The Creation Museum’s Trying to Increase Attendance by Resorting to Gimmicks

The Creation Museum recently added zip line courses to its property and an insect exhibit inside the building. Both of those things, on the surface, seem to have little to do with Creationism. So… what’s up with that?

A glimpse inside the Creation Museum’s hallway of horrors. No joke. This is a real exhibit there.

The Associated Press’ Dylan Lovan writes about how it’s all about increasing attendance:

Museum co-founder Ken Ham said he knew when it opened to big crowds in 2007 that new features would need to be added from time to time. Total attendance since the opening is approaching 1.9 million, he said.

Ham said the museum is welcoming of people seeking fun without a creationism lesson.

“That’s what we wanted to see, because it will bring in a broader range of people in here and provide something for the community as well — they don’t have to go to the Creation Museum, they can just come for the zip lines,” Ham said.

I appreciate that Lovan added my own perspective to his piece:

“The layout at the Creation Museum really is beautiful,” said Mehta, who has written about the museum on his “Friendly Atheist” blog. “However, the quality of information is worthless, which makes the ‘museum’ nothing more than an expensive way to confuse and indoctrinate children.

Cue Ken Ham complaining about the quotation marks around the word “museum” in 5… 4… 3…

There wasn’t enough space for elaboration in the article, but I explained to Lovan that my main objection to the Creation Museum was that it tried to pass itself off as a “science museum” when it was really anything but.

Science, when done correctly, begins with the evidence, and forms conclusions based on them. The Creation Museum staff begins with their conclusion (that the Book of Genesis must be literally true) and warps science in order to make it fit. They’re trying to push a square peg into a round hole and that’s not how good science works. That’s not even how bad science works. It’s unfair to science to be in the same sentence with the word Creation.

Because of their conclusion-first method, they’ve ignored all the evidence that shows our world is not merely thousands of years old but billions, that the Great Flood could never have happened as shown in the Bible, and that dinosaurs and humans could not have lived at the same time. When your premise is false, the conclusions are irrelevant. They’re making a mockery of how science works and — the more pressing concern — misleading children in the process. Who knows how many of these kids could have become great scientists, if only they were given more accurate materials from which to learn?

There is reason to be optimistic, though. The zip lines, especially, make me think that Ham is desperate to bring in people to stop the dropping attendance numbers. Those of us who view the “museum” as a freak show have pretty much already seen it and those who believe in Creationism have no reason to come back.

Unlike real museums, where exhibits change and reflect the best of modern science, the Creation Museum — like Creation itself — is stagnant. The Biblical story doesn’t change, so all you can do is modify the presentation of it. It’s not like Ken Ham can feature exhibits with the latest “Creation research,” because that research doesn’t exist.

Instead of offering more substance, he’s resorting to gimmicks like zip lines and the (unfinished) Noah’s Ark replica… which really tells you all you need to know about what they bring to the table in terms of science.

***Update***: Ham has responded to the piece… and me:

By the way, this AP article quotes an opponent of the museum who calls himself the “Friendly Atheist.” Well, he is not that friendly at all if you read some of his blog posts (you’ll have to watch out for some nasty language). He says false things like we have not added exhibits over the past five years and the museum is supposedly failing because of low attendance.

1) I never said they haven’t added exhibits. Of course they have, and they all show the Creation myth in different way. That’s a straight-up lie from Ham.

2) Considering a museum’s success is in large part judged by how many people visit it, I’d say falling attendance is a fair measure of how the Creation Museum is doing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • MargueriteF

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, to find out that you use “nasty language,” Hemant. What kind of a blog is this, anyway?? I thought I’d never be exposed to anything worse than a G rating here!

    Seriously, of course “museum” should be in quotes in this instance. Museums usually have displays about real science, not this… stuff. (Notice my careful avoidance of nasty language.) And boo on them for their “hallway of horrors” including headlines about gay marriage. That right there is deserving of some nasty language, if you ask me.

  • Lina Baker

    Oh, Hemant, you and your facts and verifiable observations….

