Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter hits iceberg of reality on maiden voyage

For those of you who still haven’t seen the jaw-dropping disaster on blogs like Friendly Atheist, Twitter hashtags like #OhNoahHeDidnt, and elsewhere, Ken Ham’s megamillion dollar Ark Encounter theme park — which purports to reconstruct “accurately” the mythical Noah’s ark — tanked hard on its opening day.

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Photos of a nearly deserted parking lot and nonexistent entry lines (the sheer number of unmanned ticket windows is a pitiful testament to how badly AiG overestimated the popularity of the whole farce) combine with reports that there were more atheist and pro-science attendees than anyone else, except perhaps staff. It could not have been anything but demoralizing, as much as AiG will doubtlessly try to spin it as a resounding success.

What immediately strikes you upon viewing the images that have been posted so far is that, absurd as it all is, this is a construction that spent the hell out of the nearly $100 million that was poured into it. Elaborate displays, rows and rows of animal cages with speakers placed within providing atmospheric honks and squawks, intricately carved wooden signs inventing elaborate explanations for how waste-product disposal and feeding were supposedly handled.

And dinosaurs. Yep, it’s got ’em.

All this money and all this effort spent on a momument to propogating ignorance and myth. All to defend the delusions of a sad man (lots of them, really), terrified that science is telling him he has no heaven to go to when he dies. Imagine living in so much fear of knowledge that you dedicate your life to moronity on this massive a scale. After all these years I still shake my head at it all.


  1. Menyambal says

    Hey, Pascal! Your wager, where you ask what believers have to lose? This. This is what they lose.

  2. Monocle Smile says

    This thing got a decent amout of mainstream media attention and it still flopped. Faith in humanity rising slightly.

  3. says

    The mentality behind thinking that constructing something like this could possibly constitute “proof” of anything is deeply baffling. By the intellectual standards of this kind of cargo-cult “science” (which boils down to “The godless evolutionists have their museums, so since museums are proof of science, we’ll just build our own!”), the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas was “proof” that there really was a Starship Enterprise!

  4. Carroll says

    With the billions of species of animals and insects in the world, it’s amazing that Noah had all that floorspace!

  5. Jason Waskiewicz says

    I teach science, so I see the damage these anti-science attitudes do. Worse, this is a tool created by an organization dedicated to training people on how to keep their minds closed to reality.

    But the tweet in the article is hilarious. When I was scrolling down and saw the picture, I didn’t realize at first that it was a photo inside the ark!

  6. adamah says

    Well, in defense of the Ark Encounter, poor attendance on opening day does not a failure make. I’m pretty sure that Disneyland’s attendence was lower-than-expected for the first year or two, too, but we all know how that one worked out….

    I’d bet many investors in the project anticipated a rough start, but the basic idea seems good on paper: a creationist’s version of Disneyland, except located in KY (close to the Bible Belt). If I weren’t an atheist, I’d be following the advice of PT Barnum about never overestimating the intelligence of the general public.

  7. adamah says

    I stand corrected:

    Disneyland’s opening day had its problems, but poor attendence wasn’t one of them (more like gate crashers and counterfeit tix):

    I wonder about Ham’s assumption that theological sectarian differences wouldn’t prevent widespread support of his project amongst Xians?

    Eg JW’s are YEC, too, but they wouldn’t be caught dead visiting AE, as it would be frowned upon by other JWs (as supporting “Christendom”).

  8. Jason Waskiewicz says

    I know I already posted, but felt I should add this: One of Ken Ham’s problems is that a lot of Christians are not YECs. I used to be one of those Christians. Any of the woo-woo parts of the Bible I would dismiss as a story or a parable. I might have gone to this park, but only to join the atheists in laughing at it.

    Of course, now that I am an atheist, I can laugh at it without the mental gymnastics I used to perform.

  9. says

    When you look at some of the other photos of the ticketing and parking area, it was clearly built on a scale anticipating not just healthy crowds but colossal ones. Tens of thousands of visitors daily. It’s simply sad. From Friendly Atheist:

  10. gnostic says

    Can’t wait until it goes under and it can be picked up for cheap as a branch of the Free Thought Library!

