PETERSBURGH, Kentucky (AFP) — In a vast museum, a team of missionaries battling Darwin's theory of evolution have brought Genesis to life in exhibits where dinosaurs romp with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
"What we try to really achieve here is to let the people hear information that by and large is censored from the public and censored surely from the public schools in America where evolution is taught as fact," said co-founder Ken Ham.
The 27-million-dollar Creation Museum, which urges visitors in its publicity material "Prepare to Believe," aims to bring the Bible to life.
In so doing, it directly defies the theories on the evolution of Man put forward by British naturalist Charles Darwin, born 200 years ago on February 12.
His 1859 book "On the Origin of Species," setting out his ideas on evolution by natural selection, is now a cornerstone of modern biology.
But it is openly challenged by those who believe in a literal interpretation of the scriptures: that God created the world and all life in it in six days.
"When it comes to talk about the origins of the universe we were not there. Nobody saw the Big Bang," argues Ham, an Australian missionary who has moved to live in the United States.
This thin, former biology teacher in his mid-50s with an immaculately trimmed beard, admits creationists have an uphill task.
"In America, you don't have academic freedom in the government schools, they have thrown God and the Bible out and they have redefined science as naturalism," he told AFP.
"In other words, everything has to be explained by natural processes. That?s actually a religious position. It?s the religion of atheism."
Ham argues that evidence from the natural world does in fact support the creationist theory.
"An evolutionist and a creationist both have different beliefs, both have different religious positions. But we use the same observational science to confirm our position," he said.
"Evolution tries to confirm evolution, we say it doesn't. We say it confirms the creation account in the Bible. They say it doesn't."
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for millions of years, but were wiped out some 65 million years ago, long before the first modern humans emerged some 200,000 years ago.
But here in the 6,500 square meter (70,000-square-foot) state-of-the-art complex, animatronics dinosaurs prowl alongside Homo sapiens in sets designed by Patrick Marsh, the art director behind the "King Kong" and "Jaws" attractions at the Universal Studios theme park in Florida.
A total of 160 tableaux bring the Old Testament to life. There is the Garden of Eden, complete with a Tree of Knowledge and a serpent seeking to tempt Adam and Eve. Walking through the Cave of Sorrows, the visitors see the effects of the Fall of Man.
There's a representation of the scaffolding from Noah's Ark, as the animals seek to escape the Great Flood, and a Stargazers Planetarium which takes visitors on a ride to the edges of the universe.
Scientists say the Universe emerged from a Big Bang about 13.5 billion years ago and Earth dates back some four billion years. For them, the creation story is underpinned by faith but not by any shred of evidence.
They also accuse activists of repackaging creationism as "intelligent design" and stealthily campaigning to get it equal billing alongside evolution in the teaching of science to US schoolchildren.
Despite this counter-attack, the Creation Museum says it has seen more than 500,000 visitors flood through its doors since it opened in mid-2007.
And to mark Darwin's 200th birthday, the Creation Museum has devoted its latest edition of its quarterly magazine "Answers" to the British naturalist whose theories overturned the world of science.
The glossy magazine, with 50,000 subscribers, maintains that had Darwin interpreted his ground-breaking research at the Galapagos Islands through a biblical perspective he would have arrived at very different conclusions.
"I come here because this museum tells the truth about creationism," said Kelly Page from Buffalo, New York, visiting with his wife and two young children.
"You cannot have evolution and God," he said.
In the Creation Museum, dinosaurs are presented as another of God's creations which escaped the flood with Noah on the Ark. Some visitors put forward the notion that they were just big lizards, which no longer exist.
Another visitor, Robert Carr, a retired chief executive and contributor to the museum, said that in the early days of the Universe, time stretched differently.
"When the Universe was smaller, the gravitational effect was huge and the time on Earth would have been a billion times slower," Carr said. This would explain why God created the Earth in six days, he believed.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »