Noah’s Ark Park floated by junk bonds

November 12, 2013 • 11:00 am

This has already been covered by several “bloggers,” so I’ll be brief, because the entire story is told by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. If you haven’t been in Ulan Bator for a year or so, you’llknow that Ken Ham is supplementing the Creation Museum with a new theme park called “The Ark Encounter.” It features not only a mock-up of that fictional vessel, but a fake Tower of Babel, “a ride through the plagues of Egypt,” and even a petting zoo.

Happily, the Ark Encounter is encountering financial woes, which, according to Stern, Ham blames on Obamacare, which somehow has, by requiring birth control in medical programs, would violate the religious convictions of Ham’s employees.

To raise the dough, then, Ham is tendering an offer of junk bonds that, according to financial experts, are risky:

The solution? “A private bond offering through a 501(c)(3) that will allow us to claim the exemption to supply abortifaciants.” Under its previous financing scheme, Ark Encounter was just another LLC. Now it’s transformed itself into an official religious nonprofit, one eligible to seize the perks that come with the title.

In an executive summary sent to its supporters, Answers in Genesis makes the bonds sound like a decent investment. The group is offering bonds with 7-, 11-, and 15-year maturities, at yields between 5 and 6 percent. A 7-year bond starts at $250,000, while an 11-year bond begins at $50,000.

Tempting as those rates may seem, there’s a small catch. As Answers in Genesis readily admits, the bonds “are not expected to have any substantial secondary market” and are “not an obligation of AiG.” Somewhat alarmingly, the bonds are unrated, an indication that they’re extremely risky—and almost impossible to resell. High risk, higher yield: These, in essence, are creationist junk bonds.

. . .I asked Jie Yang, a professor of finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, for his opinions of the bonds.

“I would agree that these bonds are very high risk,” he told me. In addition to their lack of rating and a secondary market, the bonds are callable, meaning Answers in Genesis can collect on the bond at any point before it has matured. (The buyer has no such privilege.) Moreover, the bonds are secured only by the revenues and assets of the Ark Encounter project, not by Answers in Genesis itself.

“Should the project be unsuccessful,” Yang notes, “AiG holds no responsibility in meeting the interest payments of these bonds and the bonds may default.” If the project falls through, in other words, investors won’t just lose their interest payments: They’ll lose their entire investment.

Well, this isn’t useful news to most of us, as we’re not investing in that project anyway, but it does highlight the fact that interest in a literalist theme-park may be waning.  And Christians who are still interested in the bonds can be assured that they’re back by the full faith and credit of Lord Jesus himself.

From Dinosaurs of Eden, by Ken Ham; photo by Mark Stern

Flood geology: the dumber animals get inundated while smart humans run for high ground. But why aren’t whales down there in the fossil record with the dinosaurs?

93 thoughts on “Noah’s Ark Park floated by junk bonds

  1. Hmm…seems like AIG lacks faith that ark park will succeed. If they believed that it would then they’d have no problem being fully responsible for the bonds…

      1. I dunno, are bankers really any more trustworthy than Answers in Genesis? Both religion and big banks often get a free pass from prosecution…

  2. Who buys a junk bond for $250,000? I would think bonds in this range would usually be sold to institutional investors (e.g. mutual funds). Hopefully, no one in that business would be stupid enough to buy these things. I know that there are christian churches that sell their members health insurance policies (this is an interesting subject if someone wants to research it sometime), but I wonder if they do retirement and investment accounts too. “We are a christian firm, so what better way to invest for your retirement?” kind of thing. Either way, it sounds like the Hamster has found a new way to fleece the flock.

    1. I haven’t looked up Thrivent in a few years but it is/was a manufacture and distributor of financial vehicles such as insurance, mutual funds, and annuities marketed by and to Lutherans.

      Thrivent was the result of a merger of other Lutheran-affiliated financial firms including Aid Association for Lutherans, which I know did life insurance.

      1. It still is, I have some stuff from them through my parents. Beyond the marketing, however, it appears otherwise fairly mainstream. Their portfolio doesn’t look any different from my work’s 403B portfolio, for instance. Sure there could be something hinky going on under the hood. But there’s no overt signs of bad financial decisions being prompted by sectarianism.

        The one place where they are probably significantly different is in charitable giving. The charities they support are predominantly religious (and probably predominantly Lutheran, I haven’t checked). But here again, they seem to be mainstream in that they allow shareholders to vote/allocate charitable giving from a list of recipient organizations.

  3. Under its previous financing scheme, Ark Encounter was just another LLC. Now it’s transformed itself into an official religious nonprofit, one eligible to seize the perks that come with the title.

    So now that they’re not a regular LLC, what’s to stop all these theoretical ‘good Christians who didn’t want to donate because of contraception coverage’ from just giving regular donations? If corporate structure was the problem, and they fixed it, why the need for the bonds at all?

