• And man created Museum
    By KRISTINA GOETZ Columbia News Service | May 04,2005
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    Answers in Genesis, the builders of the future Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to upholding the authority of the Bible from the very first verse.
    NEW YORK — When a new natural hisory museum opens outside Cincinnati, visitors will find the requisite fossils and DNA exhibits, an 84-seat planetarium and an extensive mineral collection.

    But museumgoers will also discover some exhibits few have encountered before: a blueprint for Noah's ark, a special effects theater showing humans and dinosaurs walking the earth together and re-creations of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Construction crews and design teams are busy building the $25 million facility, scheduled to open in 2007, called the Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center. It will present what organizers consider the simple but factual account of the history of the world as described in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. The Creation story, set in a 95,000-square-foot building off Interstate 275, will serve as the foundation for exhibits in genetics, biology, anthropology, astronomy and other areas.

    As public school districts in several states debate the value of teaching evolution in high school classrooms, the museum's creators, a Christian apologetics ministry called Answers in Genesis, say the center provides an alternative viewpoint to the natural science museums across the country.

    "This is going to be as good as anyone at Disneyland or Universal Studios could produce," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis. "But this is not a theme park. This is a teaching center."

    Unlike mainstream science, which generally says the universe is billions of years old and that species evolved over millions of years, evangelical Christians, some of them trained scientists, hold that the story in Genesis should be interpreted literally.

    For example, they consider the catastrophic flood described in the Bible an actual historic event created by God that killed every land creature that wasn't loaded onto Noah's ark. And, they say, the events described in the story of the Tower of Babel dispersed humans across the planet and split the gene pool and formed cultures with certain features, including different skin colors and eye shapes.

    Museum visitors — an estimated 500,000 are expected in the first year alone — will be able to walk through a re-creation of a section of the ark, hear rain coming down and see some of the animals and Noah's family aboard. (Museum officials say the ark would have had the equivalent volume of 522 standard American railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep.)

    Ham came up with the idea for the museum about 25 years ago, when he saw people in his home country of Australia compromising their faith when it came to evolution. After working for the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, he and two colleagues bought land outside Cincinnati in 1994 to build a museum and ministry headquarters. Since then, Answers in Genesis has grown into a multimillion-dollar organization that also supports seminars, a magazine and a radio program.

    "The ministry has already affected tens of thousands of people," said Mike Zovath, vice president of museum operations. "The museum is just one part of the impact. It's going to bring in people we normally wouldn't reach through seminars."

    Answers in Genesis promotes the tenet that all scientists have the same evidence in fossils, animals and stars, but that the facts are interpreted differently by evolutionists and creationists. No living scientist saw the beginning of the universe, they argue, so all understanding of past events is presupposition. Creationists therefore look to the Bible as their foundation.

    "A creationist doesn't believe that God made the world as people see it today," Ham explained. "We're saying God created the original gene pool of a pigeon kind, a dog kind or an elephant kind. But one kind didn't develop into another."

    The organization is gearing up to create creation science curriculum at its headquarters, targeting Christian schools and parents who homeschool their children. It is another way to spread its message.

    The kind of creationism taught by Answers in Genesis has plenty of critics. Bruce Alberts, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, recently called on members to confront challenges to the teaching of evolution.

    And Susan Spath, a historian of science at the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, says creationism can erode students' understanding of science today.

    "What they're showing is not scientific reality," said Spath, who cites evidence for evolution in every branch of science from geology to paleontology.

    Evolution, Spath says, is a comprehensive framework for understanding how the world changes over time and that there's evidence of it in every branch of science from geology to paleontology.

    "If you want to be realistic in your understanding of science today, you need to accept it," she said.

    The origin of the universe has been a hotly debated topic among Americans since Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species" nearly 150 years ago. School districts in Kansas, Georgia and Maryland are currently debating the issue, 80 years after a high school biology teacher named John Scopes was put on trial in Tennessee for teaching evolution.

    In a March Gallup poll that looked at teenagers' views on Darwin and the divine, 43 percent chose something between the two, that God guided human evolution over millions of years. More than one-third said God created humans as they are now and only 18 percent said humans evolved over millions of years with no help from God. A 2004 Gallup poll among adults showed similar results.

    Bryon Lockhart, who owns an interior design and supply company in Tabernacle, N.J., says he heard Ham speak in 1996 and slowly began to change his mind about evolution. He has supported the museum monetarily, and he took a tour of the building in February with his 7-year-old son, Noah.

    "I grew up a devout evolutionist, so hearing these things was very shocking," he said. "I was a huge skeptic. The creation museum, to me, is important because it shows the reliability of God the creator."

    Lockhart said he would invite critics to visit the museum and see for themselves.

    The museum isn't expected to be fully operational until 2007, but until then, visitors can drop by for scheduled tours.

    "People are going to walk away from here knowing the Bible's history is true," Ham said. "They'll say to themselves, 'If the history is true, then maybe I ought to consider what's in the rest of the book.'"
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