The creationist sawtooth function


If you combine creationist dishonesty and the limited, niche appeal of their subject, you get a predictable result. They hype some weird novelty, they get a surge of attention, and then it fades away until they have to come up with something new…but they lie constantly about how no, they are immensely popular and they will conquer all of science and evolution is on its last legs now!

Answers in Genesis is demonstrating the phenomenon now. Ken Ham keeps declaring that their premiere exhibit, the Ark Encounter, is thriving and has to deal with packed crowds…but are they, really? We’ve got the attendance figures.

And here’s what we see when it comes to Ark attendance (and note that we don’t have the numbers for 2016, which is the year the Ark opened):

Summer 2017 248,787 (note: these numbers are for July/August)
Summer 2018 347,929
Summer 2019 388,704
Summer 2020 144,628 (note: COVID impact)
Summer 2021 328,465
Aug 2017 106,161
Aug 2018 98,106
Aug 2019 104,350
Aug 2020 46,452 (note: COVID impact)
Aug 2021 83,826
One does not have to look very hard to see that, whatever the AiG fog machine might be spewing, Ark Encounter is not experiencing record crowds. In fact, this past August saw the lowest attendance in the Ark’s history (save for the COVID year).

They aren’t doing badly — a few hundred thousand every season, especially when the exhibit (and parking!) is grossly overpriced, is bringing them lots of money. I think the handwriting is on the wall, though. Early on, they had novelty and so much free advertising, with every newspaper printing articles about “Can you believe what kind of stupid shit they do in Kentucky?”, but that’s not happening any more, and further, only the fanatical Christian core is going to make repeat visits. The Ark Park is boring! It’s a big wooden box with static displays and hectoring pedantic signs full of words. They aren’t growing at all, figures are mostly static with, if anything, a slow decline since 2019.

But you can trust creationists to be cunning. They’re raking in the dough, because they charge a lot and operating costs are relatively low (unlike real museums, which charge fairly little and have big expenses in, for instance, paying for qualified expert staff and maintaining collections), and they can extrapolate. They did the same thing with the Creation “Museum”. When attention starts to fade, what do you do? Open a big new attraction, make a splash, perk up the reporters who’ll write about the yokels, and get another spike of attendees. And lie.

Ken Ham, founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis, owner and operator of the Ark Encounter and its sister attraction, the Creation Museum, noted: “Compared to other national attractions right now, we are blessed. We don’t know of any that are seeing numbers equivalent to or better than their 2019 attendance. Ark attendance will only increase as more international visitors resume traveling and as bus tours return to levels we’ve experienced before, such as up to 50 tour buses in a day. I believe this summer will be our best season ever, particularly with our 40 days and nights of gospel music, August 2–September 10.”

Nah, they aren’t having record attendance. They’re flat-lined, at best.

But don’t you worry, AiG is already talking about building a Tower of Babel to help people understand genetics research and, most importantly, generate more attention and more suckers. They aren’t going to go the way of failed Christian theme parks, at least not yet.

After the Tower of Babel peaks, they can always go on to build their Golden Calf exhibit. There is no end of Bible myths they can monetize.

Comments

  1. gijoel says

    Open a big new attraction, make a splash, perk up the reporters who’ll write about the yokels, and get another spike of attendees

    And Covid hospitalizations. Given the average creationist attitudes towards vaccinations it’s probably gonna take a while to breed the god fondlers back to pre 2020 numbers.

  2. lumipuna says

    I thought this post was going to be about some creationist video demonstrating how you can eat lettuce with Halloween shop “shark teeth” dentures.

  3. says

    I’m extremely amused by Biblical literalists wanting to build a replica of the Tower of Babel. Did they not read how the story went the first time humanity tried it?

  4. PaulBC says

    40 days and nights of gospel music

    Count on a creationist to use inappropriate metaphors. In the context of Genesis, “40 days and nights” is something you’re hoping will end. And I’m not attacking gospel music, which often features very impressive singing, whatever you think of the subject matter. Ham is doing his own performers a disservice with such a comparison.

  5. unclefrogy says

    There is no end of Bible myths they can monetize.

    If you really wanted to make a christian theme park that is what I would have gone for.
    If you only used 50% desney level of “production values” you might make an actually interesting place. Alas you would need more faith, more creative imagination and more knowledge of the the book then this guy has.He is a one trick pony of a hustler and this scam is only a shallow attempt just for the money in the end the land will probably be developed as a housing tract after he is dead and gone.

  6. PaulBC says

    unclefrogy@7 Somehow I’m imagining a Westworld-style* attraction where you re-enact ancient genocides.

    *Note: I have never watched the acclaimed TV series and have just a hazy member of Yul Brynner’s portrayal, so this should only be taken as shorthand for “violent androids.”

  7. mandrake says

    For one of the best and funniest take-downs of the evangelical theme-park grift check out Chevy Chase in the film Fletch Lives.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    At this point I begin to wonder, what is the ultimate motivation för these people like Ken Ham? I can understand greed, but aren’t there easier ways for grifters to grift? At some level they must be true believers, and genuinely think it is OK to use deceit for the Big Cause.
    .
    BTW I got into an exchange with a muslim creationist in the comment line to a Youtube video by Harris Sultan.
    Boy, was that a wasted effort.
    .
    I made the argument that unlike Allah, physics has no problem creating the cosmos from nothing, as the overall energy is zero (the energy of the mass, and the energy of the -I am not certain- gravitational field? have opposite signs so they cancel out)
    (that is a better film idea than Mel Gibson’s “Signs” -have a film where stuff gets made from nothing and have the logic add up!)

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    birgerjohansson @10:

    I made the argument that unlike Allah, physics has no problem creating the cosmos from nothing, as the overall energy is zero (the energy of the mass, and the energy of the -I am not certain- gravitational field? have opposite signs so they cancel out)

    There are a few problems with your argument.

    You seem to be saying that physics can accommodate anything happening as long as energy is conserved. Why would you think that? That’s assuming far too much about the explanatory power of physics, and attaching far too much significance to conservation of energy. If you have an initial state with zero energy, and a final state with zero energy, you still have to explain how the final state emerges from the initial. There’s also the question of what “zero energy” even means. We don’t measure energies, but differences in energies.

    Further, there is no reason to think that energy is conserved in our universe. Conservation of energy arises from the time translation invariance of a theory (see Noether). That does hold in a lot of our theories, specifically those which are based in a flat spacetime. But it does not generally hold in general relativity (Noether also demonstrated this), and in particular for models of our universe, which is expanding; time translation invariance simply is not there.

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