  • C Peterson

    I’m a research associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. That’s a real museum. Our exhibits change because knowledge advances. You can look in the archives and see decades old exhibits about things like Colorado geology or paleontology. They contained information we now know was wrong. We still have exhibits covering the same subjects, but now they reflect our current understanding. In fact, in many cases the exhibits explain not just what we know now, but how that knowledge has changed. No effort is made to hide the fact that stuff we thought was right in the past wasn’t.

    You can’t have a static natural history museum.

  • corps_suk

    I wonder if Ham understands how much money he gets from Atheists who show just to laugh at what he considers “science” and a “museum”?

  • Matt Eggler

    Seeing all the gay headlines in the “hallway of horrors” photo made me realize why they are so determined to have dinosaurs living with humans and on the ark. It is not so much about the six thousand year old earth as it is about them recognizing themselves for the dinosaurs they are. They want to believe that they won’t go the way of the dinosaurs and become extinct. They needn’t worry; just as the dinosaurs evolved into birds, they too will evolve. They will lose their dominance and have to give up the gay thing but they will survive as a less dominant bigoted vestige of their former selves.

  • corps_suk

    To me, that is the wonder and draw to science…it changes in light of new information.
    Unfortunately to believers, dogma is preferred so when science changes, they use that as a criticism without even knowing it is a strength.

    Keep up the good work, that museum is awesome

  • Lurker111

    Tips for the museum:

    1) Hire a stripper to do a “Dance of the Seven Veils” bit as Salome.

    2) Hire two nudists to walk the “Garden of Eden” exhibit.

    3) For advanced audiences only: A reenactment of the Lot-and-his-Daughters thing.

    That’ll bring in the crowds.

  • CodeMonkeys

    If I ride the ziplines in a Jesus costume with water bottles taped to the bottom of my feet, would I get kicked out

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I love South Park!

  • Artor

    Not a lot. As absurd as it is, would you go more than once?

  • Artor

    I’ve been to that museum. It’s pretty awesome. The ancient fish skull that looks like a VW Beetle left quite an impression on my teenage self. It was a dunkleosteus if I recall.

  • duke_of_omnium

    And for Gay Pride Week a diorama of David and Jonathan.

  • Sweetredtele

    I love out of date exhibits, like quack medical devices. I would love an exhibit showing the stages of change of an exhibit- like going from the original way Dinosaurs were presented/posed to todays thinking on that.

  • Lurker111

    Actually, for Gay Pride Week they could put two males into the Garden of Eden exhibit, as per this:

    Edit: Yeah, I know I’ve posted this link before, but I think it’s a comic that deserves wider distribution.

  • viaten

    Their hallway of horrors is quite tame, actual nothing, compared to the kind of dioramas and animatronics that could be set up for various of the more violent and “adult” bible stories.

  • viaten

    Maybe Ken Ham can get Kent Hovind’s “Dinosaur Land” kiddie attractions cheap.

  • observer

    “Who knows how many of these kids could have become great scientists”

    Why raise scientists when you can raise sheeple to give the higher-ups money? Scientists are useless to these people…unless scientists manage to come up with something to benefit higher-ups.

    I have to say though, I’d like to know if Ken Ham actually expect people to revisit the Creation Museum repeatedly like it’s a church.
    …I think I just answered my own question.

  • Ida Know

    To a creationist, “nasty language” means words like ev*d*nce, log*c, r**son, qu*st**ons, and d**bt.

  • TBJ

    Got any exhibits of aphids and their poop?

  • TBJ

    If you can’t share a good fact with a friend then he was not your friend in the first place. I’m betting Ken feels a bit facted over by Hemant again. He probably ran around his “museum” screaming, “You facten fact facter Hemant, go shove your factin facts up your fact hole!! I say fact you Ken Ham!

  • Shadist

    That’s part of why I love my violet wand.

    Quack science!

  • wombat

    And th*nk.

