If you missed Part 1 of my trip to the Ark Encounter, you can catch up by reading it or listening to Episode 008 (Part 1) or Episode 009 (Part 2) of the Science Enthusiast Podcast! I tried to cram everything into just two posts here, but if Noah survived 7 months aloft on water, I figure I can break it up into three posts breaking it down deck-by-deck.
Fun fact: Genesis 6:16 clearly says the Ark should have three decks, however Ken decided to make his version have four decks. Why? Who knows. Unfortunately, the fourth deck was not complete on opening day (yet Ken still charged the full admission price). An employee at the Ark Encounter told me that the fourth deck will be open by the first of the year. But I’m sure one guy with Bronze Age tools would have been able to build the entire Ark on his own, right?
The Ark Encounter: Deck Deux
The first stop we had on the second deck was the “Fairy Tale Ark” room. No amount of mental preparation could have adequately prepared me for this. It took me a minute or two to calm my excitement after seeing Ken meme himself so perfectly.
Once inside, Ken shows us a display of various children’s books that depict the Ark.
Here, Ken offers his criticism of other accounts of the Ark, because even for him, there’s too much bullshit out there. Essentially, Ken is saying that many Christians open themselves up to criticism by portraying the Ark as a happy time in history, with two of every species of animal being on the Ark (which even Ken agrees is not plausible). Ken is upset that the story of God committing the largest act of genocide (then repopulating the Earth via incest) is often shown to children as being too cute. Instead, Ken would prefer for children to be traumatized. I agree with Ken on this idea. If parents and children were made to realize how horrible their god is, it would likely result in more people becoming atheists quicker.
The next room describes Noah’s life. What was interesting to me is that nowhere in this room did it describe Noah to be the drunkard that he actually was, and the account of Noah getting drunk right after the flood was over isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Ark Encounter. Here, I encountered the first of many times that Ken feels the need to describe his “artistic license” with his boat. He says that the room has a “plausible story” of Noah’s life based on the Bible, which is probably one of my favorite oxymorons of all time.
It was here that I also realized that Creationists don’t really believe in signs to help direct traffic. Beyond the handwritten signs for the restrooms, there were no signs directing traffic. People were literally bumping into each other.
It was also here that I (somewhat not very quietly) asked that if in Genesis 6:14-17 (shown on the sign below), God said “everything on the earth shall die,” why God failed to add “well, you know, except for Noah, his wife, his kids, their wives, and whatever animals/bugs/plants they could fit on the boat he makes.” A man quickly pulled out his Bible and read a passage to me (I don’t recall which one, but it wasn’t relevant to my question). He then went on to say that thanks to me, he “didn’t feel foolish for bringing his Bible” to the Ark Encounter. I smiled and gave a friendly laugh.
The next two rooms feature vignettes of Noah doing blacksmithing and woodworking. Noah must be extremely talented, as he was just a simple farmer before the flood. It’s amazing that he, along with seven others, were able to manage repairs for the boat, repairs to cages, feed 7,000 animals, clean the cages, and also farm plants. (For reference, the average zoo has somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 animals.)
The next room asks us “Did Noah study animals from before the Flood?” Ken’s answer is “idk.” Great job, Ken. Fun fact: Ken says that all animals, even Tyrannosaurus Rex, were vegan prior to the flood, which is why they were able to exist in harmony with other herbivores while on the Ark.
So Noah was an architect, shipmaker, woodworker, blacksmith, zoologist, and botanist? It doesn’t seem very plausible. It sounds more like illusory superiority to me.
The same room also introduces us to Noah’s wife, Emzara.
But wait! The Bible doesn’t actually give the name for Noah’s wife!
According to a staff member on the Ark Encounter, Ken had the staff submit their favorite names for the wives of Noah’s children. They then selected the names of the wives from those the staff submitted.
One of the names given to the women was Ar’Yel. This was chosen because one of the staff members was particularly fond of Disney movies and submitted the name “Ariel” (from The Little Mermaid) as a name. So to make it sound more authentic, they looked for the closest Hebrew-sounding version of the name. Even Ken’s own website is inconclusive on the subject. Nowhere on the Ark Encounter does it say that this is what happened – Ken presents the names of the wives as if it’s an established fact, when he actually completely made it up. It’s almost as if he’s completely made up everything on the boat in the first place, no?
