I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. (The Bible.and.Science.Forum is a non-prophet organization.) Yet, I’m willing to make a prediction. Ken Ham’s Ark Park will be the sinkhole that sinks his ship, financially speaking.
Ken Ham is stuck in the business models of the past–think post-WWII Disney Land but without any of the more than can-be-seen-in-a-day variety and wonder–and is determined to pursue a frighteningly expensive theme park that has no chance of succeeding without enormous ongoing cash infusions.
Considering the huge price tag of the project, the sure-to-balloon cost overruns, and the enormous maintenance and operational costs of whatever the result, the tourist attraction’s mediocre location makes it unsustainable. (That is already the case with the Creation Museum but Ham will continue to cover that from donations and mail-order revenue.) Even a prime location wouldn’t help all that much. Moreover, prime locations tend to come with huge price tags and Sinai-sized property taxes and impact fees.
If not for the ego factor and traditional thinking, Ham could perhaps be prodded to think more broadly, to prioritize his ultimate objectives, and to consider a cost-return analysis of the various ways he can convince the general public to accept (or at least consider viable) “creation science” and his brand of Young Earth Creationism. I wonder if anyone has told him: “Investigate where Internet-based technology is headed and invest your money in intersecting with it 5 and 10 years out.” Wouldn’t both common sense and likely impact-per-dollar-spent point away from a perpetual budget-straining, brick and gopher wood tourist attraction and towards far more exciting technology reaching a far larger audience? For starters, how about something far more exciting and cutting-edge than AIG’s bland websites? And why not escape the constraints of physics and biology by leaving the real world entirely behind (while nevertheless appearing to deal with it) using virtual reality and the next wave of 3D realism?
While the Internet remains the best way to reach the most eyeballs, Ham could, for example, invest in “technology-based tourist attractions”, using the IMAX theatre business model. Imagine airport concourse advertising and highway billboards inviting visitors to Branson (MO), Colorado Springs (CO), Dollywood, and other evangelical Christian regional Meccas as well as more traditional theme and amusement park destinations shouting “Live the Bible: Experience Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark Encounter!” (Branson would be a good trial location. Link the attraction to a steady calendar of AIG “creation science” seminars and a steady stream of conference traffic–such as Christian Booksellers Convention and homeschooling conferences–and the cost-return comparison would blow any Ark Park out of the water.)
Executed well, you’d even see some of the celebrities of the ID and YEC movements permanently move to such a place just as many music entertainers purchased homes in the Branson area so they no longer have to tour. (Their audiences come to them.) Add some real estate developers marketing “the ultimate Young Earth Creationist retirement community” and you’d have a fundamentalist Promised Land.
Even if Ham spends the anticipated $150 million on an Ark Park where everything falls into place beyond his wildest expectations, once Christian vacationers within 1200 driving distance have visited, few will return. After perhaps five years or so, operational/maintenance costs will outstrip admission revenue. But imagine what $150 million invested in virtual reality 3D “tours” of Noah’s Ark: under construction, ark loading, the first day of rain, another routine day of ark life, and “rest at Ararat”. [New readers of this blog: I’ve got no beefs with the ancient text–but I have lots of complaints about “creation science” spin.]
Of course, even a few million dollars could beef up the AIG website to produce something far more impressive than the text-heavy, uninspired, and (I’ll say it) amusing but repetitive jukebox of tiresome old songs. (There’s only so many arrangements and styles of “Historical Science Blues”, “Were You There?”, and “Same Data. Different Interpretations” before the monotony turns maddening.) Yet, if Ham really wants to turn Americans to “creation science”, why doesn’t he invest $150 million in actual scientific research–and produce the kinds of milestone scientific discoveries that could give him credibility.
Yes, I may not be a prophet but it’s fun to imagine an alternate reality where Ham cares about actual science.