Ark Park near collapse; will Bill Nye help finance it?

Reader Jerry (no, not this one) pointed me to an article at about the planned “Ark Park,” another venture of Ken Ham. Formally called “The Ark Encounter,” it is supposed to feature a full-sized Ark (300 cubits, or 510 feet), designed to delude children about the history of life. And it’s been having financial troubles, which have now become severe:

A Northern Kentucky theme park to be built around a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark might sink unless investors buy about $29 million in unrated municipal bonds by Feb. 6.

In December, the city of Williamstown issued taxable debt for affiliates of the Christian non-profit Answers in Genesis, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Even though $26.5 million of securities have been sold, the project needs to sell at least $55 million to avoid triggering a redemption of all the bonds, Ken Ham, the non-profit’s president, wrote in an email message Thursday to supporters.

Without the money, construction funding will fall short, he said.

“We still need those Ark supporters who weren’t able to purchase the Ark bonds at closing to prayerfully consider participating in a secondary bond delivery at the level they had indicated to us,” Ham said. “Will you please step out in faith with us?”

The article added that The Ark Encounter “comes with the added risk of legal challenges because its religious theme might violate the U.S. Constitution.” I wasn’t aware of this, but it implies that the state of Kentucky has given special benefits to the park that don’t accrue to more secular enterprises.  For those of you with a nose for business, here are the details about the bonds, which apparently come with no promise of repayment (I presume God will take care of that).  And Ham blames the pesky atheists for his troubles, which I doubt is true:

Industrial-development bonds are considered the riskiest municipal debt because they account for the largest proportion of defaults in the $3.7 trillion municipal market. Williamstown issued the bonds without a rating, making the prospect of repayment even less clear.

The first phase is estimated to cost $73 million, offering documents show. About $14 million had been raised before the bond sale, which was supposed to make up the difference.

Instead, Ark Encounter has had no institutional investors buy its bonds, Ham said.

“The associated complications and struggles have been beyond our control,” said Ham, who cited impediments such as atheists registering for the offering and disrupting it. “I urge you to please prayerfully consider the options and help us get this bond offering completed.”

The documents cite at least 39 risks to buyers, including that Answers in Genesis has no obligation to back the debt. Bondholders’ sole revenue would come from money spent by visitors. 

This all bears on Bill “The Science Guy” Nye’s upcoming debate about evolution with Ken Ham at Ham’s other project, the Creation Museum. I have previously suggested that for several reasons Nye is making a mistake by debating Ham. First, Nye is giving unwarranted credibility to Ham. More important, Nye is also helping raise money for the Creation Museum. I have no idea how much, if any, Nye is getting paid for this gig, but the Christian Science Monitor reported that Nye was willing to debate Ham if they simply paid his expenses.  If that’s true, then nearly all of the $25 admission they’re charging to see the debate will go to Ham or, more likely, his Museum or the Ark Park.

It’s been reported on some blogs that the debate is indeed a fundraiser for the Creation Museum, but I can’t verify that. If that’s the case, then Nye is making a very serious mistake, no matter how well he debates.  Various readers have, however, weighed in saying that my fears are unfounded: that Nye will do a great job and that this is a wonderful opportunity to promote science.

I doubt it. I have no great confidence in Nye’s debating skills. He’s certainly an engaging speaker, but it’s one thing to speak on your own, another entirely to engage in debate. Remember how Christopher Hitchens, atheism’s most formidable speaker, was mopped up by William Lane Craig? The skill in debate is not just rhetoric, but fanatical preparation. Craig had that, Hitchens didn’t, and lost because he relied on his usually reliable acumen.

And even if Nye does a good job, I suspect it won’t be put on video, for Ham won’t allow himself to be seen as a loser.

What outweighs everything, though, is the possibility that Nye will lose by simply showing up, and thereby raising big bucks for the Creation Museum or the troubled Ark Park. And no matter what he says, or how good he is, if he is raising money that helps promulgate lies to the children he loves, Nye is making a very serious mistake.


  1. Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I had a (wicked) thought – we should organize to have two full-size replicas of all the animals in the world made, and have them delivered to the Ark… Heh heh! I know it is not realistic, but the thought is amusing as they would far from be able to fit in all these replicas in the Ark, and probably not even have enough room on their land to store them all.

  2. bric
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Their problem is worse than that . . .

    1Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.
    2″You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female;
    3also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.… Genesis 7:2

    • Merilee
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Wonder how they came up with 7?

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        They needed some clean animals for barbecue and incense (burnt offering sacrifice), but I don’t remember why exactly seven. I’ll see what I can find out. OCD is always a good first guess in these things in general — needs to be very exact whatever it is.

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        It may be that the seven is related to the days of the week, with the 7th being the lord’s (in this context, the 7th animal is for sacrifice). But no one really seems to know.