  • aar9n

    YEAH DENVER!!!! REPRESENT!!! god I love that museum.

  • Nancy Shrew

    I don’t know, bugs seem to be more of an indication to me that there is no god.

  • TheG

    As someone who was not only raised at your museum and moved back to Colorado so my son would have the same opportunities, I just want to thank you for all your hard work.

  • jdm8

    Put up some of the biblical genocides as headlines and you’ll get a scarier wall. Also, how many Philistine foreskins did David have to hand over to get his wife? 200? 200 for each of two wives? If they’re going to showcase the wretchedness of humanity, the wretchedness of religion should get some time too.

  • b s

    “I’m a research associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science”

    Cool! I was just there Saturday with the kids. They love the space exhibit and the dinosaurs. They even got to meet Dr. Scott from Dinosaur Train when he was there a couple months ago.

  • Rich Wilson

    and cdesign proponentsists

  • Len

    Evilution – the word says it.

  • TBJ

    “The Creation Museum’s Trying to Increase Attendance by Resorting to Gimmicks” Hemant it think the last word in the title is a typo. Didn’t you mean “More Gimmick’s”

  • HollowGolem

    I’ve never seen a meta-exhibit. That would be pretty cool.

  • Holytape

    From their webpage. “This world-class collection rivals the quality seen at the Smithsonian.”

    No, they don’t have a collection. They have a display. A quick look at the pictures and there is not a single specimen that can’t be bought on-line. Displays are what you look at; collections are scientific tools. With collections, you can research phylogeny, biodiversity, invasive species, and a host of other fields. Every specimen represents a unique data point. I bet not a single specimen in their display even has a data label.

    The Smithsonian has a collection — well over 35,000,000 specimens. (It literally takes up several floors in the Smithsonian and that doesn’t include the parts of the collection that are housed at Beltsville, the MSC, or are on loan. Only the collections in London and Paris are of similar size. There are hundreds of thousands of species represented, from all over the world. Some of the specimens are nearing two hundred years old. There are thousands of type specimens. Scientists from all over the world come to visit this collection. How many scientists have visited the creationist museum for work, and not to point and laugh?

  • Tom

    I know what you mean, scientists are the worst investment ever! They always need more money, they can never give you a good projected schedule for a return on that investment, and all they give you back in the end is knowledge. Sometimes they don’t even do that; sometimes, they use nasty words like “disproved,” and then actually take away some of the knowledge you already had!

    Seriously, though, of all the metrics that are used to compare different nations, GDP, income disparity, literacy, etc, I think one we could add that would be particularly telling is “What proportion of the population regard scientists/scientific research as useless or wasteful ?”

  • Buckley

    Here in Indy I drive past a Creation Museum billboard and on the direct opposite from that a Chick-fil-a billboard. At least the Fundies give me a good laugh each morning.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    You totally forgot to mention that the museum now has Elvis Presley’s personal Bible on display. How far wouldn’t we drive to see THAT!!!

  • Len

    But doesn’t Elvis still use it?

  • Dal Bryn

    Christians love zip lines. They had one at ever Bible camp that I ever went to as a kid and it was one of the things that the camp owners liked to brag about having. Now, a lot of these camps weren’t exactly regulated and safety equipment was sketchy or non-existent. But, who worries about that sort of thing when God is there to protect the children.

  • Tainda

    And bib*iophile

  • Spuddie

    Ken needs to pay those legal bills and back taxes. He needs warm bodies in the museum.

  • Spuddie

    They were probably impounded by the IRS.

  • Nick Wride

    “Creation Science” is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or compassionate conservative.

  • Miss_Beara

    “This world-class collection rivals the quality seen at the Smithsonian.”

    Lying for Jesus!

  • C Peterson

    Thanks for all the nice comments, yours and everyone else’s. I’m not involved myself with the exhibits or exhibit design, but I’ll pass along the compliments and suggestions here to those who are.

