A Monument To Creation

A tableau of Adam and Eve helps illustrate the creation of mankind. The Earth is about 6,000 years old, the museum contends.
A tableau of Adam and Eve helps illustrate the creation of mankind. The Earth is about 6,000 years old, the museum contends. (Michel Du Cille - The Washington Post)
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 27, 2007

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- At the Creation Museum, a fanciful Eden rises from the void. Adam appears, bearded and handsome, if slightly waxen. Eve emerges from his rib with luxuriant hair and a kindly expression. Trees blossom and creatures frolic, evidence that all started well in God's perfect world.

Elsewhere, as the story develops, Cain stands over his slain brother, Abel; life-size workmen build a replica of Noah's ark, and Methuselah intones: "With each passing day, judgment draws nearer. . . . I can tell you, whatever God says is true."

Despite the showmanship behind the $27 million museum opening here Monday, the evangelists who put it together contend that none of the gleaming exhibits are allegorical. God did create the universe in six days, they say, and the Earth is about 6,000 years old.

Biblical scenes are hardly a fresh phenomenon, either as expressions of faith or as missionary props. What separates the Creation Museum from its Bible-boosting brethren is the promoters' assertion that they can prove through science that the book of Genesis is true. All of it.

But in this latest demonization of Darwinian evolution, there is a sticking point: For the biblical account to be accurate and the world to be so young, several hundred years of research in geology, physics, biology, paleontology, and astronomy would need to be very, very wrong.

"This may be fascinating, but this is nonsense," said Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University and a vocal defender of evolutionary science. "It's fine for people to believe whatever they want. What's inappropriate is to then essentially lie and say science supports these notions."

Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, calls the sparkling facility "the creationist Disneyland."

Come Monday, when the museum opens for business not far from Cincinnati, protesters plan to gather at the gates for a "Rally for Reason." Scott's education group reported that 800 scientists from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio signed a statement expressing concern about "scientifically inaccurate" museum content.

The Creation Museum, a project of the socially conservative religious organization Answers in Genesis, mocks evolutionary science and invites visitors to find faith and truth in God. It welcomes its first paying guests -- $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for children, not counting discounts for joining a mailing list -- just weeks after three Republican presidential candidates said they do not believe in evolution.

Polls suggest that about half of Americans agree. They dismiss the scientific theory that all beings have a common ancestor, believing instead that God created humans in one glorious stroke. Similar numbers of people say the world's age should be counted in the thousands of years, not billions, as established science would have it.

For the record, mainstream scientists currently estimate the age of the Earth at about 4.5 billion years, but don't try telling that to Ken Ham, an Australian-born evangelist and former high school science teacher who heads Answers in Genesis. The busy ministry and its staff of 160 produce a daily radio show, a magazine and 20 DVDs a year. Their offices are in the new museum, which has about 140 employees of its own.

"When you're talking about origins, you're not talking about science," Ham said as charter members snapped photographs in an early walk-through. "You're talking about belief."

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