A Science Enthusiast’s Ark Encounter: Part 1
You can listen to the first half of my Ark Encounter in the latest episode of The Science Enthusiast Podcast, and also read Part 2 of the Encounter!
If you follow the page at all, you probably are aware that I spent a few days last week down in rural Kentucky touring the Ark Encounter that was built by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. I live tweeted much of the experience on Twitter at @aSciEnthusiast, (using the #NoahHeDidnt hashtag) and posted a few live videos of the experience on Facebook.
What will follow here is, what I believe to be, a fair and accurate account of my experience on the Ark.
Now, while I say “fair,” I suppose that needs to be explained a bit. For starters, Ken thinks dragons not only existed, but were actually on the Ark itself.
I’ll repeat that, because it bears repeating. Ken Ham, the person who is responsible for building the Ark Encounter, thinks that dragons are real.
Considering that I’m walking into the largest anti-science structure ever created using taxpayer money, I am indeed carrying a bit of bias. I subscribe to the theory of evolution because we have overwhelming evidence that proves it. Hell, you can even look at your own body for examples of evolution. I also know that climate change is occurring, and at least in part it’s due to humans. I also do not believe there is an imaginary wizard in the sky who gets off on watching me poop.
However, Ken does not believe in evolution. He does not believe in man-made climate change. As we’ll find out in Part 2 of this post, Ken doesn’t believe in plate tectonics.
This will be the first installment of an indeterminate series of posts about my experience on Ken Ham’s/Answers in Genesis’ Ark Encounter, and subsequently, the Creation Museum.
A quick “thank you” to my followers
This trip would not have been made possible if it weren’t for followers of the page. Without the financial support, I wouldn’t have been able to fund the trip to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum to document it and share it with you. To those that have bought a shirt or coffee mug from the store, thank you!
And to our patrons for our podcast (The Science Enthusiast Podcast), thank you as well!
We will be breaking down the Ark Encounter on this week’s episode. If you’re not already, you can become a patron at patreon.com/tSEpodcast! If you can’t offer financial support, that’s totally okay! We just hope you continue to enjoy our content and tell your friends about the page and podcast.
Ken Ham’s Background
Ken comes from Australia, where he was a former teacher. Ken became upset by how others were interpreting the Bible, and decided to get back to basics by creating Answers in Genesis. While I understand that Ken is absolutely considered a fundamentalist Christian, there are many areas where Ken and more “mainstream” Christians share common ground, such as cherry picking the parts of the Bible they want to buy into and ignoring the ones that they don’t.
Ken thinks that the Earth is 6,000 years old. He honestly believes that about 4,300 years ago, a worldwide catastrophic flood decimated the Earth’s population, resulting in just two of each “kind” of animal surviving – we’ll get to what a “kind” of animal is in a minute – and only eight humans surviving. Ken thinks that Noah is literally everybody’s great great great, super great granddaddy, since the flood killed nearly everyone about 170 generations ago.
I went into the Ark with as much objectivity as I possibly could to try to give Ken a fair shot at explaining his side of things. Ken made it impossible to do that.
Ken’s central thesis for the story of the Ark, and the way he addresses criticism of it, is to attempt to present the “One world, two views” aspect. He attempts to legitimize his own ideas by claiming that there are two possible views regarding what he believes is the single largest genocidal event ever to have occurred on Earth, followed up with decades of incest.
This would all be fine if children weren’t being taught this information as if it was a fact.
Ken’s goal is to get people to believe the one of the most outlandish things in the Bible. He wants to convince us that the Ark was real, because if you can get people to believe the unbelievable, then you can convince them that everything in between is plausible by comparison.
But before we jump into this, it’s important to remember that everyone who believes in the story of the Ark – and follows religion in general – are victims. They’re victims of indoctrination by their own parents, who are themselves victims of indoctrination by their parents. They are victims of the preachers who either genuinely believe what they’re preaching or, more than likely, are smart enough be aware that religion is completely nonsense. They’re essentially a socially acceptable form of snake oil salespeople.
Approaching the Ark Encounter
First, we were greeted with the sign for the park, which was still under construction.
The parking lot had at least 10-15 workers directing traffic, but even though we arrived more than an hour after the Ark Encounter opened, the lot was about a third of the way full. Regardless, I almost literally could not contain my excitement for what was in store for us.
