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Evolutionary biologist's tough words for Noah's ark theme park: 'Hard-core creationist extravaganza'

Posted August 18

An evolutionary biologist is among the critics who have taken aim at creationist leader Ken Ham's new Ark Encounter theme park, calling the Bible-themed attraction "a hard-core creationist extravaganza replete with pseudoscience."

Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director for the U.S. National Center for Science Education, a group that works to prevent "ideological interference" in science education, discouraged schools from visiting the Ark Encounter — a life-size Noah's ark replica — in an Aug. 5 New Scientist op-ed.

Dismissing Ham and others who subscribe to young-earth creationism — the belief that the Earth was created in six literal days between 6,000 and 12,000 years ago and not billions of years ago as science postulates — as "fringe."

"Schools and parents should know that a visit wouldn’t educate or entertain, it would misinform and browbeat," Rosenau wrote. "Publicly funded schools certainly should not take their charges to the park."

He continued, "The U.S. Constitution prohibits government bodies, including schools, from endorsing one particular religious belief over others."

See the massive ark structure here.

Rosenau's comments about public schools came after the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, announced that it sent letters to 1,000 school districts across America, advising them against visiting Ark Encounter.

"The obligation to remain neutral on religion includes not teaching creationism, intelligent design, or any of their creatively named religious offspring to public school students," Freedom From Religion Foundation co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote in the letter. "Taking public school students to a site whose self-professed goal is to convert children to a particular religion and undermine what is taught in public school science and history classrooms would be inappropriate."

Ham and his team reportedly responded to the memo by lowering student ticket prices from $28 to $1, and waiving the $40 adult ticket price — an apparent effort to brings schools in despite atheists' efforts.

As for Rosenau, he went on to say in his piece that the displays presented at the park "promote scientifically impossible ideas," and that it would likely be extremely difficult for someone to find any signs inside the park that are "free of scientific errors."

The evolutionary biologist also took aim at what he said is a central message that the Ark Encounter drives home: the idea that the world today is fallen and wicked as was Noah's and that "the destruction of the flood — including the obliteration of all humans other than a virtuous few — was not just acceptable but praiseworthy."

Ham responded to Rosenau's claims in a statement to The Christian Post, dismissing the notion that the Ark Encounter's exhibits are scientifically unsound, and addressing the claim about signage.

"Certainly, someone like this author who does not agree with the creationist position won't agree with many statements on signage or through videos in the Ark Encounter," Ham told the outlet. "However, there is a lot of basic scientific information that everyone agrees on regardless of whether one is a creationist or evolutionist."

He also said that he found it "sad but typical" that secularists would attack the Ark Encounter in such a way, dismissing Rosenau's op-ed as being rooted in an "emotionally laden anti-biblical agenda."

Ham also said that the claim that the exhibits promote the "obliteration of all humans" as a "praiseworthy" act is inaccurate and unverifiable.

"I challenge this evolutionist to actually document this claim — which he can't, as it's a false claim," he said.

Watch an Ark Encounter staffer answer questions about the project here.

As was previously reported, Rosenau is hardly the first scientist to attack the Ark Encounter. "Science Guy" Bill Nye recently visited the attraction, where he once again faced off against Ham over a variety of issues. As you might recall, the two had a highly publicized debate over evolution and creationism back in 2014.

Ham later called Nye's visit and the debates that unfolded during it "a clash of world views," with Nye saying in a separate statement that he chose to visit the Ark Encounter to assess how it would influence young people.

"Through its dioramas and signage, the organization promotes ideas that are absolutely wrong scientifically, while suppressing critical thinking in our students — which is in no one’s best interest, conservative or progressive," Nye said.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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