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Guest post by David MacMillan.

David MacMillan is an author, engineer, and researcher who formerly wrote for Answers in Genesis before obtaining his degree in physics. He now writes about science and culture for Panda’s Thumb, the Huffington Post, and several other blogs.

In the buzz of excitement surrounding Opening Day at the Ark Encounter, the team of writers at Answers in Genesis continues their struggle to explain how all terrestrial life could have been shoved onboard the Ark and then exploded back out into millions of species in only a few dozen centuries. The more they write, however, the more difficult it becomes to make sense of their approach. Nathaniel Jeanson has a new post that further compounds my confusion.

One of AIG’s youngest writers, Jeanson sports an impressive Harvard degree in cell biology and has previously worked with the Institute for Creation Research. Given his degree, it must be assumed he has enough education to understand the subjects he is writing about. Jeanson appears sincere, and it is evident he believes his conclusions fervently. He has to know, though, that his arguments are completely detached from those conclusions. He writes with the awkward obfuscation of someone trying to defend a sinking ship while earnestly attempting to remain tenuously bound to the uncomfortable constraints of reality.

… and Ark Park responds predictably.

More specifically, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a “warning” to more than 1000 school districts in Kentucky and neighboring states, advising them against field trips to the Ark Park. The Ark Park, says FFRF, is a Christian ministry (as opposed to an educational museum), and they quote Ken Ham as having penned a letter, “Our Real Motive for Building Ark Encounter,” in which he writes:

Our motive is to do the King’s business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith so that we can reach as many souls as we can.

FFRF says,

Taking public school students to a site whose self-professed goal is to convert children to a particular religion and undermine what is taught in public school science and history classrooms would be inappropriate.

And they add that courts have summarily rejected arguments that making the field trip “voluntary” makes it constitutional.

Ark Park today responded predictably, if a bit hysterically:

The atheists are on the rampage again, and this time their target is our just-opened Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky.

Their lawyers crafted a response, which is largely pabulum, but the gist of which is

If classes are coming to the museum or Ark in an objective fashion, however, to show students world-class exhibits and one group’s interpretation of the origin of man [sic] and earth history, then the field trip is just fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational and cultural experience.

I suppose that would be true if that group’s “interpretation of the origin of man and earth history” were not a purely religious interpretation. The author of the article, Mark Looy, goes on to say that the atheists “can’t handle the truth” and accuses them of being “secularists,” which I suppose is true, and of being specifically anti–[fundamentalist] Christian, which I rather doubt. Mr. Looy repeats the pretense that the Ark Park is an educational museum:

Such antireligious zealotry causes secularists to grossly twist the First Amendment and then scare educators with a misinterpretation of the First Amendment. To repeat: as long as a school trip fits an educational, recreational, or historical purpose, for example, it would be constitutionally appropriate.

The secularist religion of humanism and naturalism is being taught in the public education system without challenge in most schools. This false teaching is deceiving many young people. Students are being taught that there is no God and that they are merely the products of random processes. [Italics added]

The FFRF letter provides chapter and verse, if you will pardon the expression, to explain why “it is unacceptable to expose a captive audience of impressionable students to the overtly religious atmosphere of Ham’s Christian theme parks” and concludes that

Ham is free to erect monuments to his bible, but public schools are not permitted to expose the children in their charge to religious myths and proselytizing.

Ark Park on opening day

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The Ark Park opened July 7, and our colleague Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, attended and provided us with these photographs.

Ark_On_Opening_Day.jpg

The “Ark” on opening day. Mr. Phelps observes, “I suspect there is moisture getting under some of the laminated veneer on the side of the Ark. Note the darker splotches and discoloration. It has rained a lot here recently.”

Queue_To_Enter_Ark.jpg

Queue to enter the “Ark.” Mr. Phelps writes, “When you arrive, you have to stand in line even if you already have a ticket, board a bus, then go to the Ark, where you again stay in a long line watching an incredibly dumb film about Noah.” Mr. Phelps said that there were a “[h]uge crowd and long line when I got there at ~9:30 am. Rather thin by 3 pm. Probably 3000+ there early in the morning.” Channel 5 in Cincinnati revealed that over 4000 people had entered the facility by mid-day, and “Ark” employees estimated that the total attendance for the day would be approximately 6000.

