Natural history, Bible-style
Kentucky's Creation Museum, opening May 28, puts dinosaurs in the garden with Adam and Eve.
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Dismissing the observational/historical dichotomy, Dr. Scott says "it's nonsense ... Nobody really thinks astronomy, geology, and evolutionary biology ... go about testing their explanations in a way substantially different from other sciences."Skip to next paragraph
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Young-earth creationists believe the fossil record was entirely laid down during the "universal flood" of Noah's day. This view has taken hold just since 1961, when two fundamentalists, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, wrote "The Genesis Flood" (though the idea of "flood geology" had originated earlier among Seventh-Day Adventists).
"The evidence for geological ages became so overwhelming in the early 19th century that even evangelical Christians embraced it and changed their understandings of Genesis to accommodate it," says Ron Numbers, a science historian at the University of Wisconsin. But after the 1961 book, fundamentalists began gravitating to that position, which in 1970 was renamed creation science.
"If you take away the hundreds of millions of years the paleontological record gives to evolutionists, you've knocked out the biggest bulk of evidence for evolution," Dr. Numbers says. "They're trying to fit the scientific evidence into that model and for a period tried to market it as scientific to get it into the public schools." The US Supreme Court said it has a religious basis and couldn't be taught in science classrooms.
Evolution problematic for many
"We're not an activist group regarding school battles or getting materials into public schools," says Mark Looy, AiG's communications director. AiG does produce a glossy magazine, books, a radio show, and at least two DVDs a month for distribution to churches, Christian schools, and home-schooling families. Ham and staff are on the go giving talks at some 350 gatherings a year. In response to requests, Mr. Looy says, they ship 48,000 items annually.
One paperback, "Evolution Exposed: Your Answer Book for the Classroom," instructs students how to respectfully but insistently counter evolutionary concepts.
The museum poses such difficulty for scientists, perhaps, because evolution is problematic for many. Polls consistently find that close to half of all Americans reject it.
"People find it unbiblical and implausible. You are talking about human ancestry, which people are very sensitive about," Numbers posits. Plus some scientists "have gone overboard" in claiming evolution proves there is no God, even though "millions have harmonized it with their religious beliefs."
In a bid to clarify this, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has published "The Evolution Dialogues," which explores evolution and Christianity's response. It discusses those who see science and religion as compatible but dealing with different spheres, and others working out a theology that takes evolution into account.
The museum scorns such an approach. One exhibit shows a pastor preaching it's OK not to believe in a literal Genesis. Then it depicts "the consequences" in one family: A young boy looks at porn on the Internet while his sister calls Planned Parenthood.
No one has a handle on the scope of creationism's influence, says Numbers, author of "The Creationists." "Intelligent design" (which disputes aspects of evolution but accepts that the universe is billions of years old) has been more in the news recently. But AiG, simply one group in the creationism fold, is clearly doing well. The museum has 8,500 charter members, Looy says, and is all paid for – by donations averaging $100.