Posts Tagged ‘funding’
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2014
The saga of uber-creationist Ken Ham’s Creation Museum continues, and it isn’t looking good for him or his followers. If you recall, Ham and his creationist organization Answers In Genesis (AiG) have, in recent years, gone all-in on an investment scheme to fund what they call a life sized replica of Noah’s Ark named Ark Encounter. For years, I and others have reported on the continuing financial troubles and ethically questionable revenue sources for Ken Ham’s enterprise, and now things seem to only be getting worse for Ham, AiG, and the Creation Museum.
Ken Ham looking over his model of Ark Encounter… the irony is that, according to myth, Noah didn’t need lots of investment capital, the backing of the government, and huge construction teams to build his Ark. (image source)
Back in February, there was a big debate between Ham and Billy Nye the Science Guy at the Creation Museum; after the debate, Ham reported that this debate had brought in a huge amount of much-needed financial support for Ark Encounter and that construction would begin on the much publicized project in May of this year (after repeated delays due to insufficient funds). At the time, I and others were skeptical, speculating that perhaps Ham wasn’t being completely truthful because while he said money was coming in, he didn’t provide any specifics. This led me to believe that Ham was continuing his habit of not only bending (or breaking) the truth on issues of science but those of economics and finance as well.
Well, now it appears that the other shoe has dropped… as reported in June by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, it seems that Ham is resorting to all sorts of shenanigans and obfuscation to give the impression that his enterprise isn’t sinking:
1) First, there’s the issue of the time-table on Ark Encounter continually being pushed back, at taxpayer expense…
The main problem with Ham’s overtly religious pet project is it seems to be a magnet for taxpayer dollars. First, Kentucky officials committed more than $40 million in tax incentives to the Ark Park. Sadly that was just the beginning. Later, the Kentucky legislature planned to spend $2 million on a road project in a rural area, seemingly for the sole benefit of the proposed Ark Park.
But even those generous incentives weren’t enough for misguided lawmakers. The city of Williamstown, which had already granted a 75 percent property tax break for the park, decided last year that it would sell $62 million in municipal bonds on behalf of AiG affiliates.
All told, various government entities in Kentucky have planned to give the Ark Park, which was originally supposed to cost about $175 million, an astounding $100 million (or more) in various types of public support. Recent reports, however, cast serious doubt on just how much of that money, if any, will reach the project.
It seems Ham’s ever-changing timeline has finally caught up with him. He said in January 2011 that work would begin on the Ark Park that spring; then in May of that year, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer; in June, AiG said construction would begin in August; and by early August 2011, AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months.”
Then in late August 2011, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either.
2) Then there’s the problem of the expiration date attached to the public funding (the one smart thing the KY lawmakers did in this whole fiasco)…
Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet came with one little catch: an expiration date. The agreement says that AiG can receive a 25 percent tax rebate on the cost of construction once the park opens, provided construction began by May 2014. The discount would be capped at $43 million.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, told LEO Weekly that Ark Encounter quietly withdrew its old application for a $172 million project on March 28 and instead submitted a $73 million proposal. If that application is approved, and if it is built within the allotted timeframe, that would mean AiG is eligible for $18.25 million in tax incentives, LEO Weekly said.
But the shrinking tax package doesn’t appear to be Ham’s only problem. In April, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the local road improvements needed to handle all the traffic that will supposedly rush to Ark Encounter (if it ever opens) will be pushed back to 2017. That’s a bit of a problem for Ham, who last claimed that the park would open in the summer of 2016. Perhaps he wants park visitors to have an authentic Bible experience by walking or riding camels to see the ark.
There is also some mystery surrounding the $62 million in municipal bonds that supposedly rescued Ham’s project. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January that while $26.5 million in bonds had been sold, the city needed to sell an additional $29 million by Feb. 6 or else those who already bought bonds would be able to collect on their investment immediately.
The city would not say exactly how much money was raised, the Courier-Journal reported in late February, but AiG’s website claims the bonds actually yielded $73 million. AiG also claims it has raised $15 million on its own.