        It appears that it’s not even clear but that 7 pairs may have been intended — which increases the ark’s space problems quite a bit. Biblical literalists have argued for both 7 & 14 total. Of course the seven contradicts the two in the previous chapter of Genesis, whether it’s pairs or not.

        More very imperfect communication imputed to a supposedly perfect being.

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      That’s where baraminology and “microevolution” come into play. Noah didn’t load two or seven or fourteen of each species onto the Ark…he loaded that many of each kind onto the Ark.

      Therefore, the Ark just barely managed to fit enough representative “kinds” of animals…and, over the next thousand years, fifteen hundred tops, they all “microevolved” into the diversity we see today. That unimaginably rapid pace of evolution both went unremarked upon by those living during the period and mysteriously had completely stopped by the time of the Caesars in which the Gospel stories are set.

      As usual, the IDiot Design position is to come up with a facile excuse for the immediate objection, and its sole purpose is to reassure the marks that Smart People have had Deep Thoughts about all of this, and, since they aren’t worried, you needn’t be, either.



  3. Wild Juggler
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Unless Nye has an ace up his sleeve, he’s going to have a lot to answer for after this debate. I just can’t see how this can end well for Nye or the evolution side of the debate.

    I just can’t understand why he agreed to this.

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      He’s a public persona, an entertainer. He has to be in the public eye for professional reasons. See his “Dancing with the Stars” appearance, his cameo on “The Big Bang Theory”, and one other reality show I can’t recall. This debate got him on CNN yesterday. It is working very well for him so far.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        It would be very good press for NYE right now if he announced he changed his mind due to his desire to NOT fund the Museum or the Ark Park.

        • microraptor
          Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          Not really. Ham would still spin it as Nye chickening out- heck that would probably give him even more PR mileage than the actual debate.

          The only scenario where Nye would be able to come out okay would be for Ham to cancel.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

            Maybe Nye should insist that the funds collected go to a non denominational charity like the Red Cross.

            Ham won’t look good if he turns that down.

            • Filippo
              Posted January 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

              Concur. Sub.

  4. Pliny the in Between
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    My take on Ham’s fundraising is to ask him if Noah needed $24 million?

    • gbjames
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Don’t be silly. Noah had help from The Deity. A better question for Ham is why the Big Guy isn’t helping more now.

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        Maybe he died during the intervening period.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink


    • Diane G.
      Posted January 8, 2014 at 1:13 am | Permalink


  6. Paul
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Would be awesome if Bill Nye would just not show up, later releasing the statement below.

    “I know you had it in writing that there would be a debate today, but I just wanted to teach you something: just because something is written, doesn’t make it true.”

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Clever, assuming what was written was not a legal contract.

  7. Rob
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I’m not worried about this event raising money for Ham’s enterprises.

    If the auditorium seats 900 people, and they sell tickets at $25, that’s only $22,500.

    Less than $25,000 hardly matters one way or the other.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I’ve been wondering. All the comments about how this is going to raise money for Ham, maybe save the Ark Park. Just how many people can they accommodate at this debate?

      I have no idea how this debate will turn out. I’ve never seen Nye in any kind of confrontation like this so I don’t know what to expect from him.

      But, Ham has no redeeming qualities and that is going to be evident to at least some of the people who are exposed to this. I hope Nye does well, but if he doesn’t I just don’t feel this will be harmful to the cause of promoting rationality / science / atheism.

      Say Ham really shows his ass by denying public release of the debate. How is that supposed to help him? To my mind, to anyone who is suceptible to having their minds changed even slightly towards the rational side in the first place, negative behavior like that from Ham will almost certainly work in our favor.

      And if Ham Gish Gallops all over Nye, and Nye doesn’t perform well, what is the downside? Strong believers that are immovable no matter what stay that way? Rationalist / atheists like most of us are disappointed? Oh well. Some people that were on the fence are not moved to our side? Likely, a missed opportunity. Some people that were on the fence moved to Ham’s side? Doubtful, but possible.

    • tomh
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Exactly right. The money is a drop in the bucket, even if Ham makes extra by selling the DVD to a few churches. And I don’t think Nye will disgrace himself, mainly because these things aren’t debates at all. I’m hoping Nye will ignore whatever nonsense Ham spews and simply lay out the case for deep time and evolution in his usually engaging way.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I think the objection is more that Nye will be funding Ham’s abominations regardless of whether said funds will be enough to save his Ark Park and this is repugnant.

      • neil
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        “…nearly all of the $25 admission they’re charging to see the debate will go to Ham or, more likely, his Museum or the Ark Park.”

        Most likely directly to Ham as his personal appearance fee or whatever; call me cynical, but is the whole park scheme goes belly-up, can you really see anyone but the ‘investors’ losing their money?

