Date of this Version
Argumentation and Advocacy 48:3 (Winter 2012), pp. 123–141.
This essay analyzes the argumentative structure of the “Answers in Genesis” ministry’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Founded by a $27 million grant, the 70,000-square-foot museum appropriates the stylistic and authoritative signifiers of natural history museums, complete with technically proficient hyperreal displays and modern curatorial techniques. In this essay, we argue that the museum provides a culturally authoritative space in which Young Earth Creationists can visually craft the appearance that there is an ongoing scientific controversy over matters long settled in the scientific community (evolution), or what scholars call a disingenuous or manufactured controversy. We analyze the displays and layout as argumentative texts to explain how the museum negotiates its own purported status as a museum with its ideological mission to promulgate biblical literalism. The Creation Museum provides an exemplary case study in how the rhetoric of controversy is used to undermine existing scientific knowledge and legitimize pseudoscientific beliefs. This essay contributes to argumentation studies by explaining how religious fundamentalists simulate the structure of a contentious argument by adopting the material signifiers of expert authority to ground their claims.