Hmm… when “there is some mystery” about how public funds are allocated and being used, especially on a legally and ethically questionable project such as this, then that’s kind of a problem. KY lawmakers and politicians would be wise to distance themselves from this slow-motion train wreck. But there’s more!
3) Ham has claimed that ground breaking and construction did indeed begin this past May, except that it didn’t actually happen…
Despite these setbacks, Ham presses on. His latest ploy appears to be keeping up the hoax that the Ark Park is under construction. In February, he said groundbreaking would begin in May. On May 1, AiG hosted a “groundbreaking ceremony” at the site where the park is supposed to be built, but the “groundbreaking” consisted of a handful of men in suits using wooden mallets to hammer wooden pegs into wooden boards. This all took place inside an auditorium, which doesn’t look much like a theme park. (You can watch this exciting video here, but be warned – it’s over 40 minutes long.)
It is now June, and it remains unclear whether or not construction has actually started on Ark Encounter. AiG’s website says its “construction management team” is still soliciting bids from contractors, suggesting that no real progress will be made anytime soon.
Whoops! I thought that “construction” meant that earth-moving machines were actually, I don’t know, moving earth and digging holes and that carpenters were actually nailing pieces of wood together and so on. Apparently, in Ken Ham’s universe, “construction” means… something else.
Well, one thing is for sure: this story won’t end here. I think Ken Ham is going to try to string both investors and politicians alike along for as long as possible on his sinking Ark Encounter, despite the fact that it should be obvious by now to any reasonable observer that his grasp of finances is about as trustworthy as his grasp of science.
Too bad for the folks who invested in this debacle that they didn’t use a little evidence-based thinking. That’s what you get for faith-based investing, I suppose.
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: AIG, Americans United for the Separation, amusement park, Answers In Genesis, AU, Bible, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, bonds, business, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, financial reports, funding, God, investing, investment, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, science, securities, Williamstown, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 29, 2014
In my most recent post, I mentioned the biggest and most famous of skeptical conferences, The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014; however, we in the skeptical community should also be aware there is much being done at the local and regional level that deserves our support. And sometimes this is happening in places you’d not normally expect… like in Arkansas.
There is a free skeptical/atheist conference called LogiCon taking place at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR over the weekend of April 19-20th, and they need our help. Their funding fell through and they need only $3000 to keep this conference running. And if you are wondering what will take place at this event, just take a look at their page and you’ll see why I’m advertising this request for donations on my blog.
Whether it’s hosting Dorian Sagan (yes, that’s Carl Sagan’s son) or premiering a new documentary about atheism called “A Scarlet Letter”, I think you can agree with me that this is a worthwhile endeavor… all the more so since it is taking place right in the middle of the Bible Belt, where critical thinking can often go by the wayside.
If you can help with a cash donation, please contribute here. Otherwise, please spread the word – thanks! :)
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: A Scarlet Letter, Arkansas, atheism, Bible Belt, con, conference, critical thinking, donations, Dorian Sagan, funding, Logicon, meeting, skepticism, University of Arkansas | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 25, 2013
Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is back in the news, and – surprise – it has to do with a questionable funding proposal to finance his floundering theme park, where people can pay to be told that the Flintstones is the real thing.
Yup, they actually teach that humans and dinosaurs coexisted… just like in the Flintstones cartoon. Looks like a good investment to me – Yabba-dabba-doo! (Image source)
I’ve posted before (here and here) about the troubles the Creation Museum has had in securing funding for its Ark Encounter attraction (not to mention its dwindling profits – or should that be “prophets”?), and the following article indicates that Ken Ham is pursuing a constitutionally questionable strategy which could land him and the municipality in question into some dicey legal waters…
A city in Kentucky is working with Crosswater Canyon, an owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, Inc., to offer $62 million in securities for prospective investors to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park and replica of Noah’s Ark. While the city of Williamstown is issuing the bond, Crosswalk Canyon is solely responsible for the bonds, not the city.
Beginning next month, Williamstown may oversee the amount of taxable securities for investors to the project overseen by Answers in Genesis, reported Brian Chappatta and Priya Anand of Business Week.
“Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called ‘Ark Encounter.’ Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year,” wrote Chappatta and Anand. …
But if things are going so well for Ken Ham and his cartoon attraction, then why the need for these so-called “securities” to fund the project? Let’s read on…
… Unlike the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter project has had its share of financial issues regarding funding and donations.
The official ground-breaking for the project has been delayed multiple times since 2011, with private donations not matching the necessary monetary benchmarks.
Mike Zovath, head of the Ark Encounter project, told The Christian Post about the current status of the park’s construction, namely that it is “under design.” …
Wow, that’s got to make potential investors nervous. So what’s the big deal about going through these “securities” issued by the town of Williamstown, KY?…
… Answers in Genesis’ efforts in Kentucky have garnered their share of criticism, including from the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In the past Americans United has criticized the alleged First Amendment issues with regards to the state support for projects that benefit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United, told The Christian Post that the bond offering is one of many examples of government aid proposed for the Ark Encounter project.
“The imminent bond offering is only one of several different kinds of aid being given to the Ark Park by the State of Kentucky, Grant County, and the City of Williamstown,” said Luchenitser.
“The array of government aid to the Ark Park raises very serious issues under the religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the even stricter church-state prohibitions of the Kentucky Constitution.” …
Well, there’s that! And then there are other questions regarding the legality/wisdom of these securities from the standpoint of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). But don’t take it from me; take it from from people who actually know business and investment, like the folks at Bloomberg Businessweek. Here’s an excerpt from an excellent blog post on this particular point:
This is about an article at the website of Bloomberg Businessweek. Business Week was formerly an independent magazine, now it’s part of the Bloomberg international news agency, headquartered in New York. Their article is Noah’s Ark Depends on Faith in Default-Plagued Debt: Muni Credit.
From our recent post, Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” Bonds, you already know about the bonds being issued to finance the proposed Ark Encounter project, which is owned by a company controlled by Answers in Genesis (AIG). AIG is the on-line ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia. It also owns and operates the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
It appears that Bloomberg has seen all the documents, and they routinely report on the bond market. Their analysis is far more sophisticated than ours. They say, with bold font added by us:
“Given the default history of unrated municipal debt, investors may have to pray for the success of bonds being sold to build a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark.
The northern Kentucky city of Williamstown plans to offer $62 million of securities next month for affiliates of Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit that operates the Creation Museum upstate. Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called “Ark Encounter.” Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year.” …
Ouch… but what the heck does Bloomberg Businessweek know? Sure they may have oodles of financial and investment expertise, but if creationists have shown us anything it’s that they don’t need no stinkin’ experts who spout off about pesky things like evidence and facts!
So head on over and buy some of Ken Ham’s bonds. You just have to have faith that you won’t be flushing your money down the toilet :)
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: AIG, amusement park, Answers In Genesis, Bible, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, bonds, business, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, financial reports, funding, God, investing, investment, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, science, securities, Williamstown, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 23, 2013
So much has been going on in the world of creationism lately that it’s been touch to keep track of it all, so I just want to give you a quick summary of three news items…
1. Creationism Loses Popularity?
According to this blog post over at Patheos.com, it seems that creationism (and by “creationism” I mostly mean young-Earth creationism) may just be, slowly but surely, losing support among the public in the United States:
Just when we start to think the regressive policies of red states mean the battle is becoming harder, the secular movement gets more proof that what we’re doing really does matter.
A poll of 1,000 people conducted by the Internet-based market research firm YouGovearlier this month indicates that since 2004, the level of public acceptance of creationism and the level for support for teaching creationism in U.S. public schools are down, and the level of acceptance of the theory of evolution is up.
Coming the week marking the 88th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial, this is good news indeed. The numbers are far lower than what they need to be, though. While nearly half of the respondents agreed that evolution, whether guided by a deity or not, resulted in homo sapiens sapiens, significantly more than a third rejected evolution altogether and the remaining 17% claimed uncertainty.
