Northern Kentucky is fast becoming a mecca, of sorts, for those attracted to the lucrative business of creationism.
Answers in Genesis, an organization that embraces a "literal" interpretation of the Book of Genesis and believes the earth is only 6,000 years old, is the main group responsible for bringing so-called creation tourism to the region. First, it opened the Creation Museum, which depicts an earth where dinosaurs and humans co-existed. The 70,000-square-foot complex has attracted well over 1 million visitors since it opened in 2007.
A mock-up for the Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park.
As soon as it reaches its funding goal of $24.5 million, Answers in Genesis will help open the nearby Ark Encounter, a Biblical theme park that will feature a full-sized, 500-foot-long, 80-foot-high recreation of Noah's Ark, a zoo, a first-century village and a mock-up of the Tower of Babel.
Now another group, the Creation Science Hall of Fame, wants in on the action.
The founders of the Hall of Fame -- which include an Australian businessman, an Indiana pastor and a retired science teacher from New Jersey -- would like to build a brick-and-mortar establishment out of their web-based organization along Interstate 75 about halfway between the two other major creationism attractions.
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"With the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, do you know how many people will come to Northern Kentucky? It's going to be as big as Disneyland," boasted Nick Lally, founder and chairman of the board of directors.
Lally said the creation community is segmented and there has never been one arena that they could all identify with. Now, they have Northern Kentucky.
The Hall of Fame, he said, will be an educational facility and will showcase the biographies of inductees, important men (they're all male) who honored Genesis as it is written, or those who have actively opposed Neo-Darwinism.
"If we get enough money, I'd love to see wax figures of these people with their personal artifacts and their views and theories," he said. Living inductees include Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, while the list of deceased inductees consists of figures like Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington Carver, Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton.
The proposed $2 million to $3 million museum is only in the planning stage, but Lally hopes to have it completed in five years' time. His organization, Creation Science Hall of Fame Inc., is being established as a nonprofit in his home state of New Jersey, though its members have been scouting for a 10-acre site in Northern Kentucky.
The hub of a bustling creation industry is something many Kentuckians have been less than thrilled about. Last year the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority granted more than $40 million in tax incentives for the planned $172 million Ark Encounter. At the same time, they cut millions of dollars for education.
The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the park would run afoul of constitutional law.
"Noah didn't get government help when he built the first ark, and the fundamentalist ministry behind the Kentucky replica shouldn't either," it argued last August.
But many are for the project, which the state believes will attract 1.6 million people in its first year and employ over 900 residents. There is also growing public support for creationist ideas. A Gallup poll in May found that 46 percent of Americans believe in intelligent design, up from 40 percent in 2010.
Creation tourism, too, has grown rapidly over the years. Outside of Kentucky, there is another creation museum in Texas and a mobile museum that takes fossil exhibits to schools and churches across the U.S.
With a new museum and theme park scheduled to open in the next five years, it's fair to say the industry is evolving -- evolving, that is, into a major money-maker.