Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Stenger, Mary Ann

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Soldat-Jaffe, Tatjana

Committee Member

Soldat-Jaffe, Tatjana

Committee Member

Wiggins, Osborne

Committee Member

Bielo, James


Creation Museum (Petersburg, Ky.); Evolution--Religious aspects--Christianity; Museums--Social aspects--United States--Case studies


This dissertation analyzes the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky with respect to hermeneutic, linguistic, and information theories. The popularity of the CM, with an excess of 1.6 million visitors to date and future plans to build a one-hundred million dollar theme park, raises concerns among religious and non-religious people. The CM has drawn the attention of all the major news networks and has been reported on extensively in print media. The number of visitors and money raised by the CM dwarfs other museums in the area with large federal endowments. This dissertation draws the interest of popular educated audiences as well as scholars. The dissertation is divided into five main chapters. Chapter I surveys the relevant literature on creationism in the United States. Chapter II defines the use of three theoretical fields-hermeneutics, linguistics, and information theory-to analyze the operational logic of the CM. Chapter III uses aspects of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s ideas of interpretive horizons to demonstrate how the CM justifies a selective and literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Chapter IV applies Norman Fairclough’s theory of Critical Language Study (CLS) to the various structures that project an authoritative form of discourse at the CM. Chapter V uses theories put forth by Mark C. Taylor to explain how information is processed in terms of screening-a phenomenon that seeks to reify an ancient myth. Taylor’s definition of religion as a complex adaptive network also illustrates why science is such a threat to the CM and why efforts are made to redefine science. The primary sources of evidence used include museum exhibits, literature published by the CM, videos, and ethnographic interviews. The interviews are semi-structured and allow for clarification and elaboration. The central conclusion is that the CM is a fundamentalist organization that rigorously maintains biblical inerrancy as an interpretive principle. Moreover, it employs a closed hermeneutic approach that I have identified as “concordism.” Authority is established through a discursive use of academic frames (contexts) and scripts (individual roles). The CM also displays certain features of complex adaptive networks as it reacts to a wider set of epistemological domains.