Another look at Ham’s Folly

Stephen Bates of the Guardian gets an advance tour of Ken Ham’s new creation science museum. It’s amusing and creepy at the same time.

When it is finished and open to the public next summer, it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world.

The Creation Museum — motto: “Prepare to Believe!” — will be the first institution in the world whose contents, with the exception of a few turtles swimming in an artificial pond, are entirely fake. It is dedicated to the proposition that the account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis is completely correct, and its mission is to convince visitors through a mixture of animatronic models, tableaux and a strangely Disneyfied version of the Bible story.

“Entirely fake” is right—the title is a misnomer, it’s not a museum, it’s a carnie show. A very serious, very expensive, very elaborate freak show exhibit.

[The workers], too, know they are doing the Lord’s Work, and each has signed a contract saying they believe in the Seven Days of Creation theory. Mornings on this construction site start with prayer meetings. Don’t think for a minute that this is some sort of crazy little hole-in-the-corner project. The museum is costing $25m (£13m) and all but $3m has already been raised from private donations. It is strategically placed, too — not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours’ drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US. And, as we know, up to 50 million of them do believe that the Bible’s account of Creation is literally true.

That 50 million is a very conservative estimate, I fear.

You know, I hate to give these guys any money, but I would like to propose that sometime after that “museum” opens, we should organize a mob of sciencebloggers (and others) to descend upon it, take the tour, and coordinate a massive storm of ridicule. I am, unfortunately, more than a six hour drive away, so I’d have to fly in to Cincinnati to do it, but I’d be willing. Is there anyone else who’d be up for a vivisection without anesthesia of Ken Ham’s Temple of Idiocy? Depending on when they actually finish the foolishness, maybe late summer 2007 or early summer 2008?


  1. says

    You know, that is such a tempting offer but with the X thousand miles I’d have to fly I must pass on this occasion. I would so dearly love to be there…

  2. Bryn says

    Will mocking and pointing and laughing (loudly) be allowed or would we all be restricted to cries of, “Anathema!” and “Heresy!” in keeping with the environment? More importantly, can we bring popcorn?

    Seriously, when I think of the number of worthwhile things that could be done with $25 million, I want to barf to see it wasted on BS like this. One of our local food banks says they can purchase food for about half the retail price. $50 million worth of food would feed a whole lot of people…

  3. dale says

    Perhaps Ham will go the way of Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino)who had a roadside exhibit in Florida promoting the same theme.
    Hovind and his wife have been convicted of tax evasion and related felonies and are facing 225 years in prison.

  4. says

    I’ll try to be there for that! Sadly, coming over from Europe just for that is hard to justify. However, the SVP meeting will be in Cleveland in the fall of 2008. Perhaps we could push it to then?

  5. says

    not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours’ drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US.

    Methinks the foreigners _vastly_ underestimate the the size of our fair country. Sixteen hours, maybe, but that would be stretching it.

  6. craig says

    Maybe like real museums he’ll have a free admission day. That’s the only way I’d ever go.

  7. says

    Hmmm…combining it with a field trip by a group of professional vertebrate paleontologists would be a hoot. I see that that meeting is 15-18 October 2008…that might be a bit late, and wouldn’t coincide well with most people’s vacation time (although UMM does have a fall break from the 20th-24th that year). Maybe that would be a second trip.

    I’m sure that after I go the first time and get converted by all their evidence, I’ll want to go again and again.

  8. bybelknap says

    How is this for complete craziness?
    From the article:
    Dr Jason Lisle said of obtaining his Ph.D. in astrophysics, “I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs.”

    What does that even mean?! I know my beliefs are wrong but I believe them anyway? Or I know what I know but I choose not to believe it? Or I regurgitated falsehoods about the age of the universe to get a degree, but I know that god really did it 6K years ago?

    Someone please explain this insanity to me!

  9. lylebot says

    “Six hours drive of two-thirds of the population of the U.S.”? That sounds way wrong. The combined population of Florida, California, Texas, and New York is about 90 million, all more than 6 hours away from Cincinnati (except maybe for some parts of western New York). There’s no way there are 200 million people within six hours of Cincinnati.

  10. plunge says

    This place is in Cincinatti? I had no idea this was in my state. I’m totally there, provided there is a free day (though, knowing creationists, there won’t be one: maybe we can organize a group rate?)

  11. quork says

    not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours’ drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US

    Possible explanations:

    1) Maybe they got the miles to kilometers thing backwards.
    2) Maybe they’re using “Creation math”, of the kind that dates dinosaur fossils to 6000 years.

