The controversial Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., marked its second anniversary this past week with slightly lower numbers than its first year but with much excitement.
"We enter our third year excited about the growing opportunities the museum provides for reaching people with the creation gospel message," commented Ken Ham, the founder and president of the 70,000-square foot museum.
"We believe God is using us to make a difference in our post-Christian culture, and we will continue to do everything we can to help believers defend the Word of God, from the very first verse," he added.
When the museum first opened to the public on May 28, 2007, it drew a great deal of media exposure, largely because of its literal interpretation of the Bible. Packed with high-tech exhibits that include animatronic dinosaurs and a huge wooden ark, the $27-million museum attempts to align the Bible's literal account of creation with natural history. The museum's staff and founder, like many other Young Earth creationists, believe dinosaurs appeared on the same day God created other land animals.
Though Young Earth creationism is not unpopular, the Creation Museum has drawn protests from critics – both non-Christians and Christians who are against a literal interpretation of the Bible on life origins. They say they are worried about how the anti-evolution display will affect children.
Young Earth creationism is the belief that the Heavens, Earth, and life on Earth were created by direct acts of God sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Its adherents are mostly Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth and everything on it in six 24-hour days, taking the Hebrew text of Genesis as a literal account.
The belief starkly contrasts with evolutionary creationism and Old Earth creationism – an umbrella term for a number of types of creationism, including Gap creationism, Progressive creationism, and Intelligent design. Typically, Old Earth creationism is more compatible with mainstream scientific thought on the issues of geology, cosmology and the age of the Earth.
According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 44 percent of U.S. adults would qualify as Young Earth creationists, agreeing to the statement that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years."
Meanwhile, of the 50 percent who agreed with the statement "human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life," 55 percent held a view of "naturalistic evolution," in which no God took part in the evolutionary process, while 40 percent believe that God guided the process over millions of years.
Though some Young Earth creationism critics have chosen to ignore the Creation Museum, others have continued to rail against it, according to the museum's staff.
"[T]he opposition is just as fierce as ever," reported Creation Museum registrar Stephanie McDorman on Thursday. "From the zoning and other legal battles that slowed the building in its early stages, to the protesters on opening day, to the humanist anti-God bloggers of today, opponents of the Creation Museum have not relented."
But McDorman says the museum staff "take that as a good sign."
When the museum had opened, Creation Museum founder Ken Ham said the protests against the museum had brought more publicity to it. And they seem to still be drawing attention to the museum.
Since the museum's opening, more than 714,000 guests have visited.
An though only 310,000 guests toured in the second year – compared to 404,000 in the inaugural year –
Mark Looy, co-founder and ministry spokesman for Answers in Genesis, said they were "very pleased" with the attendance, knowing that the economy would impact tourism.
"We were only down about 20 percent compared to our first year, and such a small decrease is usually expected after the initial opening of any new attraction. So the economy didn't affect us as negatively as might have been expected," he commented.
Despite the state of the economy, the museum intends to continue with its expansion, with several new exhibits and events planned for the coming year, including an "ape-man" exhibit to bring attention to the fallacies of Darwinian evolution.
The museum is also participating in several off-site events, as well, including hosting Creation College 3, and event in late July that features biblical apologetics teaching by "some of the world's best speakers on creation and biblical authority."
The museum's Facebook fan page currently has close to 3,000 fans.