While millions of Americans head to beaches, campgrounds and amusement parks over Memorial Day weekend, a Christian conservative group will be launching a very different type of attraction: a $27 million high-tech museum devoted to creationism.
Dubbed simply the Creation Museum, the venture will share many of the features common to all big natural history displays: dinosaur bones and fossils, a planetarium and a model of the Grand Canyon. But the tag line for the Kentucky-based center — “Prepare to believe” — reflects a devotion to the “young earth” movement, which holds that the Book of Genesis is an accurate historical record. The museum, which rejects evolutionary theory, maintains that the earth is 6,000 years old and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs.
While the Petersburg, Ky.-based center is not the first of its kind, it is perhaps the most ambitious. Its chief designer, Patrick Marsh, designed the Jaws and King Kong attractions at Universal Studios. A 176-seat special-effects theater will take visitors on a “visual thrill ride” through biblical history, and animatronic Bible characters will illustrate the story of Noah’s Ark.
Some church-state activists are less than pleased with the new museum, which is the brainchild of the Christian group Answers in Genesis.
“This is part of a long-term agenda on the religious right to undermine scientific understanding in our country,” said Clark Stevens, co-director of the Washington-based Campaign to Defend the Constitution. It’s designed to give the impression “that it’s a real museum based on real science, which it definitely is not.” Stevens’s group has launched a petition campaign among educators and citizens, and is planning a protest at the museum Memorial Day.
Some in the Jewish community are taking a more live-and-let-live approach.
“They are entitled to their opinions up to the front door of the public schools,” said Michael Rapp, acting director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Cincinnati. “The genius of American life is that individuals can hold whatever religious views they wish.”