Dinosaurs are making headlines. Scientists and educators are protesting Monday’s opening of a $27 million Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, where exhibits claim science supports a literal interpretation of Genesis–including a six-day creation–and that dinosaurs coexisted with humans.
Virtually unnoticed by media, meanwhile, a group of Southern Baptist associations in Florida are teaming up to provide a permanent home for “Noah’s Park,” a “gospel-fossil” exhibit aimed at proving the Bible’s story of a great flood destroying nearly all life on earth is literally true.
The Florida Baptist Witness reported May 17 the traveling exhibit, brainchild of former pastor and self-taught creationist Tom Baird, would be housed permanently at Middle Florida Baptist Assembly, a non-profit Christian camp privately owned by seven Southern Baptist associations.
Baird, who bills himself as the Gospel Fossil Man, said he came up with the concept 14 years ago, after watching the blockbuster film “Jurassic Park.”
Referencing the first chapter of Genesis, Baird says God created dinosaurs on the sixth day, along with other beasts of the field. Baird uses the description of “behemoth” in Job 40–a gigantic creature that “eats grass like and ox”–to argue the prophet was talking about a dinosaur.
“If we just simply let God speak,” Baird told the Witness, “God is describing [the dinosaur] to Job.”
That, Baird said, proves that “the dinosaurs had to go on the ark and come off the ark and were living hundreds of years at least after the flood.”
Critics of the Creation Museum opening in Petersburg, Ky., sponsored by the fundamentalist “Christian apologetics” ministry Answers in Genesis, call it scientific fraud aimed at deceiving the public.
One critic called it a “dangerous cultural experiment,” arguing that if Answers in Genesis can convince people the Genesis account of creation is literally true, then modern science must be incorrect.
As of Monday, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution–a group opposed to growing influence of the Religious Right–said it had collected signatures of more than 3,000 educators from all 50 states in a petition opposing the museum as the “most recent example of the religious right’s war on science education.” A companion “citizens petition” for non-educators topped 15,000 names.
The National Center for Science Education, meanwhile, a group that defends teaching of evolution in public schools, collected names of scientists at colleges and universities in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana expressing concern about “scientifically inaccurate” materials at the Kentucky museum.
Students who accept such material as “scientifically valid” are unlikely to succeed in college-level science courses, the professors said, and those who try will need remedial instruction in the nature of science, as well as in specific areas “misrepresented” by Answers in Genesis.
As of mid-day Thursday, 776 scientists had signed the petition, but none were from faculties of the region’s Baptist schools.
Billed as “biblical representation of the history of the world,” the 60,000-square-foot Creation Museum features computer-generated visual effects, life-sized animatronics of people and dinosaurs and a special-effects theater complete with “misty sea breezes” and rumbling seats. It appears designed to rival and counter museums of natural history throughout the world.
Estimated to be worth $100,000, Baird’s Florida collection of fossils and visuals is much more modest in scale. His for-the-time-being still-traveling road show includes actual fossils ranging from dinosaur eggs to excrement, replicas and plaster-cast models.
Two “air-support structures”–one accommodating 30 adults and a larger one holding 70–form a portable planetarium where presentations are held to demonstrate Psalm 19’s declaration, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”
While a few Christians believe Satan placed fossils in the earth to mislead Man into believing that evolution is true, Baird finds “overwhelming evidence” in the fossil record that dinosaurs are real.
Originally, he says, all living creatures, including dinosaurs and people, were created by God to be herbivorous, but some dinosaurs became meat-eaters some time after Adam sinned.
That doesn’t mean everyone should be total vegetarians, Baird says. “God told Noah to eat meat after the worldwide flood in Genesis 9,” he says on his Web site, “probably because vegetation alone would not supply all his bodily needs.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.