Fake Ark, Fake Religion


Fairy Tale ArkWell, it finally opened: the $100 million-dollar Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky that features an allegedly life-size model of the mythological boat described in the Bible. It’s 510 feet (155.4m) long, 85 feet (26m) wide, more than three storeys (51 feet) tall, uses 3.1 million board-feet of lumber, steel and other modern materials, on a base of rebar-reinforced concrete.*

The only two materials specifically mentioned in the Biblical tale are gopher wood and pitch. But this reconstruction doesn’t use gopher wood or pitch – curiously, both are conspicuous in their absence in this modern remaking. In fact, pitch isn’t even mentioned in the website about the theme park. Details, schmeetails…

It was built using a large crew equipped with modern cranes and tools based on diesel and electrical power. Without which, a bronze-age farmer would have had a tough time building something of this scale, let alone go to Australia and New Zealand and the Antarctic and Tibet and Mongolia and Rhodesia to collect the birds and animals he was supposed to carry.

The ark under construction

Now if you know the story in Genesis, the ark wasn’t supposed to go cruising, just float. It didn’t have sails. As it points out on the Friendly Atheist blog, Ham’s ark is completely wrong in its design and purpose:

That implies that it was designed to go somewhere with a purpose. Cruise ship. Cargo ship. War ship. But Noah’s Ark wasn’t a ship. Noah had one job — to make sure the Ark floated and keep everyone on it alive. His Ark didn’t have propulsion, engines, or sails. It just had to float.
That means what Noah built was a barge. It was made to simply hold something while an external source pushed it around… what “launch” is he talking about? In the Genesis story, the Ark was built and then floated as the water rose. It was never “launched” as we would see of ships today… Also, as far as a “landing,” who cares? If Noah successfully guided the Ark to the point where he could “land,” the method of doing it would have been irrelevant since the Flood was over and everyone survived.

So basically, the look, design and construction of this thing are all made up. Imaginary. Fictional. Like all the stories and myths in Genesis itself (I’ll write more about that sometime soon, but you can already guess my approach). But let’s look at the ark itself.

Even one of the AiG apologists for this nonsense, Tim Lovett, wrote

While the Bible gives us essential details on many things, including the size and proportions of Noah’s Ark, it does not necessarily specify the precise shape of this vessel. It is important to understand, however, that this lack of physical description is consistent with other historical accounts in Scripture… The Bible leaves the details regarding the shape of the Ark wide open—anything from a rectangular box with hard right angles and no curvature at all, to a shiplike form. Box-like has the largest carrying capacity, but a ship-like design would be safer and more comfortable in heavy seas. Such discussion is irrelevant if God intended to sustain the Ark no matter how well designed and executed.

Yet irrelevant as it was to the AiG folks, they went ahead and discussed it. At great length, as the page shows. What they didn’t seem to discuss was how a Bronze-age farmer – a 500-plus-year-old one at that!** – could have built this with handheld tools, and without modern steel or cranes.

Noah's ark?

Facts, schmacts. Just wander around the uncrowded floors and enjoy the views before the crowds come. If they ever come.

What about the animals? According to the New York Times story, the AiG people believe Noah only carried 1,400 pairs of animals. Uh, that’s a few million shy of the actual number of species on the planet. There are an estimated 6.5 million land-based creatures. Noah took 1,400 pairs.

I’m assuming mosquitoes and cockroaches were among them, since they are so common today, but I haven’t been able to find any photos of the tiny replicate cages to hold insects and other arthropods. In fact, there are only a few stuffed animals to be seen anywhere in the reconstruction, not the imagined 1,400 pairs. Why? Washrooms, apparently. As Tim Chaffey explained:

There will be only about 30 pairs of stuffed animals on the Ark Encounter because there just isn’t enough space. “We have to have dozens and dozens of bathrooms for visitors. Noah didn’t have to have that,” Chaffey said.

So accuracy gets sacrificed to convenience. Okay. But Ham’s mega-monstrosity also includes dinosaur pairs. Nothing like including a couple of voraciously hungry Velociraptors to keep the herbivores calm on a long sea voyage…

Yes, dinosaurs. The man behind this madness is publicity-seeking, young-earth creationist wingnut Ken Ham. Ham and his fellow inmates believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that during that time, humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Really. They believe there were 60-90 kinds of dinosaurs on the ark. Stop laughing. I don’t make this stuff up.

Yes, I know there were hundreds of thousands of types and species of dinosaurs – maybe millions – over 165 million years of their existence. But apparently Noah took under 100 pairs of them. The rest? Like those pelycosaurs, therapsids, archosaurs… Meh… don’t bother us with details.

Dinosaurs in the 'ark'

The park shows children alongside dinosaurs, and features a petting zoo, daily animal shows, zip lines, live entertainment and a 1,500-seat restaurant. Future phases of the project call for building “a walk through Biblical history”, as well as the Tower of Babel.

