Home > Donald H. Harrison, historic places > San Diego County’s historic places: Creation Museum, Santee

San Diego County’s historic places: Creation Museum, Santee

Cindy Carlson at Creation Science Museum in Santee

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SANTEE, California—On a frontage road of State Highway 67, a building in an industrial park bears the name “Museum of Creation and Earth History.” Initially developed by the Institute for Creation Research at Christian Heritage College in neighboring El Cajon, the museum offers exhibits in support of the belief that the Bible is literally true. Here, when people talk about God creating the heavens and the earth in six days, they mean six 24-hour days. When they talk of a flood in the time of Noah covering the earth, they mean the whole earth, including the Americas, not just the Middle East.

The staff of the Institute for Creation Research includes scientists of various disciplines who dispute some of the cherished ideas of what they call conventional science. If the biblical account of the genesis of the world is correct, then the world is only thousands of years old, not millions upon millions of years. Theories that the various species of animal—and man himself—evolved from lower forms of life are rejected. So too are scientific notions about how the age of objects can be carbon dated. Additionally the creationists dispute conventional scientists’ explanations for how mountain ranges formed—as they believe the process was completed over a much shorter time span. In summary, almost everything taught in public schools about who we are and where we come from is disputed.

The curator, Cindy Carlson, recently escorted me through the museum, perhaps feeling a little wary not knowing whether or not I had an agenda that was adverse to her Christian beliefs. However, my intention was neither to agree nor to disagree with the museum’s point of view, but rather to report what the experience was like going through the facility.

It may have been my imagination, but I sensed that Carlson became more relaxed as the tour progressed. At the end of the tour, she even shared with me a little bit about her own life: Back in the 1970’s, while a 17-year-old biology student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, “I met Jesus personally—as a spiritual experience.” This created some conflict in her life, as she had grown up in a military household, where her father was a believer in science and a worshiper at an Episcopal church. At college, her professors regularly told her things “the Bible didn’t say, and I was trying to grow in my faith and read the Bible, and they just wouldn’t go together. My classes just created more and more doubt, and it was very difficult for me.” Then she encountered the works of Henry Morris II, who wrote The Twilight of Evolution and who would found the Institute for Creation Research. “That book really saved my faith,” Carlson said. After she and her husband raised four children, she enrolled at the Institute for creation Research as a graduate student. Today, they are members of River Christian Fellowship in Poway.

We walked through rooms illustrating the first six days of creation, and into another room depicting Noah’s Ark. “The Ark is 450 feet long,” Carlson lectured as we toured. “You just measure 300 cubits by 1 ½, and so eight people were on the Ark, even though the Bible was very clear that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Of course that is found in the New Testament {1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5}…. Obviously no one listened, so we had eight people on the Ark, along with two animals of every kind, seven of every clean kind, and seven of every kind of bird.”

The English word “kind,” translated from the Hebrew, is important to understand, Carlson said, because it is not what is meant today by the word “species.” Rather “kind” refers to a much larger group of animals, perhaps at the genus or at the family level. Assuming there was a kind of dog on the Ark, that dog was a prototype for the many breeds of dogs that would follow over the years, as well as for wolves and coyotes. “The two dogs on the Ark had the genetic potential for all the dogs,”Carlson said. “And we don’t call that evolution. We have no problem with the idea of variety in ‘kind.’ We do have a problem with the evolutionary idea than an amoeba can become a man over enough time.”

So the animals on the Ark were forerunners of what we have today? I asked.

“That is correct. That is not only our theological stand, but we believe a scientific stand. No matter how many lab experiments they do with fruit flies or bacteria, or any of those creatures, they still are fruit flies and bacteria. The genetic potential was in the DNA.”

Carlson returned to the concept of ‘kind’ when she began discussing the Tower of Babel, from whence the Bible reports God scattered the people and confused their tongues.

“In Genesis 11, the very first verse says the whole world spoke the same language and if the Bible history is true, then of course they did: they were all related to Noah,” said the curator. “But at this point the Bible says that God supernaturally changed their languages …and that is where we say the nations came from, this is the origin of the races. Again we are talking about genetic potential, if Adam and Eve had medium brown skin, they would have had all the genetics for all the dark skin and all the light skin.”

