A creationist theme park promotes the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old. The scientific community puts the age of Earth at 4.5 billion years.
PENSACOLA – The hand-painted sign outside the parking lot promised a Darwin-free dinosaur encounter: “Where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!”
Inside Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park that sits behind a string of car dealerships on a busy commercial strip in Pensacola, a group of 50 home-schooled children romped in the muggy afternoon heat.
Some played on the Long Neck Liftasaurus swing seat, while others dug for fossils or tossed water balloons at a T-Rex and stegosaurus zip-lined down the Pterodactyl Glide while learning “the truth about dinosaurs.”
”Dinosaurs were big lizards who lived with Adam and Eve,” park founder Kent Hovind told children and their parents during a presentation on dinosaurs and the book of Genesis.
Hovind, an evangelist and former earth-science teacher, launched the amusement park in 2001 to promote young earth creationism — the belief that God created the Earth and all of its inhabitants in six days 6,000 years ago. Most scientists estimate that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
”The goal is to start thousands of these,” he said.
Patricia Steele, a Christian from Tennessee who brought her three children to Dinosaur Adventure Land, said she hoped to equip her kids with arguments to refute evolution. For many Christians who take the Bible literally, evolution throws Scripture into question, she said.
”If Genesis 3 isn’t really true, then John 3 isn’t really true,” Steele said as her children Aaron, 12, Daniela, 8 and Bethany, 6, played on the Swamp Swing.
Since its inception, the park has been mired in legal battles. Two attractions — the science center and the creation museum, a beige barn with a T-Rex bursting out of its facade — were closed by the county because Hovind refused to apply for building permits.
Hovind, who argues that he and his employees are missionaries who don’t have to pay income tax, is scheduled to go to trial next month on 58 federal charges, including evasion of nearly $470,000 in employee taxes.
Hovind appeared cheerful and upbeat as he introduced a film about the biblical story of the creation, fall and flood to his fidgety young audience. He seemed reluctant to discuss the park’s legal troubles.
But a note to visitors sitting near the cash register in the gift shop struck a sullen note.
”We just want to serve God and be left alone,” it said.