Wm_Dembski.jpgOn checking out the specs for Ken Ham’s replica of Noah’s Ark, I came across this claim on the About Page:

The Ark Encounter, opening phase one on July 7, 2016, is a one-of-a-kind, historically themed attraction. In an entertaining, educational, and immersive way, it presents a number of historical events centered on Noah’s Ark as recorded in the Bible. As the largest timber-frame structure in the US, the 510-foot-long full-size Ark is designed to be family-oriented, historically authentic, and environmentally friendly.

Well, that claim is just plain false. We New Mexicans get the chance to see an even larger timber-framed structure, visible from aircraft close to the Albuquerque International Airport.That 600-foot-long-plus structure is called ATLAS-I, also known as the TRESTLE. It is made entirely of wood - even the bolts are wooden or dielectric. Its purpose was to support large airplanes under strong antennae used to simulate ElectroMagnetic Pulses (EMP), strong radio impulses produced by nuclear weapon explosions. Since any metal supports would have affected these types of tests, the wooden platform allowed even very large aircraft to be suspended high above ground, and immersed in strong fields, just as if they were in the open air. Electromagnetically speaking, they were in the open air.

Geology for evangelicals

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In honor of the opening of Ken Ham’s nefarious Ark “replica” today – you know, the one made out of gopher steel and wood – I decided to post this piece about a book written by evangelical scientists who know better than to treat the book of Genesis as history or science, for evangelical laypersons who either know better than to treat the book of Genesis as history or science, or can be taught to know better.

Grand_Canyon_Cover.jpg

The book is called The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth, and it is an anthology written by competent people and directed at evangelical Christians. Indeed, the subtitle is, “Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?” The book, which I have not seen, appears to be lavishly illustrated, with 255 photographs and 104 diagrams and sketches, according to Church & State magazine. It is being sold in all 8 bookstores in the Grand Canyon National Park.

I am getting virtually all my information from an article in the latest issue of Church & State magazine. They note that the book has 11 co-authors, 8 of whom are evangelical Christians, and 3 are agnostics. The authors’ specialties include geology, biology, and paleontology. Church & State quotes Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education to the effect that the book “does a great job of explaining the science of Grand Canyon’s spectacular geology, as well as helping readers understand how the creationist misuse of Grand Canyon finds no support from science.”

Importantly, the publisher of the book is an evangelical firm, Kregel Publications, which, according to co-author Tim Helble, “was a good match for us because they have … published other books dealing with origins issues and would be able to sell the book in venues where evangelicals can be reached.” The last seems very important to me.

The bulk of the Church & State article is an interview with Mr. Helble, a retired hydrologist with the National Weather Service. Mr. Helble states explicitly that the “11 authors wanted to help counter the misleading information being disseminated by the young-Earth creationist (YEC) ministries.” He recognized the problem in 1994 when he found a book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, edited by PhD geologist Steve Austin, and apparently chock full of errors. Here are a few snippets from the interview:

Three things we agreed to before we started writing were (1) our target audience is people who are uncertain about the age of the Earth, (2) a Christian reader shouldn’t feel like he/she is being ridiculed and (3) a college science degree shouldn’t be needed to understand it. …

Of course the Bible has tremendous value – I just think the young Earthers over-globalize the flood account, fail to see the worldview of the ancient Near East people and miss out on the rich poetic devices used in the early parts of Genesis. …

I think those claiming censorship misunderstand how the scientific process works. You can’t write an article about something like a geologic formation that basically says “the Flood did it,” and expect to have it accepted by a scientific journal. There has to be a quantitatively realistic mechanism consistent with the laws of physics behind what you are proposing. …

Creationism is a third rail in public schools, but there are some ways to inoculate students against it without directly addressing the subject. Schools could to do a better job of teaching how we know the Earth is old. For example, instead of just teaching that sedimentary rocks are made of sediments like sand and silt, students can be shown how fossils are found in such rocks of things that take a long time to form like intact reef systems, termite nests, forest communities and orderly nests of unhatched dinosaur eggs. …

By the way, when a student brings up young-Earth arguments, the worst thing to do is attack his or her faith. All you’re doing then is reinforcing the “us-vs.-them” mindset and helping the young-Earth ministries keep a lifetime follower. …

It certainly seems like there is a clash [between science and religion] if you focus on the extremes – the “new atheists” at one end and the YECs at the other. It’s interesting that both of them insist on a wooden, literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.

I think religion and science can coexist if they don’t tread on each other’s turf where it’s not appropriate. I’ve seen new atheists use some pretty bad theology, and I think religious people should accept that there are some things that you just have to take on faith – stop trying to find “ultimate proofs” of difficult theological ideas like creation.

