It all started in 1995 when Chris Lesley heard a speaker who contended that all the world’s creatures had descended from earlier generations that consisted of much larger versions of themselves
Of all the animals-ancestor images that Lesley saw that day, the giant cockroach grabbed his attention the most and his fascination soon led to him conducting his own research on ancient large ancestors.
Lesley’s interest soon evolved into what he would call The Greater Ancestors World Museum project. He currently curates his museum online but said he hopes to be able to build a bricks-and-mortar museum in Jacksonville with One Spark funding.
The project is centered on the premise that all animals descended from greater ancestors that were bigger, stronger and faster in the past — sometimes called devolution. Lesley’s ultimate goal is to gather enough funds for a museum in which real artifacts from the ancient earth will be displayed.
“I conducted research over the next two decades after I attended the conference in 1995 and discovered more information that indicates that even humans were as tall as 9 feet,” Lesley said.
But, Lesley’s project has proven controversial.
”One of Mr. Lesley’s greatest faults is that he is only looking at a very small portion of evolutionary history,” said Dr. Matthew Gilg, a biology professor at The University of North Florida.
Lesley’s perspective contends organisms gradually became smaller and thus, weaker.
“Depending on the environmental conditions faced by an organism, there are many situations in which smaller size is better than larger size,” Gilg said. “So to say when an organism gets smaller it is ‘devolving’ is not correct.”
So far, all of the funds for The Greater Ancestors World Museum have come from Lesley’s pocket. Through One Spark 2014 he hopes to raise enough money to establish a location for the museum.
Aside from developing The Greater Ancestors World Museum, Lesley also works full-time and manages ChrisLesleyArt his art gallery, located in downtown Jacksonville. Between working and juggling daily life, Lesley remains focused on bringing his project to life and expanding it as much as possible.
In part, Lesley said his background in commercial art and designing and fabricating life-sized creations for theme parks and other entities will serve him well in his current project. He has also taught science at a Christian school in Sarasota and served in a youth and young adult ministry.
On the other hand, Lesley’s view on greater ancestors raises controversy due to how
differently he views evolution in comparison to what academic researchers have discovered in fossil records.
“The primary problem with current academics as I was taught is that it utilizes only a small percentage of the fossil record to compare and prove its points,” Lesley said. “I know some audiences won’t be receptive, but those aren’t the funders we are after.”
When asked about the controversial nature of his project, Lesley remains optimistic.
“I think everyone will walk away trying to formulate their own thoughts and reasoning for the evidence of greater, or giant, humans and animals that we present,” he said. “We have no doubt that the right funding from the right people will come.”
Lesley seeks to make The Greater Ancestors World Museum as large as he can and use the funds derived from it to create a theme park with large replicas and displays for everyone to be able to see. Visitors to the theme park will take part in a historical experience where they will be able to see things they never thought existed.
“What most people don’t know is that Walt Disney originally wanted his parks to be in Jacksonville. Many people opposed his idea, so he ended up traveling to Orlando,” Lesley said. “I want kids to be able to have a large park here that will not only entertain them, but also educate them.”
In addition to the museum and theme park, Lesley also hopes to create a documentary series highlighting his research and project goal. The Greater Ancestors World Museum seeks to find a way to go beyond what people are taught in school and open the public’s eyes to new possibilities.
“This is my passion and I want everyone to experience it,” Lesley said.
This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.