prepare to Believe!" only the Neanderthals are nowhere to be seen.
It turned cold early this year in Kentucky. "We have had a few nights of below freezing temperatures, which have come earlier than normal around here," the construction workers wrote in their blog. "This has prompted us to start the over-wintering process for some of our more unusual plants." The plants in the "Rainforest Garden" and the "Carnivore Glade" are probably the least unusual things to be found on this building site.
Dinosaurs will be making an appearance here, opening and closing their tooth-filled jaws. Electronically controlled puppets of Adam, Eve and Noah will also be on show, as will the Tree of Knowledge. Cain -- following the murder of his brother Abel -- will hear the furious voice of the Old Testament God. An SFX cinema is to show a film of the beginning of the universe. "Discover that the latest images of the stars confirm an all powerful Creator, not a random bang!" -- proclaims the Answers in Genesis (AiG) Web site.
The Creation Museum is being built on a 5,000-square-meter site in Petersburg, only a few kilometers drive from Cincinnati airport in the neighboring state of Ohio. The museum will "counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture," Answers in Genesis declares. The expansive steel and concrete construction, whose shell can be seen in numerous photos on the Web site, will become a "walk through history" next year. Not just any, but the true history, as presented in the bible's first book -- Genesis. It was Ken Ham, an Australian, who had the idea to present the biblical creation story as factually correct.
The necessary $25 million in funding has been given by private donors, there is only $3 million left to be raised. The site is in one of the biggest catchment areas in a country in which every second inhabitant claims to be a bible-reading Christian.
"Probably one of the world's weirdest museums"
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center carried out last year, over 60 percent of Americans said they believed some form of creation story should be taught at schools. If there is anywhere on earth where there would be an audience for this kind of museum, then it's here. Following a visit to the half-finished museum, a correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper wrote that "it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world."
The Creation Museum expects around 300,000 visitors a year and it will present the fundamentals of orthodox biblical creationism in what the Guardian describes as a "strangely Disneyfied" version:
- The earth and the universe are around 6,000 years old. They were created in seven days. All construction workers at the Creation Museum had to sign a contract saying this is what they believed.
- As the first book of the Old Testament describes, God created Adam from the earth and Eve from his rib. After the Fall he chased the couple out of paradise. Their son Cain committed the first murder in the history of humanity when he killed his brother Adam.
- When God became weary of the sins of man, he drowned them in the Flood. Only Noah and his family survived -- together with animals paired in the ark. A computer program will explain to children and their parents how Noah got all those birds and animals into the boat.
- Geological formations such as the Grand Canyon in Colorado were created by the Flood within the space of a few months.
It is only when it came to the dinosaurs that the creationists hit a snag. Too many bones of the prehistoric animals have been discovered. And children love these ancient monsters. It would be pointless to deny the existence of dinosaurs. But they donít appear in the bible. So the beasts Behemoth and Leviathan from the Book of Job are used as an unconvincing explanation for the dinosaurs. Have the authors of the holy book shown a way to make the dinosaurs fit into the narrow creationist world view?
They could have been wiped out by the Flood. Or even during that "historical" time when dragons lived. Both options are earnestly discussed in creationist circles.
But the museum's founder and head of AiG Ham doesnít want to hear about early homo sapiens, despite all the fossilized remains. "There are no such things," he told the Guardian. "Those skeletons they've found Ö could have been deformed, diseased or something. I've seen people like that running round the streets of New York."
Ham is a convert -- before his career as spreader of the word, he was a science teacher. The museum's designer, Patrick Marsh, worked for Universal Studios before he had his moment of awakening. Jason Lisle, the museum's scientific director, has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado. He defends the description in Genesis, but doesnít take on the big bang theory, "God has a name for every star," the visitors to the museum's Planetarium will be told.
Stories about the creation of the world are no rarity in religious texts. The Maori people of New Zealand believe in Io, the creation god, who uses the power of his words to call things into life. In Indian mythology the God Vishnu descends from Heaven in the form of a turtle. He lands in a sea of milk, which he beats and the world is created. In the north west of America the Zuni Native Americans tell of the myth of the creator Awonawilona, who fertilized the sea and used his warmth to hatch it. From this green scum emerged the mother earth and the father sky. If a museum were to be built for each of these creation myths, even in the American Midwest there would be a shortage of building space.
And there is an example for the Creation Museum of how not to do things: In Pensacola, Florida, the creationist Kent Hovind wanted his Dinosaur Adventure Land to bring the creation story, fossils, and the children's love of dinosaurs together in harmony.
At the beginning of November Hovind was found guilty by a federal court of tax fraud on 58 counts, money laundering and non-payment of social security. He is currently sitting in a jail cell in the County Sheriff's office. He will be sentenced in early January. Hovind failed to pay his employees their salaries.
Apart from the $430,000 fine, the self-proclaimed Dr Dino could be facing a maximum of 288 years in jail. Even measured by the standards of the biblical creation design, that's a pretty long time.
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