The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’

More Evidence of Bad Financial News for Ken Ham’s Creation Museum

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:

Crowds Continue to Flock to the Creation Museum

speakerportrait_kham

Image Source

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Creation Museum Running Out of Cash and Going Extinct?

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.

Creation_museum_triceratops_saddleNo 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.

Good riddance.

Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Next Generation Science Standards Fight Back Against Creationism & Global Warming Denial

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 27, 2013

Some time ago I posted about the Next Generation Science Standards (in the United States) and how important it is for teachers and those who support science and education to speak up about the NGSS.  Since then I have been fortunate enough to get more involved with this process, learn more about NGSS, and think ahead about its implementation.

First of all, let me note that I got all this information first-hand from Dr. Carol Baker, who is a member of the writing team for the NGSS and who also gave me and my colleagues an excellent presentation on the topic.  Some facts I think are important for everyone to know about the NGSS:

*It is not a federal mandate.  The NGSS is funded by private organizations – most especially by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching – and it is a collaborative effort between these private sources and a number of states in the U.S.  States may choose to accept the NGSS or not, but it should be noted that if they do accept them it will cost the states nothing.  Essentially, they get the standards for free!

*Right from the outset, the people organizing and drafting the NGSS wanted to get “buy in” from the states, so they invited every state in the country to send representatives to serve on the writing team for the standards.  26 states (called Lead States) sent representatives and have been directly involved in drafting thse standards as a result.  Here is some more information about these states (highlighted in blue below)

NGSS Lead States

So you can see that these states have a broad demographic representation, are bipartisan in breadth, and they also account for over 58% of public school students, and most require three years of science for high school graduation.

*As the NGSS were drafted, the writing team sought feedback from educators in the Lead States, and after the second round of such revisions almost 95% of the original draft has been reworked based upon this feedback.  So this is definitely a bottom-up process!

Now, I’d like to mention something very interesting about that last point: it ends up that one of the states which gave the most feedback was Kentucky (which was actually 3rd – beat out only by California and New York).  And it appears the vast majority of the feedback from Kentucky educators was in support of emphasizing evolution within the NGSS.

In fact, Dr. Baker (and I agree) seems to think that this is, in effect, a reaction to the Creation Museum residing in Kentucky and the subsequent trouble it makes for science teachers in that state.  It also appears that many teachers from many other states are likewise fed up with the political tactics employed by creationists and global warming deniers in their attempts to dumb down the teaching of evolution, climate science, etc.

Bottom line: Teachers are getting tired of this nonsense, and the NGSS is giving them a way to fight back in a very broad manner.  The NGSS emphasizes, unflinchingly and unapologetically, evolutionary and climate change science; the states that choose to adopt the NGSS will have the most up-to-date science standards that show creationism and global warming denial to be the pseudosciences that they are.  And they will be held to those standards.  Good, it’s about damn time!

I would like to close by sharing Dr. Baker’s response when questioned on this topic about the fight this could create.  She said, “Bring it on!” 🙂

Posted in creationism, education, global warming denial, science funding, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

A New Year and New Challenges from Creationists

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 10, 2012

Well, I have to say this much for creationists: they certainly are persistent.  Despite mountains of solid scientific evidence proving evolution (and thus disproving most views of creationism, such as the most common variant – young-earth creationism) and decades of court rulings against the promotion of religiously-oriented concepts such as “scientific creationism” and “intelligent design”, the creationists just keep on coming.

Case in point, here are some recent legal developments from Kentucky (no surprise there) and… New Hampshire?  Okay, Kentucky I can understand, but seriously… NEW HAMPSHIRE?!!  Wow, methinks some of my Yankee brothers and sisters up north are going to have a serious case of voters remorse.

Once you read the proposals out of Kentucky and New Hampshire, it is easy to see the same old tired (and flat wrong, both scientifically and legally) creationist arguments.  From the Kentucky case:

The Herald-Leader reports that Superintendent Ricky D. Line of Hart County public schools believes a new state-wide test for Kentucky high school students treats evolution as fact, not theory, and that the test will require schools to teach accordingly. Line raised the issue with state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Kentucky Board of Education (KBOE) members. Line wants them to reconsider the “Blueprint” for Kentucky’s new end-of-course test in biology.

