Why doesn't the Ark Encounter simply declare the ark a long series of constant miracles?


#1

I’ve often wondered how many visitors to the Ark Encounter are frustrated by the lack of mention of countless basic engineering and operational feasibility problems with Ken Ham’s version of Noah’s Ark. I doubt that many Biologos forum participants need for me to list the most obvious obstacles to an all timber-structure (which Ham’s Ark most certainly is not) of such a design sustaining a significant number and diversity of animals for more than a year. So why doesn’t Ken Ham simply admit that only by God’s miraculous intervention on a day-by-day (or moment-by-moment) basis would his ark version be possible?

Instead, Ham simply ignores most of the problems while solving a few of them with an almost Flintstone-esque set of Noahic inventions. According to Ham, that Noah guy was apparently quite a semi-ingenuous fellow, although it is not that difficult to notice that most of the bizarre contraptions wouldn’t actually work at all well. For example, around-the-clock urine and feces contamination of the wood floors and “gravity ramps” would cause a disease epidemic within hours, no matter how well the overworked crew would scrape and wash [re-moisten!] the wooden surfaces. Rotting hoofs would soon turn into gangrenous limbs. All manner of molds, mange, slimy-biofilms, and even shelf-mushrooms would soon decorate every surface. The animals wouldn’t live for long but all sorts of microorganisms, nasty worms, and insects would experience a population boom. [And does anybody really expect food-stores to be exempt? Ham thinks the “cat-kind” pair(s) would take care of any unauthorized (i.e., lacking a boarding pass) vermin, but “kennel cough” would soon result in hundreds of burials at sea. Of course, most animals trapped in such crowded confinement would go into traumatic shock and refuse to eat. So I suppose that in itself would solve the manure problems after all of the bowels had emptied for the last time. It would also reduce the need for storing more than a year’s supply of food! Dying animals usually don’t eat much.]

Ham’s sermons constantly contrast “sinful man’s fallible ways” with “God’s perfect designs” and “divine sovereignty over all things”----so why does the Ark Encounter seem to depend on man’s ingenuity (those animal-driven, Flintstone-like inventions) instead of God’s power?

Even the average farmer with livestock experience knows that domesticated farm animals (not to mention wild animals) would have a very difficult time surviving for long in the boat-shaped tourist attraction—despite the assistance of electricity-powered modern marvels like HVAC ventilation and artificial lighting. I remember when AIG’s first floorplans for the Ark Encounter showed the petting zoo inside of the boat-shaped building instead of on a hill some distance away. Ham quickly discovered that even with the assistance of today’s technology, even seemingly ideal domesticated species like miniature goats and docile rabbits couldn’t help illustrate and animate his “living exhibit” of typical long-term ark inhabitants. Ark Encounter staff blame the absence of animals inside the ark-shaped building on “overly burdensome government regulations”, while not mentioning that those animal welfare codes exist _precisely because of the fact that neither the animals nor the human visitors can be kept healthy under such conditions. Even zoos with virtually ideal conditions and very generous space allotments require enormous staffs of veterinarians, zoologists, and 24/7 shifts of attendants to sustain even the “easiest” species in long-term captivity.

So why not just admit what Ken Ham often says in other contexts: “With man these things are impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”?

I would think that virtually all of AIG’s enthusiastic fan base and most of those who actually visit the Ark Encounter would be entirely satisfied with that simple solution. And it would provide an easy answer for many of the kinds of questions visitors ask on a daily basis when they notice that the ark exhibits barely touch upon most of those enormous problems.


(Curtis Henderson) #2

This is a very interesting observation. I feel a little bad for pointing it out, but the Ark Encounter tends to select for those that don’t question a lot of what is presented to them - particularly if they are told that “their side” is the only one defending the Bible.


#3

And I think about the future when many of the young people who are at present visiting the Ark Encounter with their parents and youth ministry leaders will tell their stories of how they eventually grew up and began to see problems with the AIG non-answers to questions. Some will tell of how it led to a crisis of faith, because the evidence they observed didn’t match what AIG and their church had told them. Some will speak of their Ark Encounter visit as the beginning of their trek to atheism. There will also be youth ministers who look back and strongly regret having taken young people to a faith-destroying tourist attraction.