YouGov’s poll marks substantial change from a similar CBS poll conducted in 2004. Thirteen percent of CBS’s 2004 respondents agreed with the statement. “Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process.” In 2013 the figure jumped to 21%. Correspondingly, strong creationism has taken the hardest hit. In 2004, 55% of respondents said that ”God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years,” and 5% said they were undecided. The strict creationists now account for 37% of the respondents. … [emphasis added]
Personally, I’ll take whatever good news I can get on this front, but I would like to see more than one poll yield the same information before I go celebrating too much. Still, these results are pleasing :)
2. Texas Creationists Get Honest
If you’ve followed the ongoing saga of creationism’s attempts to get into public schools, you probably know that the intent of creationists on school boards for decades, whether they espoused “teach the controversy”, “equal time”, or “academic freedom”, really meant “don’t teach evolution, instead teach (our view of) creationism. Well, at least now the creationists who are attempting to manipulate the Texas Board of Education are now being open and honest about it (from Patheos.com) …
It used to be that creationists were sneaky. They knew teaching creationism was against the law, so they tried to dress it up as science, or as teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. It wasn’t exactly crafty, and it certainly wasn’t honest.
And the reason they weren’t honest is because playing fairly would result in immediate defeat (it turns out creationists don’t get to break the law more than anybody else). This is a lesson the creationists on the Texas board of education are about to learn. Karen Beathard, one of the reviewers, made a misstep by telling the truth.
“Religious conservatives serving on state textbook review panels have criticized several proposed high school biology textbooks for not including arguments against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The review panels include several creationists. They urge the State Board of Education to reject the books unless publishers include more disclaimers on key concepts of evolution.
One reviewer even suggested a rule requiring that each biology book cover “creation science.” That would run counter to a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The decision banned the teaching of creationism in public school science classes. …
“I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution,” said Texas A&M University nutritionist Karen Beathard, one of the biology textbook reviewers. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent and grandparent, I feel very firmly that creation science based on biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption.” [emphasis in the original]
Whoops. That’s going to look pretty embarrassing for the creationists when they inevitably get hauled into court. Can’t help fools… at least these are honest fools.
3. Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” Government Bailout?
It seems that despite all the rosy financial projections of a few years ago, uber-creationist Ken Ham is having even more difficulty than previously thought raising funds for the newest attraction at his Creation Museum, the “Ark Encounter”. He has resorted to some questionable methods of raising money, seemingly putting the public on the hook by dipping into taxpayer funding in Kentucky (from NCSE):
When Answers in Genesis chief Ken Ham isn’t dealing with employees being zotted by lightning, or getting schooled on theology by a college student, he’s trying to build an amusement park centered on Noah’s Ark. He wants it to be full-sized (assuming they’re right about how long a cubit was), he wants it to be built by Amish carpenters (just like Noah’s was), he wants a mock first-century village, he wants to charge admission, and, as Daniel Phelps reports at Panda’s Thumb he hopes taxpayers as well as private citizens will cover part of the bill.
The project has already been promised a tourism-related state tax rebate and state road crews will widen the road leading to the park, but apparently the campaign to raise capital for construction has not been meeting expectations (neither has Creation Museum attendance, reportedly). So Ken Ham is looking for a new way to scare up money. He sent out an appeal to the Answers in Genesis mailing list offering people a chance to buy bonds to fund the park, bonds issued by the city of Williamstown, Kentucky. …
From the Panda’s Thumb link, I found the following comment to be of particular interest:
… Unfortunately, what it sounds like is that the City of Williamstown is going to issue some type of municipal bonds.
Municipal bonds are a loan made by a public entity. If you buy the bonds, you get a stream of “coupon” payments, as with any other type of bonds (“zero coupon” structure is just a variant of a coupon stream). You can think of the coupon payments as interest on the loan, even though it works slightly differently than the variable interest savings account that most people are more familiar with. Bottom line, a municipality borrows money and taxpayers pay the interest.
