Ken Ham, a fundamentalist Christian who is best known for his public debates with Bill Nye (The Science Guy), has just finished building a $100 million replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. Once an Australian science teacher, Ham is now one of the most influential evangelical preachers in the Bible Belt — and he’s set out to expand his reach by building what he calls “Ark Encounter.”
According to News.com Australia, the replica ark, which was entirely privately funded, is seven stories high, about 220 yards in length, and has taken the title of the largest timber-framed structure on Earth. Ham calls it “one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era” and expects his Ark, positioned right in the middle of Kentucky next to the interstate, to attract two million visits a year after it opens in July.
“[Ark Encounter is] the most wholesome, family-friendly God-honoring facility around.”
“You sort of have to pinch yourself and say this has actually been built.”
Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis (a non-profit which pulled in revenues of $27 million in 2014) is also responsible for Kentucky’s Creation Museum. A $27 million amusement park which opened in 2007, the “museum” features displays of dinosaurs and humans living together, a 78-seat planetarium illustrating creationist alternatives to the Big Bang theory, and other exhibits intended to portray the events of Genesis as literally accurate.
Meanwhile, according to The West Australian, the construction site itself is a curious mix of modern and, well, Biblical – all of the measurements are in cubits, of which the Ark was, according to scripture, 300 cubits by 50 by 30. And Ken Ham firmly believes that it truly existed and survived a worldwide flood carrying all of the world’s animals.
“I grew up in a home where we were taught that Genesis is history.”
Most people just laugh off Ham, a man whose answer to every scientific question is that “there’s a book that explains that, it’s called the Bible.” But many scientists, including Bill Nye, consider him actively dangerous — a view that journalist Steve Pennells of Australia’s Sunday Night, who recently interviewed Ham, shares.
“And in conservative America, he has found a lot of kindred spirits. That is a mainstream view over there, not a fringe movement over there — they are rooted in conservatism and their Christian roots.
Whatever you think of what he says, he believes it and he’s got an army of people behind him who believe it too. In that scene, he’s a rock star.”
Pennells is probably overstating things somewhat — a Gallup poll from 2014 suggests that 42 percent of Americans believe in a Creationist view in general, and (according to Slate) only 15 percent hold to fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist views. But among America’s Bible Belt Young Earth Creationists, Ham holds a lot of sway. Ham frequently speaks at home-schooling conferences, where he advises that children be taught “to think biblically.”
The Ark Encounter is just his latest attempt to spread his Christian apologetics and Young Earth Creationist views; rather unfortunately, among those he already influences, it’s likely to work — and not incidentally to increase his non-profit’s already impressive revenues. The Ark, incidentally, comes complete with a gift shop, and a restaurant capable of seating 1,500. It all has Bill Nye worried.
“It makes your skin crawl that he’s able to use these enormous resources, which could have been used for who knows what public good, to influence children in clearly this ludicrous and wrong world view that has to be undone by some of us sooner or later.”
In closing: no, Pennells asked, and it doesn’t float. A response Ham posed in the form of a reference to Genesis.
[Image via Ark Encounter/Twitter]