One could dismiss the Creation Museum, which opened Monday in northern Kentucky, as a bizarre roadside novelty, a place to which lovers of kitsch make pilgrimages, such as the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kan. Animatronic dinosaurs hitching a ride on Noah's ark? Funny stuff.

But much is at stake here. This $27 million "museum" built on 42 acres just south of Cincinnati might do some real harm to students.

"Science isn't just a story, where I can tell one story and you can tell another, and everyone lives happily ever after," said Lawrence Krauss, an internationally known physicist from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University, during a news conference Thursday. "It has consequences. It makes predictions."

Curators from the young-Earth creationist group Answers in Genesis will ignore or conveniently distort the scientific evidence backing evolution and everything astronomers and physicists know about the universe, choosing instead to promote a strictly literal interpretation of the first book of the Bible as the history of humans' origins. And they'll wrap it all in pseudoscientific explanations, making them look and sound official to undiscerning visitors.

"Prepare to believe," says the Creation Museum's slogan.

"Prepared to be deceived," is more apt.

The place already boasts 8,500 charter members, and the founders predict 250,000 visitors annually. Perhaps the attraction won't be that popular, but no one can count on it, since the world's media have drawn attention to the opening. How humiliating for this region.

Science teachers in the tri-state area should be prepared to work with students who return from a museum visit believing that their world is 6,000 years old, instead of its true age of about 4.5 billion years. Visitors will hear that the Grand Canyon was carved out during Noah's 40-day flood 4,500 years ago, instead of eroding slowly over 5 million to 6 million years; that the flood God sent is the reason for the many fossils and the layers of rock that entomb them; and that radiometric dating is hopelessly flawed for evaluating the age of specimens.

All these claims don't come from accepted methods of testing or evidence; they're based on circular arguments that originate in faith in a supreme being that can't be proved or tested. Faith is fine, but science doesn't deal with the unprovable and untestable.

"This (museum) is as much a disservice to religion as it is to science," Krauss said.

A slick presentation easily could mislead students about the nature of the scientific method. That's a terrible setback for science education at a time when American students already are far behind their foreign counterparts in this subject, and the United States needs its young people to choose scientific careers to maintain this nation's pre-eminence in those fields.

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