Ham/Nye debate said to bring financial windfall to Ham and his Ark Park

March 3, 2014 • 5:28 am

I’m not saying “I told you so” (in fact I am, of course), but the main upshot of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate appears to have tipped the final balance in favor of Ham.

The debate, as you’ll recall, was held in Kentucky’s Creation Museum, was on the validity of creationism as a model of biological origins and diversity, and the proceeds from the DVDs went to Ham and other creationists.

Now, according to the Guardian and other venues, Ham has announced that proceeds from the debate have apparently revived the dormant “Ark Park” project, which will contain a “life-sized” replica of Noah’s Ark.

This is precisely what I predicted in a pre-debate post on January 5, “Ark Park near collapse; will Bill Nye help finance it?” At the time I wrote this:

What outweighs everything, though, is the possibility that Nye will lose by simply showing up, and thereby raising big bucks for the Creation Museum or the troubled Ark Park. And no matter what he says, or how good he is, if he is raising money that helps promulgate lies to the children he loves, Nye is making a very serious mistake.

The Ark Park had been in financial trouble because people weren’t buying its bonds, but if Ham isn’t lying—and one has to worry about that given his creationist mission—the debate got the needed interest to revive the park. As the Guardian reports:

Creation Museum founder Ken Ham announced Thursday that a municipal bond offering has raised enough money to begin construction on the Ark Encounter project, estimated to cost about $73m. Groundbreaking is planned for May and the ark is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016.

Ham said a high-profile evolution debate he had with “Science Guy” Bill Nye on 4 February helped boost support for the project.

And Nye’s reponse:

Nye said he was “heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky” after learning that the project would move forward. He said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham’s ministry, which preaches that the Bible’s creation story is a true account, and as a result, “voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest.”

Well, he’s heartbroken and sickened because of his own actions. By agreeing to show up and debate Ham—something I suspect Nye did (at least in part) to keep himself in the media spotlight—he’s allowed Ham to further his project. The result, even if you think Nye gained a transitory victory in the debate, is that Ham will build yet another popular tourist attraction, one designed to promulgate lies to kids. Nye, of course, devoted his career as The Science Guy to precisely the opposite: teaching and exciting kids about science. In other words, Nye scuppered himself.

This is why evolutionists should not debate creationists. It looks good on Ham’s c.v.; not so good on Nye’s.  And now it looks great on Ham’s balance sheet as well. 

Nye lost—big time.

108 thoughts on “Ham/Nye debate said to bring financial windfall to Ham and his Ark Park

  1. Call me skeptical regarding Ken Ham’s claim.

    (Not that Nye should have agreed to a protocol that provided even a penny to the Creation “Museum”.)

      1. I don’t know about that. If Ham said it, I don’t believe it — and that settles it.

        When has he ever said one true thing?

      2. The best-case scenario would be that they break ground and then run out of money halfway through. That would maximize the number of people who squandered their money and we’d have a long-term testament to folly in our midst.

          1. Apparently so. And probably will be again and again. But I think (and really hope) that Greg has gotten it right.

    1. Ham said that people who had not filled in the necessary paperwork went ahead and did so and this was because of the publicity of the big debate. We may never know for sure if the debate publicity is what spurred people on but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

    2. Yes, the lack of actual numbers from Ham is suspicious. It is entirely possible that Ham is lying, claiming the debate pushed funding over the edge in order, wait for it, to push funding over the edge.

      However, I does also seem likely that the debate was a financial and publicity boon for Ham. While Christian fence sitters may seem him as having lost the debate, his fellow creationists are incapable of seeing any flaws in his arguments since the believe in the exact same thing. So what looked like a giant belly flop to use may have looked like an immense success in spreading the word of Jesus to followers.

      Since this is Ken Ham and his money loosing Creation Museum, I wouldn’t be surprised if the truth lies somewhere in between what he’s saying, and what he isn’t.

      1. Ham would not lie. He is a Man of God… right?

        Jerry was right, all Nye did was give this guy unwarranted publicity, and now fresh funds and support.

        I sincerely worry about the future of the United States, especially if they will remain united.

  2. I suppose you have to weigh whatever intangible worth there was in Nye embarrassing Ham on what become a worldwide stage (what with all of the news coverage of the debate), versus Ham raising the money to build his big, silly boat.

    My own suspicion is that any kids being taken to the creationist “museum”, or this giant ark, are probably already being heavily indoctrinated from several sources, anyway.

    1. I’m not sure building the big silly boat should be counted as a plus in the creationist column. I know they think it will be, but I think they are scoring an own goal here. To paraphrase an old saying: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to build a big giant monument to your stupidity and remove all doubt.

