They paved Kentucky and put up a Noah's ark
The state has promised generous tax incentives to a group of entrepreneurs who plan to construct a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, load it with animals and actors, and make it the centerpiece of a Bible-based tourist attraction called Ark Encounter.
Since Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced the plan on Wednesday, some constitutional experts have raised alarms over whether government backing for an enterprise that promotes religion violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state. But Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, said the arrangement posed no constitutional problem, and brushed off questions about his stand on creationism.
“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion,” he said at a news conference. “They elected me governor to create jobs.”
The theme park was conceived by the same Christian ministry that built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., where dioramas designed to debunk evolution show humans and dinosaurs coexisting peacefully on an Earth created by God in six days. The ministry, Answers in Genesis, believes that the Earth is 6,000 years old -- a controversial assertion even among many Bible-believing Christians.
Although the Creation Museum has been a target of ridicule by some, it has drawn 1.2 million visitors in its first three years, proving that there is a sizable paying audience for entertainment rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
One can only hope the bulk of whatever taxes this absurd tourist attraction generates go toward improving science education to mitigate the simple-mindedness this inflicts on Kentucky children.
But if it's jobs even at the expense of science that desperate governors crave, they ought to be equal-opportunity panderers. Incoming California Gov. Jerry Brown, himself facing a budget crisis that will force him to get creative, may want to pursue a similar revenue-raising scheme. I would encourage him to steer clear of the Bible's widely disseminated creation story. Instead, my vote goes to the Church of Scientology, whose Earth-insemination myth-- that Galactic emperor Xenu flew billions of his people in DC-8-like spacecraft to our planet and blew them up in volcanoes -- lends itself nicely to flashy amusement park entertainment.
As for Kentucky, though the state foresees an increase in tax revenue, I predict it faces an epidemic of scientific understanding similar to Mike Zovath's, vice president of Answers in Genesis:
Ark Encounter is designed to be a model of environmentally sensitive development, Mr. Zovath said, to minimize its carbon footprint. “I don’t believe in global warming,” he said, “but I do believe we’ve got to be good stewards of everything God’s given us.”
-- Paul Thornton
Photo: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear
Credit: AP Photo/Garry Jones