    The whole thing seems a bit like the old legal gem, “my client has an alibi, besides it was self-defense.” Throw up contradictory excuses in the hope that nobody notices or one sticks.

    Desperate times, desperate measures. Ahhh, the sweet taste of tears.

      1. “Ark of Ham.” What a great turn of phrase. Perfectly descriptive yet somehow manages to be derogatory at the same time.

        I say we all start using it. It could be 2014’s ‘Santorum.’

          1. And Arkham is borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!” Maybe Ken Ham is a secret worshiper of the Great Old Ones.

  4. C’mon Jerry. The whales aren’t down there with the dino’s because the whales could swim. They must have found tracts of salt water that hadn’t mixed with freshwater, but these trifling issues apart, they survived.

      1. Yes, they play double AA baseball at Centennial Field in Burlington….. their mascot is “Champ” the Lake Champlaine “monster”….

  5. So, Creationists like Ham believe that the Flood set down layer upon layer of sediments in which the fossils are found, correct? They also assert that the Grand Canyon was carved by the same flood. If so, only one of these can be true; not both. How can the Grand Canyon have both layers and be carved out in the same event? The layers would not have had time to solidify giving the time elapsed. All layers would be washed away. Therefore, the layers would need to be in place (assuming a flood could carve out the canyon) prior to the Flood. They can’t have it both ways (unlike Ted Haggard).

    1. Not true, not true – Your argument bears witness to the one true miracle that perpetuates faith – cognitive dissonance.

    2. Maybe it’s like one of those ‘scrubby’ sponges; soft and absorbent on one side, and scrubby-tough on the other?
      However, I believe there is pretty much agreement among the rock and ice guys that there was a fairly global flood at the end of the last real ice age (10-15k years ago) when the ice caps melted and sea levels rose worldwide. Virtually every known civilization even close to a respectable body of water has a flood myth (or video game), and the geological evidence is pretty strong. Boats of gopher wood arks full of claustrophobic animals are not always included, though. I always liked the Greek version in which one suitably virile man and one fertile woman managed to get to the only high ground. In this not-really typical non-randy Greek myth, the one man and one woman repopulated the planet as the waters receded by throwing slime-covered rocks down off the mountain. The rock parts became bone and the slime skin. Speciation depended on the type and size of rock as I recall. But I don’t recall there was ever any talk of this Greek Noah ever making his companion the little Mrs, or even a one night stand. So I guess we’re are really descended from slimy rocks and not monkeys.

      1. Don’t know if that would get by the health department. Can you imagine having to clear all that through customs? It would take ANOTHER 370 days.

  6. Maybe the Christians are not worried much about losing their money. They can always pray besides Zombie Jesus tells the explicitly they shouldn’t worry about wealth here, their true treasures are in heaven

  7. Better question is: why is the church/fraud still getting a tax exemption? Where is Elizabeth Warren ?? Went will we be able to count on reasonable people to turn against funding this fraud with our tax code? Its also a clear fleecing of any dumb enough to put money into a kiddies ride called “a ride through the plagues of Egypt,” who the hell would take their child on such a ride?? Scaring them with Frankenstein,the boogieman and Dracula is always backed up with, “but baby its not real” while the threats of the old testament, “the plagues of Egypt” and eternal damnation are pushed off as “real” and somehow not deemed child abuse…. Go figure….

  8. 1. Shouldn’t these bonds be issued in “cubits?”
    2. I can’t imagine anyone who has read the Bible investing in a Noah’s ark enterprise run by a guy named Ham. (There’s an Answer in Genesis for you.)
    3. I might just pay money to hop on that Plagues of Egypt ride.
    4. Or I might skip the ark, plagues, etc. and proceed directly to the Noah’s vineyard attraction that should be a must for all literalists.

    1. @Joseph McClain
      “and proceed directly to the Noah’s vineyard attraction that should be a must for all literalists.”

      A prerequisite for literalists.
      I’d think….

    2. “I might just pay money to hop on that Plagues of Egypt ride.”

      Warning: might be best to give it a wide berth if you’re a Firstborn.

  9. So, I know just a thing or two about the debt markets and I have to say that 5% to 6% seems kinda low for junk bonds that are essentially illiquid, callable, and of mid- to mid-long term maturity.

    In other words, they are hoping for purchasers who have something other than a pure financial motive: they want people who will accept a lower return because of the “cause”.

    My parents would have bought these and I have no doubt lots of other folks will too.

  10. Notice that there aren’t any children on the high ground in the picture? We may infer that these people are wicked sinners. But how would Ham or any of his ilk explain why children must die at the whim of a “loving” god? It requires a “sophisticated theologian” to do that.

    1. I was going to make the same comment. These Noah’s flood pictures never seem to show children or mothers carrying their babies.

