Falling visitor rates at the infamous Creation Museum in Kentucky have resulted in some ingenuity on the part of its founder, Ken Ham.
In a bid to attract more visitors, Ham, who is also the president of Answers in Genesis and professes to be a scientist despite holding only a bachelor’s degree in applied science, has overseen the development of a new, allegedly non-religious exhibit. According to the Dayton Daily News, Ham believes this new “family fun adventure” will appeal to a wide audience.
“That’s what we wanted to see, because it will bring in a broader range of people in here and provide something for the community as well – they don’t have to go to the Creation Museum, they can just come for the zip lines,” Ham told the newspaper.
Ham may want us to come for the zip lines, but we’re not so easily fooled. This isn’t the beginning of a new and more scientifically accurate phase for the Creation Museum. It’s marketing. It might be milder, but fundamentalist evangelism packaged as a family friendly adventure is still evangelism. The museum’s other new exhibits make Ham’s claims to inclusivity especially suspect.
Lest we think he’s lost his touch for pseudoscience, behold Dr. Crawley’s Insectorium. Donated by a supporter, this new exhibit features hundreds of beetles, butterflies and other insects – and an animatronic professor who tells visitors that the insects are just too complex to have evolved.
And consider the Ark Encounter. Stalled for now thanks to other new exhibits, it’s still in the works; Ham told the newspaper that he hopes to open it in 2016. The Ark Encounter will, as its name suggests, feature a replica ark based on biblical literalist interpretations of the Book of Genesis.
If you follow us, you might remember the Ark Encounter. In 2011, Americans United vehemently opposed Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s plan to give a $43 million tax break to the Ark Encounter. Beshear eventually approved the tax break. Two years later, the people of Kentucky have yet to reap the alleged benefits of this project – and I imagine that building it has been quite the task, given Ham’s conviction that two of every dinosaur on Earth fit into the boat in question.
So the Creation Museum obviously hasn’t changed its focus. It’s as religiously motivated as ever, and its new zip lines were never intended to change that. As blogger Hemant Mehta observed, the museum’s new seeker-friendly exhibit exists “…for the same reason evangelical megachurches have amazing bands open their worship sessions – it has nothing to do with the service itself, but it might draw in a different crowd.”
Ken Ham’s definition of inclusivity is as creative as his definition of science. He may say that his new non-religious exhibit is intended for the entire community, but as long as the rest of his museum is intended to convert visitors that gesture doesn’t mean much.
His entire career has centered on peddling suspect science as a conversion tactic. He’s referred to Darwinism as a “philosophy of death” and actively encourages churches to use attacks on evolution as an instrument of evangelism.
Ham is entitled to evangelize however he wants, but he’s not entitled to tax breaks to help fund his fundamentalist roadside attraction. And if he’s concerned about dwindling numbers, maybe he should be honest enough to admit that what he’s pushing isn’t science, it’s typical biblical fundamentalism.
Maybe, just maybe, the reason for the museum’s drop in visitors isn’t poor marketing. Maybe the anti-intellectualism Ham peddles is finally losing its cultural sway. That’s my hope.
And if that’s the case, even fancy zip lines won’t be enough to save the Creation Museum from itself.