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Fear and Loathing at the Creation Museum

Mike Pohlman | Salem Communications | Monday, June 11, 2007

Fear and Loathing at the Creation Museum

June 11, 2007

On Monday, May 28, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky opened to more than 4,000 guests. The privately funded, $27 million facility is dedicated to representing a literal six-day creation account of Earth's history. The media coverage surrounding the grand opening was global in nature: approximately 130 media credentials were issued representing news outlets in the United States, Switzerland, Britain, France and Russia. As swarms of people descended on this small town 20 miles southwest of Cincinnati and with emotions running high among admirers and detractors alike, one reporter could only conclude: “a circus like atmosphere surrounded the grand opening.”

According to press reports, most people, like Faith Grosz, commended the museum for its unashamed portrayal of a literal, biblical six-day understanding of creation: “It’s exciting to go to a museum that actually does hold to the theory of creation … It gives honor to the Creator, who we believe in.”

Not surprisingly, however, many people protested against the museum, arguing that it is subversive to science at best and dangerous at worst. For example, dozens of people rallied outside the museum on opening day. Some held signs, at least one of which asked mockingly, “Do you deny gravity 2?” while another stated, “Religion is the root cause of all terrorism.” Overhead, an airplane flew pulling a banner that read, “Thou Shall Not Lie.” And Lawrence Krauss, an author and physicist at Case Western Reserve University, when asked how he would rank the museum on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, stated, “I’d give it a 4 for technology, 5 for propaganda. As for content, I’d give it a negative 5.”

The irony of the protests coming from secularist free-thinkers was not lost on opening day attendee and Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Russell Moore:

One would think the secularist free-thinkers would want everyone to see the creationist account of origins, for the very sake of the contrast with what they would see as a more viable model. I can even understand Darwinist ridicule of a narrative that is so strikingly at odds with the current scientific consensus. What I cannot understand is the attempt to suppress the debate itself, whether through attempted zoning regulation mischief or through noisy planes overhead on opening day. Whatever happened to postmodernism?

In contrast to the vocal protestors, co-founder of the museum Mark Looy welcomed the dissent: “The guests were very happy with the museum experience. Of course, we had some naysayers come through and engage us in conversation, and that’s fine—we want them.”

This is the heart of the matter. Whereas the secularist free-thinkers want to suppress debate on the issue of origins, the “crazy fundamentalists” actually welcome the conversation. The most important story in the opening of the Creation Museum is not whether one is an “old-earth creationist” or a “young-earth creationist”—Christians will continue to debate this issue. (And, thankfully, the signs point to a conversation filled with more light and less heat.) The most important story here is the secular paranoia that results when Christians unashamedly, with fairness to opposing views, tell their story. And this is exactly what the Creation Museum does.

For example, Moore observed that at the museum “Darwinism … was everywhere, and fairly presented. In virtually every exhibit, on the ‘Lucy’ fossil or the carbon-14 dating or on the fossil record or on the Big Bang, the information included both the Darwinist-materialist explanation for the scientific data along with how the same data are interpreted by the Museum’s biblical creationist grid.” Clearly the founders of the Creation Museum are not afraid of Darwinism or angry at Darwinists—they do, however, offer a competing story.  

Perhaps it is helpful to consider the events surrounding the opening of the Creation Museum in the context of the emergence of “militant atheists” and their bestselling books. The anger and vitriol against religion by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins has found a receptive audience in America. For example, Hitchens’s latest tirade against religion, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” is currently #4 on The New York Times “Best Sellers” list. What marks Hitchens’s book and similar titles is their desire to not merely offer another worldview, but to stamp out religious belief altogether. Their tone is militant, aggressive and strident—traits that are usually associated in the media with Christian fundamentalists. So why all the hostility from the secularist free-thinkers?

Michael Novak offers a helpful insight in his recent review of Hitchens’s “God is Not Great” at National Review. After expressing disappointment at the “hostility” and “intellectual missteps” in the book, Novak posits this explanation for Hitchens’s conduct:

For something peculiar happens to Hitchens when he wrestles with God with murderous intent. Hitchens always loses (and may secretly suspect that). Preposterous as it seems, one senses he may fear that one day he will wake up and see it all plainly, right before his eyes. Otherwise, why year after year keep striking another stake in the heart of God?

Indeed, one day not only Christopher Hitchens and the protestors at the opening of the Creation Museum, but every human being, will “wake up to see it all clearly” right before their eyes. 

Mike Pohlman is an editor for National News and Public Affairs at Salem Communications. Contact Mike at [email protected]