  12. Heather Kuhn says

    Just an observation: The Guardian is a British paper. I’ll just bet that Ben Goldacre of the Bad Science column is the only person on the Guardian staff who’d have any awareness of other creationist museums, and he wasn’t consulted. We are talking about a primarily American phenomenon after all.

    If I can afford it, I’ll join the deluge. BTW, I’d like to know where that hour figure comes from though. It’s an eight hour drive across the Commonwealth of PA before getting to Ohio. I can’t imagine that assorted East coast cities are any closer.

  13. says

    I’m all in for the organized visit. I’m within the 6 hour range.

    I would strongly suggest that those who attend derive a strategy for it, instead of just showing up and firing heated questions. We would want such a visit to have the effect of changing indoctrinated minds rather than providing a demonstration of what would be perceived as vitriolic evolutionist attacks. I was once a YEC, and my mind was changed by the content, correctness, and reasonable-ness of the scientific message. If we do go, we should ensure — as much as it depends on us — that this message is heard, not just noise.

  14. C.W says

    Says the museum’s research scientist, Dr Jason Lisle:

    “I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs.”

    Poor guy. That amount of cognitive dissonance could kill an elephant from 150 meters distance.

  15. Hank Fox says

    I’ll go.

    I’m seeing something hopeful in the opening of this “museum”, though. If you have this holy, solemn belief, and someone turns it into an amusement park, the equivalent of bubblegum pop music, it can’t help but diminish the depth of it. Sure there may be BROADER exposure to the idea, but that may translate into SHALLOWER too. (In metaphor-speak: A little bit of oil can form a large slick on a lake, but it’s only a molecule or so thick. You can SEE it, but there’s nothing there to feel.)

    Seems to me that religion, despite being public, depends on a certain lack of bright spotlights being shone on it.

    Just as that Jesus Camp place recently closed after public exposure in a documentary, Ham’s offering may be the self-dooming last straw for creation science.

    All of us know that Ham is a parasite, and probably a conscious one. Now maybe members of his would-be flock will have a chance to find it out too. Certainly the growing backlash in the scientific community will become more and more noticed by the media covering the issue. Overall, I’ll bet the coverage will be less than serious.

    You have to know that Jon Stewart will be all over it. I’m chuckling already.

    If the blogger group doesn’t go early, right after the opening, we might miss out on the fun.

  16. says

    Heh. It sounds like we could get quite a crowd showing up.

    I’ll mentally file this away. When there is an actual, real, live, formal announcement that the “museum” has opened its doors to the public, I’ll bring up this subject again. I’ll also call the “museum”, let ’em know we want to show up, see if we can get a group rate, etc., and then we can start thinking about possible dates.

    For now, it’s probably premature to schedule anything. You know those creationists: what they thought was a 7 day job actually took 4.5 billion years, so don’t trust their estimates.

  17. says

    Plunge: Actually, it’s in Northern Kentucky. But close enough.

    I’m in Cincinnati, and would love to be involved in something like this.

    Keep us updated.

  18. says

    Hank Fox wrote:

    Seems to me that religion, despite being public, depends on a certain lack of bright spotlights being shone on it.

    CITOKATE: “Criticism is the only known antidote to error.” Cut off the flow of criticism, and you know what you get?

    PZ Myers wrote:

    For now, it’s probably premature to schedule anything. You know those creationists: what they thought was a 7 day job actually took 4.5 billion years, so don’t trust their estimates.

    Ha! =)

  19. says

    I doubt I could go until 2008, but I promise to keep a blog journal about the Galapagos trip next May, which beats animaltronics in a completely contrived environment anytime. (What, Ham can’t figure out how to resurrect the real dinosaurs? I should think that prayer could do it–has he even asked?)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this add-dinosaurs-and-stir approach to Genesis is only going to whet the appetite of kids for dinosaurs in Sunday school classes. What a disappointment they will get when they actually read the Bible.

  20. says

    The whole I-75 corridor tends to get real Jesusy outside Cincinnati proper. Scripture billboards, Holy Spirit mudflaps, giant plaster statues. It’ll fit right in.

  21. Rienk says

    I’m there… it would be like a second Mardi Gras for me! More people here who want to be part of the New Orleans / Gulf Coast delegation to have nice party at this “museum”?

    (Granted, if I’m still in the country and not back in Europe)

  22. steve s says

    If a group of paleontologists & biologists organized to go loudly tour the museum, I would fly in for that. That would be great to watch.

  23. Scott Hatfield says

    PZ: Count me in. That little jaunt seems worth a plane ride. Keep me posted.

    BTW, I’ve discovered that my local county superintendent of school’s church is sponsoring a lecture series on ‘creation’ based upon professional obsfucator Lee Strobel’s materials.