    I mean seriously, it’s a pretty nice looking build. I wonder how much more it would have cost to build all that and actually make it float.

  11. b says

    hmm once it goes under,
    Theme restaurant “eat the animals of the ark”
    Kinky hotel.
    Long thin…bowling alley.
    Or we all put in acouple of bucks to buy it and make it a museum of dumbness.

  12. says

    Actually… in all seriousness… if this does go under and could potentially be bought up by another organization, what could a secular org, or a group of secular orgs, turn this into?

  13. ironchew says

    this is a construction that spent the hell out of the nearly $100 million that was poured into it.

    That was likely the whole point. Opening the ark to the public is just a formality; the con artists have already funnelled that money away to their friends.

  14. adamah says

    Well, I’m just glad Noah (the inventor of the institution of slavery) is finally getting the recognition he so richly deserves for his effort…

    The Bible’s only words recorded out of Noah’s mouth consists solely of his infamous “curse of Ham”, sentencing the descendents of Ham’s son (Canaan) to serve as slaves for the “blessed” descendents of the other two sons (Shem and Japeth, with the former supposedly being the forefather of the Jews).

    Of course, that the descendents of Canaan were cursed to serve as slaves makes sense, when you understand that they are the Canaanites, the arch-enemies of the Jews in the Old Testament.

    Think about it: the first time the word ‘slave’ appears in the Bible is in Genesis, when Noah says it, creating a God-endorsed method of controlling others immediately after the flood, with only a handful of human survivors alive. So slavery was supposedly part of God’s answer to keeping ‘the evil inclinations of men’ in check (well, that, and the delegation of authority given to Noah, where humans are to demand an accounting for spilled blood, as stated in Genesis 9).

    It’s good to see modern Xians standing up for Noah, AND for slavery. After all, his name in Hebrew means “one who brings comfort” (and creating slavery explains his father giving him that prophetic name).

    Say what?

    You mean, they don’t mention any of that anywhere at the AE, not even on a tiny display?


  15. Bobbi Jo Silver says

    Those ticket counters must have been overwhelmed by the tens of dozens of customers that flocked to the park. Imagine if all the atheist attendees had stayed home? There probably would have been more employees than patrons at the place.

  16. Steve Vil says

    Everyone keeps talking about it going under. It can’t go under- it’s an ark! ?

  17. Roj H says

    I don’t know what you guys are laughing at. I for one am now totally convinced that Evan Almighty is a true story.

  18. gshelley says

    I see claims it had 4000 by mid day on the opening day, so maybe 6000-8000 total, which would work out at about 2 million per year if that was somehow kept up, which is in excess of the 1.4 million predicted
    Even just 4000 per day would get it to that

  19. Paul Wettstein says

    I, the Prophet Paul, foresee that it will become Fred’s Tattoo emporium by 2021.

  20. Steve Jones says

    I am no fan of Hamm or this dumb park – but I don’t know where you are digging up these ghost town images.

    Here is a link to an article by the Courier News Journal in Louisville (with video) that reports the park had soft openings on Tuesday and Wednesday and hard opening on Thursday with these attendance figures:

    Tuesday: 8,300
    Wednesday: 7,000
    Thursday: 4,000 by mid afternoon

    Making crap up about the park doesn’t help. While these numbers may be well below what is needed to support it, the empty lots photos and empty queue photos are a lie. This info is readily available online from several media outlets that were there at the opening. It is irresponsible to keep saying the opening had no one showing up.

  21. says

    Jasper of Maine (#13) –

    The only amusement coming from this park is in watching it fail.

    Maybe he should have called it the “ArkHam Asylum”. It might have tricked a few Batman or C’thulhu fans into going.

  22. adamah says

    Well, again in Ham’s defense, the original ark didn’t have to follow ADA dictates requiring wheelchair ramps, on-board ADA-compliant rest-rooms, etc. All that politically-correct government-mandated (likely by that Mooslim-loving, devil-worshipping Obama!) hardware adds TONS more weight!