The fact is that if Noah even existed in the first place, we don’t know who he was, we don’t know who his wife was, and the entire story is a poor rehashing of Utnapishtim.
On our way to explore the “Pre-Flood World,” we encounter the first dinosaurs on the boat. There was not any direct lighting on them, and being a newbie photographer, I had a tough time getting a quality image of them. And again, the cage lacks any signage, so we’re left to assume they’re some sort of sauropoda?
Finally, we went into the “Pre-World Flood” area, but not before an incredible mural showing two humans in the water with dinosaurs in the background. My desire for this to be true and accurate depiction far exceeds Ken’s belief that it is actually true. Unfortunately, it’s not.
On the opposite wall, the quote “In the beginning, God created… And it was very good” is shown above some very impressive displays of art. The artwork is indeed well done. But maybe I’m being a bit too critical here- if an infallible creator is telling me what to write, I would think s/he could come up with a better description than “very good.” Does God not have access to a thesaurus? God could have said exceptional, marvelous, great, exquisite, sumptuous, outstanding, awesome, extravagant, beautiful, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, stunning, dazzling, brilliant, gorgeous, opulent, posh, impressive, wonderful, spectacular, sensational, sublime, magnificent, ostentatious, or elegant. God could have even made up an entirely new word because, he’s fucking God. Have you seen his alleged creations so far? He can literally do anything, right?. But no, he decided to go with “very good.” How underwhelming.
We were then taken through a maze of scenes, where the only intent was to incite shame in the reader (and surprisingly enough, it wasn’t about that time in Vegas when I did that thing with the person we met at the bar, this was something totally different [but let’s put a bookmark in this]). Instead, this is the typical shaming that Christians subject themselves to. The concept of “original sin.” The notion that you, by nature of being brought into this world without prior knowledge or consent, are guilty because supposedly Adam and Eve did some shit they weren’t supposed to have done, and now their debt got forwarded to you. It makes as much sense as the cops showing up at my house to arrest me because my neighbor decided to knock off a couple gas stations. It’s not my responsibility, I didn’t do anything wrong, and I never really cared for Dave as a neighbor in the first place.
The twisted hallway we’re taken down (with high school-quality vignettes situated behind glass) is designed intentionally to instill the thought that we’re all sinners, we’re all guilty, and we should be damned grateful that God even allows us to exist in the first place, nevermind that God is gracious enough to grant us entrance into Heaven.
God’s world is perfect!
Oops, except one of God’s perfect creations screwed things up (so, not perfect then?).
God then gives man hope in the world created, then destroyed by God. He must really love us.
Maybe my favorite placard is the “excessive hedonism” one. Based on my knowledge of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis as a whole, I would think that any level of hedonism would be considered “excessive.” But apparently there’s some wiggle room in that definition?
How terrifying is this line of thinking though? This is suggesting that, purely because our parents decided to have a child, at no fault of our own we’re on the hook for something that happened thousands of years ago. Also, if we don’t praise and thank God (who again, is an omnipotent creator of all things, loves you, yet demands that we dedicate our lives to him), he will burn us forever?
God fits the stereotypical mold for a domestic abuser.
It’s YOUR fault that he’s mad at you. It’s YOUR fault that he’s going to punish you. Unless you do what God says, YOU are the one responsible for God punishing you.
And of course, yet again, we get the “artistic interpretation” placard. Ken doth protest too much.
One of my favorite depictions in the entire Ark Encounter is of this man proudly holding the horn of a triceratops. The picture itself is hilarious, but to think about the process of creating it makes it even better. Not only did someone (putatively Ken himself) say what they wanted the image to be, but someone had to actually draw a deceased triceratops with a man gleefully holding the horn. What’s more is that Ken saw this image, liked it, and then gave it the green light to hang it up on the wall of the Ark Encounter.
I wish I could be as happy about anything as this guy is about that triceratops horn.
