Australian creationist Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter – a theme park built around a replica of Noah’s Ark in northern Kentucky – is up and running. Recently, a reporter with Louisville magazine made a pilgrimage there for a story.
While there, the reporter, Charles Wolford, had an interesting exchange with Andrew Snelling, a geologist who works at the park. Snelling asserted that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. For evidence of this, he cited Beowulf, the Old English epic poem, which contains an account of a king battling a dragon. (It has long been Ham’s belief that old legends of dragons are really descriptions of dinosaurs.)
“So you take Beowulf to be evidence of dinosaurs existing?” Wolford asked.
Snelling replied, “Yes. It was an eyewitness account.”
Not exactly. Beowulf, as anyone who has read it knows, is a work of fiction. It’s no more evidence for the existence of dragons than The Odyssey proves that the cyclops was real.
Ham and Snelling are free to believe whatever they like about Beowulf. Their insistence that it’s an eyewitness account is wrong, of course, but people have the right to believe things that are flat-out incorrect.
What’s not acceptable is expecting taxpayers to prop up this nonsense – and that’s exactly what’s happening in Kentucky. Ham denies that he got state subsidies to build Ark Encounter, but he did. Under a Kentucky program, once a year, all of the 6 percent sales tax that Ark Encounter charged for things like tickets, food and souvenirs is returned to the park. So money that had been in the state treasury is given back to Ark Encounter. That’s a subsidy.
Ham and Snelling’s beliefs about dinosaurs, arks and so on spring from their literal interpretation of the Bible. Ham built Ark Encounter as a tool to help him proselytize. Americans United doesn’t object to the existence of Ark Encounter, but we do oppose compelling taxpayers to support it.