A Visit to 'Ark Encounter', Where Creationism and Dinosaurs Collide
The Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky has a life-size Noah’s Ark to celebrate creationism.
The ark is 510 feet long, 51 feet high, and 85 feet wide, which are the dimensions from the bible. Here, a visitor photographs the ark. Image: Taylor Dorrell
The Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky has a life-size Noah's Ark that's "designed to answer your questions about the biblical account" of Noah's epic journey, the site says.
The park is run by Answers in Genesis, a Christian organization that also created the Creation Museum, where the infamous debate between Bill Nye and young Earth creationist Ken Ham was held. After making a visit to the Creation Museum, I thought I'd go to the ark.
Young Earth creationists believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, which contradicts the Darwinian theory of evolution taught in (most) schools. They believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve. Which means that the ark had dinosaurs onboard.
In short, they believe that the Bible is the true record of human history, and thus that all knowledge must start from the book, and facts that conflict with a strict interpretation of the Bible are incorrect.
If creationism wasn't controversial enough, Answers in Genesis drew criticism because of the tax breaks received from the state of Kentucky, as well as the group's hiring practice of requiring a signed statement of faith. The cost of the park exceeded $100 million and includes a restaurant, zoo, gift shop, and zip line.
The journey begins in the parking lot, where you pay $40 for a ticket and $10 for parking. After buying the ticket, visitors board a shuttle to the ark. I went on the first Sunday it was opened, expecting a large crowd. However there were very few visitors.
After taking a photo in front of a green screen, fake animals are seen in cages, and then small bays contain images and life size electronic biblical figures explain the story of Noah and Creationism. After walking all the way up, visitors walk back down and out through the gift shop. The overall experience felt very empty due to the lack of visitors, and some construction is ongoing.
Neil Degrasse Tyson, the famous astronomer, has said that he doesn't mind the free speech expressed by creationists, but does have a problem with claiming young Earth creationism as scientific fact. After experiencing both the Creation Museum and the Ark, I've concluded that most of the people visiting are very nice, but I see Tyson's concern with teaching children stories as fact: Ken Ham's arguments against the Earth being billions of years old rely on the inconsistency of radiometric dating; he doesn't believe that the light from far away stars and galaxies take billions of years to reach the Earth. When making these arguments, he's quoting the Bible, not science or any discovery or data in the modern world, as a viable source.
Being at the ark with an open mind gives an intimate look at what creationists believe about how the world was created, but as a theme park that costs $50 to get into, I'd rather find a place with rollercoasters and waterslides.