The answer to that question could be very long. I’ll bet among all the things you thought of buying with that much, you weren’t even once thinking it could buy a 510-foot replica of the mythological Noah’s ark.
But that’s what it is buying the folks who run the Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. You can see video “encounters” of it being built. Sort of (they wouldn’t work for me, but I’m an evolutionist, so their god probably stopped me from seeing them…)
The park will open in July and, its creators promise, it will attract 1.4 million people annually. That seems a bit of a long shot, don’t you think? Are there that many people who would pay to see something made up, based on an allegory? But that will attract 16,000 guests a day, says Ken Ham.
Yes, that Ken Ham: the vocal young-earth creationist, president of the fringe group, Answers in Genesis (AiG). The guy behind the wacky creationist theme park. So now you understand. Yes, they’re at it again.
Stop laughing. Creationism isn’t just a flighty wingnut conspiracy theory: it’s a serious challenge to our educational system. Well, by “our” I really mean the Americans because Canadians don’t allow that sort of claptrap in public schools. We just look on in wonder at the stupidity. And a bit of horror. But I digress.
Ham and his wingnut friends have raised a lot of money to make a tourist attraction instead of doing something Christian with it. Feeding or housing the poor. Medical care for the homeless. You know, something unselfish and caring for the greater good.
Apparently Ham isn’t that kind of Christian. He’s the theme park fun-ride, promote your own agenda kinda Christian. But take heart: they’re making a “Ten Plagues” ride in the new park so you can have fun while not thinking about the real good $101 million could do in the world. Or about how you’re making Ham and his friends rich.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this wacky entertainment site is that apparently American taxpayers are going to shoulder a lot of its cost. As Newsweek also told us:
The money used to build Ark Encounter came from donations of almost $30 million, plus $62 million in high-risk, unrated municipal bonds backed by the project’s future revenues. If Ark Encounter never makes significant profits (and bond documents warn that it may not), neither the city nor AiG is on the hook for the bond money.
The state of Kentucky isn’t quite as giving as the city. According to a story in The Telegraph, Ham’s group got the cold shoulder for tax breaks from the state:
The most recent setback has come from an apparently unlikely source – the state of Kentucky, one of the most conservative in the country – after it refused to grant AIG tax incentives because it required staff to sign off on its religious precepts.
AIG was counting on the help of an estimated $18 million in tourism tax rebates to build the park, but Kentucky this month turned these down, citing the group’s allegedly discriminatory hiring practices.
And why did the state do this? Newsweek again explains:
Because AiG posted Ark Encounter job listings on its website requiring a “salvation testimony” and a creationist statement of faith.
No separation of church, state and labour laws for these folks. Despite this setback, Ham told an onsite media conference,
It’ll certainly be one of the biggest Christian attractions in the world.
Yeah, I bet. Outshine the Vatican, St. Paul’s cathedral, Notre Dame and Bethlehem combined. But wait, Ken, you probably didn’t notice this, but the Noah fable is from Genesis. Not the New Testament. It’s Jewish. Not Christian. And if you think it’s okay to eat bacon and shrimp, then you don’t get rights to any Jewish stories.Fables or not.Cherry-picking what you want to obey from the Bible isn’t kosher.
Ham himself is apparently confused about the source:
“We make no apology about our Christian message,” Ham said in a post on the organization’s website last week. “We have never hidden the fact that our purpose is to spread the truth of God’s Word and its life-changing gospel message.”
Noah and the gospels? Mixed metaphors? Or mixed mythologies? Hmmm. Ham needs to do some ‘splaining as to how that works. (unless the connection is that neither Noah nor Jesus were allowed to eat bacon…)
And just to make it even wackier than you imagined, Ham’s buddies are putting dinosaurs on the ark. Yep, that’s right: creatures that died out 65 million years before proto-humans ever banged two rocks together. A modern day Jurassic Park, without all that messy cloning stuff. Newsweek reported:
Imagine the Titanic minus the smokestacks, framed out of timber rather than iron. Imagine that instead of a doomed ocean liner bustling with well-dressed elites, it’s home to 2,000 seasick animals, a handful of teenage dinosaurs and one patriarchal family headed by a 500-year-old man bent on saving the world.*
Some people, eh? Imagine making a gigantic “life-sized” model of Godzilla. Or King Kong. Telling people these were real creatures who walked the earth. And then showing where they slept while on the boat.
I know, it’s easy to make fun of Ham and his bag of mixed nuts, but I can’t help it. It’s just too easy to do.
We all know the ark story was an allegory, not fact. You know, a story told to teach a moral lesson. Like Cinderella or Goldilocks. Well, all as in everyone but Ham and his wingnut literalist friends. The rest of us aren’t confused about it. But it could influence the younger minds of children, and therein lies the menace. Children deserve education, not claptrap.
Science Guy Bill Nye summed it up in a master stroke of understatement:
Raising a generation of young people who are confused about the natural history of the Earth is not in our best interest.
* The Newsweek article also incorrectly states, “Cultures all over the globe share the legend of Noah’s Ark…” which is not correct. Only Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures share that fable because it comes from Genesis. Some (by no means all) cultures also have a flood story, but not the ark and Noah.