  8. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    And Ham blames the pesky atheists for his troubles

    Why, Mr. Ham, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about us all day.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      I didn’t do it, honest! Wish I had though.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    We still need those Ark supporters who weren’t able to purchase the Ark bonds at closing to prayerfully consider participating in a secondary bond delivery at the level they had indicated to us….

    Since Ham says “to prayerfully consider”, I’ll just pray for the Ark Park because prayer works, right?

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      I always see an implicit threat whenever I read words like that.

      “Send me your money, or God will be very, very angry with you.”

      Pat Robertson does the same thing after his annual confab with God:

      “Send me your money (and vote Republican), or God will be very, very angry with you.”

      It’s a despicable tactic from money grubbers who don’t even have to pay taxes.

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Does “at the level they had indicated” mean that the Ark supporters pledged to purchase but did follow through?

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Does sound like that’s right. What else could it mean? I missed that first pass, so thanks. Xian deadbeats?

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      This raises the most important question, why would he need dollars if god is listening. I mean god would be interested in the ark too, after the first one was lost to the sea!

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Lost at sea? It’s sitting on top of a mountain in Turkey and one of these days some Xian expedition is going to find it. Repeated past failures don’t count.

        • Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

          Or is it invisible on top of the mountain just as their deity is? That may explain past failures?

      • Filippo
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Surely money will fall on Ham just as manna fell on the Israelites.

  10. Richard Olson
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Way past time for GOP Congressional leaders, Governors, media propagandists, think tanks, and writers of letters-to-the-editor to demand that Ham get off his ass, quit asking for handouts from government and the population of the entire world, and get this project accomplished using tools and materials at hand.

    Ham’s so-called boat is only going to contain inanimate mannequins — no weight or logistics issues to engineer for — and it is not necessary to be seaworthy, meaning much lower construction standards than a real ship requires.

    If the Bible story is true, Noah and his boys using Stone Age technology assembled a seaworthy wooden vessel beyond the ability of modern era shipbuilders to replicate (by their own admission), a craft proven to be able to withstand at least a year on stormy waters, in less time than those construction bonds Ham’s outfit issued have been on the market.

    Christ, Ken Ham, you have chain-saws and electric power tools, and easily accessed rope, nails, and other items Noah never imagined would ever exist readily to hand. Surely Christians will joyfully donate this material if you just tell them what you need. Make a parts list and send it to churches to put in the Sunday bulletin, and get your ass to work.

    I gotta figure if only Noah & Sons Shipwrights were presently in Kentucky, the replica Ham wants made would have been finished two years ago and earning profits by now. I’m beginning to lose respect for Mr. Ham.

    • Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I think he should have considered this option, maybe he would not have had to issue bonds

  11. cremnomaniac
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I feel that Nye should not participate in this type of event. It is an implicit endorsement of Ham’s tripe. I’m certainly preaching to the choir, but all of these so-called debates lend false credibility to delusive beliefs.

    The proceeds won’t be significant, but no matter how it turns out, Nye will be giving Ham another opportunity to publicize his nonsense. We shouldn’t be such dupes.

    There comes a point when rational thinkers have to recognize how ludicrous these debates are. Its the same reason we don’t have scientists debating chemtrail conspiracy theorists.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Maybe having someone who normally teaches science to the 7-12 year old group is about right for dealing with the likes of Ham.

  12. Greg Esres
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    it’s one thing to speak on your own, another entirely to engage in debate. Remember how Christopher Hitchens, atheism’s most formidable speaker, was mopped up by William Lane Craig?

    Agree wholeheartedly, particularly about Hitchens. It’s a bit blasphemous to criticize Hitchens, but his debate performance was erratic. He often couldn’t be bothered to read what his opponents had written, much less actually prepare for the debate. The only debate where I thought he did a good job was against Tony Blair.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Winning debates and finding the truth are two different things. I would want someone like Alan Dershewitz as my advocate. He knows how to take advantage of every little opportunity and how to make the opponent’s case look weak if not absurd, even when he does not have truth on his side.

      • Filippo
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Re: Dr. Coyne’s recent post on Dershewitz and alleged anti-Semitism re: circumcision.

        There’s a good debate online between Dershewitz and Chomsky.

        • Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          Isn’t it Dershowitz with an o?

          • Filippo
            Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:39 am | Permalink

            No doubt you are correct. I suppose that I was lazily following suite. I’ll take five seconds and feel moderately non-plussed about it.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Well, I shall be sure to listen to the Craig-Hitchens debate (again). I trust that I will have the wherewithal to divine where Hitchens slipped up. I’m all ears for specifics.

      I thought Hitchens quite nicely raked Craig over the coals regarding the claim that numerous folk rose from the dead and walked the streets of Jerusalem upon Christ’s crucifixion. So far as I could tell, Craig’s basic position on any given specific topic was that something is true because he or someone SAID so.