I also wonder how many visitors to the Ark Encounter are very troubled by the obvious side-stepping of the big questions—and even shocked at the absurd claims that have support neither in the scientific evidence nor in the scriptures. (e.g. Ham’s 200 years of hyper-evolution immediately after the flood.) How many on their way out of the Ark Encounter parking lot will be afraid to express their concerns because the rest of their family or youth group keeps exclaiming how “blessed” and “edified” they felt?

I have observed Ken Ham becoming more and more adamant and angry as the years go by. He now speaks openly of AIG ushering in a “new Reformation”. Some would interpret some of his statements as indicating that he sees himself as a new Martin Luther. I could make some predictions about the future but I think it wise that I keep them to myself.

I would recommend that everyone listen to this lecture by Joshua Swamidas: IS JESUS GREATER THAN ANTI-EVOLUTIONISM?


Postscript: Whenever I think of these topics, I consider the ubiquity of the phrase “lying for Jesus” on a lot of discussion forums whenever anti-evolution controversies are discussed. I’m saddened that the first thing a lot of non-Christians think about when they hear mention of evangelical Christians, they think of dishonesty. (Whether that association is justified or not doesn’t make it any less unsettling.) And I have atheist friends in the science academy who rarely refer to the Discovery Institute without substituting a common but unfortunate corruption of the name. Unfortunately, I well understand the reasons why they feel justified in characterizing the Discovery Institute in that manner. It is easy to understand why a lot of people associate the evangelical world with dishonesty. (I didn’t say it was right or fair. I said it is easy to understand.)


(Larry Bunce) #4

I thought when the Ark Encounter opened last year that its main benefit would be to provide proof that a literal reading of Noah and the Ark is impossible. I have always thought the meaning of the story is to say that every living creature on earth has a necessary place, including the creepy-crawlies we don’t like.
Edward Hitchcock, writing in the 1840s, complained that whenever people tried to explain the Flood Story in natural terms, they always fell back on “well, God could have done it” whenever an insurmountable problem was pointed out.


#5

When clips of the video shown to people standing in line at the Ark Encounter entrance first started appearing on the Internet, I saw a number of arguments in comment sections over whether or not the video was a parody somebody had made to mock Ken Ham’s tourist trap. I really can’t blame them.

It is one of those campy productions that does seem deliciously intentional under the “it’s so bad that it’s really good!” genre. But in the context of where it is shown—to an expectant crowd of Ken Ham fans anxiously waiting to go inside—I can imagine that people are prone to interpret it seriously even though if the same people saw it in a stand-alone context, they would probably be unsure whether to applaud or laugh at it. (Many would probably wait for their friends to react first.)

I just now tried to find the video, but perhaps AIG had the clips removed from various websites. But you can always download it for $7.99! at

Even the promotional copy appearing on that webpage is kind of humorous, though unintentionally:

“Thousands of Ark Encounter guests have enjoyed this top-quality mini-movie at the life-size Ark Encounter theme park south of Cincinnati. Now you can bring the excitement home as you experience The Noah Interview.”

(Notice that it is not a miniature theme park. It is a life-size theme park. Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself at a theme park and it’s not life-size?)

The fact that the video is described as a “top-quality” mini-movie tends to set one’s expectations rather low. It is almost a concession that “We realize that because this is a Christian production, you are expecting production values to be really really low. But honest! We did a good job this time!”

I freely admit that I initially thought that the video was a parody and that someone like the fans of Bill Nye or Richard Dawkins had crowdfunded it in order to post it online as a hoax to go along with the Grand Opening of the Ark Encounter.

I also admit that I would almost be willing to pay to get a DVD of the Director’s Cut with Director’s Commentary of The Noah Interview.

The mind boggles.

(And yes, I’m highly opiated from post-surgical meds—so I can see the humor in the Ark Encounter without getting angry and depressed.)


