The Creation Museum in Kentucky is a treat for the whole family.
Answer in Genesis (AIG) built its Creation Museum in 2007 and has now counted its two millionth visitor. Not far from the Cincinnati airport, and within a day’s drive of almost 2/3 the US population, the 70,000 square foot facility is located on spacious grounds that offer enough opportunities to keep children, teens, college students and adults occupied for a good two days. Now, AIG is embarking on an even more ambitious project: Ark Encounter, on a separate property, that will feature a full-size Ark, a Tower of Babel, and numerous other educational attractions. With funding in hand, construction is about to begin.
The Editor of Creation-Evolution Headlines, David Coppedge, visited the Creation Museum on March 22. He files the following first-hand report.
Ken Ham and his staff made three excellent decisions early on. One, they chose a location near where a lot of people live. Two, they surrounded themselves with a lot of talent. And three, they decided to go first-class from the start. There were temptations to start small and add on incrementally, I am told, but Ham decided that people wanted and needed to see a quality product. It’s quality that attracts. And quality they delivered: the facility is impressive, a good testimony to the Lord and the Biblical doctrine of creation. When word got out that this was going to be a first-class attraction, donation money flowed in, and collectors donated priceless artifacts out of their possessions. This can be a lesson to other organizations about doing a job right: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24).
The good impression begins when you arrive at the parking lot and see the tall, modern-looking building on the spacious, landscaped grounds. Since I visited before the trees were in leaf, I didn’t get the full experience of the landscaping; for that reason, I would recommend visitors come when spring has fully sprung and the flowers are blooming. I’m told it is beautiful when everything is green; weddings are held there, and picnics, because of the loveliness of the setting. Still, it was quite a sight: lakes, artificial rivers and a petting zoo with camels, sheep, wallabies, and even a “zonkey” and “zorse” (hybrids between zebra and a donkey and horse, respectively). One of the docents took us to see two coatimundis (raccoon-like animals from Mexico) that playfully jumped in their cages with remarkable dexterity. Kids will start shrieking with delight when they see the zipline towers outside. They provide some of the best zipline rides in that part of the country. Families should allow time for the hiking trails, gardens, and petting zoo.
Entering the museum proper, the visitor is impressed with the high ceiling, quality stonework and ornate displays. In March the lobby featured display cases with evidences of dinosaur sightings in human history. (Visitors surely will know that, consistent with AIG’s message, this is not an “intelligent design” institution, but a museum committed to Genesis, with its account of the six days of creation, the Fall, a world-wide Flood, and the Bible’s message of redemption in Jesus Christ.) That being clear, there is plenty of evidence for design and beauty in nature as well. After obtaining a ticket, the visitor enters the grand hall, where full-sized dinosaur models, a waterfall, and several options await. On the right is Noah’s Cafe, with a varied family-friendly menu—a fun place for lunch. On the left is the Stargazer’s Planetarium and a large, well-stocked bookstore, and nearby is the “Men in White” multimedia theater. The museum also has a full-size auditorium where the Ham-Nye debate was held in February (2/05/14). (Speaking of the debate, Bill Nye told Live Science this week that he was glad he did it, even though he was strongly advised not to. While he is still worried AIG might have benefitted from it, he could have mentioned how graciously he was treated there, and how much he was paid—a handsome sum.)
The planetarium is excellent. I saw two shows, one designed by Jason Lisle and the other by Danny Faulkner (my host), creation astronomers with PhD credentials. Fully automated with special effects, the shows are entertaining and informative. One feature that impressed me was the theater’s ability to zoom out to a distant star and look back toward the sun from light-years away. Old-style planetarium projectors were unable to do this. The “Men in White” show was fun (a little corny for my taste, but great for kids), with a clever combination of animatronics, on-screen effects, lighting and other features, communicating in an entertaining way why the creation message is good science and important for an individual’s sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Visitors should take their time going through the main museum exhibits, because there is a lot to see. Smoothing the way through the large, beautifully-decorated rooms are audio tracks, effective lighting, sound effects, display screens and informational signs nicely decorated with calligraphy. Animatronic figures are coordinated with video screens throughout. The attention to detail is impressive; props are well designed for each setting, whether a dinosaur dig, the interior of Noah’s Ark, or the Garden of Eden. Speaking of that, AIG’s engineers created a lush Eden, replete with animals (including dinosaurs) that represent “kinds” not necessarily looking like today’s varieties.
Adam and Eve are shown tastefully naked, in medium skin tones that represent the whole human race. All is beautiful till the serpent tempts the first pair to sin. What follows assaults the senses with the ugliness of evil: sweat, carnivory, death and violence, up to today’s broken walls, graffiti, and cacophany. One particularly effective room has three continuously running TV monitors showing various episodes in the daily life of a family that is losing confidence in Genesis. The acting is very credible; the kids and teenagers, watching their parents acting hypocritically, and their pastor compromising the Genesis narrative with contemporary science, are clearly on their way to abandoning the Bible altogether. These episodes are worth watching and thinking about. The promised Seed of redemption is a subtext running through the presentation of a fallen world.
