By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Park Ranger Billy Baker, who has been with the park since 1980, says that since Baugh opened his museum, "People come into the park looking for so-called human footprints. But we haven't got them. And they think we are hiding them from them."
Baker lets out a hearty sigh. He's a good-sized man, with a ruddy hue from years of outdoor living. Every time Baugh or his associates make a new claim, the rangers brace themselves for another round of questions and accusations.
"We just tell people like it is," Baker says. "I don't want to cover up anything. Why should I?"
Baugh says he set up his museum where he did precisely because it would cause people to question the state park's version of prehistory.
The nonprofit museum clearly is a shoestring operation. There are only two paid, permanent staff members: Baugh's brother-in-law, who acts as groundskeeper, and Baugh's sister, who manages the office. Baugh says he usually draws no salary, living instead on proceeds from speaking engagements. The modest admission fee--$2 for adults, $5 for families--barely covers the electric bill, he says. Last year, the museum brought in $225,000, most of which was used to pay for equipment in the small biosphere, Baugh says.
The museum is making a difference, he adds. It provides the public with an alternative view of life's origins--one that is more hopeful, less determined by chance.
"There is an awareness of the bankruptcy of evolution," Baugh says. "Evolution just does not work, and academics are having to face this. The closer we look at living systems, the more evident there is a design."
While Creationism hasn't attained its goal of respectability, at least it is no longer the sole province of Christian zealots who view the fossil record as a test of faith in God.
The field of creation science is now dominated by actual scientists--highly credentialed men and women who vary in degrees and expertise but are united in their belief in a universal designer.
Theirs is a hopeful theory. It implies that there is purpose to each and every life. Evolution, premised on random acts causing adaptive changes over billions of years, is not. An evolutionist sees the world's orderliness as a happy accident. Given another run at the probabilities, the earth could have ended up just as barren as the moon or Mars.
True creation scientists have always stressed their science over their faith, says Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research in California. Morris is considered the father of modern creation science. In the past, he says, religious beliefs often served as the basis for scientific theory. He'd encounter lay people touting all kinds of theories derived from shoddy science. Not surprisingly, established scientists ate them alive. But that has changed, Morris says.
"We prefer to think of ourselves as scientists who believe in creation," he says.
Most modern creationists can be divided into two groups. The most literal strain is the young earth group, which looks at the Bible as a source document and tries to find evidence of a world created by God in six days, only thousands of years ago. The other group is old earthers--like Baugh when he considered himself a "lukewarm creationist"--people who accept evolutionary premises about the age of the earth, but believe it was all set in motion by a grand designer.
The great majority of scientists who adhere to evolution theory dismiss both groups. "I don't think any reputable scientists endorse this," says Dr. Lundelius of UT. "You will get those who call themselves creation scientists, but I happen to think they are wrong."
Creationists have had a dash at respectability this year, however, with a spate of recent articles about them in national newspapers and magazines. Michael Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, published a book this year theorizing that, on a biochemical level, life systems had to be designed. There is no way the components necessary for life to exist could have evolved, he argued, because they cannot work without each other.
Behe, who falls on the "old earth" side of the creationists' continuum, holds to a long geological age for earth. He says reaction from his scientific colleagues to Darwin's Black Box has been mixed.
"When you get into the kind of rock-bottom issues of science, like the big bang and how the earth got here and life started, then philosophy plays a very big part in deciding what is acceptable," he says.
These days, scientific credentials hold tremendous importance for creation scientists. They appear to be a talisman pointing magically toward that elusive goal of respectability. Morris boasts that all of the 40 or so instructors at the Institute for Creation Research have either doctoral or master's degrees in scientific fields from recognized universities.
At the Creation Research Society, a three-decades-old organization for creation scientists based in Ohio, voting members have to hold at least a master's degree in a recognized area of science. The society's president, Emmett Williams, who has a Ph.D. in materials engineering from Virginia Tech, says this restriction keeps the organization from being unduly influenced by amateurs.