The hypocrisy here is unbelievable. I’m going to use the term “corruption” as well. There may or may not be anything technically illegal going on. But if this a surreptitious issuing of municipal bonds to fund a religious display, that may raise legal issues, and absolutely raises ethical issues. …
Ethical issues, indeed. In my mind, the more I look at this entire situation with Ken Ham and his attempts to use public money to fund his creationist theme-park, the more I am reminded of this famous scene from The Simpsons:
Posted in creationism | Tagged: AIG, Answers In Genesis, Ark Encounter, belief, board of education, BoE, BoEd, Creation Museum, creationism, education, funding, ID, intelligent design, Ken Ham, Kentucky, money, poll, popularity, schools, survey, Texas, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 9, 2013
Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about how it appears that creationist Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is starting to run into some financial trouble. This earned a public response from Ken Ham on his Facebook page, wherein he assured readers that all is well. I’ve also had some response to that post on the comment section, where a reader shared with me Ken Ham’s latest response on this issue:
On Memorial Day weekend this year, the Creation Museum celebrated its sixth year of operation.
Entering our seventh year, crowds have been continuing to flock to the Creation Museum. This past Friday and Saturday, we saw over 3,500 people visit the Creation Museum! Thus far, attendance is ahead of projections for this year and ahead of last year.
I’ve included a few photographs of some of the people who visited this past Friday. At a few times on Friday, lines were out the door—but our very capable staff was able to get visitors into the museum quickly. The new zip lines have also proved to be extremely popular—and in the near future, two super zip lines around 1700 feet long, plus an obstacle course and a special children’s course, will also open.
I’ve also heard so many people rave about the new world-class insect exhibit and theDragon Legends exhibit—both opened on Memorial Day. …
Ham goes on to list a lot of things which he claims are new displays and “research” to his museum, presumably to bolster his argument that things at the Creation Museum are going just fine. However, a more thorough analysis of the Creation Museum’s publicly available finance reports for the last few years – which you can find at http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/12/pts-year-end-re.html – seem to disagree with the overly rosy picture that Ken Ham insists upon painting. When you go from a surplus of $2.1 million to a deficit of $540,000 in three years time, it’s not good financial news.
Here’s a quick summary of what the folks over at Panda’s Thumb dug up on this question:
Reporter James McNair recently reported in a Cincinnati newspaper that the attendance at the Creation Museum has dropped for four consecutive years and that Answers in Genesis lost over $500,000. These tidbits inspired my colleague Dan Phelps and me to look at AIG’s Forms 990. These are tax forms that must be submitted by nonprofit organizations to the US Internal Revenue Service and may be found if you have a (free) account on GuideStar.
According to various Forms 990 through the tax year ending June 30, 2011, in four consecutive years, AIG has run surpluses of approximately $2.1 million, $716,000, and $940,000, and a loss of $540,000. Not exactly a monotonic decline, but certainly a steep drop from a surplus of $2.1 million to a loss of $540,000 in three years. Can we expect similar losses due to the Ark Park? Maybe: Joe Sonka in the Louisville newspaper LeoWeekly reports that “… correspondence between Ark Encounter and the Tourism Cabinet reveal an application process that proceeded with remarkable speed, little scrutiny, and standards that appear different from that of [another applicant].”
The 2010 Form 990 (for fiscal year ending June 30, 2011) has some interesting information.
1. The president of AIG, Ken Ham, earned an annual salary of approximately $150,000 and a total package of around $200,000, which I think is not out of line for the president of a company with approximately $20 million of revenue (Schedule J, Part II). Four of Ham’s children, his son-in-law, his brother, and his sister-in-law are listed as staff members, with annual salaries between approximately $1300 and nearly $80,000 (Schedule L, Part IV).
2. AIG says that Crosswater Canyon, a nonprofit, will operate AIG’s Ark Park but that a limited-liability company will own it. Crosswater Canyon is identified in Schedule R as being wholly controlled by AIG; we assume that means it is a subsidiary. According to Whois, crosswatercanyon.org is one of approximately 1300 domain names owned by AIG, but crosswatercanyon.org, .com, and .net yield nothing useful.