#6

Your astute comment just struck me with the fact that the Ark Encounter was built by Amish craftsmen. I used to buy/sell livestock and work alongside a lot of Amish farmers. Almost all of them are relative experts in animal husbandry because even those who work as carpenters and at other non-agricultural vocations often keep some livestock and have horses to assist on the job and to take the family to church. So it makes me curious how they reacted to Ham’s initially blueprints showing some animal-occupied stalls and a petting zoo inside one level of the Ark Encounter. The Amish well understand what happens when you try to keep animals on anything by straw-covered dirt floors. Not only does a wood floor immediately turn into a rotting mess and the animal’s hooves rot alone with it, even a lot of domesticated farm animals have major problems with hard-surface floors.

Of course, the only way a lot of modern livestock operations can survive with tight quarters and oppressive enclosures is that the animals receive a steady diet of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and other biochemical wonder products. Most of the Amish farmers I knew understood that fact quite well—and they would have refused to abuse their animals in that way. (Nowadays, there’s a lot of media reports of Amish puppy mills shut down by state authorities but I can’t imagine the Amish communities I knew allowing such maltreatment.)

Speaking of Amish craftsman who built the Ark Encounter, I’ve wondered if they are disturbed by Ken Ham’s claim that it is "the world’s largest all wood structure. The Amish builders know that over 95 tons of steel bolts and reinforcement plates were used in connecting all that timber. [I think Ham eventually edited his boast to say something like “world’s largest timber-framed structure”, even though that is also quite false by a factor of at least 3X. That is, the American military’s ATLAS-I structure in Arizona is truly 100.00% wood and is three times larger.]

The fact that Ham continues to misrepresent the world record-breaking status of the not-all-wood ark despite the ethics in the Ten Commandments suggests that @cwhenderson’s observation about Ham’s fans “don’t question a lot of what is presented to them.” is probably an accurate characterization.


(Larry Bunce) #7

I found a good article giving in non-technical terms why a literal interpretation of the Ark is impossible.

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1992/PSCF9-92Siemens.html


(George Brooks) #8

@Socratic.Fanatic

I think Ham’s Ark Encounter is the final miracle in a long series of miracles… Poof !


#9

Too bad the article didn’t address my favorite post-deluge/post-ark animal distribution method: “They were propelled into the air over vast distances by volcanic eruptions.” I’m not making that up. I can’t recall which Young Earth Creationist author makes that claim but mental image itself is very hard to forget.

Cognitive dissonance apparently knows no bounds. However, I find that a lot of people are prone to cite “God performed miracles in transporting the animals where they needed to go after the flood.” So I’m surprised Ham and others don’t refer to miracles much more often than they do.


(Curtis Henderson) #10

I haven’t heard that one before! That one probably replaces my previous favorite - that animals rode thousands of miles on flotsam rafts and giant logs. You may remember the old saying “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” It just doesn’t resonate as well as it used to, even in highly conservative circles.


#11

A group of us who first got acquainted on Internet forums have tried to gather more details on the average Young Earth Creationist’s reaction to such bizarre ideas (such as the volcano blast transport hypothesis) by simply posting neutral questions on various YEC ministry forums. Unfortunately, no matter how tactfully we worded our questions, in many cases our posts were quickly deleted and our accounts were blocked. So if nothing else, we discovered that the people who controlled those forums were not proud of such “imaginative” solutions to ark feasibility problems, even though they never published anything to discourage those solutions (and sometimes seemed to endorse them.) .

What was most discouraging about these attempts at one-on-one interviews was the ways in which people completely dodged the issue. When we questioned a typical Young Earth Creationist who appeared to be satisfied with some of the more far-fetched “science-based answers”— such as ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) post-flood animals volcanically-blasted into the the atmosphere on their way to Australia—we often got an answer in the form of a question. Example: “And how much sense does it make for evolutionists to believe that godless theory when there is zero evidence for it?” But equally common was an answer which I thought was commendable, in its own limited way: “I don’t know exactly how God accomplished his purposes with the ark, but I know that with God all things are possible.”

So I keep coming back to the question of whether people like Ken Ham are giving their followers more allegedly scientific answers than they are actually expecting and needing. It’s too bad that such ministries don’t focus more on explaining how the Bible and Science are not in some sort of inescapable conflict—and not try to devise a “science proves the Bible fact sheet” which describes what all True Christians™ should think.