Monday, August 08, 2005

Fahrenheit 451: "The temperature at which books burn..."

Museum exhibits a creationist viewpoint

By Lisa Anderson
Tribune national correspondent
Sun Aug 7, 9:40 AM ET

Tucked into a leafy fold of the Ozark Mountains, a new dinosaur museum boldly goes where few museums have gone before--deep into the pages of Genesis.

At first glance, with its research-quality replicas and lush dioramas of prehistoric Earth, the Museum of Earth History, which opened in April in this Victorian spa town, may seem like any other facility devoted to dinosaurs and fossils. But with exhibits aligned with the Bible's six days of creation, it also is emblematic of the increasing volume in the national debate over how evolution should be taught in public schools and the emboldening of those who oppose or question evolution.

At issue, in state legislatures, school boards, museums and other cultural institutions across the country, is whether evolution, Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that all life descended from common ancestors and developed through natural selection and random mutation, should be presented alone or in conjunction with alternative explanations.

Most visitors to the Museum of Earth History prefer the explanation in Genesis. And that is exactly what the museum, a joint project of the non-profit, Oklahoma-based Creation Truth Foundation and Eureka Springs' Great Passion Play outdoor Bible theme park, offers.

Suspended overhead in one display, for example, is a replica of a Pteranodon, a pointy-headed flying reptile with a 33-foot wingspan, hollow bones and a bony ruffle on its skull. Visitors are told: "Each of these unique design features indicate that Pteranodons were created to fly, not that they slowly evolved into flying creatures."

Similar creationist viewpoints appear on plaques throughout the museum, a 3,500-square-foot prototype for a series of regional museums 10 times that size, the first of which is planned for Dallas in 2007.



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