To the right of the Ark, you’ll notice zip lines. I’ve never been zip lining and didn’t have any interest, but there were multiple signs advertising zip lines at both the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. I felt like Ken had a missed opportunity here by not letting people zipline off the Ark itself. Oh well.
We arrived at the registration area, which was located in the middle of the parking lot. The ticket area consisted of multiple windows where the staff was behind glass. I’m curious why they felt the need for such rigorous security to protect themselves from Christians?
Since the tickets had a barcode on them, and because this is 2016, I didn’t bother to print my ticket for the Ark. This apparently was a mistake. The woman, while very polite to me, had no idea how to handle this technological marvel and required assistance from a supervisor. My only thought during this time was “please don’t swipe to the next picture, please don’t swipe to the next picture” as the Christians literally had my phone hostage and undoubtedly would have had life-long trauma if they swiped the wrong way. Thankfully, the supervisor handed the phone back to me to do the swiping. This was the first time during my Ark Encounter that I truly felt #blessed.
We were then rounded up and loaded into a shuttle bus to be taken to the Ark (which, in retrospect, sounds fairly ominous). While on the bus, a family next to us struck up a conversation. They were from Arizona and had spent five days traveling with their four small children. If the Ark Encounter weren’t just over two hours away from my hometown of Indianapolis, I wouldn’t have bothered going, even for this blog.
But finally, we arrived at the Ark.
I had mixed feelings about the Ark. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I expected to be a strange combination of angry and amused. I was angry that this is something that actually exists. Angry that taxpayer money is being used to help create something like this. Angry that parents are indoctrinating their children by telling them what to think, rather than how to think. But also, I was amused that people actually believe these things.
What I didn’t expect was to be confused by the severe discoloration of the Ark itself. When Ken is lauding the “Disney quality” of his park (his own phrase), I expect to see a boat that isn’t half brown, with the other half some weird ash color.Also, the small lake of water in front of the Ark Encounter looked like someone had eaten at Chipotle then relieved themselves in it. It was extremely brown and not aesthetically pleasing.
Take some pride in your work and put a coat of stain on it, Ken.
The Ark Encounter Queue
I did my first live video of the day showing the walk up to the Ark (The video starts sideways, since I assumed Facebook would display it in landscape. It rotates after a bit. Sorry!)
Once in line, we had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. It took about an hour or so to get through, but thankfully we had entertainment of Ark-like “artifacts” to look at. We also had a movie on multiple HDTVs (just like Noah had) titled The Noah Interview. The movie consisted of Noah being interviewed by an absolutely smoking hot atheist who had an even hotter scribe with her (who clearly spent 90% of his free time in the gym).
Between the awkward dialogue and incessant lens flare, the film consisted of the angry atheist who interviewed Noah looking foolish (as if she’s the idiot for doubting the story of a drunk farmer who said his imaginary friend told him to build a huge boat). Sadly, I couldn’t find a copy of the film online anywhere, and the film isn’t on IMDB. Based on my memory, I believe Ken Ham himself was the writer, director, producer, and had a few other credits in the film. And of course, the type of person who thinks they’re great at everything usually are great at everything, right?
We waited in line for about an hour before finally getting up the ramp to get inside, only to find out that the whole point of the line was to get pictures taken in front of a chroma key screen that didn’t even have proper – or any – lighting equipment setup for it. We passed on this opportunity.
Inside the Ark Encounter
Once we got inside, we were hit with terrible lighting right out of the gate. This is one of the consistent themes throughout the Ark Encounter, and perhaps was done intentionally so that a novice photographer such as myself would struggle to take decent pictures. The Ark opens to display a dimly lit room with the etching “On the 17th day of the second month of Noah’s 600th year all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the floodgates of heaven opened.” Also, the room featured hinged gray service access doors, just like in Noah’s time. (I’m a bit underwhelmed at this point.)
Then, after a dimly lit hallway, we reach the ventral bow of the Ark (which lacked any lighting inside it). While you can’t see it from the interior, you’ll notice the exterior features a bulbous bow (the part that sticks out), which didn’t exist in Noah’s time. In fact, the bulbous bow wasn’t invented until the 1800s.
Next, we move into what must be some sort of “storage room.” The room features numerous crates and what appears to be clay pots. The pots are actually hollow plastic, and for some reason the crates have assorted animal sounds coming from them.
