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Monday, March 24, 2014

Confident Creationists: A Review

     I went to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky as a critic; a friendly critic, but a critic nonetheless. If its presentation was tacky or silly or careless, I was ready to call ‘em out. I found a few glitches, but mostly I saw a bold, confident, intelligent analysis of the differences between old-earth evolutionism and young-earth creationism that follows the Bible. They’re on the Bible side, and they can tell you why.
     Clearly explained is the difference in starting point, or world view. The evidence we have—the fossils, rocks, canyons, rivers and creatures—exists in the moment that we observe it. We can’t go back and see what they were like 6,000 or 6 million or 6 trillion years ago. We can only make our best guess. The people at the museum figure they have an eyewitness account in the book of Genesis. The Creator was there, creating, and He had an account of the process written down for our information. Starting from that position, they show how any honest scientific fact can fit nicely into the creation model. They also show how the other side sometimes cheats.
     That was most dramatic in the exhibit on “Lucy,” the supposed human ancestor dug up in 1994. Casts of the fossil bones show how little hard evidence there is to work with—roughly half a skeleton and a third of a skull. Even though the leg bones fit together pretty well in a short configuration, the text says, evolutionist paleontologists spread the bones out, with only air in between, to make it look like Lucy had a long, human-ish leg. (And the creationists are supposed to be the ones operating on faith.) There’s more about the hip and knee joints, which evolutionists say are humanoid, but the CM text explains that similar structures are seen in apes, so there’s no definitive evidence that Lucy was anything but an ape. This is illustrated with a nifty hologram.
     A panel shows also how artistic interpretation shapes the models of critters like Lucy. Forensic reconstruction can give some idea of what the owner of a skull looked like, as far as shape and thickness of tissues go, but it says nothing about eyes or hair or color. (There’s not a whole lot of skull to work with in Lucy’s case, either.) You can give Lucy human-like eyes and a hairless face if you want her to be your great-great-grandmother, but you can also make her a hairy ape. They turned an artist loose, and he/she crafted on the same base faces  that resembled a chimp, a gorilla, an orangutan, a proto-human. It’s a matter of imagination. And dogma.
     The heart of the museum is a walk through history, which starts with creation. Adam and Eve figures looked more realistic to me than the animals in Eden. “Real” versus “not” kept my brain churning. I admired a glass cage full of finches and moved to the next “window” to spy a very plastic red cardinal on a branch. Next, I spotted the chameleon. It moved a bit, and lashed its tongue out to the glass. Real. Poison frogs: I couldn’t decide. Bright blue and still, they looked artificial, but later, they were in different spots, joined by yellow and black types. In a hall full of pinned insects, a child asked, “Are they real?” Dad replied, “They used to be.” 
     Some human models in the “walk through history” were animatronic, and some still. Oddly, the still ones seemed more realistic to me, especially the prophets and apostles. A lot of care went into the eyes, outfits and hair. They even had unique feet and sandals. King David had a slight bunion. But then I passed a couple of figures meant to be middle-school-aged students. “Weird,” said an actual student. I couldn’t argue. Fake hair, clothes about a generation old, distinctly unhip. One of them has a speech balloon saying, “I never heard this before in school,” and the other says, “Come on, let me show you the rest.” Sorry, CM, but they’re oddly placed and pointless. The theme might work in an ad, but not in the middle of the exhibits. I’d also lose the stairwell pic of a kid looking a little deranged because Mom bought a pass. Rather than happy, he just looks like the photographer said, “Bug out your eyes. Now stick your tongue out.” Not convincing.  But the enormous, round “7 Cs” quilt in another stairwell is spectacular.
     Gustav Dore etchings and images of classical paintings and statues give an air of seriousness and historicity. Creationism is not a new-fangled idea. The Biblical account was seen as real through centuries of art, literature and theology. The museum recounts the history of religious and scientific thought. It even covers the Scopes Trial with depth and context that are usually ignored. Bravo.
     I do have my quibbles: an extraneous comma in the introduction to Art and the Bible, a misplaced apostrophe in Answers Hall, and one mistake each in the narration of otherwise splendid planetarium shows: “the nuclei of Halley’s comet” in “Fires in the Sky” (should be “nucleus”) and in “The Created Cosmos,” a pet peeve, “is comprised of” should be “is composed of.” I’m probably the only one who noticed.
     In the models of life in Noah’s ark, which overall are brilliantly conceived, I wondered whether a little garden bed could really have lived in the ark. Next to it, in an aviary, a tiny bird had fallen from its perch. Next, one of the women is reaching into a cage. It looks as if something should be in her hands, but they are empty. A dead insect lay in a flood diorama—an accidental reminder that death has entered the world. The little figures on the exposed rocks lay in despair, fought each other, or confronted wild animals. One stood with hands on hips, as if to say, “Huh. It’ll subside in a minute.” Gave me the willies.
     There’s a lot more to the museum, from the bridge-strewn garden and the zipline (I did not zip) to the lectures. I heard one on the resurrection of Christ, the evidence for it and the silliness of theories against it, from “He swooned” to “They forgot which tomb He was in” to “God made Judas look like Jesus, and that’s who they crucified.” Yes. Silly.
     It took me three days to feel I’d covered the museum anywhere near thoroughly, but I finally walked out the door with more confidence than ever in the truth of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I was pretty sure I was already on the same side as Ken Ham. Now I’m all the more likely to stay. 

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