  • Kat Dean

    I live in the same county as the Creation Museum (but do not have extra precious time to visit), and seeing their billboards posted along the highways always gives me a good laugh. I think right now they are advertising the insect thing, an exhibit which has been done beautifully by the Cincinnati Zoo long before I was even born. I have wondered, since the announcement of their opening, whom exactly they are expecting to visit the “museum” seeing as how adult creationists don’t really “need” to see it, and atheists might only go for laughs. I suppose the idea is to take children to a visual representation of their myths. Anywho, I digress …

  • Michaela Samuels

    I visited the recently opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas a few weeks ago and fell in love with the fresh, up-to-date, and informative exhibits. Entire walls were filled with diagrams of human anatomy and theories of the processes of evolution. Robots, dinosaur skeletons, prosthetic limbs on display, and a myriad of new discoveries I’ve only read about and not had the opportunity to observe in fun setting for kids and adults.

    I imagine as we learn more, the Perot Museum will update its information. That is an inherent flaw with Ham’s “museum.”

  • Timmah

    I should have never gone ziplining (at the Creation Museum)

  • anniewhoo

    1. It made me smile to think that Ken Ham reads your blog.
    2. Does the museum get any sort of tax break for being a “religious” institution? If so, Ham’s claim that people can come just for fun should be reason enough to check into any religious exemptions he might enjoy.

  • b s

    Just saw Dr. Scott is working there now. That is great. He might remember my younger son. He was last in line for an autograph during the first session. But he didn’t wan’t an autograph, he asked Dr. Scott for a drink, so he gave my son a bottle of water.

  • JET

    The Creation ‘Museum’ will have a great cobweb exhibit in just a few short years. Can’t wait until they go bankrupt, have to sell the building and it gets repurposed for something productive.

  • JET

    I’m reminded of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s story of visiting the Hayden Planetarium when he was in elementary school and making a career decision on the spot. What could possibly inspire a kid at this farce of a ‘museum’? To be a carny ride operator?

  • allein

    My friend wants to go. Moreso now cuz I just told her about the zip line! She says maybe she’ll wait to see if they ever finish Noah’s Ark any time soon.

  • allein

    They should get that guy who does the Lego sculptures to team up with the Lego Bible guy; I bet they could put together some great exhibits.

  • allein

    Hey! Watch the nasty language!

  • allein

    The Creation Museum is a gimmick.

  • Ryan Hite

    Wow… Really? I don’t think he understands how stupid he sounds and looks.

  • viaten

    I assume you’re referring to I think that’s about the best that can be done. It suggests the violence and extremes of the Bible quite well without being visually harsh. No one is going to spend money to construct or go see something no one wants to see.

  • allein

    yep, that’s the one.

  • allein

    I thought “quack science” was the crockoduck exhibit.

  • Sinfanti

    “An insect exhibit inside the building.” Is this an apologist way of saying they have a roach problem?

  • Summer Seale

    Just a note:

    I know that it isn’t in Hemant’s nature to be nasty and cruel with idiots, and I respect that (and one of the reasons which I enjoy reading this site since many years now).

    However, I’m not so angelic as that. I’d like to go on record to state that I would be absolutely proud beyond measure if Ken Ham saw a comment of mine stating how he is either a fucking liar, or a complete fucking idiot. He deserves to have every single scientifically-made thing stripped from his person and possessions, and be sent to live naked in a bloody cave as punishment for his rejection of all things scientific. But indeed, it isn’t even simply the rejection of all things scientific, or even that he teaches the same bloody ignorance to children. No, it is his incredible hypocrisy in rejecting science whilst, at the same time, having no qualms benefiting from it. For that hypocrisy, he deserves to rot in the stone age with the rest of his caveman-like ilk.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    It took me a second to realize that you meant “a bloody-as-in-goddamn-cave” and not “a cave with blood everywhere for some reason”, but I’m going to pretend it was the latter because somehow that’s a funnier image. ^^

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    My favorite oxymoron is “Justice Scalia”. Wish I knew who to attribute that to.

  • Rich Wilson

    I used to ride past the “Church of Truth”