The path continues, where we’re again shamed for actually enjoying life. I’m always confused by the implication here- if Christians are so happy and so eager to die and go to Heaven, then why do they postpone our inevitable fate by taking any sort of medication? I understand that suicide is a sin, but not taking any sort of medication whatsoever would surely expedite the process of their mortal existence.
The last part of this section has a mural. My favorite part of it is the shark that appears to be swallowing a person whole. Again, this is something that someone made a conscious decision to draw, then was approved.
Exiting the “Pre-Flood World” leads us into an onslaught of nothingness. There is only wide-open space used by Ken here. Given the “artistic license” employed by Ken & Co so far, I will fill in the negative space with my own “artistic license.” Could Noah have installed another snack bar? Did Noah put a hot dog cart here? After the flood, is this the area where Noah got completely smashed on wine and decided to go streaking? When the Ark Encounter goes bankrupt, I’ll make a Gofundme campaign so we can buy it from the state of Kentucky and make all these things happen. With any luck, the state of Kentucky will sell it to me for as much as they charged Ken Ham for the land to build the ark: just $1 (yes, 98 acres of land for a single dollar).
Whatever you do though, DO NOT TOUCH THE ANIMALS.
Next, we came to the “Kids Spooky Animal Encounters” area.
We were promptly reminded to not feed the children, because that’s absolutely what Jesus would have done.
This area is a transparent attempt to pander to children for them to have a fun memory of their experience on the Ark. It includes a 1-way mirror where kids are encouraged to make faces (while they unknowingly are being watched on the other side – which is exactly the type of thing Jesus would do, he likes to watch). It also has more poor examples of faux-taxidermy that I wasn’t able to photograph. Fortunately, this section was rather brief.
The next area asks us about the quantity of animals on the Ark Encounter. Ken attempts to define the term “kind” for us here, saying it’s broader than the term “species,” but fails to define how broad it gets. After all, Creationists do not do well when asked to provide specific answers to specific questions.
Instead, Ken defines “kind” as being synonymous with “baramin,” saying the study of “kinds” is “baraminology.” Rationalwiki describes baraminology as (basically) bullshit pseudoscience. The term “kind” as referred to in Genesis and by Ken Ham is completely meaningless and does not exist in accepted science when referring to a classification of an organism.
In the same placard, Ken amazingly admits that mutations to DNA do indeed occur. Ken then says that “evolutionists” consider this to be evolution (because it is), however Ken says that most mutations are negative (because they are). Again, Ken goes for the “nuh uh” gambit here… It’s not very effective.
Next, we have the first example of the “One world two views” text that Ken uses throughout the rest of the Ark Encounter. What he’s attempting to do is validate his own sociopathic worldview by claiming it is a valid argument in the first place. It’s not. Ken’s entire premise is that he starts with the Bible, rather than with the evidence like an actual scientist would. Starting with the Bible means that you are forming your conclusion then backtracking to create the narrative that suits the result you want. That is the opposite of the scientific method, which ironically enough afforded Ken the opportunity to hire construction workers to create this anti-science monstrosity.
Ken then goes on to describe “manageable workloads” of 850 animals per person (eight in total, mind you) on the Ark. Using math, and assuming each person slept for an average of 8 hours a day, each person on the Ark would have been responsible for tending to about 53 animals every waking hour of the day. This would be in addition to farming food for the nearly 7000 animals on the ark and dealing with waste removal. Ken is literally proposing that each person on the Ark spent almost every waking minute of their day tending to one of the animal (but don’t forget from before that Noah had to be a blacksmith and woodworker, too).
Ken asks how Noah & Co could give drinking water, remove waste, have fresh air, and provide light to themselves and thousands of animals (spoiler alert: they couldn’t). Ken then has a series of laughably awful video sequences that attempt to explain these ideas. Ken has a series of TVs set up showing impossibly unrealistic ideas about how Noah dealt with these issues. I made a live video on my Facebook page showing two of these.
The final installment will take us up the long, sloping ramp to Deck 3. We will learn about the living quarters, meet Ken Ham face-to-face, and learn all the different types of science denial and racism depicted on the Ark Encounter.