Barge-Size Noah's Ark Is A Creationist's Theme Park

Built by Christians who believe the Earth is 6000 years old, a 155m-long, $US100 million ($133.3 million) "replica" of Noah's Ark is set to open in a new Kentucky theme park today. Critics say the attraction is nothing more than a big church that will be used to perpetuate Creationism. Image: Associated Press

The new theme park, called called Ark Encounter, will officially open in Williamstown, Kentucky, on July 7. This week, some 7000 guests were invited to a special ribbon-cutting ceremony. Construction of the giant ship, which has been ongoing since 2010, was initiated by Answers in Genesis, a Christian group headed by Ken Ham. The structure is meant to commemorate the work of Noah, and to stand as a proof that the stories in the Bible are true.

Image: Associated Press

"I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history," said Ham during the ceremony. "People are going to come from all over the world."

Image: Associated Press

The full-sized ark, built according to the dimensions stated in the Bible, measures 155m long, 26m wide and 15m high. The interior features several exhibits, including displays of Noah's family, rows of cages containing animal replicas and even the odd dinosaur. (Answers in Genesis, like many fundamentalist Christians, believe that dinosaurs existed 6000 years ago but were wiped out in the Great Flood.)

Image: Associated Press

Funding for the project was initially sluggish, but things changed when Ham debated Bill Nye "the Science Guy" in 2014. The resulting exposure resulted in a sizable surge in donations for the ark park, including a local bond issuance that channelled tens of millions of dollars into the effort. (Later, Nye would say he was "heartbroken and sickened" by the turn of events).

In another boost, a US federal judge recently said the religious project could receive sales tax incentives worth up to $US18 million ($24 million), so long as strict religious tests were administered to employees. Critics say the judge's decision is a violation of separation of church and state.

Image: Associated Press

This project has its fair share of critics. "Basically, this boat is a church raising scientifically illiterate children and lying to them about science," noted Jim Helton, the leader of an atheist group called the Tri-State Freethinkers, in the LA Times. For activists like Helton, the new religious theme park is a setback in the effort to remove creationist teachings from science class.

Regardless, Ham's group estimates that the attraction will draw upwards of two million visitors in its first year which will rival other big-ticket attractions in nearby Cincinnati.

[LA Times]

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