What a wonderful endorsement!

Ken Ham has a few things to say about an upcoming movie.

The filmmakers’ recent public comments have revealed that they were not telling the truth when they insisted that AiG would be portrayed in a fair and accurate manner, Ham said. Therefore we don’t expect their finished film to feature the straightforward reporting on the Ark and Creation Museum that we were assured we would receive. It looks like their film will be more of a mock-umentary than a documentary.

Oh, baby. Take my money. Take my money now.

Hey, they can: They’re still raising money for the film.

Should be good.

I’m still hoping to make it out to the Ark Park myself, sometime this summer.


  1. says

    All promotion is good promotion, of all people Ken Ham knows this and his response here plays right into the broader strategy. He’ll be able to parlay his appearance into dozens of media appearances where he can hock his theme park and give “his” side of the story, and he can create emotional engagement by claiming the documentary is “persecuting Christians.”

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    “they were not telling the truth when they insisted that AiG would be portrayed in a fair and accurate manner,” Ham said.

    This seems to be the usual MO of creationist filmmakers. They interview scientists, promising a fair presentation, and then go cut and past the interview up into short sound bites that can be rearranged into saying whatever the filmmakers are trying to say.
    payback is a beach, eh, Ham?

  3. Jake Harban says

    “they were not telling the truth when they insisted that AiG would be portrayed in a fair and accurate manner,” Ham said.

    Oh, but they are portraying AiG fairly and accurately. That’s why you’re upset.

  4. says

    At a complete tangent, looking at the video preview pic I find myself wondering what that mock boat has on its bow? It’s not a ram, which might be historically appropriate, because the ark is not a warship; it shouldn’t be a modern tanker’s bulbous bow, because that’s both anachronistic and pointless, since a bulbous bow is meant to reduce drag and every depiction I’ve seen of the ark has no visible means of propulsion (not to mention that in a flooded world it has no destination). Not only that, but the thing isn’t even streamlined properly, it’s just a spandrel that the architect put on because they thought that a big boat has to have a bulbous bow.

    It seems symbolic of the creationists’ approach to historical evidence and logical thought. Or perhaps it’s just a giant codpiece.

  5. Tethys says

    It looks very interesting, but I already do believe in dinosaurs. Cheeto is not the first anti-science person who stole an election. That honor belongs to the shrub, and his insistence that schools should be required to “teach the controversy” because it was scientific. He had an ivy league education yet apparently didn’t learn that science debunked that crap hundreds of years ago?

  6. unclefrogy says

    He had an ivy league education

    might be more accurate to say he bought an Ivy League education

    uncle frogy

  7. robro says

    NelC — I believe this has been discussed before. I would guess that it’s some ignorant designer’s…or Ken’s…idea of a large ancient ship based on a bulked up trireme with a prominent ramming prow because they’re so cool looking. It’s ridiculous, of course. There’s nothing in Genesis to suggest such specifics, and the few specifics that Genesis has…like the single window…Ham & Co. have ignored because they had to. As I recall, the boat described in the Gilgamesh epic is more of a round reed boat similar to what you might actually see on the rivers of the ancient Middle East. Of course, the Gilgamesh epic story is essentially a big river flood, a plausible event which there is some meager extra-biblical evidence for.

  8. says

    At a complete tangent, looking at the video preview pic I find myself wondering what that mock boat has on its bow?

    Maybe it’s primitive stealth, like the front of the ill-fated USS Zumwalt.

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t want to give traffic to Ham’s site, but I was hoping that the original article by the Lexington Herald-Leader (PZ’s first link) would either have a quote from Ham specifying which “recent public comments” by the filmmakers were problematic (from Ham’s perspective) or even a link to those comments.

    No such luck.

    So…going by only the video and the L H-L article, what do I have that supports Ham’s assertion that the film will not

    feature the straightforward reporting on the Ark and Creation Museum that we were assured we would receive


    Going bit by bit through the filmmakers’ video, I can’t find anything that is a statement about the Ark Encounter or the people involved in the AE that isn’t straightforwardly reporting what people are saying and doing: These folk are building an ark. They ‘believe’ in dinosaurs (my quotes). They wan’t people to hear their creationist perspective.

    I can’t find anything in there isn’t isn’t self-evidently true and/or attested by the words of Ham and his employees themselves*1. Even the quotes of ArkEncounter opponents consist merely of statements that are difficult to even find as criticisms of the ArkEncounter. The clip has them saying of Ham’s project that it is getting tax breaks and that its intent is to teach the Noah’s story not as interesting and/or entertaining mythology, but as historical, empirical facts correctly interpreted and accurately represented by ArkEncounter.