      1. I agree, g-spring. I think Nye absolutely did the right thing here, and if he handed them a little more rope they can hang themselves with, so much the better. When even Pat Robertson basically calls you an idiot, you good and lost. If Ham wants to publsh an “I’m Stupid” pamphlet, I’m glad Nye helped finance it. Look, the hardcore creationists are a lost cause. Our one and only concern should be in convincing the conviceable, and Nye helped do that, and we must continue that effort. Other issues are more distractions than anything else.

  3. I am skeptical that the Nye/Ham debate made the difference. According to the Louisville Courier Journal (cited by Matt Young at Panda’s Thumb, and available
    here (see page 2):
    “Mike Zovath, the Ark project coordinator, said the minimum amount was sold, which constituted most of the bonds, and AiG purchased some. They did not provide exact figures.”

    It is quite possible that much of the supposed boost from the debate is actually money from Answers In Genesis itself, or else donations that they purposely delayed announcing. Can we necessarily trust what Ken Ham announces?

    1. Yes, IIRC they were short by a huge amount at last estimate – tens of millions short of the goal.

      I find it improbable that this debate would have brought in that amount of money. I think its far more likely that what happened was exactly what you say – parent company AIG bailed out daughter company Ark Park.

  4. “Ham has announced that proceeds from the debate have apparently revived the dormant “Ark Park” project …”

    I seriously doubt the words of a lying liar who lies.

  5. It’s a 75k project that is delivered in several phases. Hopefully his ark….sinks. 😉

      1. Yeah I noticed afterwards. Anything over 1000’s & my mind just thinks “a lot”. 😀

        1. If $1 bills descended from $5 bills, then why are there still $5 bills around, huh? Riddle me that!

  6. What did Nye think was going to happen? He didn’t know that this was a fundraiser? IF an evolutionist debates a creationist, it should only be if the money goes to a third party–a charity both parties can agree on.

  7. When Scambo made his announcement on live webstream it looked like an old time revival meeting complete with prayers and supplications. What was a little different, though, was the lineup of government officials on the stage with Ken. “Church” and state, hand in hand.

    I write “church” because even though Scambo benefits from tax-exempt status by calling his scam a church, what he actually runs is an entertainment business.

    1. You watched all that without vomiting? Thanks for taking one for the team! It’s hard enough to read about it.

  8. I can’t find any clear numbers right now, but last I heard was that AiG was far from reaching their financial goal, so I’m a bit surprised a simple bit of publicity could tip the balance the other way.

    Anyway, there are still many interesting ways in which Ham and his investors can fall hard and deep, even before the project’s finished. The Museum for example started off well, but visitor numbers are waning. See that happen to a $73M project…

  9. When are we going to stop calling this a boat/Ark? It is a wooden barn. It will not float, it will not be on the water, it is not a boat.

    It is a $73million dollar barn.

    1. So they should be called the “Ark” Park and the Creation “Museum”, with finger quotes like Dr Evil uses for his “laser”.

    2. Whatever it is, I think it’s great: people don’t have much idea about fossils, but they are familiar with zoos. Whatever structure they make, it’s going to be really hard to convince anyone all the animals in the world could fit into it. (Unless they only carried DNA samples of everything…)

    1. I wonder if the diocese had a more pressing use for the ten million dollars needed to fix it up. Can’t think I what it might be…

  10. I wouldn’t take any words coming out of Ken Ham’s mouth at face value. It’s likely a PR move meant to present him as a victor of the confrontation. How many dvds of the debate which ended up in complete debacle for him did he manage to sell? 100 copies?

  11. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but I’d like to think that Nye’s debate merely stirred the embers of a dying fire. Interest in the Ark project has flickered again a bit, but will die out soon.

  12. I’m praying for a really big storm upstream from the Ark Park. (just in case prayers actually work)

      1. Exactly!

        Maybe Nye could use that picture explaining how difficult it is to make a wooden boat that size.

  13. I am not convinced yet that this debate was a bad thing. I think it is very difficult to weigh tangible effects. Of course, if the metric is simply “did Ham’s organization make some money off of this event” then of course that is true. And I do agree, that is not so good a thing.

    But I am not completely convinced that therefore the debate was a bad thing and that Nye should have refused to participate. Even if it turns out that the debate did in fact enable the Ark Park, I’m not certain that would tip the balance for me. I am not so sure that the Creation Museum itself is a bad thing. It is so silly that I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns off some of the visitors that aren’t already fully committed lost causes. One more silly ass amusement park that drains resources that could be used for more serious efforts, like political lobbying and campaigning, doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

    Meanwhile, judging by reactions aired by various means around the net, even a significant number of religious believers think Ham got hammered flat. What fruit might that bear?

