The "Ark Encounter" project, which is the brainchild of Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, has the full support of Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, who arranged for $43 million in tax breaks for Ham's projects. Beshear's budget also included a 6.4% cut to funding for public education. [Source] Funny how those two go together, isn't it?
In any case, the LEO article tells of a visit by LEO staffers and a variety of scientists to the Creation Museum, another of Ham's projects. One of the visitors was Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, who reports that he had a contact with a 13-year-old "volunteer guide" who informed him that King Arthur's sword was made of iron from a meteorite. Phelps, who was standing in front of a display of St. George slaying a dragon at the time, asked the boy if King Arthur had killed any dragons with that sword.
"I'm not sure if he did," the boy replied. "But Beowulf killed three dragons." The boy went on to describe the third dragon Beowulf killed as being of the flying and fire-breathing type, and told Phelps that "it was probably a pterosaur."
"Aren't those just fictional stories?" Phelps asked the boy.
The boy was vehement. No, tales of dragons interacting with humans are proof that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, he said.
Okay, now skip downward to the comments section, and you will find two outraged comments directed at Joe Sonka, who wrote the article. I quote:
Regarding your opening paragraph: I have been to the Creation Museum many times, and I know they don’t have tour guides, much less 13-year-old ones. It’s a self-guided museum. The teen might have been at the museum with a parent to do some volunteer work (like stuffing envelopes) and was taking a break inside the museum. But there are certainly no guides in the museum, and this young man (though obviously a bright kid) was not representing the museum.And also:
You are to be pitied: taking the words of a 13 year old boy who is not a guide at the museum (and thus does not represent it) and implying that his beliefs are those of the museum (you wrote that ” fantasies” such as his are a part of the museum’s mission) is low journalism. In my academic life, I was told to seek out primary sources when researching and writing an accurate paper about a topic. Oppose the museum’s message if you want, but to quote a teenager barely out of childhood -- and who is not a representative of the museum -- to help make your case is pathetic journalism.
So, let me get this straight: Sonka's calling the boy a "volunteer guide" (which was misleading; I, too, thought the boy was an official volunteer, and in fact thought it was curious they were using guides that young) somehow negates his main point -- than the fact that the museum is so scrambling fact with fiction that it leaves a 13-year-old unable to tell the difference?
And that's the problem, isn't it? By undermining the gold standard of scientific induction as a way of knowing, the Creation Museum calls all of actual science into question. Dragons in Beowulf? Oh, sure, they were dinosaurs. How did the animals not kill each other on the Ark? Because god made them all peaceful plant eaters for the duration of the voyage. What about fossils of animals that don't exist any more? Those species died in the Great Flood. What about the light from distant stars showing that the universe has to be older than 6,000 years? The speed of light isn't constant, and neither is the rate of flow of time, and both have altered by just the amount necessary to reconcile astronomical measurements with Genesis. (If you don't believe me that this last one is something that creationists actually argue, go here. Make sure you have a soft pillow on your desk for when you faceplant.)
So, anyway, back to the LEO article, which describes the financial troubles that Ham's organization is having, and the gloomy projections of budget shortfalls that will force the opening of "Ark Encounter" back to 2016. Sonka seems pretty cheered by this. Myself, I find the whole thing profoundly discouraging -- even if the "Ark Encounter" is delayed, they still seem to be raking in money hand-over-fist. Mike Zovath, vice president of Answers in Genesis, stated that they already have $100 million of funding committed for the project. "God's raised up investors," Zovath told an enthusiastic crowd at a Grant County town hall meeting last August.
What bothers me most is that this project, and the Creation Museum as well, are specifically designed to target children. They're intended to be flashy, eye-catching, and entertaining, with interactive exhibits and displays of biblically-themed stories. The underlying, and more sinister, message is: don't believe what your public school teachers are telling you. Don't believe what the scientists are saying. They're being tempted by Satan to mislead you. Whenever you have a question, go back to the bible; and if what the bible says is different from what anyone else ever says, about anything, the individual is wrong and the bible is right. In other words: stop thinking, stop trying to figure things out, just believe.
And that stance is completely antithetical to real science, which takes nothing on authority, and only respects the firm ground of hard evidence. Groups like Answers in Genesis hate science for this very reason. But the end product of such bizarre thinking is what Phelps saw in his 13-year-old helper -- a teenager who actually, honestly thought that Beowulf was real and had fought a dinosaur.
If you can be indoctrinated to believe something for which there is no evidence, and then to doubt the principles of scientific induction themselves, there is no end to the foolishness you can be induced to swallow.