Not everyone here in the Bluegrass State was delighted by the 2007 opening of the Creation Museum in Boone County. “There’s been such a push in recent years to improve science education,” a representative of the Kentucky Paleontology Society gloomily observed, yet creationism “still hangs around.” Church-state separation activists were particularly upset that the government in Frankfort has extended to the museum millions in tax credit, and the Lexington Herald-Leader only stoked the fire with its claim that Answers In Genesis—the museum’s parent organization—has exaggerated the economic benefit of creationist tourism. AIG has thus far overcome legal challenges to its initiative, however, and its ambitious project entered phase two last year when Amish carpenters and AIG workmen completed a gigantic representation of Noah’s ark in nearby Grant County. For the fundamentalist, northern Kentucky is well on its way to becoming a cross between Rome and Disney World. “Take your family on a vacation with purpose,” reads an advertisement for an upcoming conference featuring AIG president Ken Ham.
The museum grounds enclose a petting zoo, the pleasant greenery of Japanese-style gardens, and a series of ponds traversable by pontoon bridges. Inside the museum are a planetarium, lecture hall, gift shops, and “The Walk Through History.” This last is the tour proper, a collection of dioramas, images, and commentary neatly encapsulating the creationist narrative. The tour begins by setting forth a stark metaphysical choice: We may embrace the Enlightenment doctrine “I think, therefore I am,” the museum narration tells us, or we may bow before God’s “I am that I am.” The visitor then steps across the ages to see a dawn of man quite different from the one envisioned in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001. Adam and Eve cozily bob around together in a pool in Eden, rather like a honeymooning couple in a hot tub; an insidious serpent hovers in darkness, inaugurating the Fall; our distraught primal parents stand before a blood-smeared altar, offering up in atonement what appears to be an antelope.
When the visitor reaches modern history, he sees this decline from grace repeat itself with the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, when Clarence Darrow defended a schoolteacher who had violated a Tennessee law against teaching evolution. Although Darrow lost, the ensuing media circus bolstered Darwinism, and hagiographic movies like Inherit the Wind have transformed Darrow into a hero of science and progress. To indict America’s post-Scopes culture through its own words, one wall has been plastered with dozens of irreverent covers clipped from issues of popular magazines. “Is God Dead?” wonders Time. Another clipping quotes an atheist gloating that “the Christian church in this country will be dead and buried within forty years.” Just to drive home the point, the tour path goes through a model of a dysfunctional home, with tags at various spots relating statistics about drug abuse, divorce, abortion, and depression. In one corner the visitor is greeted by a battered, multiple-locked door, across which the phrase “The world’s not safe anymore” has been scrawled diagonally with a knife.
Other presentations are less apocalyptic, and instead try to bridge the gap between fundamentalism and modern science. There is an Allosaurus fragilis skeleton set up in a large display case, and a meteorite, and a collection of images from Mount St. Helens. This last is accompanied by a placard describing how canyons can form quite rapidly following the eruptions of volcanoes—one of the key notions of creationism, since a young earth would necessarily require geological phenomena to occur much more swiftly than conventional geology suggests.
Clearly, the museum is not about merely relaying images and information, but about selling a worldview. Yet as AIG’s chief communications officer Mark Looy noted in a recent issue of the organization’s journal, secular humanists are as brazen, though less forthright, about foisting their own creed on society:
While atheistic humanists argue there must be a total separation of church and state, they refuse to admit that their own belief system is, by the actual dictionary definition, religious. Correctly defining terms helps expose to the general world the hypocrisy of atheists who chant the mantra of church-state separation.
Christians need to be careful not to let others set the terms of debate. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion among all Americans. The Founding Fathers believed all citizens, whether Christians or atheists, should be free to share their beliefs without the government abusing its power and imposing one set of beliefs over others.
Lest the reader get the impression that secular humanists are AIG’s only opponents, I should point out here that the organization is on none-too-friendly terms with Francis Collins, the evangelical and geneticist who directed the Human Genome Project. As an advocate for reconciliation between evolutionary and religious perspectives, Collins has censured young-earth creationism as “an unjustified scientific gloss” applied to “a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis,” and builds his case upon the exegetical tradition, particularly Saint Augustine’s On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis.
“What kind of days” the six days of Creation were, says Augustine, having noted the mysterious, poetic, and even surreal aspects of Genesis, “it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive.” Elsewhere Augustine warns that
It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.
It is one thing to recognize that the Bible contains answers and quite another to treat it as if it were a science or history textbook stuffed with answers that are neat, tidy, and accessible through wooden readings. When pulled from the relatively wholesome context of folk fundamentalism and forced into the contours of an elaborate, systematic theory, creationism can look a lot like a rationalist ideology, insofar as it tries to explain everything through a rigid formula revolving around an idée fixe. It is also worth observing that in politics AIG often echoes the same errors of the mainstream secular society it seeks to resist. For instance, far from protecting “the free exercise of religion among all Americans” so that “all citizens” receive a federal license to speak, dress, and behave however they like in public, the Constitution was supposed to guarantee that the federal government would keep its intrusive nose out of the varied religious cultures of the various sovereign states.
Still, no honest observer could deny that Looy and his colleagues are quite right about some things. Secular liberalism really is a religion in disguise; and, even if creationists are paranoid, that doesn’t mean the modern world isn’t out to get them—and Christians generally. In 2011, for instance, the University of Kentucky agreed to a $125,000 settlement after being sued by an astronomer who had applied to head up the university’s observatory; subpoenaed emails revealed that he had been passed over by the hiring committee because his personal web page expressed his Christian convictions. Although the evangelical astronomer in question was, like Francis Collins, explicitly critical of creationism, committee members nonetheless fretted that “he would not be here one month before the Herald-Leader headline would read: ‘UK hires creationist to direct new student observatory.’” In one particularly damning message, the head of the search committee conceded the applicant’s superior credentials, only to admit frankly that, while
other reasons will be given for the choice . . . the real reason we will not offer him the job is because of his religious beliefs in matters that are unrelated to astronomy or to any of the other duties specified for this position.
In this case UK was caught red-handed, leaving us to wonder how many other times it and other institutions have gotten away with quietly enforcing secularist orthodoxy in violation of liberalism’s own professed commitment to neutrality.
Insofar as there is a serious war on science it is being waged not by Christians of any stripe, but by leftists. Who attacked James Watson and drove him from the public square? Not creationists, but militant egalitarians offended by Professor Watson’s remarks about IQ and race. So it is hard to have much patience with the typical self-styled champion of science, who is brave when it comes to mocking the socially marginalized yet discreetly silent about the suppression of a genius who received a Nobel Prize for discovering the double helix. Nor, for that matter, is the most extravagant creationist theory about prehistoric times more bizarre than the feminist denial of sex-rooted behavioral differences that are right before our eyes. Is it really plausible that evolution has deferred to political correctness by mysteriously exempting Homo sapiens from the principle of sexual dimorphism, that a few superficial appendages are the only things that distinguish human males from females? When it comes to speaking idiotically about matters that may be known by reasoning or experience, nobody outdoes today’s liberal elite—except, perhaps, their conservative establishment allies.
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