    I am not sure enough to commit to yea or nay with any conviction on this yet.

    1. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon.

      I agree. The creation museum is sad and ridiculous and makes for sad and ridiculous photo ops. It is something children grow up to be embarrassed of. Perhaps the home schooled children who don’t get out much are impressed now, though even they have televisions and sometimes the internet, but as soon as they visit a real museum they will feel the palpable difference. Long before they are able to entertain the merits of evolution versus creationism as an idea they will sense, in their gut, that they are wedded to shabby also-ran world view. The ark will be even more ridiculous. Like many religious stories, the ark thrives in the shadows of the mind, as something only half visualized. Making it too concrete brings the ridiculousness into focus (think saddles on dinosaurs). And who can doubt that it will be plagued by problems and end up having to do with far fewer variety of animals than they imagine? It may turn into ‘goat land’, as many small private zoos do. If we can get creationists to invest their money into something that will likely turn into a money pit and photo-op for anti-creationism, into something that will ultimately up the cognitive dissonance of believers, that might not be a bad thing.

      It could, of course, be a net win for creationism as many people think, but it is far from obvious to me that that is the case. I’m inclined to think they are scoring an own goal and we should maybe not get in their way as they do it.

  14. So, Ham got crucified in the debate only to be resurrected. Why couldn’t Nye see that there is no winning against twisted morons who think martyrdom is the ultimate virtue?

  15. As ever it’s the kids that count. As long as we keep up the pressure to keep this crap out of schools around the world, it will die out eventually.

  16. Let him build it. We need such monuments to epic stupidity, as a reminder to future generations. The debate was fruitful in ways no one suspects. The seeds of inquiry were planted in the minds of many who never gave the Ham scam serious scrutiny. It was, in fact, a no-lose situation for evolution and a no-win for creation. I almost never disagree with Jerry on anything, but on this one we see completely different things and advocate utterly different approaches.

    We need more such “debates,” not fewer, with serious preparation. We need to annihilate the bad arguments repeatedly, dramatically, and publicly with skilled rhetorical fighters who know how to do it. This was just a warm-up. It’s not about the science. It’s about the dominant cultural voice. Reason-pushers have been AWOL in the popular mosh pit, and need to get dirty and down.

    1. I defintely lean more towards your take on this issue than with Jerry’s.

      And I really like “Reason-pushers have been AWOL in the popular mosh pit, and need to get dirty and down.”

      Made me laugh, and brings back some memories.

    2. Yeah I actually think that Ken Ham getting to build his silly ‘Ark Park’. Creationists are going to continue brainwashing their children whether or not this park gets built…. I think that the creation ‘museum’ does a great job exposing how insane and dangerous young earth creationism is. I think Ken Ham’s ‘Ark Park’, if it is built, will do the same.

  17. What Bill Nye wanted to do was to convey why scientists !*as scientists*! (rather than as atheist activists) !*feel frightened*! (and generally passionate) about creationism as well as to raise awareness among the liberal population (such as us Left Coast California types) about how really powerful creationism !*already is*! is some parts of the country.

    So I think in this measure he succeeded.

    But I remain concerned that he debated Ham on his home turf, rather than in a third-party venue. Wasn’t a regular natural history museum or secular school available? Perhaps Nye thought that in Ham’s turf, he could strike at the heart of the dragon wounding it more seriously.

    I think it unlikely that Nye (as Jerry said) did this for ulterior motives “to keep himself in the media spotlight”. Nye still appears regularly on the Weather Channel, been interviewed on multiple talk shows, has engaged in other debates on global warning, has created 2 other science series for adults since “Science Guy”, even guest-starring as a professor on the crime drama “Numb3rs” which he helped to create.

    1. “But I remain concerned that he debated Ham on his home turf, rather than in a third-party venue. Wasn’t a regular natural history museum or secular school available? ”

      I disagree to some extent. Yes,a neutral venue of some kind would have been acceptable, but NOT under any circumstances a genuine museum or other academic institution. That would be tantamount to granting Ham’s garbage the status of a legitimate scientific viewpoint that is worthy of serious discussion, something that it most certainly is not. Debating them in churches or other religious institutions is the right way to go. The scientific message is them presented to the deluded masses who might otherwise never encounter it. Yes, in most cases it will fall on deaf ears, but at least a few seeds of doubt will be sown in the minds of the less-committed, who may then be inspired to look and read a little further…

      I’m also sympathetic to the opinion that it’s no bad thing if Ham & co. do build their Ark folly. If the wretched thing does come into being, it will look so ridiculous that no-one who isn’t already a hardcore creobot will be able to take it seriously. And if the whole enterprise goes bust, the creos will have squandered millions and will probably end up fighting like rats in a sack over the legal claims, liabilities and demands for compensation from the people they’ve fleeced.