Just as there were prototypical animals, so too in the creationists’ view, were Adam and Eve the prototypical human beings. The difference among the races is variety within ‘kind’; no matter whether people are white, black, yellow or brown, they all are descended from common ancestors.

The course through the museum moves on through the development of other religions in the wake of the separation of people into different nations, and onto the establishment of Christianity. “We give the historicity of Jesus Christ and his life, and, of course, Christians believe that this was the redemption that God had always promised,” Carlson said. “We believe Jesus was God Himself come, and we believe he is the messiah, so we share that with the children (who visit on school excursions), and we talk about his substitutionary death on the cross…”

Onward the exhibition goes to the Reformation, when the Bible was printed in many languages, and to the development of sciences, which Carlson contends would not have been possible if the Bible had been wrong. “For example, when you do an experiment, you expect it to come out the same every time. If you didn’t have an orderly God who created an orderly universe, you never could do science the way we do it today. If there was evolution or chaos, you’d have change over time in the results of your experiments. You could never gauge what was in the past or what would be in the future.”

Furthermore, she said, if the biblical view had been wrong, and the pantheistic view positing that animals were gods or spirits were correct, then “you would never have mice in the lab that you are studying because they could curse you. There is no power in the animal world, so you have to demystify that in order to have science.”

Driving in San Diego County, as elsewhere in the United States, one notices that a war between creationism and science seems to be conducted on the back of many cars. Almost commonplace are outlines of fish stick-on symbols bearing either a cross for Christianity or the word “Darwin” for evolution. Some cars have the Darwin fish seemingly eating the Christian fish.

As amusing as this might be in cartoon or bumper sticker format, it depicts a cultural war which has raised considerable passion, even anger, especially as beliefs about man’s origins are carried over into the political arena.

I asked Carlson what she thinks may be the reason for such passion and fractiousness.

“I think human pride has the most to do with that,” she responded. “We want to be right, we want to be greater…”

Suppose it could be proven that she and her fellow creationists were correct? How would the lives of evolutionists be changed? I asked.

“If there is a God who made everything, and He made the rules, and we were created for Him and it is all about God, and it is not about us,” she said, “then we have a responsibility to Him, we need to find out about Him, and what we are created for, and we are now accountable to God,” she said.

Let’s turn it around, I suggested. Suppose the evolutionists are right, and she and her fellow creationists are wrong? Would her life change?

“It would change it incredibly,” she responded. “I would no longer look to the Bible for my rules. I would no longer pray every day and have the Holy Spirit show me what he wants me to do.” Maybe she still would follow rules “for good” such as the Golden Rule, but otherwise, “I’m not sure what I would do. If everything came by accident—or just evolution—any idea would do.

“Probably I would not have the sense of purpose and direction that I have,” she said. “Before I came to know Jesus, there was a big sense of emptiness and loneliness and a lack of understanding of who I was, and who I was in relationship to everything around me. So I think it would make a big difference.”

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article appeared previously on examiner.com 

  1. AJ
    November 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    It is nice to see that all points of view can be expressed in our great country. It is too bad that some people who believe in the “theory” of evolution try to crush any other opinions by resorting to name calling and bullying. The “proofs” of evolution are actually VERY shaky. I will not believe that evolution is a “fact” until I see some real proof; remember, it is still called a “theory” by science. If that ever changes, I will be glad to read about the proofs and accept genuine facts. Meanwhile, I think I will start investigating what the other side has to say too. Visiting the museum sounds like a good place to begin….

  2. June 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    The Theory of Evolution is an explanation for the evidence we see. It has been shown to have tremendous PREDICTIVE power.

    Until these charlatans provide a theoretical framework to explain the many forms of evidence supporting evolution from every related branch of study, they do not deserve any sort of coverage except ridicule. Until they make testable predictions from their “theory,” it doesn’t rise to any level of credibility higher than a fairy tale.

    I wonder why you gave these fools such uncritical coverage.

    • Matt
      December 17, 2010 at 7:31 am

      @Repack Rider, you should consider reading the book by Morris (or others he wrote on the subject) before rushing to judgment and ascribing fairy tale status–I think you will be surprised in the quality of scientific research and analysis that is available from the other side, and will begin to wonder why so few question macro evolution. Just because something is said often enough and loud enough does not make it legitimately true.

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