Crosswater Canyon reimbursed AIG a bit over $1 million for expenses. The Ark Park was formally announced in December, 2010. The payment was made some time between then and June 30, 2011. AIG was thus reimbursed $1 million for expenses within six or seven months of the announcement.
3. Schedule R, Part III, lists Takenbac Enterprises, LLC, PO Box 384, Hebron, KY 41048 as a “related organization taxable as a partnership.” Two of the officers of Takenbac Enterprises are “key employees” of AIG and draw annual salaries of approximately $90,000 from AIG. We speculate that Takenbac is the mysterious “private Limited Liability Company (LLC) [that] will own the Ark Encounter,” according to AIG’s FAQ’s.
4. Geo-Research Pty., Ltd. [proprietary company], 27 Rising St., Shailer Park, Queensland, Australia, received $128,000 for consulting (Part VII). Geo-Research is or was the employer of Andrew Snelling, a former geologist who joined the staff of AIG in 2007. The address of Geo-Research appears to be a private home that has been for sale but is now off the market.
Yet despite all of this evidence, Ham and his followers – many of whom, ironically, challenged me to examine the publicly available financial reports – keep on saying that all is well.
Of course, none of this surprises me. That’s because if you make it part of your worldview, as many creationists do, to deny evidence and reality, is it any wonder that the true believers among creationists are not willing to acknowledge the troublesome finances which are plain to see for any who care to look?
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: AIG, amusement park, Answers In Genesis, Bible, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, financial reports, funding, God, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, P&T, Panda's Thumb, rides, science, YEC, Young Earth Creationism, zip line | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 23, 2013
[**Update (6-25-13): It seems this blog post has come to the attention of none other than Ken Ham himself, who runs the Creation Museum. If you are interested, you can read his response on his Facebook page.]
In an interesting, though not very surprising, development, it seems the Creation Museum in Kentucky is running out of money. And it seems the problem is that, like creationism itself, there is nothing new or different about the exhibits at this “museum”. The irony is that Ken Ham and other creationists claim the Creation Museum is doing scientific work which proves creationism to be true, yet since the place opened 5 years ago nothing has changed and no new “creation science” research has appeared.
No actual scientific research, but your kids can “ride a dinosaur” just like Fred Flintstone did! No wonder these morons are going out of business. Image source
My skeptical colleague Donald Prothero over at Skepticblog.com breaks this down into more interesting and revealing detail…
… In an earlier post, I discussed the decline in attendance and loss of money from Ken Ham’s “creation museum” in Kentucky. Now eventhey must pay attention to the problem, since the declining attendance has put a crimp in their budget and brought the fundraising for their “Ark encounter” to a standstill. Their problem, as I outlined before, is that their exhibit is 5 years old now and has not changed, so most of the local yokels who might want to visit it have done so. There’s no point to making the long trip and seeing the expensive “museum” again if there’s nothing new to see. (Unlike real science museums, which must change exhibits constantly not only to boost repeat attendance, but to reflect the changes in scientific thinking). As Mark Joseph Stern wrote on Slate.com:
“There could be another explanation, though. A spectacle like the Creation Museum has a pretty limited audience. Sure, 46 percent of Americans profess to believe in creationism, but how many are enthusiastic enough to venture to Kentucky to spend nearly $30 per person to see a diorama of a little boy palling around with a vegetarian dinosaur? The museum’s target demographic might not be eager to lay down that much money: Belief in creationism correlates to less education, and less education correlates to lower income. Plus, there’s the possibility of just getting bored: After two pilgrimages to the museum, a family of four would have spent $260 to see the same human-made exhibits and Bible quote placards. Surely even the most devoted creationists would consider switching attractions for their next vacation. A visit to the Grand Canyon could potentially be much cheaper—even though it is tens of millions of years old.”