    Now, I know why Ham might object to that being said of ArkEncounter, but there’s nothing in the video released so far (and certainly nothing in the filmmakers’ “recent public statements”) that reveals the source of the opposition: it has First Amendment implications in the fight over the legalities of tax breaks. But it only does so when paired with a statement (not present in the video released so far, but self-evidently true and presumably somewhere in the video to come) that Noah’s Ark is a religious story, and that “believing” in Noah’s Ark is a religious position.

    So…the filmmakers didn’t make any anti-Hamite statements, but they did film Ham’s opposition saying something self-evidently true that happens to be legally inconvenient.

    So what the heck IS contained in an actual statement by one or more of the filmmakers that might be problematic from Ham’s perspective? Well, nothing, if he doesn’t mind people with views different from his describing how they initially approached the ArkEncounter.

    I ***did*** find – parsing the video closely – a statement by the filmmakers about their own motivations that goes by so quickly it’s easy to miss. At one point, the filmmakers say that they desire to “support science”. It seems from the context that this is an ongoing desire, one that hasn’t been eliminated by exposure to Ham’s Christian education efforts. Of course, Ham himself can’t rationally oppose the existence of such statements: the ArkEncounter employees themselves have to be able to make statements like this about visitors in order to examine the rate of success of the ArkEnc. Heck they need to make such statements even if they simplistically view the world as divided in a dualist, good-bad way where the armies of Creationism = TheForcesOfGood™ and the armies of science = TheForcesOfEvil™. Of course, then “that person supports science” becomes a statement of great import, assigning near-infinite evil to the person indicated. It’s not a mere statement of current intention. Still, the existence of such statements – “so-and-so supports (or does not support) science” – is intrinsically necessary to a project like the ArkEncounter.

    Whatever it indicates (or doesn’t) about Ultimate Evil, a filmmaker making such a statement is not mocking the ArkEncounter, nor*2 has such a filmmaker ceased to be a “straightforward reporter”. They may have reported on themselves, for a brief moment, rather than on the ArkEncounter, but its hardly surprising that artists looking for project support might occasionally reference themselves or their works or the value the artists believe their works hold for a society.

    Seriously: did Ham manage to avoid all references to himself and his motivations when soliciting donations for the ArkEncounter? Exactly.

    Ultimately, if Ham takes objection to this statement of motivation, he has to take objection to the filmmakers’ self-referential statements of their qualifications to actually perform the management, filming, editing, post-production, and distributions tasks inherent in making a movie. For goodness sake.

    So, forsaking all futile efforts to find “recent public comments” by the filmmakers about the ArkEncounter (and even, interpreting Ham in the most generous way possible, comments about the filmmakers themselves) that would be even vaguely supportive of the proposition that the film has veered decisively away from “straightforward reporting,” we find ourselves unable to remotely support Ham’s proposition as factual or even likely factual, given our evidence.

    Can we at least support Ham’s emotional reaction? Maybe the film includes clips of ***other people*** making horrible statements about the ArkEncounter? Maybe the filmmakers managed to avoid making such statements by crafting a protagonist who, while technically not a member of the filmmaking team, nonetheless represents the voice of the directors and their team?

    Spoiler Alert: the answer is no.

    Yes, they include political opponents of the ArkEncounter, but including them is very much in the spirit of “reporting” and, moreover, if you read between the lines of what has been released so far, you don’t get criticism of the ArkEncounter. You get what is, in its fullest form, not an argument that the ArkEncounter is bad or that Ham is acting unethically. You get a First Amendment argument about the legalities of government spending in support of the ArkEncounter. In other words, you get an argument that government officials are acting badly, illegally, or unethically – not that the Hamites are doing so. Maybe the people who have been quoted in ways that implicitly support an argument against recent government actions and in support of the First Amendment do go on to make an anti-Hamite argument in footage as yet unrevealed. But there’s no reason to assume that such an argument even exists, much less that the filmmakers have already made a decision to include it in the final cut of the movie.

    Ultimately, if the argument against the filmmakers is supposed to rest on these bits, it would have to rest on the fact that, according to the Herald-Leader,

    The film focuses on three people: an artist named Doug Henderson, who creates the dinosaurs and the other elaborate exhibits in the Ark that attempt to explain how a literal interpretation of the Bible’s story of creation is scientifically plausible; David MacMillan, a former creationist who no longer believes in those explanations; and Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, who has been an ardent critic of Ark Encounter, its sister Creation Museum, and the public tax dollars that have helped support them. (Phelps is fond of calling Ham the “Ayatollah of Appalachia.”)

    Yet the filmmakers have been consistently sympathetic towards Ham and towards Creationists. There is nothing remotely suggesting that they want to spend their time opposing the Ark Encounter, plotting its downfall/bankruptcy, or attaching unwanted labels (e.g. Ayatollah) to Ham or other Creationists. Ham already knew Phelps existed and of the label Ayatollah of Appalachia. Ham already knew that his opponents would be interviewed. Nothing in the film clips show the directors or their filmmaking team taking Phelps side, defending Phelps, or even an intent to include any footage at all of Phelps arguing a truly anti-Ham (not anti-local government or pro-First Amendment or pro-empirical approach to epistemology) position.

