In a space about the size of a studio apartment, the Northwest Science Museum Vision Center accommodates a life-size plaster cast mastodon skull that rests in the middle of the room. But the 25-foot-by-25-foot room feels uncluttered and organized, with tidy displays, a bookshelf and a model for what the NSM hopes to become: a 300,000-450,000-square-foot museum with creationism and young-earth theories in the spotlight. And a full-scale replica of Noah's Ark docked out front. And an A-10 Warthog parked on the roof.
The premise of the center is to provide visitors with data about exhibits and present biblical as well as naturalistic interpretations of that data. Exhibits include leaf specimens from Idaho's Clarkia fossil beds and fossils of shelled sea creatures from sites around the West, accompanied by displays exploring the exhibits from a variety of perspectives.
While the center purports to give visitors equal access to biblical and natural science explanations, its mission, according to its strategic plan, is to "distribute the abundance of scientific evidence in support of the Biblical account of creation and young earth history."
Curator Stan Lutz said that's what distinguishes his from other creationism museums.
"That's something other creationists don't do: They don't put science up," he said.
According to Lutz, the most compelling pieces in the museum are Ica stones from the Aeronautical Museum of Lima, Peru: smooth andesite stones etched with images of humans and dinosaurs interacting. Since Ica Stones suggest the cohabitation of humans and extinct animals, they've been used by creationists as evidence that dinosaurs became extinct far more recently than the 65 million years agreed upon by modern science. The Ica stones themselves, meanwhile, have been vigorously challenged as modern-day hoaxes--including in a 1977 BBC documentary, in which an Ica stone was re-created by a Peruvian farmer who admitted to selling thousands of fake Ica stones to Dr. Javier Cabrera Darquea, who popularized them in the '60s. However, since the volcanic stones contain no organic matter, they cannot be accurately dated, leaving the question of their authenticity open to debate.