Question of the Week 7/13/16

Jul 13, 2016

Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is a “life-size” attraction designed to promote the anti-scientific views of creationism, a monument to biblical literalism aimed directly at kids. If you could construct an attraction to counter the misinformation of Ark Encounter, and instead promote science and reason to kids, what would you build?

Our winner will receive a copy of A Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins. We look forward to reading your answers!


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31 comments on “Question of the Week 7/13/16

  • There is no need to deal in hypotheticals to answer this question. The counterbalance to the Ark Theme Park already exists in most cities. They are called the Museum of Natural Science. And they are proof that building structures and presenting facts does not deter or confuse the religious masses. This is good news however in regards to the potential harm presented by the Ark Theme Park. Anyone ignorant enough to take their child to this place has already brainwashed their progeny. Those who are not religious are likely never to attend. Those who do attend and are not being raised by cultists will likely leave with little or no affect on their world view. If you doubt this, then explain why the hundreds of legitimate museums across the country are having no affect on the religious people who join, volunteer and patronize museums (I know many of them). Religious scientists are further proof that factual information does not determine a persons belief system. Unfortunately Homo Sapiens are designed to categorize information as it is received and stored. In other words, human PERceive information just as much as they REceive it. Social factors such as parenting, familial and community memes and peer pressure set the rules by which the information storage is accomplished. If you want to really have an impact on ignorance and superstition, you have to focus on the initial state of the mind prior to information presentation. The information itself is not what programs the brain’s storage rules. It is the context of the life being lived along with the attitudes and beliefs being inculcated by the guardians at large. As ridiculous as the Ark Theme Park is, I am pleased to think that it will serve only to appease the ignorant masses that their delusions are valid while having a near zero impact on everyone else. While I share the concerns of humanists, I think we should just keep fighting for separation of church and state, writing secular books and spreading the gospel of reason and facts. As Neil Tyson points out, attacking the religious masses for their beliefs will accomplish little unless and until we fully understand why 7% of noted scientists remain believers in God and practice religion in spite of a lifetime of scientific education and study.

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  • Probably best to attack it with humor in a cartoon, say Southpark style on Youtube, describing all the improbabilities of such an event.
    Things that ridicule the whole idea, such as:
    How did he get the lions from Africa, or the dingo’s from Australia.
    How did he get the ara’s from South America, or mountain lions from North America; must have been quite a flight schedule to put all that together.
    If the whole world was under water, where did it come from; if all the water from the oceans evaporated, then there must have been a dramatic increase in climate temperature; at least 20 C.
    If such a massive structure was built, why are there no remains etc. etc.
    Kids love social media, and this would be an opportunity, to, at least, sow doubt.

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  • @OP – If you could construct an attraction to counter the misinformation of Ark Encounter, and instead promote science and reason to kids, what would you build?

    I think a museum of astronomy, geology, and palaeontology, with explanations of the formation of the stars, the Solar System, the Earth/Moon, Radiometric dating using various isotopes, and the stages of evolution using, fossils and genetics and the diversity of modern species across geographical locations showing the spread and branching diversification. .

    This should be in a modern format, with visitor activating, video clips, and computer animations.

    Perhaps with the whole thing set in a botanic garden, a bit like the “Eden Project”!

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  • The best way to learn is to come to conclusions on your own; with, of course, the aid of a teacher.
    How much fun it would be to have a class of students to build this experiment.
    Students would first need to read the passages of the bible that pertain to the people, animals and dates around the construction and loading of the Ark.
    Have students break into groups to develop the project.
    A lengthy project for sure, but students might enjoy listing as many of the animal species as they can. They can find lists of animals that live to this day and lists of animals that have gone extinct in the last 6,000 years. Have them design cages for the animals and for those that will provide food for meat eaters, and storage bins to hold enough grain to feed all vegetarian feeders.
    Would all the birds simply roost on the Ark or would some need cages, as well? Make sure they consider insects, lizards, all the small animals such as mice, voles, etc. Every air breathing animal, as the bible states. Did prehistoric animals play a role?
    Since there were only eight people on board, calculate the man hours necessary to feed the animals and clean their cages for a year.
    And, could the family have loaded all the animals onto the Ark in seven days? How were they gathered and from where? How would the food be preserved? Students would develop many questions.

    Would they conclude that it would be impossible or would they resort to magic and miracles as Christians do?

    So, what would I build? I would let the students design another ark;, one designed from their research. I doubt, though, that donations would come in for such a project, as the ark would be too big and expensive. It would, also, prove the inadequacies and design failures of the biblical ark.