    So, even the inclusion of the strong critics won’t support even a nod of sympathy to Ham for emotions he might reasonably feel.

    Great Googly Eyes of Meat! Is there anything at all in here that even remotely supports Ham’s position or even his feels?

    Again, no. But in addition to the strong opponents of the ArkEncounter’s tax breaks, the film clips also have MacMillan, a young, earnest white guy who had previously been a religious creationist*3, making a statement about creationism generally (but not the Ark Encounter specifically) “filling” gaps in the average USian’s understanding of science with details creationists commonly support and that empirical evidence does not. The quote itself is rather limited, made in a tone of voice that is obviously striving for objectivity. It’s certainly possible that some will perceive MacMillan to be implying some unethical “taking advantage” of USian’s average ignorance on the topics of scientific knowledge concerning evolution, factually verifiable evolution-related evidence, and religious apologetics. But to the extent that we know anything about MacMillan’s representation in the documentary, we know only that the clips capture someone working to portray a situation objectively and/or even-handedly and that one of the filmmakers, Monica Ross, speaks of MacMillan this way to the Herald-Leader:

    MacMillan, “has some really fascinating insights into how the process works,” Ross said. “The average lay person doesn’t have a strong grasp on science, and as he said, creationism comes in and fills those gaps with easy, compelling answers.”

    Note that Ross doesn’t say those answers are wrong. Instead they are “easy” and “compelling”. I’d like my answers to significant questions to be compelling, and if I arrived at them easily that might say something about the intimidating power of my intellect*4, or it might say something about the prior lack of attention to those significant questions, but it’s really not a statement about the accuracy or usefulness of those answers at all. In any way. Period. “Compelling” might be a statement on the accuracy or usefulness of creationism’s answers, but it’s hardly a disparaging one.

    It’s frankly hard to find anything at all that would justify Ham’s post-production rejection of the film, much less that

    It looks like their film will be more of a mock-umentary than a documentary.

    I suppose one last attempt might be made to find something in the Herald-Leader’s reporting that Clayton Brown (Monica Ross’s co-director) told the paper the film explores “America’s troubled, strange, confusing relationship with science.”

    Again, it’s hard to imagine that Ham would take issue with that statement. Would not Ham himself consider America’s relationship to science at least “troubling” and “strange” even if he is possessed of answers that renders that relationship less “confusing”?

    Of course, that Brown quote might be said to be put into a different context by how it was extended:

    “The story of evolution denial and creation science is one that largely hasn’t been told,” he said by phone from Chicago, where their company, 137 Films, is based. “As we circulated through our various scientific networks, we found a lot of scientists don’t fully grasp the extent to which the American public resists evolution.”

    I understand that in the language of counter-apologetics and even sometimes the language of policy advocacy “evolution denial” might take on a negative connotation.

    But if Ham was promised “straightforward reporting,” wouldn’t it be entirely proper to report that Ham denies evolution? Would Ham be satisfied with reporting that claimed “Ken Ham does not deny evolution”? He does not, after all, take the position that the proposition

    the assertion mutations -preserved sometimes accidentally through genetic drift and sometimes disproportionately through natural selection- ultimately result in populations with traits that differ over time has the power, when combined with currently available empiric evidence and rigorous, logical reasoning, to explain not only the current diversity of life on earth, but also quite a number of other facts about the history of life and even a few tightly related facts that nonetheless belong to other disciplines, such as geology

    hasn’t yet met its burden of proof, but still might someday, possibly even any day now.

    No, Ham believes that there is no possibility any theory of evolution ever will meet any reasonable burden of proof, because Ham believes that the diversity of life can only be explained – indeed has already been explained – by what humans can and do know about a creator-god.

    That is not merely failing to believe in a particular formulation of the theory of evolution or even the theory of evolution more generally. That is specifically denying that such a theory is or may be true.

    Ham is an evolution denier. Any sentence making such a claim is performing straightforward reporting. It may also, in some specifics culture contexts, carry negative baggage, but the sentence itself is not merely straightforward reporting, but is straightforward reporting that accurately conveys the substance of a true fact.

    Ham’s statement that “recent public statements” of the filmmakers indicate a departure from “straightforward reporting” is so far from supported by the available evidence of the newspaper article in which he made the claim AND/OR by the evidence of the advance film clips released, that one simply has to conclude his statement is bullshit unless and until he brings forward some new evidence that survives reasonable skeptical inquiry.

    Given that this is the conclusion that any regular reader of Pharyngula would have expected, what the fuck is the use of all my analytical work?