  11. I didn’t know about the petting zoo, so here’s a little challenge for Ham:

    He and his colleagies at AiG claim that the fossil record was laid down at the time of the flood, and that the Ark was not stocked with two of each species, but two each ‘kind’ – the variety of species we see today, having evolved (!) from those kinds.

    However, if any species that we have today can be shown to exist in the fossil record, it is logical to assume that, rather than having evolved from a ‘kind’, it must have been included in the Ark cargo. So, the challenge is to fill the AiG Ark with those species.

    Only two rules:

    1) If any species can be shown to exist in the fossil record and to exist today, it MUST be included. No exceptions.

    2) The entire cargo is to be housed, for 40 days and 40 nights, on the AiG Ark, complete with all of the food required to keep every animal alive and healthy. No replenishment of noms or species. Waste may be thrown overboard.

    We can then all sit back and laugh our socks off at the ensuing mayhem. When the dust clears, if Ham is unable to disembark every animal that was loaded on, Ham should close AiG and the Ark project, withdraw every AiG book from publication and make a public admission that his ideas are codswallop.

    If he succeeds, I’ll buy a bond.

    1. Ken Ham is a literalist. So why only 40 days as a condition? According to the Bible, Noah and the animals were on the ark about 370 days.

          1. I found the comma – it’s being used as an apostrophe. Evidently you weren’t listening when the nun’s taught the proper use’s of apostrophe’s {/pedant}

        1. Glad you survived the indoctrination. The nun’s probably didn’t tell you all the details, because they didn’t want the story to sound unbelievable.

          1. I remember some of the stories the nuns tried to foist off on grade school children. Along with thunder being the sound of thunder being “angels bowling”, there was the origin of holly berries (baby Jesus pricked his finger on a holly leaf and the drops of blood became the berries) and why tabby cats have an ‘M’- shaped mark on their forehead (baby Jesus was being fussy, and a tabby cat got into the manger and purred him to sleep. In gratitude, his mother marked the cat’s head with her initial). I really laughed at the latter (and got into trouble for it) because I knew, even at that age, that a Jewish peasant woman would not only have probably been illiterate, but even if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have used the Roman alphabet.

      1. About that duration, see some excellent discussions at: (comparing conditions on the ark to those on a trans-atlantic slave ship) (on the twin problems of food in and shit out)

        Not that any thinking person takes the myth seriously, but it’s amusing to come up with yet arguments why the story could not be true.

    2. Let’s see now, supposing Noah was only partially successful and not all the animals that embarked, made it off. Wouldn’t the fossil record look just the same? That would explain where all the dinosaurs went – they got eaten.

      Well, I think it works… 😉

      1. The fossil record would look the same, but according to Ham, those species wouldn’t be around today. Ham claims that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, but the dinosaurs were wiped out in the flood. It has to be that way for hos claims of a Young Earth to work.

        There are a couple of exhibits in Ham’s Creation Museum that show kids happily playing with raptors or riding on the back of a saddled-up baby triceratops.

        Yes, Ham is that crazy.

    3. If it was a world-wide flood it is also a little difficult for AiG to explain where all the water went when it drained down (or for that matter where it came from prior to the flood). I suppose in the world of miracles and woo it is easy to imagine that G*d simply created an extra quantum of water and then de-created it later…?

        1. There should be a Deepak drinking game. Every time he says “quantum”, take a sip. If he says “consciousness”, you have to chug the whole thing!

            1. Alcohol does not kill brain cells. It just feels that way.

              Alcohol does cause some damage to brain cells and long-term heavy use can kill off cells, but after a period of abstinence, the brain can repair itself.

              The idea that booze kills brain cells is a myth that is thought to have been started by the xtian temperance movement. Another lie designed to get as to do as they do.


              1. I kill my brain cells in lots of ways; good to know that at least one habit doesn’t.

                And every time someone (religious) raises an eye brow and makes some comment about demon rum and sin, etc, I always remind them that Jesus’ first ‘public’ miracle was changing water into wine.

              2. (Reply to Lisa Parker, just above [hopefully]):

                There are plenty of preachers out there who will tell you that it was just grape juice; the pastor at the church I attended was one of them.

                As has been pointed out repeatedly in recent days on this site, in religion and theology, you can just make stuff up.

              3. Mark,There have been several preachers that have told me (and lots of others) a lot of stupid contradictory things, especially the literalists. But it would be a hard sell to say that to my face while I’m holding a bible. Any attempt at back peddling with claims that “well, yeah, it says that, but that’s not what they really meant” puts them on that old ‘slippery slope’ they are so fond of talking about. They slide down from just sounding stupid to either critically ‘mentally challenged’ or malicious lying manipulators. However, having been raised an Irish Catholic, no authority there has ever told me that alcohol was sinful.
                Also, with religion, it isn’t that you can just make stuff up; you have to make stuff up.