I am an old atheist (or, as I prefer to put it, a strong agnostic), and I do not know what is wooden about my interpretation of Genesis, but we will let that go. I think that among Mr. Helble’s most important remarks are that people should not feel that they are being ridiculed (yes, I know it is difficult at times, and the line between gentle satire and ridicule is sometimes uncertain), students should not think their faith is being attacked, and religion and science can coexist if they do not “tread on each other’s turf.” That is, as your local accommodationist, I think he is right that we have to accept religious people as they are, but only as long as they do not make claims that are flatly contrary to scientific fact.

Dan Phelps tells us that Barry Lynn of Americans United will appear alongside Ken Ham (I do not know whether in series or in parallel) on radio station WEKU in Richmond, Kentucky.

Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis will be joining us live via Skype for the show; as well as Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United. Jay Hall from Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts, and Humanities will be live in the studio.

We’re interested in your questions and comments on the park before and during the show at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. You can leave a voice message at 859-622-1657 or call in when you tune in for EST Thursday morning from 11 to noon on 88.9 WEKU. [Eastern Daylight Time = UTC - 4 h.]

Feel free to tweet about the topic @wekuEST and post to the WEKU facebook page.

Confusingly, Eastern Standard is the name of the show, but Richmond is on Eastern Daylight Saving Time. I am listening to Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 on WEKU right now, so I assume the program will be streamed. If you listen to it, please feel free to comment here.

This link is a preview of an Australian television show about the “replica” of Noah’s Ark being built out of gopher steel and concrete in Kentucky. I think it will air next Sunday, and I hope that an online version will be available soon afterward. “Sunday Night” is apparently an Australian news magazine similar to 60 Minutes in the US.

Ken (who you callin’ the a Messiah, bud?) Ham commented on the program here; he seems to have been bent out of shape by a comment made by Bill Nye in the preview. Mr. Ham is an Australian native, and that may be part of the reason that the Australian channel is running the story.

The producers also interviewed the Ark Park’s persistent critic Dan Phelps at length, both in a hotel meeting room in Cincinnati and on an outcrop near Big Bone Lick State Park. I have a feeling that Mr. Ham will be bent further out of shape if Mr. Phelps’s comments are aired.

Dan Phelps just sent us an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. The editorial accuses Kentucky of seeking science jobs while at the same time denying science: not just evolution but also global warming, alternative energy sources, and conservation. The editorial notes that Kentucky is “perennially short of money,” in part because of tax breaks like that for the Ark Park, and concludes,

Kentucky forgoes tax revenue to help deny science while telling students they need to learn it. In homage to coal, Kentucky dumbly stints on alternative energy technologies, or even conservation, while telling young people they need to prepare to work in advanced manufacturing.

The messages aren’t just mixed, they’re in open conflict.

That about sums it up.

I do not know why it is coming to light only now, but a few years ago a Kentucky elementary school rewarded students with “perfect” attendance by taking them on a field trip to the Creation “Museum.” Americans United has reported the story here, and a few days ago we received a press release from Daniel Phelps, a persistent critic of the Ark Park and the Creation Museum. Mr. Phelps has sent his press release to the Associated Press and elsewhere, but he tells us that he cannot get any reporter interested in investigating. We will reproduce his press release below the fold.

Americans United notes that the school’s definition of “perfect” is somewhat flexible, in that one absence counted as perfect. More importantly, they note

And kids have a right to learn about [certain religious concepts] - on their own time or in Sunday school. Such ideas are not appropriate for an official public school field trip, even if that trip was only offered to a handful of students. Instead, kids should be learning sound science - not religious dogma.

Mr. Phelps argues that the trip is “a clear violation of the separation of church and state” and “an act of educational malpractice.” He is concerned that, although this trip happened in 2012, there may be many like it, and he claims that Answers in Genesis “brags that they have stealth missionaries in the public school system.” Mr. Phelps’s entire press release follows.

Ark “replica” to open around 7/7

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Ken Ham’s Ark “replica” is scheduled to open around July 7, or 7/7, in part because Genesis 7:7 says “and Noah went in and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark,” according to a recent article and a short video by Karla Ward in the Lexington News-Herald. Sorry, no animals inside, but there will be a petting zoo outside. The animals inside the ark will be “sculpted.”

Among other things that are possibly of interest to PT readers, Mr. Ham asserted that guidelines for hiring employees at the Ark Park “will be different than Answers in Genesis.” No telling exactly what that means, but presumably they will not require employees to pass as stringent a religious test. It seems to me that they could have saved a lot of litigation by having asserted nondiscriminatory guidelines in the first place.