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  • William Strech #5
    Jul 13, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Would all the birds simply roost on the Ark or would some need cages, as well? Make sure they consider insects, lizards, all the small animals such as mice, voles, etc. Every air breathing animal, as the bible states.

    Insects and other Arthropods are often forgotten by those whose understanding of animal species, is limited, to creatures big enough to fall over, or ones which bite or sting!

    There are over 800,000 named species in the Phylum Arthropoda, named from the Greek arthros (= jointed) and poda (= foot), including the familiar arachnids, crustaceans, and insects, together with a host of less familiar critters, like centipedes, millipedes and sea spiders. All arthropods have jointed appendages. This evolutionary innovation is probably the key to the stunning success of this diverse group. There are about 1018 (10 billion billion) arthropods alive at any one time. There are over three times as many species of arthropods as there are of all other animals on Earth, and there may be millions more that we haven’t even discovered.

    I wonder how many deluded old Hammy is going to exhibit in his “Arkyology” exhibits?

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  • Clive #8
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    There is some truth in the Noah’s Ark story but it will not please the Biblical fans.

    @ your link – Finally, about 5.3 million years ago the Mediterranean was refilled from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar.

    The flooding of the Mediterranean is far too long ago for humans to have folk takes about it.

    Ther location of the Flood was probably due to a rise in the level of the Mediterranean causing a slow overspill into the Black sea.

    It could have been the Black Sea Basin, or any one of numerous other locations on any coast on the globe.
    There are flood myths form coastal areas all over the world from post-glacial sea-level rises.
    There is some evidence that the the Black Sea Basin flooding was intermittent.

    The researchers brought together about 400 high-quality sea-level markers from study sites around the globe, concentrating on locations far removed from the distorting effects of the past massive ice sheets.

    Using an extensive series of sophisticated statistical tests, they then reconstructed sea-level history of the last 21 thousand years with a high degree of statistical confidence.

    Their analyses indicate that the gradual rise at an average rate of 1 metre per century was interrupted by two periods with rates of rise up to 2.5 metres per century, between 15 and 13 thousand years ago, and between 11 and 9 thousand years ago.

    There were also extensive short term floods in the area of the Med from the Thera eruption and associate tsunami which wiped out the Minoans around 1645 BC to 1500 BC.

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  • Clive #8
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    There is some truth in the Noah’s Ark story but it will not please the Biblical fans.

    There are signs that the Noah story was copied from the “Epic of Gilgamesh” or ” Atra-hasis”, which is told on a tablet dated about a thousand years earlier.

    Gilgamesh seems to have saved his family and a few animals from river flood in the Tigris Euphrates valley which is now Iraq.
    Was the ark round? A Babylonian description discovered
    Irving Finkel, curator, British Museum

    This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the ancient Babylonian Story of the Flood. This story had been well known since the 1870s, when George Smith, a brilliant decipherer who worked at the British Museum, first identified the story known from the Book of Genesis in a seventh-century cuneiform tablet from Nineveh. The two accounts – Babylonian and biblical – were closely related. The new tablet, however, written in about 1750 BC, has startling new contents.

    When the gods decided to wipe out mankind with a flood, the god Enki, who had a sense of humour, leaked the news to a man called Atra-hasis, the ‘Babylonian Noah,’ who was to build the Ark. Atra-hasis’s Ark, however was round. To my knowledge, no one has ever thought of that possibility. The new tablet also describes the materials and the measurements to build it: quantities of palm-fibre rope, wooden ribs and bathfuls of hot bitumen to waterproof the finished vessel. The result was a traditional coracle, but the largest the world had ever dreamed of, with an area of 3,600 sq. metres (equivalent to two-thirds the area of a football pitch), and six-metre high walls. The amount of rope prescribed, stretched out in a line, would reach from London to Edinburgh!

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  • I would build a statue of a rising fist with an apple in the palm of it’s hand. The apple, to represent the discovery of gravity, and the quintessential ideas that people like Isaac Newton and John Locke stood for during the enlightenment. The rising fist surrounding the apple is to represent the resurfacing of the secular ideals and the design of the modern scientific era introduced in the enlightenment.

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  • Michael Whitford #12
    Jul 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I would build a statue of a rising fist with an apple in the palm of it’s hand. The apple, to represent the discovery of gravity, and the quintessential ideas that people like Isaac Newton and John Locke stood for during the enlightenment.

    The problem with symbolic gestures, is that they are open to interpretation, so Ham and Co. would probably claim the apple was in Adam’s hand in the Garden of Eden, and the “Fall” would be nothing to do with gravity!

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  • Clive #8
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    The location of the Flood was probably due to a rise in the level of the Mediterranean causing a slow overspill into the Black sea.