    When talking to theists, I don’t find it productive to focus on the scientific impossibility of the Flood account (whether on biological or physical grounds), since in the Genesis account the Flood is depicted as a “miracle”: it’s a direct result of God’s works.

    Hence the account is given a free-pass, and granted an exception to the normal observed patterns of nature.

    Hence you have to wonder why they even bother explaining away anything, e.g.,

    Intricately carved wooden signs inventing elaborate explanations for how waste-product disposal and feeding were supposedly handled.

    Since those details aren’t mentioned in the Genesis Flood account, why even bother adding it as speculation, when it could simply be dismissed with, “God Dun It! He made the animal poo disappear!”?

    I suspect it’s an attempt to quell the cognitive dissonance of the sheer impossibility of the account, by at least offering some plausible rationale for believers to cling to.

    I’m just wondering if they mention on the ‘firmament’ on any sign: you know, that’s the metallic dome-shaped blue-colored roof that covers the flat circular Earth?

    Hebrews believed in such a structure (and the cosmological concept of such a roof was prevalent amongst various ancient peoples, including the Babylonians), although subsequent scientific exploration of the sky hasn’t verified the existence of any such structure.

    So much for the ‘intelligent designer’ claim, for wouldn’t you expect God, (the so-called ‘intelligent designer’) to be aware of the basic elements of his design?

    Doesn’t it seem reasonable for anyone who claims to be a ‘designer’ of something to at least be able to explain the functions of the various elements of their design?

    So we can add the ‘firmament’ to the list of basic scientific errors found in the Bible (including ‘men think with their hearts’, ‘the kidneys are organs of decision-making’, ‘disease is God’s punishment for sin’, etc).

    To anyone with even a smattering of awareness of the basic modern principles of science and ancient views of the World, that should forever torpedo the ‘intelligent designer’ meme, since the authors of the Bible were completely reliant upon the ancient (but incorrect) scientific beliefs of their day.

  23. Paul Wettstein says

    I’ve read the ark story many times but I don’t recall it having chandeliers, electricity and a gift shop attached to it.

  24. Devocate says

    “I suspect it’s an attempt to quell the cognitive dissonance of the sheer impossibility of the account,”

    I suspect rather that if they go to the ‘goddunnit’ pool too many times, people will ask ‘if he so powerful why does he need Noah in the first place.’ It’s a thin edge.

  25. adamah says

    Devocate said:

    I suspect rather that if they go to the ‘goddunnit’ pool too many times, people will ask ‘if he so powerful why does he need Noah in the first place.’ It’s a thin edge.

    Word. If God is omnipotent, why not just hit the reset button and destroy the incriminating evidence?

    Of course, the answer is the story is supposed to demonstrate God’s mercy for humans, so it’s actually a story of unlimited power, designed to point out how God doesn’t need us, but we supposedly need Him….

    The interesting element is how God in Genesis generally appears reactionary, as if He’s legitimately surprised by the actions of humans. God is depicted as not being omniscient or prescient (able to foresee future events) in the least.

    Even limiting ourselves to the Flood account, God expresses regret for having made all of creation, so hastily decides in a rage to wipe the slate clean. But then God sees the bloated bodies, and once again regrets throwing a temper tantrum; so God promises never to do it again, marking His promise with the creation of a rainbow (which God actually describes in the account as a reminder to Him, like a bow tied around His finger, so He won’t forget to not kill essentially all humans again).

    Now, that’s a LONG way to go to explain how rainbows came to be, but it also causes collateral damage by blowing God’s claimed trait of omniscience in the process…

    Even better is how God seemingly forgot to declare bloodshed as a sin worthy of death: He didn’t foresee that one coming after the Fall of Adam, and God didn’t declare murder to be a sin until AFTER the flood (in Genesis 8).

    Now you’d think seeing Cain kill Abel (as an act of manslaughter) earlier in Genesis 6 might’ve hinted Him to that possibility arising, but apparently not….

    A God who doesn’t foresee humans killing humans, so wipes the slate clean to start over and declare it a sin? Not very prescient….