    I intend to attend their little enclave on Wednesday evening and make a stink about it. I’d appreciate your prayers as I….but wait, oops, sorry, force of habit and all that….:)

    Seriously, I’m going into the lion’s den in a few days and I’ll let y’all know how that went down. If there’s anyone in the Fresno area interested in coming with me, you can reach me at:

  24. quork says

    I would strongly suggest that those who attend derive a strategy for it, instead of just showing up and firing heated questions.

    Heated questions? Why no, I think it should be a festive occasion. We could all show up wearing FSM hats!

  25. Tulle says

    Someone please explain to me how someone with Ph.D. in astrophysics could believe that the universe is only 6000 years old. How does he explain seeing stars much more than that distance away. And I mean MUCH more. Does is think God is a pratical joker?

  26. says

    PZ, don’t do it! Two of my friends and I went to Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidence Museum (read: Trailer) a few months ago, and departing with our $2 was the most painful experience of our lives. We didn’t teach anyone anything, and as a result of our visit the Trailer was $6 richer. Morever, immediately afterwards my twitch was aggravated, my friend lost several hairs, and my other friend almost certainly aborted something spontaneously.

    I say, only do it if you can go on a free day.

  27. says

    Ken Ham whines in his latest fundraising letter (yeah, I’m on his mailing list) that the creation museum has been disproportionately soaking up contributions to Answers in Genesis and they need more. If people send him more money, he promises to use it on his secret weapon.

    Details here.

  28. David Harmon says

    Quork: More possible reasons for their “six hour drive” claims:

    3) They consider that all those big coastal cities are known Citidels Of Evil Atheists, so they aren’t really part of “America Under God”.

    4) Speed limits are only laws of the secular government, so no right-thinking Christian should feel obligated to obey them….

  29. says

    I’d be up for a visit with the group. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be teaching HS Biology and there might be some way to make this into a teachable moment (you know – what NOT to believe). As it now stands, I won’t be required to present this fairy tale in the classroom in Ohio (if you look at the state standards, the spot where creationism used to be is marked as “deleted” – I can’t tell you how much I love that they left the number on the list, but simply marked it as “deleted”). I just hope it stays that way – and plan to help fight the battle.

  30. says

    Sounds like a worthy road/field trip for the Jedi Temple Academy (our little homeschool). We’ll pack up the Airstream and head on out!

  31. Bob O'H says

    Was I the only one who found this funny?

    We pass the site where one day an animatronic Adam will squat beside the Tree.

    OK, not sophisticated humour, but I laughed.


  32. Great White Wonder says

    So when can we expect the Discovery Institute to step and attack Ken Ham’s museum for its misrepresentation of science?

    Based on the DI’s rhetoric, one would guess that would be a top priority.

  33. Mary says

    Sorry for this, but, would this be considered a “Museum of Natural Mystery”?

    ;) Kidding – it doesn’t deserve such a nice name.

  34. Anuminous says

    Oh, my lack of god. Darn you to heck for reminding me of this insane place. I now have the following image stuck in my head:

    Patrons drift by in little boats, while animatronic animals march up the plank to the ark two by two. Noah and family are swaying at the rail, leading everybody in a rousing chorus of “It’s a Young World After All”

    There, now you are all stuck with it as well.

  35. Patrick says

    The creationists organize their little tours of real museums, given from their perspective. We could do a similar thing. I’d be willing to head out there for that.

  36. says

    Since creationists do “biblically correct” tours of real science museums, wouldn’t it be appropriate to offer “scientifically correct” tours of creation science museums?

    (Unfortunately the difference is that this museum is privately owned and the museums where the “biblically correct” tours run are publicly owned.)

  37. Millimeter Wave says

    I liked this part:

    The museum’s planetarium is his pride and joy. Lisle writes the commentary. “Amazing! God has a name for each star,” it says…

    I guess they didn’t notice that almost all common star names sound kind of Arabic… because they are (specifically Farsi, IIRC). That is to say, they were made up by (gasp) Muslims. So…
    “God has a name for each star” implies what, exactly?

  38. says

    Yes, and since this museum is privately owned, I would first clear it with them before organizing anything: we would have to be upfront that we’re a gang of evolutionists, we’re there to criticize (although we’d abide by any rules they want to impose and not disturb other visitors), and we would almost certainly not be kind in our post-visit analysis.

    Although we could promise to let Ken Ham take a shot at converting us.