    Will add more if I can find them. Any help appreciated….

    “Noah’s Flood” Not Rooted in Reality, After All?

    The ancient flood that some scientists think gave rise to the Noah story may not have been quite so biblical in proportion, a new study says.

    Researchers generally agree that, during a warming period about 9,400 years ago, an onrush of seawater from the Mediterranean spurred a connection with the Black Sea, then a largely freshwater lake. That flood turned the lake into a rapidly rising sea. (See a map of the region.)

    A previous theory said the Black Sea rose up to 195 feet (60 meters), possibly burying villages and spawning the tale of Noah’s flood and other inundation folklore.

    (Related: “Noah’s Flood” May Have Triggered European Farming” [November 20, 2007].)

    But the new study—largely focused on relatively undisturbed underwater fossils—suggests a rise of no more than 30 feet (10 meters).

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  • How about a documentary on shipbuilding, including a chronology of various techniques and known examples of wooden boats. Exhibit actual woodworkers crafting a boat with ancient tools. Ask each woodworker to comment on whether he could build a gigantic ship that would be seaworthy in epic storms if he or she were 600 hundred years old.

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  • Over the course of seven days I would attempt to emulate the achievements of god at the beginning of creation. I just checked and according to what I read on Wikipedia it doesn’t seem so difficult. After all, if I can do it there’s no need for any kind of god.

    On The first day I’d meet the universe, on the second I’d take it for a drink, by the third day we’d be making love which we would repeat on the Thursday, the Friday and the Saturday of the first week. We’d then be able to chill on Sunday.

    I’d therefore be able to prove two things:
    Firstly I’m not a man to play around and…
    Secondly the universe has remarkably poor taste and therefore could not be the creation of an all powerful deity.

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  • It’s not very imaginative, but children are fascinated by dinosaurs. I think they pack a triple whammy because they obviously existed a long time ago, they died out when the climate changed and some are far too big to fit into any boat. Maybe some kind of dinosaur theme park with life-sized examples would be popular.

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  • There are signs that the Noah story was copied from…

    Even back then, plots were being recycled. It’s not just a recent Hollywood phenomenon. From this, learn two lessons:

    A good plot is easier to copy than to invent
    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

    Along with the boatbuilding lessons, some lessons in literature, how to write (and steal) story lines, and how the Great Authors pillaged all kinds of sources on which to base their work.

    My favourite Noahs Ark Story still remains to be told, with illustrations of the kind you find in Bible Stories For Children publications: Synopsis:

    A young goatherd goes higher up the mountain than usual, in search of a stray kid. He finds a strange shape, the shape of an enormous boat, it seems, embedded in the stone. He takes this news back to the village. The local Wise Man (Vizier, like the one in the Disney version of Aladdin) is put on the spot to explain it. His livelihood, his status, and perhaps even his life, depend on him being the one with All The Answers. So, he comes up with an Answer, one that suits his own personal agenda: “Once upon a time there was a Wise Old Man named Noah……”

    Any artists out there capable of doing Bible Studies style illustrations? It would make a great comic book, I think.

    RDF, I’d be more than happy to help with the development of this for publication as a counter-tale to the Ham nonsense.

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  • Answering the original question:

    If you could construct an attraction to … promote science and reason to kids, what would you build?

    Last time I looked, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in London do exactly this.

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  • This is a great question about images. (Reminds me of an exercise we did in a playwriting class I recently took). One of the better Qs of the Wk, in my opinion.

    Let me think: my esteemed co-commenters had some nice suggestions and links, but only a couple of them are images. There’s Michael’s, but that one might be too subtle. And a dinosaur doesn’t quite do the job; the creationists don’t doubt that there were dinosaurs.

    Here’s one: a huge playpen strewn with oversized toys and bibles. In the middle, a large yet decrepit crucifix –leaning like the tower of Pisa – and to the left of the cross is a giant pacifier; and a giant baby-bottle should be placed to the right of the cross. On one side of the playpen there is an exit. A figure of a young girl on her way out and looking outward. She looks like an explorer, with a safari hat, a khaki shirt and khaki pants, and a pair of binoculars hanging from her neck. She looks happy, excited, ready to go.

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  • Dan #22
    ul 13, 2016 at 11:03 pm
    This is a great question about images.

    There were wooden ships in ancient Egypt, not only sailing the Nile, but sailing the Red Sea.

    Not only do we have images, but there is a replica based on those images, and a photograph of it on the link.