In passing, Ms. Ward notes that a journalist asked Mr. Ham whether he believed in the Noah story as a historical event, rather than as a piece of literature and not intended to be understood literally. Mr. Ham’s response was, “Jesus referred to Noah. He’s referred to as a real person and a man of great faith.” That sure proves it!

Finally, Mr. Ham noted that the Ark will feature dinosaurs, but they will not be stressed. I suppose that there will be no unicorns in the Ark, because as everyone knows they got to the pier late.
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Thanks yet again to Dan Phelps for a never-ending stream of articles that keep us up-to-date.

Judge rules in favor of Ark Park

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A Federal judge ruled yesterday that the Ark Park is entitled to sales tax incentives that had been denied by the state of Kentucky, according to an article by Dylan Lovan. Briefly, District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that the state cannot exclude the Ark Park from receiving the tax incentive simply because the park has a religious purpose. Further, although Mr. Lovan does not note it, the judge opined that the Ark Park is within its rights to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion (and still receive the tax incentive), because it is clearly a religious organization.

Americans United, in a blog post, called the ruling “radical” and argued that Kentucky would have had a good chance of winning on appeal, based on a 2004 Supreme Court decision, Locke vs. Davey, wherein the court gave states “discretion to exclude religious programs from otherwise neutral funding schemes.” The ruling is unlikely to be appealed, according to the Associated Press, because the newly elected Republican governor is “pleased” with the decision.
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Thanks to Dan Phelps for the tip and for the transcript of the Judge’s ruling.

By David MacMillan.

David has been fascinated by the creation/evolution controversy for many years. Growing up, he was fully committed to creationist apologetics. He purchased a lifetime charter membership to the Creation Museum and even had blog posts featured on the Answers in Genesis website. During college, he continued to actively pursue creation apologism as he earned a degree in physics, but began to recognize the mounting religious and scientific problems with young-earth creationism. His renewed investigation uncovered more and more misconceptions implicit in creationism, and he eventually rejected it as both theologically indefensible and scientifically baseless. He now writes extensively about young-earth creationism for several websites.

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Note added December 30, 2015: This article has been cross-posted at Naturalis Historia, the blog of Joel Duff. As David MacMillan notes below, in a comment, “He gets a slightly different readership and has attracted the attention of AiG before so it will be neat to see whether they deign to reply.”
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As the strict young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis work to complete their Ark Encounter “theme park”, they have expended an impressive amount of energy organizing the millions of species of land animals alive today into a handful of small groups they call “baramins”. They claim these groups represent the original created kinds of which Noah would have brought pairs onto the ark. This consolidation of numerous species into single “baramin” groups is driven primarily by the space on Noah’s purported vessel. The smaller the menagerie the Ark was purported to have contained, the more feasible it seems, and so the “baraminologists” at Answers in Genesis have gone to great lengths to explain how the vast array of species today could have been represented by a relatively low number of ancestral pairs.

One well-known hallmark of modern young-earth creationism is the dogma of separation between “microevolution” and “macroevolution”. Although early opponents of Darwinian evolution categorically denied that speciation or natural selection were possible at all, advances in genetics and biology made this position completely untenable. In response, creationists (particularly the young-earth crowd) protested that while “microevolution” was a viable, observable process in biology which they accept as “change or speciation within a kind”, the notion of “macroevolution”, or “change between kinds”, remains impossible. These definitions beg the question by presuming such things as discrete “kinds” exist, but creationists are nonetheless insistent that while adaptation or speciation within a particular “baramin” is observable (and, indeed, necessary in order to account for the present observed diversity of life), there is never any overlap between separate kinds. Their most well-known example of “kinds” is the difference between cats and dogs, where they explain that the diversity of dog breeds is the result of “microevolution” from some original dog/wolf kind, but that dogs will never “macroevolve” into cats.

Unfortunately for the young-earth model, the push to minimize the number of animals riding on the Ark has exposed a major problem with this view. Ironically, this problem is perhaps nowhere more apparent than with the very clade (the technical/evolutionary equivalent of the term “kind”) to which cats and dogs belong: Order Carnivora.

The Answers in Genesis website has repeatedly posted large, detailed lists of various species, families, and orders with attempts to organize them into baramins. One of the largest such postings, by retired veterinarian Jean Lightner, organizes the majority of Order Carnivora into eight distinct “baramins”: felines, civets, dogs, hyenas, bears, weasels, mongooses, and red pandas.