              4. For some reason I read the bit about you holding a bible & immediately imagined that you could whack them with it – I actually took the sentence that way. That’s where my mind went. 😀

                They do just make stuff up – Mark Joseph’s grape juice example is a good one as I experienced it indirectly when my Ancient Greek professor told us how a religious relative took a passage to mean “grape juice” and even when she explained that no one drank grape juice then, he refused to translate that Greek in the bible the way it should be translated. So they even distort language and you can argue but they just close their ears.

                Best go with the whacking with the bible. 🙂

              5. Another reason why books will never be supplanted by e-readers; there’s just no way you can get as satisfying a thump hitting someone with a Kindle as you can with a leather-bound bible!

              6. Actually, I was thinking about whacking said preacher when I wrote it. Obviously we are great minds.

              7. Diana, you need to fix the hole where the rain gets in! 🙂

                It’s astonishing that the bible bears any relation to the original, when one thinks about the number of translations that it has been through, both linguistic and ideological. One of the earliest attempts at computing translation, back in the 1950s demonstrates that. Much effort went into constructing a system to translate English into Russian, and vice-versa. The first test was to translate a short English phrase into Russian and back again. The input was “out of sight, out of mind”. The output was “invisible idiot”.

              8. Even if there might have been a perfect translation, all the copies of the bible (and most everything else) before 1440 were transcribed, one at a time, mostly by monks sitting on uncomfortable stools in various monasteries around the “Christian’ world. It would be a good bet that at least half of them were barely literate in addition to being bored, uncomfortable and often sleep-deprived. Throw in the fact that there was no standardized spelling and the Latin alphabet didn’t have letters to represent many different sounds. Even after they had a printing press, setting type wasn’t easy and was prone to mistakes. It would be a miracle if there was even one accurately translated copy.
                However, all of these logical reasoning will be met with it was/is a miracle; ‘God inspired all that is in the bible, so he wouldn’t let any of them be mistranslated.’ Kinda like the reverse of his including all that pesky geology to confuse scientist and purposely make them find false evidence that the Earth is older than 6,000 years.

              9. @teacupoftheapocalypse

                That story about computer translation – I heard the same thing in one of my linguistics classes, except the language was Chinese.

                It’s about as reliable a tale as any you’d read in the bible or hear in a religion class.

              10. Bingo. I heard the same story (the target language was also Russian); the phrase to be translated was “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. The translation is supposed to have come out as “the vodka is good, but the meat is rotten”.

              11. I heard the story in my first class at uni. ‘Data Structures’, as I recall, so blame Dr. Cable. Apocryphal though the story might be, translation form one language to another is bound to throw up errors, especially when dealing with idioms, with which the English version of the bible is littered.

              12. If you try (as I have been recently) using Google Translate a lot, you’ll be surprised at the number of idiomatic constructions it gets right, but also amused at the quite frequent ones it gets wrong. Quite often there isn’t a phrase in the target language with the exact same shade of meaning, even talking all context into account, and the nearest equivalent is subtly different. (And I’m just talking English-French here, which are pretty similar structurally, I would imagine other language pairs would show far greater discrepancies).

    4. As another nitpicking detail, it was only the unclean animals that went on the ark in single pairs. Noah had seven pairs of the clean animals. It’s a good thing, too, since first thing after the flood, he “took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar.” It seems a bit of a waste to save all those animals and keep them alive for a year just to kill them, but God sure did like the smell of those burnt offerings.

  12. “A private bond offering through a 501(c)(3) that will allow us to claim the exemption to supply abortifaciants.”
    So he wants an exemption so he can supply abortifacients? Isn’t that what this says?

  13. No one with any sense would buy of course because there is no realistic source of income to pay the bond rates. Any sensible prospective buyer would look at the creation museum’s finances and immediately walk away. Of course that doesn’t mean that someone on Wall St. wouldn’t sell this crap off and make a fortune on it.

  14. Isn’t the fact that it’s so hard to get the financing to build a fake ark proof there’s no way Noah built a real one?

  15. Boy, was I surprised to start reading Dr. Coyne’s post, and seeing my name! Well, at least until I read the next word…

    Great line from the article on Slate: “Ham is as much a showman as an evangelist; he preaches a twisted gospel of willful ignorance.”

    The Sensuous Curmudgeon blogs fairly regularly about Ham’s antics; the two most recent posts about the Ark Encounter are:

  16. I cannot imagine how any park with “a ride through the plagues of Egypt” could fail financially or be seen in any way as a risky investment.

  17. Ruddy Norah – how could Noah afford to build an Ark? How did he get the wood & the man power?

    Oh – he didn’t… it’s only a story!

  18. The ark bond offering was a failure. Of the $62 million that AIG was hoping to raise, only $10.5 million of bonds were actually sold. This means there will be insufficient funds to continue this project and the ark park will never be built.

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