    One of these ships may even have brought the odd animal from Africa, but they were nowhere near the size Ham suggests for his shed -err Ark, and could never have been that large without falling apart at sea. Wood and the fixings of that time were just not strong enough.

    Ancient Egyptians called it “God’s Land.” During the Old Kingdom (2686–2125 BCE), when pharaohs were constructing massive, towering pyramids on land, they were also sending ships to sea in the hopes of enriching their kingdom. Carved in stone, scenes and texts tell of sailing expeditions sent south on the Red Sea to Punt (“poont”) and Bia-Punt (land of Punt) to acquire highly prized raw materials that were unavailable in Egypt: ebony, ivory, and gold; leopards, baboons, and other exotic live animals for the royal zoo; and the coveted aromatics frankincense and myrrh, required for use in temple ceremonies and some mortuary rituals.

    Punt was the premier destination for Egypt’s sailing ships in the Red Sea trade network in the Middle Kingdom/12th Dynasty (circa 1985–1773 BCE). But, despite chronicles of long-ago expeditions to this bountiful land, and more current scholarly theories about its likely location in a variety of places either in eastern North Africa or Arabia, Punt’s whereabouts remains an elusive mystery.

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  • That’s a very nice one, Vicki. But I was trying to think of something that a kid who has been inculcated would look at, that would make him question the ridiculous creation stories of the Bible. Unfortunately, it is easier to inculcate (and reinforce beliefs with these images of the bible), then to undo the inculcation with counter-images, so to speak. I tried, am at my wit’s end.

    (Maybe a life-size statue of Ibsen reading the Iceman Cometh! LOL. That would represent…uh, the life of the mind, and education….No?)

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  • In my experience children question the absurdity of the bible stories right away. It’s just not having an environment where that doesn’t spell trouble that’s the problem.

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  • Just to add comments to the above list: there are many problems with the story of Noah and his Ark. Here are a couple. (From

    There are thousands of freshwater fish species in the world. For the Ark to carry all those fresh water fish, he would have to put each of the species in separate well aerated aquaria. I wonder where Noah could get those aquaria back in those days?? Would the fish survive the raging salt water seas for 40 days?
    When the Ark finally lands, the marsupial mammal species would need jump off first then travel quickly to the Indian Ocean while being chased by placental carnivores biting them at their rears. Then the marsupials would have to swim all the way from the shores of India to Australia and that includes not only Kangaroos, but also Koala Bears, marsupial moles, marsupial mice, and wombats not normally found in water.

    There are also many problems of the geological type for such a massive flood not mentioned here.

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  • 29
    cali2008 says:

    I think the perfect counter would be a Universal Studios/ water park hybrid called “The Galapagos Encounter”. The park should contain themed “islands” that explore the various inspirations Darwin Encountered along the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Replicas of the HMS would ferry park visitors between the different islands which would each have there own attractions, including exhibits displaying some of the species that would be encountered on the island. 3D roller coaster rides through time would illustrate the changes that occur via natural selection while creating an exciting adrenaline ride they won’t soon forget.

    On one of the islands there could be an elevator ride through the geologic column in a cylindrical tower. The elevator would be glass on all sides which would allow the riders to look at the different strata as they climb. Casts of actual fossils from each period would be jutting out for all to see. At the top of tower would be a restaurant serving evolutionary themed dishes.

    The water park area would be called “Darwin’s Lagoon” and would have life sized Supersaurus and Sauroposeidon water slides that lead into a huge wave pool filled with floating replicas of hundreds of species of aquatic animals, both extinct and extant.

    I think this would be an excellent way to make children fall in love with evolution.

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  • This is a difficult question to answer, “how to counter Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter?” The fact thousands of people have paid money to build such a thing goes against reason. Museums of all types have existed with hardly any impact on the religious frame of mind. Schools have taught sciences, only to be vilified in the press and in churches for teaching the evils of evolution or science without God. At this point in time, I don’t really see a hope that humanity will ‘see the light’ and crawl out of its self-imposed mental exile from reason. Society is sliding back into the Dark Ages with deadly weapons at its disposal that death cults of Abrahamic origins are all too willing to use to stop the growth of progress and scientific discovery.

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  • To Cali #29:

    I think the perfect counter would be a Universal Studios/ water park
    hybrid called “The Galapagos Encounter”. The park should contain
    themed “islands” that explore the various inspirations Darwin
    Encountered along the voyage of the HMS Beagle.

    If designed exciting enough, I think that would be an excellent idea. Parents who have been brainwashed over the decades would not even try to understand. God would be enough for them. However their children could grasp the ideas and possibly leave their parents behind. Most children tend to rebel against their parents eventually (music, sex, dress, ideas, culture, and food).

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