    It’s this: I wanted to support an additional conclusion. I wanted to lend support to the idea that the Hamite view of “straightforward reporting” necessarily entails what other people would call “one-sided reporting”. It’s not enough that filmmakers straightforwardly report on the Ark Encounter, including verifiably true facts such as that the Ark Encounter has local opposition and that the opposition makes statements at least as outrageous as,

    the Ark Encounter wishes others to believe their view that Genesis is a straightforward, factual, accurate, non-mythological, non-metaphorical account of the creation of earth less than 100,000 years ago and its history up to and including events likely to be as recent as 3,000-4,000 years ago. Acting on this wish, the Ark Encounter intends to use their ark-replica as a tool to help Ham, his employees, and their associates in their efforts to convince others of the historicity of Genesis.

    Nor is it enough that when reporting on the Ark Encounter a filmmaker extensively interviews Ark Encounter employees and presents those employees’ true views without disruptive narration, allowing employees to make their own best case in support of AE efforts and the proposition that Genesis is a book of history.

    Note finally that Ham isn’t contending that errors have creeped into the film (something that almost certainly will, in fact, happen in this film as with the finished product of any human endeavor requiring work over the course of 3 full years). Nope, Ham is specifically asserting that the filmmakers

    were not telling the truth when they insisted that AiG would be portrayed in a fair and accurate manner.

    But since it’s accurate that critics of AiG exist and – independent of the filmmakers’ project or even existence – hold and express the views that Ross and Brown capture and present in video format, the only possible justification for Ham’s statements is that it is not FAIR to accurately report the existence of opponents and the content of their statements. This is true even from within Ham’s own frame of reference.

    The only reasonable conclusion, then is that for Ham “straightforward reporting” and “one-sided reporting” and one and the same, with deviation from “one-sided reporting” being as unethical as deviation from “straightforward reporting”.

    How is it that we wonder why and how the media have gotten so bad? We have here a man powerful and/or prominent enough to ask for – and get! – a hundred million dollars in donations to support his personal theme park views journalism through a lens that would make it unethical to film and present a documentary on the Lhoknga tsunami if it included statements from people who didn’t sufficiently support the tsunami’s efforts to wipe the town out of existence. We have here thousands of persons who accept his view of filmmakers’ journalistic transgressions. We have millions who would accept his view if it were reframed to be equivalent in underlying assumptions but different enough in surface details to portray the anger of some other group: the Catholic church, the DNC, the Tarot Certification Board of America, Energy Transfer Partners, SciAm Blogs, the Alt-Right, PETA, or whomever.

    With one-sided journalism synonymous with “straightforward journalism,” we have exactly the media we deserve.


    *1: Okay, there are clips taken from stories on TV news programs, presumably local Kentucky news, included in the footage. Given what we know about the media, the claims in those clips aren’t “self-evidently” true, but they certainly are “straightforward reporting”. Moreover, they consist of claims that can be fact-checked to find the truth (“the ark will be the largest wooden/timber structure in the world,” etc.) AND since Ham’s objection is that the filmmakers are departing from “straightforward reporting” its hard to believe that he could be objecting to the inclusion of reporters doing straightforward reporting.

    *2: assuming the speaker has gotten her own motivations correct and is neither making an error about what she does, in fact, want, nor telling a conscious lie

    *3: we’re going to go ahead and call him a guy because the Herald-Leader reports the filmmakers referring to MacMillan using masculine pronouns. The H-L also reports as fact that MacMillan is a “former creationist,” so we’ll run with that as well. What we don’t know is whether MacMillan was ever involved specifically with Ham’s projects, the “Creation Museum” and the “Ark Encounter” or whether MacMillan has ever met Ham, or whether MacMillan is even attempting to speak about the Ark Encounter or Hamites specifically. From what we know and can see in the clips, it’s possible that MacMillan only ever speaks about the larger creationist movement to which the Hamites obviously belong, but from whom they may occasionally diverge on specifics of beliefs, tactics, and strategy.

    *4: Or, y’know, it might not.

  10. robro says

    Marcus Ranum — “Maybe it’s primitive stealth…” Nah, it’s god stealth. God is very stealthy. The best. That’s why you can never see, hear, smell, taste, or feel god.

  11. Artor says

    LOL! I just noticed that Ham’s ark has strakes on the keel. Obviously, it was never supposed to be a seaworthy vessel, but it doesn’t even make a convincing imitation of a real ship. I would be embarrassed to be even a subcontractor on a job like that. What a clusterfuck!

  12. Friendly says

    @sigaba, #1:

    He’ll be able to parlay his appearance into dozens of media appearances where he can hock his theme park.

    If I were one of the principals on Pawn Stars, I wouldn’t give him a nickel for it.
    [blink. blink blink.]
    Oh…you meant “*hawk* his theme park”?! My bad.