Line contends that the test essentially would “require students to believe that humans … evolved from primates such as apes and … were not created by God.” “I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point … that we are teaching evolution … as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us,” he said. “My feeling is if the Commonwealth’s site-based councils, school board members, superintendents and parents were questioned … one would find this teaching contradictory to the majority’s belief systems.” …

Hmmm, so the superintendent’s argument is that people shouldn’t be taught anything which doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions?  Interesting, seeing as how most preconceptions that people have regarding science are incorrect, the superintendent’s argument basically boils down to an argument for remaining ignorant.  Nice.  I have to wonder if we’ll hear the superintendent and his colleagues complain about how KY students are not properly prepared to compete in the modern world of 21st century science and technology?  With an attitude like the one he’s displaying, he’d better get ready for a LOT of complaining regarding the latter…

Also note the implication in the article about how teachers could teach both (all) views, as if creationism is on par with evolution as a scientific theory.  To that argument, I have one response…

Yup… a picture is worth a thousand words 🙂

Now on to the New Hampshire situation.  Fortunately, the National Center for Science Education is on the case, and here’s their update:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Noah’s Ark Theme Park in KY: Bad Science & Bad Economics

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 17, 2010

I’ve recently found out that the state of my youth, good ol’ Kentucky, has decided to make a theme park based upon Noah’s Ark. You might think this is no big deal, and I would normally agree, except that the organization behind this new theme park, the creationist outfit called Answers In Genesis, wants to set up the Noah’s Ark attraction – known as Ark Encounter – as an expression of reality.  I’m sorry, but this kind of strikes me as trying to claim that Disney World is showing kids the “real” world… 😉

Okay, enough snark, let me be serious for the rest of the post.  I know that Kentucky is a state awash in Christian fundamentalism, along with all the things that go along with that – such as young-earth creationism (YEC). This is evidenced by the fact that Kentucky is host to the Creation Museum, which is devoted to advancing the “reality” of YEC as viewed by the Biblical interpretation put forth by Answers In Genesis (such as that humans & dinosaurs lived at the same time – yeah, like in “The Flintstones”!).  So this is fertile ground for creationism & all the associated pseudoscience that goes along with it, and the people behind the Noah’s Ark project know it.

In this post, I’m not going to argue that creationism is bad science, non-science, or just plain pseudoscience, though it clearly is all of those. Rather, I’m going to argue that – despite the claims by KY Gov. Steve Beshear to the contrary – establishing Kentucky as a state known for harboring & encouraging non-science is actually a bad thing economically for the Commonwealth.

The Governor argues that Ark Encounter will create many jobs, which is undoubtedly true.  It will require lots of people to work construction over the next few years to build it, and then of course there are the jobs created for those who will work in the park once it is complete.  However, as many critics have pointed out, the vast majority of that second class of jobs will tend to be low-skill, low-paying, and seasonal positions, many of which are likely to be part time…

Ark incentives: cheap jobs, poor state image

… Despite some progress in economic development, Kentucky continues to use tax incentives in pursuit of mostly low-paying, part-time seasonal jobs that would further lower the state’s average wage and do little to increase the demand of higher education. This is similar to past shortsighted subsidies of chicken processing plants and customer call centers.

We understand that even low-paying jobs are welcome while rebounding from a recession and heading into an election year.

But these incentives could have been awarded without Gov. Steve Beshear’s public embrace of an expansion of the Creation Museum — a project rooted in outright opposition to science.

Hostility to science, knowledge and education does little to attract the kind of employers that will provide good-paying jobs with a future. …

I have to agree with this criticism.  The fact of the matter is that if the Commonwealth of Kentucky wants to make good long-term economic development decisions, they need to foster an environment which encourages higher-paying jobs, a college & university-educated workforce, and – yes – an acceptance of & investment in science.  After all, modern science – evolution included – has yielded a host of technologies & economic development which has improved the standard of living for all of us drastically in the last couple of centuries.  Whereas creationist pseudoscience seems to be only good for producing reality-challenged theme parks that provide crummy jobs and encourages ignorance of science.

The bottom line is this, folks: real science & its associated discoveries, including evolution, creates new technologies which drives the economy, creating higher paying jobs, a better cost of living, and a more educated workforce.  If you want to do right by the economy, especially in the long term, encourage science & science education and invest in scientific research.  If the state of Kentucky continues on this path, then they shouldn’t be surprised when more lucrative, science-oriented companies & institutions look to base their operations elsewhere, taking the good jobs with them.

Too bad this lesson seems to be lost on Kentucky’s political leaders; they seem to be stuck on appeasing religious fundamentalists as a way of winning votes.  Too bad that won’t help solve the actual economic problem.

Posted in creationism, economics, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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