PETERSBURG, Ky. – Like most natural history museums, this one has exhibits showing dinosaurs roaming the Earth. Except here, the giant reptiles share the forest with Adam and Eve.
That, of course, is contradicted by science, but that's the point of the $25 million Creation Museum rising fast in rural Kentucky.
Its inspiration is the Bible — the literal interpretation that contends God created the heavens and the Earth and everything in them just a few thousand years ago.
"If the Bible is the word of God, and its history really is true, that's our presupposition or axiom, and we are starting there," museum founder Ken Ham said during recent tour of the sleek and modern facility, which is due to open next year.
Ham, an Australian native who started the Christian publishing company Answers in Genesis in the late 1970s, said the goal of his privately funded museum is to change minds and rebut the scientific point of view.
"We're going to show you that we can make sense of the different people groups, we can make sense of fossils, we can make sense of what you see in the world," he said.
Visitors to the museum, a few miles from Cincinnati, will be able to watch the story of creation unfold in a 180-seat special-effects theater, see a 40-foot-tall recreation of a section of Noah's Ark and stare into the jaws of robotic dinosaurs.
"It's education, but it's also doing it in an entertaining way," Ham said.
Scientists say fossils and sophisticated nuclear dating technology show that the Earth is more than 4 billion years old, the first dinosaurs appeared around 200 million years ago, and they died out well before the first human ancestors arose a few million years ago.
"Genesis is not science," said Mary Dawson, curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. "Genesis is a tale that was handed down for generations by people who really knew nothing about science, who knew nothing about natural history, and certainly knew nothing about what fossils were."
Ham said he believes most fossils are the result of the Great Flood described in Genesis.
Mark Looy, a vice president at Answers in Genesis, said the museum has received at least $21 million in private donations. He said two anonymous donors have given $1 million, and he expects the museum to be debt-free when it opens next May.
John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, an organization that promotes creationism, said the museum will affirm the doubts many people have about science, namely the notion that man evolved from lower forms of life.
"Americans just aren't gullible enough to believe that they came from a fish," he said.