    The likely reason for the continuity error is that early Jews didn’t view Jehovah as possessing traits such as omniscience, omnipotence, etc. that didn’t develop until the much-later writings of the prophets (i.e. the Books of Isaiah-Malachi).

    The interesting thing is how the Jewish God gradually became ever-more powerful, even as the Jews lost their power and influence, having suffered under centuries of foreign hegemony (be it the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc).

    In the earlier stages, Jehovah was viewed as q God alot like Zeus (and the other members of the Greek pantheon), conceived of as being powerful beings, yes, but quite fallible non-prescient characters.

    Aside from being anthropomorphic (unlike worshipping the Sun), their mortal-like fallibility made them relatable (think of Hermann Munster, the lovable but forgetful and easily-frustrated humanoid monster of the 60’s sitcom, ‘The Munsters’).

  26. JD and Co. says

    As scary as Ken Ham is, the comments on the Friendly Atheist blog is response to this article are even scarier. My main critique with Noah’s Ark is that even in current day (which many Christians have deemed so awful that they wonder if the end times are right around the corner) I have rarely met a truly irredeemably evil person…and I’ve met some pretty sketchy people. And never have I met (or heard of) an entire family (including infants) who were that evil, much less an entire village. Yet there is a person commenting that he is certain that the entire Canaanite people were so evil that even their children were certainly doomed to a life of evil or slavery or prostitution, so that justifies God wiping them out., and anyone who disagrees is “just letting their emotion run away with them ” It’s scary to think that such a person exists at all (talk about being irredeemably evil! He beats any Canaanite I ever read about!), but think of him as a high official in the military or government, having no problem with wiping out an entire village, because “they’re just evil.” How do you know that? “God told me.”

  27. Monocle Smile says

    I said this in another thread, but I’m convinced that this terrifying notion of “bad blood” and inherited wrongs that comes from Abrahamic traditions is the biggest contributor to the millennia of conflict in the Middle East.

  28. says


    The mentality behind thinking that constructing something like this could possibly constitute “proof” of anything is deeply baffling.

    Is there a count of how many people it took to construct that Ham’s Ark?

  29. AZMD says

    When this project fails, could the Trump regime use the ark to deport all those illegal and unwanted Mexicans and Muslims that are sooooo dangerous to this country back across the Rio Grande or across the sea? /s

  30. Andreas says

    @SteveJones indeed.

    I am no fan of Hamm or this dumb park – but I don’t know where you are digging up these ghost town images.

    They could have been taken at a time of day when there are no people. Or before it was opened to the public.
    Either way, a photo with an empty room is not evidence for anything. I would expect more from this blog.

    Unfortunately, I could not easily find up-to-date visitor numbers. These would have been interesting.

    Also interesting would be to examine the ark for various questions of plausibility. It has been argued before that the whole story is not plausible. So far this was based on theoretical models. Now the argument could be made based on a concrete implementation.

    Of course a theist could still always claim “magic”, if something cannot be properly explained. Maybe the door to the ark was a portal to another dimension with unlimited storage capacity.

  31. reynoldhall says

    This is no mistake on Ken Ham’s part. The attendence numbers that he gave to the Kentucky gov’t to get taxpayer money for this bullshit was provided by a group who was headed by a co-worker of his.
    More importantly, the group hired by Answers in Genesis to project attendance, America’s Research Group, has several conflicts of interest. The president of America’s Research Group is Britt Beemer, who is also a co-author with Ken Ham on the book Already Gone. Furthermore, research by Beemer and America’s Research Group is featured in Already Compromised, another book authored by Ken Ham. The Hunden Report contains the only non-biased attendance projections for the 2014 project.

    The Hunden report also reveals a very small net fiscal impact of only $4.9 million when compared to the $18.25 million cost of the tax incentives.

    Finally, the Hunden report notes a steady decline in attendance at the Creation Museum.

  32. Bob Makin says

    Or he could have purchased 13,586,956 McDonalds meals to feed some hungry folks. But on balance, I can see the greater need for a phony boat that doesn’t move, carrying models of animals, preaching to the converted. Totally.

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