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Creation Museum welcomes atheists, critics

PETERSBURG, Ky. (BP)–Mark Looy knows what people are saying.

As chief communications officer for the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, Looy keeps close tabs on what’s being said about the museum on websites and blog posts.

“We usually know within hours if something has been posted about the Creation Museum,” said Looy, who also is co-founder of the museum and its parent ministry, Answers in Genesis.

Ever since it opened in May 2007, the Creation Museum in Petersburg — near where the borders of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana meet — has become an international phenomenon.

According to its website, the Creation Museum is a “walk through history” museum designed to “counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn minds against Scripture and Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe.”

The museum promotes young earth creationism, the belief that the world was created by God in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. This belief contrasts sharply with the widely accepted scientific theory that the earth is billions of years old.

The museum has garnered its share of supporters, many of them prominent evangelical Christians.

But those talking loudest about the museum are its detractors, many of whom consider themselves atheists and/or adhere to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I’m amazed almost every day on a blog or a website someone is critiquing the Creation Museum from an evolutionary perspective,” Looy said.

He noted that remarks about the museum typically range from “vile, profane comments to mocking,” although some evolutionists acknowledge the museum’s high-tech appeal, “even though they disagree with the message.”

While most of what is said resides within the relative anonymity of cyberspace, Creation Museum staff do sometimes get an opportunity to meet their critics face to face.

At its grand opening two years ago, Kentucky’s chapter of American Atheists organized a “Rally for Reason” near the museum entrance, greeting the first visitors with protest signs and loud music. Looy said the group even had a plane flying overhead pulling an anti-creationism banner.

Even before the Creation Museum’s doors opened, more than 2,000 science educators — most of them on the university level — signed petitions challenging the museum’s teachings. The petitions stated that creationism has no place in science education.

Looy said that occasionally skeptics — atheists, evolutionists, humanists, etc. — will visit the museum and cause a small commotion by making comments about the exhibits or presentations. Very rarely is security asked to escort a visitor from the museum due to a disruption, Looy said; never has a confrontation become hostile or violent.

Unless a visitor is wearing something that presents him or her as a skeptic, museum personnel usually do not know about them. When they show up in large groups, that gets the staff’s attention, Looy said.

One of the highest profile visits to the Creation Museum came in August when 285 members of the Secular Student Alliance arrived to tour the facility.

Looy said museum staff communicated with SSA organizer, Lyz Liddell, prior to the group’s visit.

Leading up to the visit, SSA members threatened all kinds of disruptions at the museum. While most never happened, Looy said the visit wasn’t entirely without incident.

Several times, SSA members were asked to keep their voices down when loudly criticizing some of the exhibits as well as a presentation by Jason Lisle, an astronomer and astrophysicist who serves as a speaker and researcher for the Creation Museum.

One SSA member was asked to leave after refusing to stop videotaping a conversation between an atheist student and a family from Virginia who claimed their visit had been disrupted by the students’ comments.

Looy said that the 285 SSA members represented little more than one-tenth of the museum’s visitors that day. Museum personnel primarily were concerned with making sure the students did not ruin the experience for the other 2,000 people.

Looy said he appreciated the SSA group’s visit and welcomed them — and all similar groups — to return to the museum.

However, in a vitriolic post-visit rant on his blog, outspoken atheist and biology professor PZ Myers called the Creation Museum a “haunted house” and a “carnival ride.”

Claiming that it presents no scientific evidence to back its claims, Myers said the Creation Museum deserves only “profound disrespect and ridicule.”

Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis president and museum co-founder, responded to the criticism on his own blog, saying that Myers “is obviously very angry at God and relishes in mocking Christianity — spending a lot of time fighting against someone he doesn’t believe exists.”

Despite the online war of words, Looy emphasized that “we welcome atheist groups and humanist groups because they’ve probably never heard the other side of the story.”

So, why the vehement disdain for creationism?

“They possess a worldview that’s far different than ours,” Looy pointed out. “They believe that the world — the universe — was created without a purpose. Therefore, they can do whatever they want when it comes to morality and how they conduct themselves in this world.

“Their anger clearly indicates that our worldview is in conflict with theirs, and they can’t stand people who have a way of living and standards based on the Bible that go contrary to what they want to do.”

In an increasingly secular society, Looy said the Creation Museum’s mission is “to equip Christians to be able to answer some of the tough questions that our secular world sometimes can throw at them.”

While the museum is seen as a place where visitors can get their questions answered through “Scripture and science,” Looy said the Creation Museum’s overarching function is as an “evangelistic facility.”

“The last thing I would want is someone to leave the Creation Museum and say, ‘OK, I’m a creationist, I’ve given up evolution,’ but they don’t become a Christian,” Looy said. “In terms of eternity, that doesn’t accomplish anything if they just give up on evolution and believe in a creator.

“They need to accept the fact that Christ is more than just our Creator … He’s our Savior.”
Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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