After that, we’re exposed to the first animatronic vignette in the Ark. There is absolutely no signage, so we’re left to assume that it’s Noah jerking back and forth while his wife, sons, and their wives pray and/or beg for something.
We then were led into another (dimly lit) room with a few signs on the walls. The first sign I encountered questions the legitimacy of how many species have existed on Earth. Instead of offering actual evidence to support the criticism, we have our first instance of the Ark telling us “nuh uh” to science. No actual sources to refute claims, just information presented as if it is commonly accepted fact. This will be a reoccurring theme throughout the Ark Encounter.
Another placard in the same room addresses the issue of space in the Ark. Ken says that God, of course in his infinite wisdom, would have sent Noah baby animals, as they take up less space, require less food, and don’t poop and pee as much. What this says is that God, who is the creator of everything and was pissed off that his creation became so evil and even though he loves everyone decided that he needed a do-over, is okay with the single largest genocidal event in the history of history and also is happy to separate the young from their parents. Seems like a deity I can rally behind!
Here, we are struck with the first examples of some seriously mediocre taxidermy (they’re models, not actual animals, but the idea is the same). I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of taxidermy in general – something about the exterior of a dead animal looking at me isn’t appealing. I’ve personally never killed an animal (intentionally at least), and certainly have never dabbled in taxidermy, but I’m fairly confident that I could have done just as decent of a job – if not better – than what the Ark Encounter did. There’s probably a reason that the lighting on all the animal displays were so dim, and how not a single display had any signs describing the animals themselves.
Many of these mysterious animals do not have any sort of lighting at all, putatively so you don’t see how terrible the animal models are. While I couldn’t get a good picture of it, I promise the (what I think are?) pterodactyl legs look as if they started as horse legs, then attached to a chicken’s body, but with large wings, and a pelican’s beak. It was not impressive.
Also, I’m told there were only about 30 animal displays set up on the ark. Keep in mind, this was supposed to be a life-sized replica of the actual Ark, which housed thousands of “kinds” of animals. Again, we’ll address what the hell the word “kind” means in a minute (spoiler alert: it’s not a real term).
Then we have the sign that talks about clean versus unclean animals. This is referring to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, which describe “unclean” animals. What is of particular interest is how Deuteronomy 14 describes “unclean” animals to specifically not include birds such as the eagle, stork, or bats. So despite the Bible being the word of God (and as we all know, God is infallible!), God messed up here. Bats are mammals, not birds. I guess God missed that day of biology class?
The next placard we encountered continued the theme of Ken being extremely defensive and saying “nuh uh” to skeptics. He claims that we mock the concept of the Ark and “develop questions to make the Ark look foolish.” In actuality though – no, we don’t have to develop questions to do this. We simply ask basic, elementary school science-level questions. In this placard, Ken goes on to basically explain that while he does indeed believe evolution occurs, he believes it occurred much, much faster than it actually did. Thanks for the partial admission though, Ken!
Now we finally come to the placard that explains what the hell different “kinds” of animals are. Ken explains that the reason there was only about 7,000 animals on the Ark is because there only had to be certain “kinds” of animals, from which all other animals derive. I saw the word “kind” used to refer to different animals throughout the ark (and subsequently in my trip to the Creation Museum the next day), and I still have no clue what the hell it’s supposed to mean. It’s not a real term used in classification of animals. The actual classification (in order of more general to specific) are: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. There is no “kind” of animal in there. There just isn’t.
Right next to the sign about the “kinds” of animals is the bat cage. There are no lights in the cage, outside the cage, or shining towards the cage. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get a single picture of the inside of the cage.
There was another sign talking about “kinds” of bats. It explained that the vampire bat didn’t need to be on the Ark, because conveniently it could have gone through an extremely rapid change in the post-flood world. But it’s totally not evolution, because: reasons.
Finally, we reached the stern of the Ark. While still poorly lit, I did happen to find two articles of clothing in a puddle of mysterious brown liquid. I’ll leave you to speculate as to what the brown liquid was.
So far, my Ark Encounter is fairly underwhelming. We’ve had criticism answered with “nuh uh,” crap taxidermy, and terrible/no lighting (and no signage) on the displays.
But what’s in store for the next deck? Well, we finally get some action with quite possibly the most accurate sign on the entire boat as the first thing we encounter: