Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Builders of the lost ark

New from the "I Wish I Were Kidding" department, today we have a story that as much as $37.5 million in taxpayer-funded rebates could go to the building of a theme park in Kentucky called Ark Encounter whose goal is to prove that the story of Noah's Ark is "plausible."

You may have heard about this before.  In fact, regular readers of Skeptophilia might recall that I mentioned it in a post a year ago, but in the context of a project that seemed doomed to fail because of lack of investment.  Well, to misquote Twain, rumors of its demise were great exaggerations.  A story in Reuters yesterday indicates that plans for the theme park are indeed going forward, and the application for the tax incentives -- set to expire if they are not claimed by May 2014 -- will be refiled if good Christians don't step up to the plate with donations.

Patrick Marsh, the design director for the park, says that the point of the attraction is to show visitors that Noah could actually have had two of each terrestrial animal on Earth on a 500-foot-long wooden boat for forty days.  (Well, actually, it may not have been two.  Genesis 7:2 says that Noah needed seven of each "clean beast" and two each of the "unclean beasts;" only six verses later, we're told that it was two of everybody.  Since both verses are the unchanging, infallible word of god, we're forced to the conclusion that 2=7, which should definitely be worked into public school math classes next year.)

The current estimate for the number of animal species on Earth, just for reference, is (at a low estimate) five million.  That's ten million animals, if you believe Genesis 7:8 and not Genesis 7:2.  Idealizing the Ark as a rectangular solid, 500x100x100 feet in its length, breadth, and height respectively, that comes to five million cubic feet.  So each animal on the Ark, including the giraffes, gets exactly 0.5 cubic feet in which to stretch its legs.  Oh, yeah, and don't forget that these people believe that the dinosaurs were on there, too.  You'd think that just having one brachiosaurus on board would be enough to kind of cramp things, wouldn't you?

Remind me again about how this is plausible.  I keep losing that point.

Marsh says that there could be some ways of getting around this objection, however.  "If you start with a wolf, you can basically generate all of these dog-like kinds," said Marsh. "As for large animals like dinosaurs, Noah could have brought them on as eggs or juveniles, to save room."

Wait, now, hold on just a moment.  From wolves, we could "generate dog-like kinds?"  I.e., starting with a wolf, and given some ecological selective pressures, we could eventually end up with a hyena, a fox, a chihuahua?  Hmm, Mr. Marsh, I think there's a name for this process.  I've forgotten what it is just now... give me a moment, I'm sure it'll come to me.

Oh, but a giant wooden boat is not all Ark Encounter will have!  Since the whole message of Noah's Ark was that the all-knowing, all-seeing god produced humans who became so unexpectedly wicked that he had to press the "Smite" button and start over, the theme park will also have a mock-up of a pagan temple, with pagan ceremonies done in a "Disneyesque" way, whatever that means.  There will also be a "Ten Plagues" ride.  ("Hey, Dad!  Let's do the 'Ten Plagues ride' again!  I loved when the rollercoaster cars slowed down in front of the 'Killing of the Firstborn Children' display!")

I know you think I'm making this up, but I'm not.  In a direct quote that I am not nearly creative enough to fabricate, Marsh said, "You want everyone to have fun and buy souvenirs and have a good time, but you also want to tell everybody how terrible everything (was)."

What I can understand even less than I get why anyone believes that this obviously mythological nonsense is true, is how the public tax incentives for this project don't violate separation of church and state.  How are the ACLU and various atheist and secular humanist organizations not challenging this in court?  Maybe there are actions going forward which I haven't heard about, but at the moment, most secular legal groups seem to be just watching and waiting.

As for Marsh, and Ark Encounter senior vice president Michael Zovath, they are completely unapologetic about what they're doing.  "If somebody wants to come into Kentucky and build a Harry Potter park and teach all the fun things about witchcraft, nobody would say a word about it - they'd just think it was so cool," Zovath said.  "But if we want to come in ... and build a Biblical theme park, everybody goes crazy."

Yes, Mr. Zovath, that's because everyone knows that Harry Potter is fiction, whereas you seem to be under the mistaken impression that the bible is fact.  My guess is that if someone tried to set up "Hogwarts" in Kentucky, and was making claims that they were actually teaching kids to cast spells and to ride brooms, there would be a bit of a hue and cry.

So, anyway, that's the latest from the Bronze Age mythology = literal truth crowd.  I keep thinking that people have to come to their senses eventually and realize that these folk-tales-become-fact are no more plausible than the idea that earthquakes are caused by Midgard's Serpent having bad dreams, but the biblical literalists just won't go away.  In any case, I'd better wind this up.  I've got to finish up the drawings of my suggestions for the "Cattle Disease" and "Rivers Turning to Blood" features of the "Ten Plagues" ride.


  1. If God created the roughly 5 million species of animal on Earth, and none of them have souls, then what is the practical reason for making a boat to harbor them? It's an exercise in futility for a God that can just manifest them all over again.

    It wasn't about that, you say? It was about testing Noah as a litmus for whether man should be allowed to continue living? "The Great Flood" is quite a convoluted way to go about it. I've got a better way... tell a father he has to kill his son. Oh, wait, sorry. Never mind.

    Also, if there were millions of humans on the Earth at the time of Noah, we are to believe that every last human on this planet was rotten to the core except for Noah and his family? I guess God and I will just have to disagree then... because I believe in the inherent goodness of man, such that, free will given, I can not fathom 99.99999% of all humans on Earth, at any given time, being evil. Sounds to me like God cracked quite a few perfectly good eggs to make that Apocalyptic omelet.

    Oh and what's up with "Free will until you piss me off, then I kill you." (psst. hey. That's not free will.)

    Do people actually think this stuff through?

  2. Religious debate in the USA is a guy who believes in Santa Claus ganging up with another one who believes in the Easter Bunny to mock the guy that believes in the Tooth Fairy. Children debating nonsensical trifles.

    One wonders how the Platypus and North American grizzly bear knew how to return to their respective spawning regions. A long walk from Ararat to be sure.

  3. The BIGGEST NOAH's Ark flaw....

    All the world's animals are on 1 boat for at least 40+ days...

    What do animals eat?

    1. And how do you clean up the ...well lets go with manure.

  4. " visitors that Noah could actually have had two of each terrestrial animal on Earth on a 500-foot-long wooden boat for forty days."
    It's worse than that. The bible states that the animals were on the Ark for an entire year, and as far as I know, Ken Ham, et al believe the same thing.

    Also, donations started slowing down when it as announced that the Ark Park would be a for-profit business. Even fundamentalists have to wonder why they would donate money so that someone else could reap a profit.

  5. > ''Marsh said, "You want everyone to have fun and buy souvenirs and have a good time, but you also want to tell everybody how terrible everything (was)." ''

    Just load up this building (it isn't a boat) with sheep, goats and cows for a few days and you'll experience that in spades - unless they all wear diapers.

    > ''The BIGGEST NOAH's Ark flaw ... What do animals eat?''

    NOT the biggest flaw!

  6. Oh my where to begin. Lets start with the author of this article. First off, this park it stupid and should not enjoy any tax breaks or government subsidies.

    That being said, the story of the Ark and the flood are either being intentionally misrepresented or inadvertently ignored in this article. Indeed it would require only 2 of each KIND to repopulate the earths ecosystems. Did I say kind? I think I did.. but if not let me just repeat - 2 of EACH KIND. A dog type of animal will be able to fulfill the need for a dog type animal. Natural selection and breeding programs allow for this dog to vary over time and space, but this dog will NEVER become a cat or a mouse or a human. Therefore, every KIND of animal had a pair of ancestors which represented them on the ark. Dinosaurs were there, but after the flood I am assuming that people soon took to killing them before they became prolific once more, thus protecting themselves from the more violent and horrible creatures - also known as Dragons up until about 1800 AD or so.

    So, including dinosaurs, there were probably around 150 kinds of animals, each in pairs, represented on this ship. Extremely plausible, given that only an complete imbecile would do so with anything other than juvenile animals – newborn babies or possibly eggs.

    The reason for the biblical flood was not due to the perversion of mankind per se, but was based primarily with the corruption that had occurred for generations from the "sons of god", not that it matters to explain how the flood and ark story occurred.
    Its also of note to mention that almost every civilization with roots to the ancient world have a flood legend. If only they had these wonderful insights via the internet they would have known that the they were all apparently mistaken.