As the path meanders into the Flood narrative, visitors are greeted by an animatronic Noah and construction workers, some of them mumbling over the purpose of a boat on dry land. It would take too long to describe all the exhibits, nor would I wish to be a spoiler. Suffice it to say there is plenty to see, hear, and contemplate. There’s a lot for the young, and plenty of information in the text displays to occupy the college educated. The path is well laid out, proceeding through Genesis to the consummation of all things in Christ, culminating in the gospel explained in a final film in the “Last Adam Theater.” Following that, there are another three exceptional exhibits: an elegant room with rare Bibles, and on the opposite side of the high-ceilinged Palm Plaza, “Dr. Crawley’s Insectorium,” containing display case after display case of incredible insects and butterflies (one screen loops with Illustra Media’s scene of butterflies hatching, from Metamorphosis, used by permission). Above that is an upper-level assortment of full-size dinosaur models built by craftsman and songwriter Buddy Davis. The museum contains some rare collections of fossils, stamps, and other artifacts donated by individuals.
I saw a lot of families with kids coming through. All the staff were courteous and knowledgeable. I had a great time. There’s really nothing I can complain about, but so as not to sound like a salesman for AIG, I will offer just a couple of minor observations. (These are more matters of emphasis than flaws.) One is the “Two Views” approach offered near the beginning of the path: namely, that creationists and evolutionists have the same facts, but look at them through different worldview lenses. While true, I think this is a bit weak. It makes it sound like you can flip a coin and choose one or the other, because both are equally valid ways of explaining the evidence. Strategically, I think it would be stronger to show why there is really only one valid point of view for science—the Biblical view. To be sure, AIG presents an Ark-load of evidence supporting creation and debunking evolution further down the path. Another minor issue involves one exhibit room that claims natural selection is real, and a valid concept (although it cannot support increase in information). While this is a matter of controversy between creationists, I prefer Randy Guliuzza’s analysis that natural selection is a very misleading concept, an imposter for embedded design (see ICR).
Finally (and this is just a matter of degree), I would like to see AIG give more acknowledgement to creationists outside its organization. It’s certainly understandable that AIG would promote its own materials on its own property, but AIG is really standing on the shoulders of giants—not all of whom work for AIG. Without the contributions of other creation scientists, laymen and ministries, AIG would not have all the information it presents. It’s not that they don’t promote any outside materials, but I think they could do more. It would be nice to see them directing attention to other solid creation ministries, and offer their materials, to avoid the impression that “if it’s not made here, we’re not interested.” I know AIG protects its message very carefully to avoid confusing visitors. It’s a matter of balance, though; there’s probably not anyone who agrees 100% with anyone else. To a degree, one can acknowledge the value of parts of another’s message without compromising one’s own. I was told that AIG is trending more in the direction of openness and cooperation with other creation organizations. That’s good, and I encourage it.
I’ll have to admit that years ago, when I first heard of the museum project, I doubted the value of raising and spending so much money (tens of millions of dollars), from a limited pool of donors supportive of creation, for a museum in one location. While I still have some qualms about that, I can see that AIG’s museum is only part of a larger mission that includes outreach to churches and organizations with its speakers and publications, and video presentations that can be recorded in its auditorium and sent around the world, like the creation debate. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game, either; any organization that strives for high standards can probably attract the kind of enthusiastic support that AIG has attained. Still, some organizations do have high standards but struggle financially. They would be happy with a hundredth of what AIG takes in. Why is that? Is AIG diverting an inordinate amount of support from other worthy creation ministries because of its promotional skill? Or is it a sign of God’s blessing? Only God knows. There’s a caution for all ministries here; size is not necessarily a sign of God’s favor. There have been high-profile ministries that collapsed. The converse is also true: God can mightily use small things, and individuals. I can only hope AIG will continue its high standards for many years to come, and not end up a decade from now with a museum in mothballs. These projects must outlive Ken Ham. I would warn them with Ark Encounter to stay humble, think long-term, and maintain, above all, a commitment to the glory of God, not just of AIG.
Bottom line: go to the museum if you can while it is in its heyday. You’ll have a wonderful time, and will learn a lot. I wish them the best on their next project. My personal thanks to my long-time friends Danny and Lynette Faulkner for opening their home to me, and to Mark Looy for offering me free admission to the museum.
Tip: Those in the western states daunted by the distance to Kentucky can visit the smaller, but still worthwhile Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California (not far from San Diego). Originally built by ICR before its migration to Texas, the museum has grown with updated displays, and keeps a calendar of special events. Its website offers a virtual tour. (This museum originally inspired Ken Ham to build a bigger, better one when he started his own ministry after working for ICR for years.) There are several small creation museums in various states, such as one near Mt. St. Helens. The country is big enough for many creation museums—the more the better—but for now, AIG’s Creation Museum is the biggest and best, well worth the trip if you can go.