MacMillan_Baramins_Fig_1_600.jpg

Figure 1. The eight major carnivorous “baramins”, as claimed by young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis.

Excellent article, What Ken Ham Isn’t Telling You About Ark Encounter Funding, by Tracey Moody, regarding the financing of the Ark Park. Much is already known to PT readers, but the iceberg is bigger than we thought. Besides for-profits masquerading as nonprofits, it appears that the Ark Park is eligible for tax-increment financing, whereby the Ark Park (or some incarnation thereof) receives a loan that is paid back (if at all) by property taxes. The property taxes go to paying off the loan, rather than to the community, until the borrower goes bankrupt.

Read Ms. Moody’s article!

Noah’s Ark was a basket

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Coracle.png

By Nile and Tigris Journeys in Egypt and Mesopotamia on behalf of the British Museum between the years 1886 and 1913 (1920), showing coracles, or circular boats woven from reeds and sealed with pitch. Wikimedia, public domain.

The other day I watched a Nova program, Secrets of Noah’s Ark. Not much wholly new, and not a whole lot of secrets, but if you watch the program, you will learn of cuneiform inscriptions that describe how the gods precipitate a universal flood, Atrahasis builds an “ark” in the form of a circular basket 220 ft in diameter (70 m for those with better taste), and life begins again, precisely as in the Noah story. Or perhaps it is the other way around: the Jews during the Babylonian captivity took the story of Atrahasis and embellished it by making it a sort of morality play.

At any rate, if you watch the video, you will find that the Ark was more than likely a round, woven boat, known as a coracle, as in the picture above. Such boats are woven from reed ropes and sealed with pitch; they have been used for several millennia. The attempt to manufacture a coracle on a large scale was also interesting, even though it ended in only partial success.

Noah’s Ark is said to have been a rectangular box (Genesis 6:15). Doubtful. More than likely, the Ark was a coracle. It was not, at any rate, shaped the least bit like a certain model being built in Kentucky right now.

Simon Brown of Americans United reports that 2 Kentucky lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would prohibit local public schools from beginning the fall term before late August. The avowed purpose of the legislation is to support the Ark Park. One of the legislators, Damon Thayer, explained,

Grant County is set to become a major tourist destination due to the presence of the Ark. But there won’t be many families from Kentucky visiting in August if we continue with the current calendar

Mr. Brown points out in his article, however, that if the Ark Park will truly get 2 million visitors in its first year, the vast majority will not come from Grant County and thereabout. Local school officials are not so keen on the idea either.

In addition, and not entirely off topic, Dan Phelps notifies us of another editorial (available in hardcopy only) by Mark Looy of Answers in Genesis. Mr. Phelps writes that Mr. Looy

will not admit that AIG’s loss of the tax incentive is because of their discriminatory hiring practices. He ignores the advertisement for Computer Assisted Design technician from a year ago that got them in trouble. If you recall, the advertisement required adherence to AiG’s statement of faith, salvation history, and membership in very specific types of Christian churches. Furthermore, when Ark Encounter originally received the tax incentive in 2010/2011 they specifically said they would not discriminate in hiring.

Ark Encounter is a for-profit corporation, and Mr. Looy knows perfectly well how to get his tax incentives restored; as I noted recently,

… Ark Encounter’s tax incentives will be restored, if only they pledge in writing that they will not discriminate in employment. Ark Encounter has so far declined to give such assurance, which makes a body speculate that they just might be thinking of laundering all Ark Encounter employment through Answers in Genesis in order to circumvent the law.

Dan Phelps alerted us to the fact that AIG’s Allosaurus fossil had been donated by an organization headed by Michael Peroutka, a man affiliated with “a white supremacist, neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Mr. Phelps now writes,

Interesting that this press release didn’t get any coverage when I sent out the information last year. The Creation Museum received an Allosaurus dinosaur fossil appraised at $1 million from a donor who was on the Board of Directors of the League of the South. Various politicians are returning donations from hate groups after the recent Charleston shooting. According to the Encyclopedia of Modern American Extremists and Extremist Groups (by Steven E. Atkins, 2002, Greenwood Press), “Close ties have been formed between the LOS [League of the South] and the Council of Conservative Citizens with a significant cross-membership” (p. 174). Horrifyingly, Dylann Roof received some of his inspiration from the Council of Conservative Citizens [a direct descendant of the White Citizens’ Councils that were established in the 1950’s, primarily to oppose school integration].