      • aljones909
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Hitchens delivery was very poor. Not at all like his usual, confident self. Craig ‘won’. There’s no doubt – and many atheists agreed. The transcript tells a different story. This brief exchange is all that’s required to distinguish rationality from lunacy.

        HITCHENS: So you believe that Jesus of Nazareth caused devils to leave the body of a madman and go into a flock of pigs that hurled themselves down the Gadarene slopes into the sea?

        CRAIG: Do I believe that’s historical? Yes.

  13. Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Professor Coyne. Creationists should be treated the same way that, say, an alchemists are or the way that geocentric astronomers are.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Except that creationists are more numerous and politically powerful. We can’t just ignore them, as pleasant as that’d be.

  14. Dermot C
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Noah, not the beavers!

    Given that Nye is debating Noah’s descendant, Ham, he could include these historical points: Nye can take care of the science.

    If the world was created in 4004 BCE, and the Ark was built a few generations after that, how come…

    • The OT P source, which tells the tale, was written in the late 500s BCE; what was the writer’s source?
    • The Pentateuch, as we have it, was edited into shape around 500 BCE
    • The majority of the OT was anthologized around 400 BCE
    • Probably the oldest excerpt in the OT, the Song of Deborah, dates to no earlier than the 11th century BCE
    • Archaeology confirms 4 historical claims in the OT over a period of roughly 1,200 years: Omri’s change of palace, the tunnel of Siloam, and 2 sieges. That’s it. Btw, Dryden wrote, “If on the Book itself we cast our view, Concurrent heathens prove the story true.” He was wrong.

    What primary sources lie behind the OT’s claims? I find 5 primary sources, none of which date before the mid-6th century BCE, and none of which are about the Ark.


  15. peltonrandy
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jerry. I think this debate is a losing proposition for Bill and science and a win for creationists, no matter skilled a debater Bill turns out to be.

  16. Craig McGillivary
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Is Ken Ham really as good a debater as William Lane Craig? Also the question being debated is less favorable to Ham then the questions William Lane Craig insists on. I think Bill Nye can probably handle it.
    This could potentially be good if it stimulates public awareness and discussion. At $25 a ticket it really seems unlikely to raise that much money and could be significantly countered if Bill Nye fans made matching donations to the NCSE.

  17. marcusa1971
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Two points. Regarding the filming of the event, even if Ken Ham doesn’t have the event filmed, Aron Ra is attending and said that he will film it.
    Secondly, will the Ark actually be able to float? Even if only on calm water, as opposed to the turbulent waters of the biblical flood.

    • Dermot C
      Posted January 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      …will the Ark actually be able to float?

      On the Stock Exchange, yes. I Noah man who has Templetons of cash. Sorry for the Ham-fisted puns.


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Good one!

      • js
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        You win two internets (I have no idea what that means).

  18. Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    They need $55 million to build a wooden ship replica? Those military contractors overcharging Pentagon seem a bargain compared to that.

  19. Dominic
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Imagine the resources a ‘real’ Noah would have had – where would he have had the labour or material to make an ark of the supposed size? He would have had to be a king & even then where would the forest have been… but I mock a fantasy!

    • Posted January 6, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Furthermore, he would have had to go all over Earth to gather the animals – this would have taken him many decades and a formidable infrastructure…

      • Richard Olson
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        And, tragically, all for naught.

        • Posted January 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          That was quite hilarious, the massacre of English notwithstanding!

  20. rgbowman
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I’m sure Ham will video tape it. Chop it up like fresh parsley, and then sell it showing how creationism is superior to Nye and evolution. More dollars to the ark.

  21. scottoest
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I generally think the religious are worth debating, but Ken Ham is one of the people I wouldn’t bother with under any circumstances.

    He believes every word of the Bible is literally true, and because it’s the word of God, that’s the end of the argument. There is no “sophisticated theology” there – and on one level I’ve always kind of liked that he doesn’t hide it.

    At the same time, it makes “debating” him completely useless. He’s not going to be receptive to scientific reasoning, and it’s a fair guess that the crowd members who came to see him won’t be, either. Ham is just going to talk past everything Nye says, while Nye becomes exasperated at trying to unwind all of his Biblical assertions.

    I’m not really overly concerned about any meager funds Nye has a hand in raising for this silly Ark project, as it will likely be a drop in the bucket; I just think he’s wasting his time.

    The only outcome I can hope for, is that this debate gets more media coverage than usual because Bill Nye is involved in it, and that Ken Ham’s beliefs get some real public scrutiny as a result.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] with a lot of people saying that it simply gives Ham more credit than he deserves.  Greg Laden and Jerry Coyne, among others, have weighed in on this, bemoaning Nye’s decision to do it, and predicting a […]

  2. […] is precisely what I predicted in a pre-debate post on January 5, “Ark Park near collapse; will Bill Nye help finance it?” At the time I wrote […]

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