So how did they deal with the attendance dilemma? Did they open some new galleries with “latest breakthroughs in creation research”? (No, that’s not possible because they don’t do research or learn anything new). No, they opted for the cheap and silly: make it into an amusement park with zip lines. Apparently, flying through the air for a few seconds suspended from a cable is the latest fad in amusements, so the Creation “Museum” has to have one to draw the crowds—and hope they can suck in a few visitors to blow $30 a head or more to see their stale old exhibits as well. Expect that by next year they’ll be a full-fledged amusement park with roller coasters and Tilt-a-whirls, just like so many other “Biblelands” do across the Deep South. [emphasis added]
And what do ziplines have to do with creationism? As usual, they have a glib and non-responsive answer:
Zovath’s response to the museums critics who wonder how zip lining fits with their message?
“No matter what exhibit we add, the message stays the same,” Zovath said. “It’s all about God’s word and the authority of God’s word and showing that all of these things, whether it’s bugs, dinosaurs or dragons – it all fits with God’s word.”
I was hoping for something more imaginative and relevant, like “zip lines make you feel like an angel flying down from heaven.”
Wow… so the Creation Museum, once-heralded as the bane of modern evolutionary science and other wickedness, is starting down the road of turning into a Bible version of Disneyland. I just have to chuckle at this turn of events, because it seems as if, by failing to change and – dare I say – evolve thereby adapting to its economic situation, the Creation Museum may very well go extinct.
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: amusement park, Bible, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, funding, God, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, rides, science, YEC, Young Earth Creationism, zip line | 11 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2013
I wanted to pass along to everyone a call-to-arms which hits really close to home for me… literally. As a science teacher, I am especially concerned with seeing that public institutions that promote good science education are protected. This usually means that I am defending our public schools from creationism or other nonsense, but there is another insitution which often goes overlooked: museums. Case in point: the Field Museum of Natural History, perhaps one of the best public educational/research institutions in the country, is in real trouble. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent Skepticblog post by Donald Prothero and consider taking action!
Save the Field Museum!
by Donald Prothero, Jan 02 2013
Buried in all the news of the end of the world, the “fiscal cliff”, and the holiday season was another item that probably escaped most people’s attention. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, one of the world’s foremost natural history museums, is planning huge cutbacks in their scientific staff in the next few weeks. Details of who will be cut are sketchy, but the news raced through my professional community and made us all very upset. This is not only because many people who are our personal friends will be losing their jobs because of mismanagement at the top, but also because such a disastrous move would hurt science in many ways that the general public may not appreciate. …
… Most people think a museum is just a bunch of exhibits of fossils or art on display, but don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes. As Jerry Coyne also points out in his post, a top museum like the Field is also one of the most important research institutions in the country, with curators who are among the top scientists in their area of research. Just like university research professors, these curators must pursue research grants and find funding to do important scientific projects. Unlike most university research scientists (who don’t have a place to store too many specimens if they find them), museum curators tend to focus on research that recovers new specimens, and adds to the total resource base for scientific research. Without this material, our data base for research and understanding topics in the fossil record would dry up, because there is no else out there to perform such an important role. I’ve known nearly all the vertebrate paleontology curators at the Field Museum (both past and present) for many years, and most are among the sharpest minds in our field, doing essential science that few others could perform. …
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Posted in education, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: Chicago, Donald Prothero, education, Field Museum, finances, funding, money, museum, natural history, petition, public, research, scientists, Skepticblog | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 16, 2011
I am happy to report that the James Randi Educational Foundation is now awarding education grants to help educators with the development and implementation of lessons and curriculum related to teaching skepticism and critical thinking skills. Read on for more information…
… Right now, the JREF has a limited number of educator grants (up to $500 each) available to help offset the cost of developing or improving critical thinking and scientific skepticism programs in the classroom. Preference is given to projects aimed at creating educational content related to science or critical thinking through examination of the paranormal and pseudoscience.
Funded projects can include (but are not limited to) working with JREF educational modules (and related media) or developing new content to be made available to the educational community through the JREF.
