Readers of many Arkansas newspapers, including the Arkansas Times, recently found in their papers a special advertising supplement from the state Department of Parks and Tourism. In words and pictures, the supplement promoted a number of Arkansas tourist attractions — the Clinton library, a new aquatic playground at Crater of Diamonds State Park, the roller coaster at Magic Springs. The inclusion of one particular new attraction raised a few eyebrows.
“Located on the grounds of The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, the Museum of Earth History presents the biblical account of early history with high-quality, scientific exhibits displayed in a totally biblical setting,” the ad supplement says. “Viewers will journey through three epic periods of ancient history often overlooked by modern historians: life before the fall, the post-fall world and life after the devastating effects of the great flood described in the Book of Genesis.”
Models of dinosaurs are the stars of the new, privately owned museum, which presents the biblical view of creation. In this view, earth is only a few thousand years old. Humans and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously. A pair of dinosaurs survived the great flood aboard Noah’s Ark. Dinosaurs later became extinct for reasons that are unclear.
Conventional science says all this is tommyrot — that the earth is hundreds of millions of years old, and dinosaurs died out millions of years before man came into existence. But that is not the concern of the Department of Parks and Tourism, says the department’s longtime director, Richard Davies.
“From the tourism perspective, we’ve about come to the conclusion that our job is to promote things that people might want to travel to — whether they’re public, private or non-profit — as long as they’re not obscene or tasteless,” Davies said. “Whether we agree with it or not, whether we think it’s tacky or beautiful is not important. It’s not our place to make those decisions.” He notes that the Department has promoted the Passion Play for years, and some people consider the play controversial. Some people think the race tracks at Hot Springs and West Memphis are controversial. The Department promotes both.
“We have actually gotten calls on the parks side of the department from creationists complaining about exhibits in state parks that talk about the origin of the world,” Davies said. These exhibits reflect the prevailing scientific theories. “I tell them we’re putting out the best information we have available,” Davies said.
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