On a recent visit to Kentucky over the holidays I couldn’t resist talking family members into sponsoring a visit to Ark Encounter—the sister site to the Creation Museum. While we were all dubious about contributing to the well-being of an avowedly anti-science organization, we agreed that we could partially offset our misdeed by donating an equal amount to a science-based project.
Thus it was that we headed down I-75 to Williamstown, KY (just across the river from Cincinnati) and the 100-acre Ark Encounter theme park (funded in large part with public funds in the form of tax rebates and massive land cost discounting).*
If nothing else, I got a pretty dope shot of the ark.
The park creators, Answers in Genesis (AiG), bring a lot of sciency-sounding facts and statistics (along with an assortment of Rube Goldberg-inspired depictions of animal feeding and excrement removal) to their otherwise beautifully presented posters and displays.
Alas, it’s really hard for a lay person—even a scholar in a related field who may not be versed in a particular specialty—to evaluate the massive number of claims throughout the exhibit site.
I thought I’d give the Arkists (my term) the benefit of the doubt while I was onsite and do fact-checking later.
Here’s one example of how the Arkists play with facts. The image below is a low-res cellphone snap of a display on animal kinds—a term we would find that the project uses obsessively.
What indeed is an “animal kind”?
The poster says: “An animal kind, or baramin (from the Hebrew words for ‘created’ and ‘kind’) is a group of related animals not related to any other animals. The study of created kinds is call baraminology.”
Now, one of the keys to the Creationist “Arkology” is the problem of how to keep two of every kind of animal in the world living comfortably for a year on the vessel. The solution: forget about “species” and the millions of different varieties of critters in the world and just deal with animal kinds — what they call “baraminology.” That way you don’t have to worry about keeping cold-weather polar bears sustained, much less pandas, sun bears and Andean bears …they’re all just part of the “bear kind.” After all, Creationists say the varieties didn’t come until after the Flood.
“Baraminology, a creationist system, classifies animals into groups called “created kinds” or “baramin” according to the account of creation in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible. It claims that kinds cannot interbreed and have no evolutionary relationship to one another. “
Kurt P. Wise devised the word “baraminology” in 1990 on the basis of Frank Lewis Marsh’s 1941 coinage of the term “baramin” from the Hebrew words bara (create) and min (kind). This combined word does not appear in Hebrew; instead, it is in reference to the use of the word ‘kind’ in the Bible. [“Barminology”]
As paleontologist Dan Phelps (see below) says, “Young-earth creationists have created ‘Biblical taxonomy’ (or baraminology) with ‘created kinds’ (also known as baramins) to replace conventional biological taxa.’”
What is particularly insidious about the Answers in Genesis portrayal of these things is that they mash together pseudoscience, made-up stuff and lots and lots of statistics and “factoids” into very readable, concise and knowledgeable-sounding narratives that, unless you happen to have actual scientifically validated facts at hand, you’d have no way to refute. Frankly, it sounds quite reasonable when there’s no one around to gainsay it. Many of the signs simply assert things like “Studies beginning in 2012 estimate….” for example.
This business of inventing “baraminology” and making it sound like it’s a sort of Hebrew term which zoologists, paleontologists, primatologists or archaeologists might use in their field is particularly clever. It’s a bit like the naturopaths inventing the term “allopath” to describe real medical doctors. But it’s quite clear that the creationists simply invented their term to solve the problem of too many animal species to fit on the ark.
An excellent review of the Ark Encounter exhibit is available from Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, He gives careful account of the contents of Ark Encounter theme park on opening day, July 7, 2016.
He adds that “examples of jaw-dropping crank pseudoscience and non-science and the militant fervor in which they are promoted suggest that the Ark Park is tapping into a deeply-held anti-intellectualism that is becoming more influential in our society.”
As Phelps says, “[T]he creationists provide a simplistic version of geology and paleontology to an uncritical and unsuspecting audience that lacks the background to evaluate the claims made by AiG.”
I will give them credit: they do know how to light up an ark.
…and Noah’s tormentors sure knew how to party like like it’s 2348 BCE.