And don’t forget the gift shop. Probably also historically accurate, because Noah’s family wouldn’t have wanted to sail away without the opportunity to buy souvenirs and trinkets on the voyage… and the Fairy Tale Ark children’s play area (remarkably appropriately named…).

And did you know Noah was a vegetarian? No, the Bible doesn’t say that, but Ham and his friends figured it out… I guess they decided animals could be killed for food after they landed… that petting zoo might be next, however. I suspect the 1,500-seat restaurant does not offer a solely vegetarian, historically accurate menu.

Vegetarian Noah

Biblical scholars snort with derision at this sort of literalism. The whole mythology, metaphor, allegory thing is lost on these folks. As The Jewish Week noted,

The problem, according to Harvard biblical professor Michael D. Coogan, is that the museum “rests on an assumption that the bible is literally true in everything that it says.” Coogan emphasized that in the case of Noah’s Ark “that is simply not the case,” adding that the early chapters of Genesis are known to contain mythological references, and that its writers “drew on previous sources directly in constructing their own account.”

Yet Ham and his group managed to con more than $100 million out of gullible donors and investors to build this thing, as well as con the state government into giving them $18 million in tax breaks to create this anti-science, anti-intellectualism theme park (not to mention $11 million for a scheduled, taxpayer-funded highway upgrade to manage the expected hordes of visitors…).

So state taxpayers helped fund the promotion of anti-science ignorance in a (no doubt heterosexual Christian) family-friendly manner that poses as a museum. Yes, they want you to think they’re presenting science, not mythology, not looniness. Please, stop laughing.

As CNN reported:

By financial supporters, Ham means investors, donors, as well as the state of Kentucky, Grant County, and the city of Williamstown, all of which helped launch the ark project. According to Ham, $62 million was raised from investors who bought Williamstown’s unrated municipal bonds, and about $38 million came from donors.
The city of Williamstown sold approximately 100 acres of land to the Grant County Joint Local Industrial Development Authority for $10. The land, now part of the park, was subsequently purchased by Ark Encounter as part of a 318-acre sale. The city created a special tax district to forgive 75% of Ark Encounter’s property taxes over 30 years.

And are people flocking to see this? According to one report, “More than 30,000 visitors have been through the ark since it opened.” But other reports (with photos) show “dismal” opening day turnouts that suggest at best dozens, not thousands, of visitors.

No lines for opening day!

Far from being an embarrassment for Ham, it didn’t stop him from taking the same approach to reality he has taken to the Biblical tales: he made up a story. That’s right: he posted a photo and claimed “8,300 VIP guests and 150 media” attended on opening day. But that was quickly debunked by media watchers:

Red flags started to go up when Ham posted a photo to his Twitter account this Friday, boasting of a sizable crowd on at the “opening” of the attraction while comparing it to a photo depicting a less impressive turnout for an atheist protest. The only problem is that the photo was actually taken two days before the grand opening when Ham allowed the media, local politicians, and even some public high school students to take a preview tour.

It’s not even drawing many locals, where it’s only a short drive away – and a mere 45 minutes from Ham’s Creation “Museum”. Imagine in a day you could visit both entertainment sites masquerading as science and cough up more than $150 for a family trip. Who wouldn’t?

One Kentucky reporter found the 4,000-space parking lot mostly empty. The reporter, a self-confessed Christian, was not impressed:

The Ark Encounter often strains logic. Yes, a family of ancients with primitive tools and limited skills could have built this colossal boat, gathered two of every kind of creature on board and kept them afloat and alive for a year. And if Genesis says Noah was 600 years old when he did all of this, then, by God, he was!

Credibility, scmedibility. It’s all about the money. At $40 USD a head for adults ($31 for seniors, and $28 for children, plus $10 parking), I suspect Ham and his colleagues are hoping to turn over a bundle. Become millionaires, raking it in from the gullibility of visitors. As soon as the public gets excited about it. And stops laughing.

* The Tri-State Freethinkers – atheist activists who have protest the building – called Ham’s creation the “Genocide and Incest Park” for the lessons being taught by the Biblical tale. After all, once everyone else had been murdered by the Hairy Thunderer, who was left to repopulate the Earth?

** Genesis says Noah was 600 years old when the flood came – apparently in exactly 2328 BCE – but doesn’t tell us how long it took to build the ark. Given the length of time it took me to build a 65-foot fence in my back yard, I’d say it should have taken Noah about 100-120 years… if he didn’t stop for beers like I did… but then, I used power tools, so maybe he might need longer.   😉

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Ian Chadwick
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  1. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/07/bill-nye-ark-encounter-is-brainwashing-kids/

    “Nye lamented:
    ‘On the third deck (of the ark), every single science exhibit is absolutely wrong. Not just misleading, but wrong.’

    Nye is right to be disturbed. Children are being brainwashed and indoctrinated. By teaching children creationism as a legitimate scientific theory that disproves the theory of evolution, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is engaging in a form of intellectual child abuse.”

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