If you’re interested in working with the JREF to share critical thinking tools with your students at a time when it matters most, please reply and let me know. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, discuss your ideas for projects, and explain the simple grant application process. For more information or to apply, contact: email@example.com
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: camps, college, community centers, critical thinking, education, educator, elementary, funding, grant, high school, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, junior high, Michael Blanford, middle, money, museums, school, skepticism, teacher, teaching, university | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 6, 2011
I just got the following action alert from the American Association of Physics Teachers. If you value not only scientific research but science education as well, I encourage you to contact your Senators and tell them to fully fund the NSF. As a physics teacher/professor, I cannot tell you how valuable programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are for reaching out to the public and promoting science. In addition, these and other similar programs are absolutely critical to helping insure that the United States has well-qualified science and math teachers in our schools; these programs also help to shuttle many students into science and engineering-oriented careers, which ultimately benefits all of us.
Anyway, read the AAPT’s press release below…
If you live in the United States, AAPT and the nation need your help. On Friday, September 16th, the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies reported a bill to Congress recommending a reduction of science funding for fiscal year 2012. Specifically, the bill recommends reducing funding for the National Science Foundation by an amount of $161,772,000 or 2.4% below the 2011 enacted level and $1,068,905,000 or 13.8% below the budget request.(See http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ CRPT-112srpt78/pdf/CRPT- 112srpt78.pdf for the full bill). This is particularly disappointing because the House has recommended much higher funding amounts ($6,698,100,000 for the Senate versus $6,859,870,000 for the House and $7,767,000,000 for the 2012 requested). Particularly hard hit is the Education and Human Resources Directorate of NSF which has a recommended cut of $32,030,000 or 3.7% below the 2011 enacted level and $82,200,000 or 9% below the request. This Directorate funds many of the programs that support STEM education including many key AAPT programs such as the New Faculty Workshop, ComPADRE, and the SPIN-UP Regional Workshops.
I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to support the full requested level of funding for NSF for the 2012 fiscal year. You might mention the legislated calls to double the NSF budget as a fundamental investment in our society, but we realize that goal will be difficult to meet in the current difficult enconomic situation. This is particularly urgent if one of your senators is a member of the CJS Subcommittee. You can find your senator at the US Senate website http://www.senate.gov/general/ contact_information/senators_ cfm.cfm and members of the CJS Subcommittee are listed at http://appropriations.senate. gov/sc-commerce.cfm.
In order to make the process easier, you can use the sample letter of support and insert the date, your address, your senator’s name, and your name and credentials. If possible, personalize the letter by adding a few sentences on the impact that a reduction of this funding will have on you and your students. Better yet, write your own letter emphasizing the impact the cuts will have on physics education. You can submit your letter directly to your senators via their websites to expedite the process.
Beth A. Cunningham, Ph.D.
Posted in science funding | Tagged: AAPT, American Association of Physics Teachers, budget, congress, educators, engineering, engineers, funding, government, house, math, mathematics, money, National Science Foundation, NSF, research, science, scientists, Senate, STEM, teachers, technology | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 17, 2011
As a way of putting the ‘E’ in JREF, I wanted to pass along to you some info I received from my skeptical education colleague, Michael Blanford, that the James Randi Educational Foundation has opened up the application process for its 2011 Educator Grants. These are grants provided to professional educators (elementary, middle, high school or college teachers as well as less formal educators) in the hopes that they will be able to develop and hone their teaching skills to help promote critical thinking. Read on for more information…
The JREF awards grants to educators who are inspiring a new generation of critical thinkers. These grants help pay for developing and improving programs that teach critical thinking and scientific skepticism in the classroom and beyond.
We award grants to educators of children grades K-12 for projects that promote critical thinking through the examination of the paranormal and pseudoscience. Grants are not limited to traditional classroom teachers and those from museums, camps, community centers, and other informal educational institutions are encouraged to apply.
We’re accepting proposals for 2011 grants until July 1st, so please apply or share this information with a deserving educator you know. Here are the 2011 grant application forms and additional details.
So if you are an educator or know someone who is who might benefit from one of these grants, please pass the info along to them and encourage them to apply! :)
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: camps, college, community centers, critical thinking, education, educator, elementary, funding, grant, high school, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, junior high, Michael Blanford, middle, money, museums, school, skepticism, teacher, teaching, university | Leave a Comment »