A new video featuring the Ark Encounter theme park, produced for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, mentions such aspects of the park as dinosaurs being shown on Noah’s ark alongside more commonly expected animals, and cheap tickets for school-aged kids. Ken Ham has responded with a blog post stating that the video is full of lies and misinformation.
One point that causes Ham to bring the video to a full stop is the moment when, narrating, attorney Andrew L. Seidel mentions that the park depicts dinosaurs on the ark. “That’s not even a dinosaur!” Ham argues. Ham’s own Ark Encounter Instagram account includes these images of the exhibits on his Ark.
The Ark Encounter account has also made a point of sharing an exhibit that expressly explains how Noah might have simply brought a few young dinosaurs on the ark, rather than full-sized adults.
Ken Ham’s full video post can be found here, and Andrew Seidel’s video based on his walkthrough of the park is below.
In Ham’s video, he plays the FFRF commercial, stopping it at intervals to disagree, such as when Seidel suggests the religious right opposes science-based education. Ham disagrees with this, though he is well-documented as having his own stance on what exactly science is. His next nitpick is that Seidel describes it as “Ken Ham’s Ark Park.”
“It’s not my ark. And it’s not the Ark Park, it’s called Ark Encounter.”
As the video goes on, Ham points out other moments he says are lies and misinformation. These include the assertion that the Ark Encounter is to be funded in part by tax dollars, that the government “basically gave” him land for the theme park, the number of people who have attended, and the admission price for school children. Ham also balks at the point that he won’t hire members of the LGBT community, not denying it but asserting instead that it’s fair, since, he says, the FFRF would not hire him.
Ken Ham explains that the land for the Ark Encounter was purchased, not gifted, and that it cost a large amount of money, conferring with someone who can’t be heard on the video.
“We paid, what, I think, seven million dollars for the land. Is that right? Yeah. What’s that? It was quite a lot. Okay.”
However, an agreement (PDF) with Grant County in 2015, published online by the Friendly Atheist, shows numerous statements about the county allocating a portion of revenues to the project, and, specifically describes a 98.0938 acre parcel of land to be conveyed to the developer for the sum of $1, conditionally — the property would revert to the county if construction did not begin within two years.
According to Ham’s own Answers In Genesis site, the site for the Ark Encounter totals 800 acres, and was not bought in a single parcel, so, whatever total amount was spent on the property (Ham cites $5 of it as donations) one large portion was, if not gifted, sold for the Ark Encounter project, by the county, at a price that (at barely over a penny per acre) can safely be described as below market value.
The tax funding question has been a matter of debate for some time, with Ham maintaining that the only tax funding the Ark Encounter would receive would be a refund of a portion of sales taxes generated by visitors to his Ark. The agreement linked above establishes that, in fact, additional taxes would be taken from employee paychecks in the immediate vicinity of the Ark Encounter, and 75 percent of real estate taxes on the property would also be refunded.
Cincinnati reports that locals say the Ark Encounter hasn’t had the positive effect on the local economy that justified the tax benefits, with local hotels seeing an increase in custom, but other small businesses seeing far less. WKYT reports that Grant County officials have made the same complaint, saying the Ark Encounter isn’t living up to their expectations.
As for the number of people who have visited the Ark Encounter, Ham’s only objection is that he maintains hundreds of thousands, rather than the mere thousands Seidel cites, have toured the site. He also says that the $1 admission for these kids was only valid through the end of last year.
Perhaps Ham’s strangest objection to the Ark Encounter video, however, comes when Seidel says that the Ark’s exhibits teach that dinosaurs lived on the Ark alongside cows and horses.
“Actually that’s not a dinosaur. The word ‘dinosaur’ doesn’t refer to them.”
You can see the pterosaur creature sculpture Ham argues about in the video above at the 25-second mark. Pterosaurs, it’s true, are not classified as dinosaurs. To call them one, the Smithsonian notes, is a common error even such outlets as BBC has made. However, Ham never denies the assertion that his Ark includes dinosaurs (instead noting that he doesn’t think there are any cows).
Many exhibits the Ark Encounter has shared publicly speak of dinosaurs, asserting that smaller specimens may have been on the ark.
“It makes more sense to think that God would have sent Noah juveniles or smaller varieties within the same kind. In the case of dinosaurs, there may have been hundreds of species, but there were likely fewer than 85 kinds required on the ark.”
It is an absolute assertion of Ken Ham’s that dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time as man, and were on the ark. Though the image in the video features a pterosaur, the statement about dinosaurs on the ark does not mention this image.
Ken Ham and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have clashed before though, so it’s not a surprise he’d feel a need to respond to the use of the Ark Encounter for a membership drive — nor that he’d close by promising to pray for them.
[Featured Image by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]