      1. I was thinking, most cities have a central waste dump somewhere, don’t they? That would be the proper venue to discuss creationism, plus it’s cheap. Also, the smell reminds of what the Ark would have been like.

        1. The ark exhibit is likely to also have that great smell unless they are investing heavily in a high tech ventilation system. What are the odds that they will get that right? I predict fun headlines about how the Ham’s Ark is unvisitable because of the stench and equally fun headlines about how they had to retrofit it with high tech ventilation systems (you know, the kind Noah would have used) to make it tolerable for visitors.

      2. In retrospect, I feel the problem is that Ham is not just stupid, but an aggressive self-promotor, a showman. If there’s a time and place for debating creationists, it shouldn’t be someone like him, IMO.

    2. Would that, as a condition for his debating Ham at Ham’s museum, Nye had secured a legally enforceable contract with Ham to debate Nye at, e.g., The Amazing Meeting.

  18. “I suspect Nye did (at least in part) to keep himself in the media spotlight”

    Why impugn the motives of an ally? I would assume he did the debate for the reasons he said, unless there were clear evidence to the contrary.

    1. Those are some chilling facts:
      In 2012, the poverty rate in Kentucky jumped to 19.4 percent, or 823,000 people, making it the fifth poorest state in the U.S., according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Child poverty in particular increased from 23.5 percent in 2008 to 26.5 percent in 2012. And 35,891 public school students in Kentucky were homeless during the 2011-12 school year, Northern Kentucky News reported in March 2013.

  19. I’m in complete agreement with you Mr. Coyne, and your argument against the debate is the same argument I was making prior to it.

    I was flustered during the time leading up to the debate, not understanding why in the Hell would Nye agree to this fiasco, KNOWING that Ham would profit from it win or lose.

    Most atheists were against the debate, judging from the various blogs and Youtube channels for the very same reasons.

    Now could Nye NOT see this coming???

    I’m used to seeing theists shoot themselves in the foot, but you don’t expect it from someone like Nye.

  20. After watching all debates from Christopher Hitchens on religion, he has spoiled me on others. Bill Nye is at best mediocre.

    BTW the worst of religion you wont read about in the USA is Boko Haram in Nigeria. Over 100 dead this weekend in one small town which is no longer.
    Adds perspective

    1. Yes, Hitchens was in a league of his own. IMHO, not even Dawkins and Harris are in his league. Hitchens is greatly missed.

  21. From the article on NPR:

    “The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours—and although the bond registration had already closed before February 4 and no more bonds could be purchased— the high-profile debate prompted some people who had registered for the bonds to make sure they followed through with submitting the necessary and sometimes complicated paperwork.”

    In short, bond registration closed before the debate. The debate encouraged registrants to finish the paperwork.

    Well okay.

  22. If it goes through I want to see how long it takes for a construction company to build a building that looks like an ark, but doesn’t actually need to float.

    My guess is it will be a lot longer then what it supposedly took Noah to build.

    Then someone will be able to count the animals and the see if there would be enough food and point out all the problems with a life size example.

    Yes, I know. They’ll come up with excuses, miracles from God and other such nonsense.

    Still, it will put a lie to Ham’s words in the debate about the time it takes to build a huge boat.

    I think it’s more likely Ham will walk away with a lot of the money as fees or salary or some such when attraction capsizes.

  23. 73 million dollar project! That is so wrong. If They should take the money and give it to starving children. Seriously, I can think of a lot better things to do with the money than that. The people who are giving to this are just ignorant.

  24. Ham lies.
    Nye beat Ham like he owed him rent.
    The “debate” more likely cost more than it raised.
    Most likely, the darn thing will never be built and if it is, we can make fun of it.
    Money contributed to this cause is money that can’t be used in a more productive way by these bozos.
    Millions heard about the debate and its outcome. Hundreds will visit the ark if it gets built.
    This is a win for Nye, a win for atheism and a loss for Ham and his “boat”.
    Nye did the right thing by debating Ham. It would be wrong for Dawkins, Coyne, Harris, etc., but Nye was the perfect person to do it.

    1. I wonder if Ham would agree to debate a woman. I assume that he subscribes to and endorses Paul’s admonition to women to be silent in church.

      I assume Ham’s museum is a so-called 501c(3) non-profit. Does he view it as a “church”?