Answers in Genesis (the owners of the Creation Museum) admirably makes anti-racist statements at times, but has taken a valuable donation from Michael Peroutka, a former Board Member of the racist hate group known as the League of the South. Why doesn’t the Creation Museum return the fossil or give it to a real science museum?

Tom Loftus reports in the Louisville Courier-Journal that Gov. Steve Beshear has asked a federal court to dismiss the Ark Park’s lawsuit on the grounds that “[p]roviding the public funding sought for religious purposes …would constitute an unlawful establishment of religion” and thereby violate both the state and federal constitutions. Governor Beshear and his co-plaintiff, state Treasurer Bob Stewart, told the Courier-Journal that “the state’s denial of public funds for the ark park [sic] ‘reflects no hostility toward Plaintiffs’ faith’ and does not prohibit Answers in Genesis and its affiliated organizations from following their religious beliefs.”
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Update, March 31, 2015: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has submitted a motion to intervene on behalf of four Kentucky taxpayers to “prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to unconstitutionally finance a religious ministry.” According to a press release, the taxpayers argue “that ‘[t]he tax rebates sought for Ark Encounter would effectively compel me, as a Kentucky taxpayer, to subsidize a religious ministry against my will.’” Two of the taxpayers are Christian ministers. AU has also submitted a proposed motion to dismiss, which I take it becomes active if the motion to intervene is granted.

Wave 3, which appears to be Channel 3 in Louisville, Kentucky, reported yesterday that the Ark Park indeed plans to sue the state over tax incentives that were denied last month. Wave 3 reports,

Lawyers say this encounter is about to make an appearance in court and it’s all over tax incentives. The lawyer for the Ark Encounter says it will sue the state in federal court to try to regain the rebates it believes the state should give it for building the biblical attraction.

The link is approximately a transcript of the Wave 3 television broadcast, but the broadcast itself is worth watching – the television reporters got a tour of the construction site, and it looks like they are actually building the model Ark. A nice slideshow, Constructing the Ark Park, is also linked to the Wave 3 Web page.

The lawyer for the Ark Park, Mike Johnson, made an interesting statement:

They had to move over a million cubic tons, I think it was, of dirt.

If that is true, then the ton must be a unit of length, or else they are building the model in a 9-dimensional space. Maybe that is how Noah snuck so many creatures onto the Ark: he dropped them off into some of the extra dimensions. Works as well as any explanation promulgated by AIG. I hope that Mr. Johnson is as good a lawyer as he is an engineer.

Ark Park attendance is estimated to be no more than 640,000 visitors in its best year, down from 1.24 million, according to a report by Tom Loftus in The (Kentucky) Courier-Journal. That is not as bad as it appears – or as good as it appears, depending how you look at it – considering that the project has been scaled back from $172.5 million with many additional attractions to $73 million without.

The Kentucky Secular Society obtained a redacted copy of a report by Hunden Strategic Partners, of Chicago, through the Kentucky Open Records Act and distributed a press release to a handful of reporters. According to the press release, Hunden examined two scenarios: a “mainstream approach” and a religiously based approach “that may represent a specific viewpoint more associated with the Creation Museum.” The religiously based approach would net an attendance of 325,000 in the first year, a maximum of 425,000 in the third year, and then a decline to 275,000 by the tenth year. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis had said in October that “the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year,” but this estimate was probably based on the earlier proposal. Hunden also estimates a “fiscal impact” of $4.9 million, kind of a paltry return on a total tax-incentive package of $18.25 million.

Hunden also points to a steady decline in previous attendance at the Creation “Museum,” including a projected steep decline in 2014, but the precise figures have been redacted. I cannot tell from the wording whether to credit the report or the Kentucky Secular Society, but the press release claims that the attendance dropped precipitously after the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye in February.

Ed Hensley of the Kentucky Secular Society notes in the KSS press release,

The Hunden Report adds more evidence that the Commonwealth of Kentucky made the correct decision in rejecting the Ark Encounter application for tax incentives. Ken Ham, Ark Encounter, and Answers in Genesis are currently threatening to sue the Commonwealth for the right to have tax-supported religious discrimination in employment. We should consider the contrasting claims of the Hunden report while evaluating their threats.

See here for an article on the threatened lawsuit and here for an article on the Ark Park’s hiring practices.
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Acknowledgment: Thanks again to Alert Reader for forwarding the press release.

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