At the end of this post, some of you may be wondering what all this has do with my promise to explain what I think is going on in the story of Noah and the Flood. Yet, I ask your patience and refer you back to my insistence that context literary, canonical and historical is of utmost importance when it comes to interpreting Genesis 6-9. (Previous Post)
Ken Ham’s Ark has three decks which are divided thematically pre-flood, during the flood, and post-flood.
Photo Op to Photo Shop
Immediately before entering the Ark, a photographer directs the visitor to stand in front of a blue screen for a photo. In the gift shop, you can purchase a photo of yourself with Ark Encounter themed images in the background. Of course, Joel and I purchased our photos for posterity’s sake. Now, even in this first week, the Ark was not terribly busy. Had it been busier, I wondered at the logistics of stopping people for photos. This process seemed to have the potential for being a log jam in the future. A “gopher wood” log jam, of course.
Boarding the Ark
As I boarded the Ark, a virtual jungle of animal sounds filled the atmosphere. I found myself surrounded by small wooden cages stacked floor to ceiling. The calls and whistles of various birds, the chattering of small rodents, the yowling of cats, and even the hiss of snakes could be heard coming from the small cages. Cool!, I thought.
Ham has stated that he wanted the Ark Encounter to be something akin to an exhibit that you might find at Disney or Universal. In this initial moment, I was reminded of the awesome transformation of sunny California afternoon to cool New Orleans evening on the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland. So far, Ken, not bad.
Each cage had a clay feeder and water trough which would have been easily accessible to Noah and his family. The cages are spaced apart in such a way that feces can be gathered easily. However, the cages were designed so that the visitor cannot see into them. The sounds suggest the presence of many small “animal kinds” that Ham posits were on Noah’s Ark.
Okay, I thought, that’s not a bad way to save some money and still get a number of animals on the Ark. It was a cool effect and I was ready for more. Keep in mind, as much as I am critical of Answers in Genesis, I was truly hoping that the exhibit itself would be like a ride at Disneyland maybe more Pirates than Star Wars but I wanted it to be genuinely entertaining. After all, Joel and I spent real money to see this thing. Yet, I came away disappointed because there were far fewer animals on Ham’s Ark than I anticipated and none of them were animatronic but that’s another deck.
Wooden cages with wooden feeders and clay watering devices. The cages are designed so that you can’t see into them. It gives the illusion of many animals.
Like the small cages, the visitor will see pots lined floor to ceiling along the walls. These represent the food for the animals. Remember, they need a year’s supply of food for everything from rabbit-kind to velociraptor-kind. Wait, I guess they can feed the rabbit kittens to the velociraptor pups.
The Pre-Flood Story
On the lower deck, through a series of visuals mostly consisting of posters (often tedious to read), the visitor is told Ken Ham’s version of the biblical narrative from Creation to the Flood. It is a truncated version of Ham’s Creation Museum.
I say Ken Ham’s version for as much as he claims to be offering a plain reading of the text his version includes many details that are not found in the text and, in my view, distort and distract from the meaning of the text. For instance, Ham’s version includes dinosaurs.
I did not expect dinosaurs to play as large a role in Ham’s narrative as they do but there are dinosaurs around every corner. For instance, one will find dinosaurs in every portrayal of the paradisal Garden. But turn the corner and in illustrating the violence of humankind before the flood, Ham depicts human beings slaughtering triceratops for their horns much like modern humans slaughter rhinoceroses. In Ham’s theory, it is human activity of this type and post-diluvial environmental factors (like the one ice age) that wiped out the dinosaurs.
I am truly baffled that Ham’s view of the dinosaurs is not enough to cause even some of the more credulous Christians to question Answers in Genesis’s ability to interpret historical data let alone be trusted to interpret scripture for them.
Disgruntled Workers and Religious Fanatics
There were very few animatronic displays far fewer than I would have imagined. In one of the displays, Noah’s hired workers (another eisegetical moment) are complaining about the work and describe Noah as a religious fanatic.
Like the whole AIG narrative, this scene is more modern than ancient. If Noah was a historical figure and truly a monotheist and who in accordance with the later Mosaic law had no image of his deity among polytheists who worshipped images, then it is more likely that his contemporaries would have accused him of atheism and not being devoted enough to the gods. If there was a great flood coming, then maybe it was because Noah and his family had ticked off the gods by not worshipping them properly (see Job’s friends). As the other extant flood narratives suggest, it did not take much to annoy a god to the point of mass extermination. In one narrative, human beings are just to noisy and the gods can’t sleep. Anyway, his contemporaries would not scoff at the idea of a god causing a natural disaster. Rather, they would ask which god and likely try to appease them all just in case.
Yet, despite Ham’s claims to the contrary, he and the folks at AIG are not interested in historical accuracy but in the us vs. them narrative of the culture war. So, Noah begins to look a lot like Ken Ham and Noah’s critics begin to sound a great deal like the New Atheists (and frankly like anyone who is critical of AIG teaching). The fate of these scoffers is as follows.
Now, I will say that I enjoyed the detailed miniatures more than anything else in the exhibit. There is something about looking at a scale model world and a scale model Ark that is fascinating like a good detailed model train set. So, to end on a positive note, here are some of the images from the lower deck.
This post is a follow-up to my recent post Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Fantastic! In that post, I note the Double-Standard of Answers in Genesis when it comes to depicting the Ark. They chastise illustrators of books for children for their inaccuracies (as defined by AIG) but in their own advertising and practices they do not live up to their own standards.
A Tweet brought another Ken Ham approved message on the dangers that lurk between the covers and frequently on the covers of children’s books and Bibles. In a post on the ArkEncouter.com, Ham reveals that the Ark Encounter will dedicate a whole wall to “Fairy Tale Arks” and the 7Ds of Deception. Next thing you know, he will be insisting that David wasn’t really an Asparagus and Goliath was not a Giant Pickle.
Tantalizingly, Ken Ham only reveals three of the 7Ds of Deception in this post. I can’t wait to visit the Ark Encounter and find out the other four. At $40 a ticket, that’s only $10 per D. A bargain by any post-diluvian standard.
Or Truth in Children’s Books but not in Advertising.
As opening day (July 7th) approaches, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis ratchet up the advertising for their life-sized construction of Ken Ham’s construal of Noah’s Ark. Yet, as blogger and biologist Joel Duff noted on his blog Naturalis Historia, the billboards are somewhat misleading as to what you will see in Ken Ham’s Ark.
The billboards depict familiar animals. The animals that you and your family can go to see at your local zoo. However, on Ken Ham’s Ark, you will only find fantastic creatures that are the imaginary constructions of Ken Ham’s creature shop.
One of the strangest elements of the teaching of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (and that’s saying something when you are talking about people who insist human beings and dinosaurs co-existed) is that with all the fuss they make over the theory of evolution, their position entails the acceptance of an accelerated evolutionary model.
Ham and the folks at AiG insist that the earth (and, indeed, the cosmos) is less than 7,000 years old. The cosmos originated in 4004 BC or 0 anno mundi (See their time-lines.) In keeping with their literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and based on the well-known Noah story, they also insist that there was a global flood in 2348 BC. During this flood, Noah rescued 7,000 “kinds” of animals. Kinds should not be confused with the modern scientifc term species. Nevertheless, from these 7,000 kinds (which included some dinosaurs) all the land animals, aviary animals, and most of the amphibious animals are descended. Continue reading “Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection”→