      I knew of a reverend who owned a wedding chapel. He was all for the costlier weddings.(“Get the money up front,” he said.) He was operating in a 501c(3) status, but had to be sure to consistently preach in the chapel in order to be able to document, justify and maintain that status.

  25. The only fruitful debate between science and religion (including all manifestation of woo) has to held at the polls. Secularists everywhere have to continue the clarion call against the encroachment of religion into politics and push back on each incursion however trivial. Public education and educating the public, teaching critical thinking skills, especially to children, is the antidote to this affliction.

    Note to philosophers and theologians stop peddling the Argument from Obfuscation. If God was real, we would ALL know it; no ambiguity – it doesn’t get any simpler.

  26. Ham has really got the media all fired up with his claims that the debate won him the funding. The truth is that right at the end of the year, Williamstown floated $62 in bonds to help. Williamstown is a hotbed of X-tian lunacy and they also plan to benefit from the tourism. So I am very skeptical about the idea that the debate is what brought in the funds.

    I too was worried about Nye doing the debate, but was very pleased with the result, so now I’m glad Nye did it.

    This museum, if ever built completely, will be a one hit wonder just like the Creation Museum, which is seeing its numbers decline so much, they added a zip line to try to bring people back.

    What irks me the most is that Ham has applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a wetlands mitigation, so he is ruining the environment with this nonsense.

    Plus, I wonder what will happen to the mixing of state funds with religion when Ham starts making employees sign religious loyalty pledges and violates civil rights laws.

  27. Building an “ark” is a good thing. This is very scientific experiment which we can all observe.

    I’m looking forward to Ham showing us how he will manage this ark with only 8 people.

    Build it. Build it!

    1. Indeed. We should egg him on and encourage him to build one to sail around the world on the ocean! I’d pay to see that.

      1. Exactly. I’d love for a creationist to demonstrate that the ark could be seaworthy.

        I’m all for observational science.

  28. I imagine, like most ships, it will eventually become infested with rats.It also reminds me of a “ship of fools.”

    Wikipedia –
    “The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction.”

    The description is a rather accurate depiction of Ham and his ark.

  29. The Guardian article is a taunt to jump to conclusions. It’s too soon to render a judgement. At best, Ham is seriously exaggerating. In this economy, what are the odds of the ark park being built and operating in the black?

    1. Depends on whether or not he can convince the Koch Brothers to take up the slack. Indirectly and discreetly, of course, but it’s right up their alley.


          1. The K Bros are hyper-conservative Libertarian types. I didn’t see anything about their religious views on Wikipedia. They might even be atheists (or, more likely “fathiests”). I see them as cynical exploiters of conservative religious types.

      1. I don’t think the K Bros. will do that unless they install a special climate change denial wing.

  30. Why does Ham need millions of dollars to build an ark? Did Noah have millions of dollars?

    Ken, just get off your ass, grab your axe and go build it, like Noah did!

    1. Yeah — and we’ll even let him use that sophisticated invention, bronze, for his axe rather than the old-n-busted stone.

      No iron, though. Nobody was using iron in 2000 BCE — and, besides, YHWH is allergic to it.


    2. Good one.

      Anyway, since bond market is strongly affected by herd-mentality and other behaviourals, I think what Ham tries to do is just trying to warm the market.

      Even if there are only a few thousands die-hards, if so of them are inclined to spend (usually for other benefits like fame or such) some money in the name of Ham .. it might work.

      Do not agree with prof CC that Nye has failed. Ham definitely took a spank publicly, while this supposedly monetary gain may or may not be affected by the debate (the diehards will do it anyway, do not know for how much).

      So, the important think to do is to keep the ridicule on – and that’s exactly the good of prof CC’s New Republic article (what is this publication actually? republican? )

    3. Seems that ark construction materials ought to no less gently float down from the heavens than allegedly did manna, eh?

  31. The Lord told Noah he had a plan
    To punish people o’er the land,
    Flood the Earth and clean the land

    It’s raining Ah believe!

    Noah brought his family near
    He said, “The skies don’t look so clear,
    Get the animals, bring ’em here!”

    It’s raining Ah believe!


    Whoa-Oh! Children little children,
    The Ark is gonna leave,
    So step inside and take a ride
    It’s rainin’ Ah believe!

    Noah built himself an ark,
    Built it from the hickory bark,
    All the world was gettin’ dark,

    It’s rainin’ Ah believe!

    (Additional verses, from a record collection I received as a six-year old. Obviously, I put in some time listening to it.)

    1. Lyrics complete with the complicit lie that passage on the ark was available to any children of the time…

      1. Would YOU want to be trapped on a boat for that long with a passel of whiny kids. “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored!” “Timmy won’t let me pet the llama!”

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