The new $30 million, 60,000-square-foot Creation Museum, built on prime real estate near Cincinnati’s airport, isn’t scheduled to open its doors officially until May 28, but it already had its first celebrity visitor.
The facility, the crowning achievement of Answers in Genesis, which defends a biblical worldview including its account of Creation, was visited unexpectedly – and covertly – by comedian Bill Maher, formerly of ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” and lately of HBO’s “Real Time,” and who once said Christians suffer from a neurological disorder.
Ken Ham, president of the organization, calls the incident part of “an elaborate media deception.”
“A video crew with so-called ‘First Word Productions’ arranged to come to AiG to visit the museum for a documentary on world religions,” explains Ham. “At the end of their three-hour visit and taping, they wanted to do a sit-down interview with me in my office. They asked permission to drive around the back of the building to bring in their equipment. Then one of the crew members distracted a staff member who was with me and – without registering with our security office, as they knew had to be done – they propped open a back door and sneaked HBO commentator and comedian Bill Maher into my office. I only vaguely recognized him, and just figured this person was a latecomer to the filming.”
The Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, slated to open May 28
Because the Creation Museum is the first of its kind, with numerous displays presenting the Bible as a true history of the world, it has generated a tremendous amount of media interest. Mark Looy, the co-founder and chief operating officer of AiG, says he has a 24/7 job handling requests.
“In the past few weeks, we’ve had several foreign correspondents visit the museum, representing media outlets in Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. The media interest for a museum not yet open is huge. Major newspaper articles have appeared across the U.S., and media outlets such as CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, BBC and many others have already filmed here.”
Looy says the quality of the Creation Museum has earned grudging respect from most visiting journalists, who can’t help but be impressed by the effort. Still, a museum that promotes a biblical worldview is sure to draw ire from certain circles.
“To be fair, though, most of the media covering us have been balanced, especially after they have seen the quality of the museum’s exhibits for themselves,” said Looy. “But the British and Australian press can be quite harsh at times.”
And Ham and the staff have attracted plenty of international attention.
“A leading anti-creationist visited with the BBC for an interview,” Ham said. “She was quoted in news sources as saying she was frustrated that because the museum was so professionally done – so first class – she was worried kids would believe what is being taught here! That’s what we call an ‘endorsement!’”
A display at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio
With heightened visibility comes heightened scrutiny. A few years ago, when AiG was shopping around for land on which to build the Creation Museum, the search itself created such a firestorm of local controversy that the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a steady stream of articles about planning and zoning meetings, local civic and religious opposition, and the broader cultural fight over origins theories.
Yet, nothing could have prepared Ham and the Creation Museum team for its surprise reconnaissance mission by Maher – known for his biting criticism of fundamentalist Christianity.
“When someone like a vehement anti-Christian Bill Maher goes to elaborate lengths to get into AiG, it tells me how threatening our museum must be to their worldview,” said Ham. “But it was a good wake-up call for us, and our security crew is already taking measures – ahead of the museum’s opening on May 28 – to prevent a reoccurrence.”
While there is no word from Maher and HBO as to how the shoot will be used, Ham said he did answer the comedian-commentator’s questions.
“Bill Maher did interview me; though respectful in one sense, most of his questions were just mocking attacks on God’s Word,” he said.
Ham, an affable Australian himself, is not known for pulling punches. His organization and the museum facility’s mission is to defend the Bible “from the very first verse.”
Maher’s weekly show, now in its fifth season, features panelists such as Court TV’s Catherine Crier, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and broadcaster Dan Rather.
“I first thought of a Creation Museum back in my native land of Australia,” Ham recalled. “As a teacher, I had found that the teaching of evolution … was a stumbling block to these young people even considering the Bible and Christianity as true. Each time we visited a secular museum, I saw groups of school students receive only an evolutionary explanation of origins. I often thought: Why can’t we have a museum to teach them the truth?”
His thought was to build it in his native Australia, but, after launching AiG 13 years ago, the opportunity to build it in America – as close to as many population centers as possible – became compelling. Two-thirds of Americans live within 650 miles of Cincinnati, making it possible for most to drive to the museum.
Attention to detail has already brought the Creation Museum extensive interest. From the cavernous lobby – with its cypress trees, waterfalls, and children playing with dinosaurs – to the nature trails and lake on the grounds, visitors will be treated to a total biblical worldview. For years, Ham has taught audiences that the Bible is trustworthy and in fact, what is seen “in the real world” is what the Bible proclaims.
For example, a staple of AiG’s message is that there is no conflict between science and the Bible; only various interpretations have resulted in debate, argument, and splits between scientists and the religious world. That’s why Ham’s emphasis on dinosaurs has brought such notoriety to the museum.
AiG maintains that since the Bible explicitly says the world was created in six regular days, there is no reason not to believe that dinosaurs originally co-existed with man. Thus, references in the Book of Job to “behemoth” and “leviathan” are, in fact, Ham says, brief descriptions of dinosaurs, not crocodiles and hippos, as is generally cited in modern Bible translations.
Animatronic dinosaurs (and humans) appear regularly throughout the Creation Museum. World-class dinosaur sculptor Buddy Davis, an early friend of Ham’s and a fixture at conferences, has designed dinosaurs so real even the staff is startled.
The dinosaur “angle” has proven so popular that the museum’s “Dragon Hall Bookstore” (based on dragon legends from around the world) is stocked with books on the subject.
A planetarium, Bible Authority room, displays of ancient civilizations, and extensive information about Noah’s Ark will give visitors much to think about.
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Jim Fletcher is a staff writer for WorldNetDaily.com.