  39. says

    Yeah, was confused/doubtful about the statement that it was within six hours’ drive of two-thirds of the US population. Perhaps they’re counting each state entirely or not at all? Like, if you can reach the Florida panhandle in five hours and 59 minutes from this place in Kentucky, they’re counting the entire population of Florida? Doubtful, but it seems like the least unfactual explanation I could come up with.

  40. Ottnott says

    Well dang, PZ.

    I was really looking forward to video of the group wearing approprate garb for the visit…Flinstones costumes.

    At the very least, give us all the details of the Virus and Parasite Creation hall, with its exhibits on the various godly creations that bring agony to millions of babies and children very year.

  41. Scott Hatfield says


    Hey, I once went to Dr. Baugh’s museum, which is right on the outskirts of Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glenrose, Texas.

    I have an entire Power Point about *both* places which I use to explain why creationists like Baugh are a phoney. When they actually see that his ‘museum’ is a converted single-wide mobile home and that the exhibits include a portrait of Jesus they can pretty much figure out that he’s a con man.

    If anyone would like a copy of *that* Power Point, just let me know!

  42. says

    Scott, my friend, you have too much time on your hand.
    You could use a ballpoint pen to prove that Carl Baugh is a money-loving fraud.

  43. says

    I’m definitely game. Tell me when to show and I’ll be there.

    I want to stand in front of the building with an “I’m with stupid –>” sign.

  44. says

    If there is anyway I can swing it at the time, I’ll be there. If enough bloggers show up we can have a convention and call it Pharyngupalooza.

    It would be my first time across the Mississippi; do I get a toaster or something for that?

  45. j says

    Sounds like a cool idea. Take pictures, criticize, and then set up an anti-Ham website that we can all Googlebomb.

  46. Scott Hatfield says

    Stanton wrote: “Scott, my friend, you have too much time on your hand. You could use a ballpoint pen to prove that Carl Baugh is a money-loving fraud.”

    Well, sure, if you have the context that comes with education and experience. But most of my students don’t. Besides, most of the Power Point focuses on the very real science you can find at Glenrose’s famous fossils. You should see the looks on my student’s faces when they see Baugh’s outfit with their own eyes. I believe that this experience will help condition them to think more critically when they encounter creationist claims that are more slickly-packaged…..SH

  47. says

    I’ll go. Not sure I can maintain my composure but I’d be willing to give it a try, if only to see exactly how Eve was created from Adam’s rib.

  48. Hank Fox says

    I don’t feel obligated to tell Ken Ham, et al., anything. It’s not like this is some kind of organization.

    We’re talking about a collection of individuals who — really — hardly know each other. Of all the people I correspond with on the web, I’ve met exactly one, in a single face-to-face meeting of about 20 minutes.

    This potential “group,” if you can call it that, is less formally organized than a similar number of Democrats, or people who subscribe to Playboy.

  49. George says

    “T. rex–the real king of the beasts. That’s the terror that Adam’s sin unleashed! You’ll run into this monster lurking near Adam and Eve. How’s this possible? Find out soon!”

    Hard to resist that! I’m looking forward to finding out whether Adam manured his fields with T.Rex’s shit. So many questions!

  50. says

    The museum, IIRC, is near a Ky state park called “Big Bone Lick.”

    During the Pleistocene Epoch, over 15-thousand years ago, a huge ice sheet covered the ground all the way from Canada down to the Ohio River. On the edges of this ice sheet, great herds of giant mastodons, wooly mammoths and ground sloths were attracted to the warm salt springs that still bubble from the earth at Big Bone Lick State Park.

    The salty marsh that attracted these prehistoric visitors sometimes proved to be a fatal attraction. Animals became trapped and perished in what the early pioneers called “jelly ground,” leaving skeletons and interesting clues about life in prehistoric Kentucky.

    The fossilized remains of these prehistoric animals were discovered in 1739 and displayed extensively at museums throughout the world. Notable Americans such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin personally examined the fossils, many of which are on display today at Big Bone Lick Museum. The scientific community recognizes the site as the “Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology.”

    It certainly might make for a good place to meet up, have a BBQ, etc.

  51. Emily says

    After spending hours picking up creationist literature from the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History hoping that no visitors stumble on it, you can bet I’ll be at the Creationist Museum. Though I plan to be more polite than the Creationists have been to the other staff and volunteers at our museum. I won’t actively work to make their teenage volunteers cry. :p

  52. lo says

    If filming is permitted, i`d really be keen to get so see some parody about this idiocy. I can already see the vivid storyline unfolding in front of me.

  53. says

    You folks can of course do what you want, but I am rather disturbed by the thought of giving money to these charlatans. I suspect it is too late now, what with people discussing the plan openly, but at least one could try to negotiate a group rate …