In an op-ed published by New Scientist magazine, evolutionary biologist Josh Rosenau accuses the recently opened Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky of promoting the idea that the "obliteration of all humans" is "praiseworthy" and warned schools not set up field trips to the exhibit.
It's no secret that some evolutionists and scientists have been highly critical of Answers in Genesis' $100 million, 155-meter-long ark, which opened to the public earlier this summer and is "intended to bring the Ark of Noah's day to life."
Rosenau, the programs and policy director at the U.S. National Center for Science Education, wrote in the op-ed that not only is the Ark Encounter deluging visitors with "misinformation," but it is also subtly working to indoctrinate its visitors as well.
"Just as pernicious as the scientific errors and the religious proselytising is a subtler form of indoctrination," Rosenau argued. "The relentless message to visitors is that our world is as fallen and wicked as 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."
As the Ark Encounter is now offering reduced rates as low as $1 per student and free tickets for accompanying teachers in hopes of attracting schools and children, Rosenau argues that the "hard-core creationist extravaganza" is "no place for field trips."
He contends that the park promotes "scientifically impossible ideas that contradict everything that scientists know" — "from astrophysics to zookeeping."
"Under the pretence of illustrating a beloved tale shared by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, Ark Encounter presents a message as socially divisive as it is scientifically inaccurate, instilling fear, hatred and hopelessness," Rosenau wrote. "Those are lessons no school or parent should want their students or children to take on board."
"Publicly-funded schools certainly should not take their [students] to the park. The U.S. Constitution prohibits government bodies, including schools, from endorsing one particular religious belief over others," Rosenau added. "Ark Encounter is all about endorsing [Ken] Ham's particular reading of Genesis as the literal truth."
In response, Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis who leads the Creationist Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, issued a statement to The Christian Post refuting Rosenau's claims.
"It's sad but typical of many secularists today to not do careful research when writing about Christians/creationists, but write emotionally laden anti-biblical agenda driven articles such as the New Scientist item accusing the Ark Encounter exhibits of supposedly promoting the 'obliteration of all humans' as 'praiseworthy,'" Ham said. "I challenge this evolutionist to actually document this claim — which he can't, as it's a false claim."
In response to Rosenau's claim that the Ark promotes "scientifically impossible ideas," Ham said it "is easily proved to be false statement."
"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 contended. "However, there is a lot of basic scientific information that everyone agrees on regardless of whether one is a creationist or evolutionist."
Rosenau also reasoned that the Ark Encounter might be offering $1 tickets to students and free tickets to teachers because of "disappointing visitor numbers." Ham stated that is another "false claim."
Ham reiterated that the idea to lower student ticket prices from $28 to $1 and waive the $40 adult ticket price for teachers was in response to intimidation from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent letters to over 1,000 school districts this summer warning them that field trips to the Ark Encounter is considered religious proselytizing and a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
"Also, attendance at both the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are outstanding and way ahead of minimum projections," Ham said. "The author of the New Scientist article has no figures to back his totally false claim about supposed 'disappointing visitor numbers.'"
"In the first month of opening, people from all across the U.S. and around the world have visited both the Ark Encounter and sister attraction, Creation Museum (over 240,000 visits) — way exceeding minimum predictions based on primary research conducted by America's Research Group in 2008 and 2015. Group bookings for the fall have also been stronger than expected. Many people have told Ark Encounter guest services that hotels (and restaurants they visited) were crowded with Ark and Creation Museum guests, and some hotels were booked out a few weeks in advance. "
Ham cited attorneys at the Center For Religious Expression to respond to the claim that public school field trips to the Ark Encounter are unconstitutional.
"Public schools are free to take students on field trips to any place they find educationally beneficial, which can include parks, museums, and even churches that have religious connotations," the attorneys told Ham in July. "The Constitution demands the state be neutral — not hostile — toward religion."
Rosenau is not the only scientist to address concerns about the facts of the Ark Encounter exhibits.
After the park first opened, Ham gave celebrity scientist Bill Nye "the Science Guy," a self-identified agnostic, a two-hour tour of the Ark. Nye later told NBC News that he found the Ark to be "disturbing."
"On the third deck (of the ark), every single science exhibit is absolutely wrong," Nye said. "Not just misleading, but wrong."