The museum-quality exhibit in the Biology Department offers an understanding of origins from a creationist worldview. Consider the intricacy of the cell, the relationship between the Geologic Column and the biblical flood, and the significance of beauty in nature.
The cell is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing. All organisms are made of at least one cell and come from preexisting cells. Some organisms, such as most bacteria, consist of a single cell. Humans have about 100 trillion cells.
The layers of the Geologic Column are ordered by age—oldest to youngest. The bottom layer is older than the next layer up. The big question—and one of the most significant areas of disagreement among scientists—is How much older?
Intelligent design is a scientific theory which holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and are not the result of an undirected, chance-based process. We believe there is an infinite mind behind the design.
The Origins Exhibit is the second part of a three-phase vision to establish an institute for origins at Southern Adventist University. The first phase involved recruiting qualified faculty to support the endeavor. The long-term goal is to expand into an institute, which will serve as a resource for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and for others who believe short-term creation theory.
A team of artists (current students and alumni from Southern) have been led by Ron Hight in transforming the hallways of the Biology Department into a three-dimensional museum.
Freelance artist Ron Hight worked for 15 years as an artist for The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) near San Diego before signing on to direct the artistic production of the Origins Exhibit in Hickman Science Center.
“Our goal,” says Hight, “is to present the creationist viewpoint in an attractive, professional, and educational way.” He believes that his time at the ICR, working with creation exhibits, was a perfect preparation for this project.
“The issues involving the creation and evolution debate are more complex than others realize,” says Hight. “When people visit these hallways, we want them to get insight into what goes on in the classroom by what they see in the exhibit. The more complex the world, the less likely that evolution could ever begin to account for the biological or cosmological structures we see. It is not a leap of faith to believe in God, but a reasonable faith based on the evidence we see all around us.
Gina Graham can add museum painter to her already full résumé of freelance illustrator, elementary art teacher, and community art instructor.
“It’s a museum-quality undertaking, and it’s way beyond what I thought I’d be doing,” says Gina. “There’s the faith factor of knowing I’m here because I’m supposed to be.”
While researching the details and grappling with geometry to get the images right, she realizes that the team of artists is making a significant contribution. “I’m amazed with the structures—they point us to a Creator,” says Gina. “Even the small cell is more magnificent than anyone could think up.” She realizes she’s painting only an image of what God has created and says, “The real thing is more amazing.”
Justin Hamer is now a faux rock guru. His technique for painting and carving foam to simulate rock texture enhances the geologic column section of the exhibit.
“This project has forced me to expand my spatial reasoning,” says Justin. “I have been rewarded with a much stronger appreciation of three-dimensional forms and their visual relation to surrounding objects and empty space.”
Justin says he hopes the exhibit will enrich the understanding of the natural world for visitors.
Gabriel Murray thought he was hired as a painting artist, but his 3-D skills have proven useful for fabrication projects as well. “I’ve learned a lot about techniques from Ron and Justin that I wouldn’t have thought of,” says Gabriel.
“I never wake up and say, ‘I don’t want to go to work today,’” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
His work has a deeper meaning, as well: “The exhibit provides an explanation, an alternative, for what happened and how things were,” says Gabriel.
As the exhibit is further developed, Gabriel may have the chance to use his animation skills for computer displays and looping videos, which are planned for the touch-screen kiosks.
With a portfolio containing design and drawing samples, Phuong Nguyen met with Ron Hight and was hired for painting. “I hadn’t painted before and Ron took a risk,” says Phuong. “I had to learn."
She has observed her fellow artists and learned from them. “This is a precious lesson for me and a real-life experience.”
Using paint and carving tools to imitate real texture, the artists implement big ideas. “Ron tells us what he has in mind and we can adjust it to what we think works.”
Phuong feels the Origins Exhibit is a meaningful project. “It is a lesson—a message—for a lot of people, even to the next generation.”
A large portion of the extensive Spencer Fossil Collection has been donated to the Biology Department by Sheldon and Elma Spencer. Several pieces of the teaching and research collection are on display in Hickman Science Center, including several unique pieces in the Origins Exhibit.