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“Need vs. Notoriety” is the conflict at the center of Cheri Lawson’s NPR piece on the Ark Encounter theme park proposed for northern Kentucky.

The story covers Governor Steve Beshear’s defense of the park (which represents a literal interpretation of the story of Genesis) on financial grounds and the ridicule the project has received. It goes further, too, talking with scientists and scholars about science education and the Constitution.

 

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The Economist has posted a short piece (that appeared in last week’s print edition) about the Ark Encounter theme park and the legality of the tax breaks it’s likely to receive:

…the park’s employees will not need to adhere to the statement of faith. Kentucky’s Tourism Development Act provides tax incentives for any qualified tourism project. A 2009 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Kentucky, said that as long as such programmes endorse “all qualified applicants”, they endorse “none of them, and accordingly [do not] run afoul of the federal or state religion clauses.” Onward, Christian tourists.

Update: The Washington Post has more on the park (h/t B&P):

The Ark Encounter has been in the news recently because of its strict interpretation of the Noah story, a biblical passage that has taken on new resonance as global warming raises fears of larger and more devastating floods and droughts worldwide. Bloggers have pounced on pages from the Answers in Genesis Web site that patiently explain why dinosaurs will be included among the animals represented in its ark display: “God sent two of every (seven of some) land animal into the Ark,” it says. “There were no exceptions.” They also believe in unicorns.

But the appearance of the LEED standards on the organization’s Web site is the bigger news, suggesting not only the extent of a trend already well documented – the embrace of environmentalism among evangelical Christians – but a fundamental shift in how religiously conservative Christians think of two basic biblical ideas: dominion and stewardship. And that change could have profound implications for the ongoing debate about global warming.

Evangelicals embracing environmentalism is an interesting angle. “They also believe in unicorns” is an interesting sentence.

On WFPL’s State of Affairs, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said the statues that would grant tax breaks to the  proposed Ark Encounter theme park “cut both ways.” The state can’t deny the breaks outright because the park is religious. However, the park must follow all state operating, hiring and anti-discrimination laws in order to receive the breaks. When a caller asked whether he thought the park would hurt Kentucky’s image, Abramson said he likely share’s the caller’s logic, but the state can’t judge the park based on its image for the commonwealth.

That transitioned into a conversation about Louisville’s differences with the rest of the state.

Abramson is leaving office to run for Lt. Governor with incumbent Governor Steve Beshear on the top of the ticket. Beshear was on State of Affairs recently. He said he doesn’t think the Ark Encounter will hurt Kentucky’s image.

Full audio is here.

The controversial Ark Encounter theme park has received preliminary approval to apply for $37 million in tax breaks.

 

 

Georgetown College professor Dr. Robert Bevins has sent a letter to Governor Steve Beshear regarding the planned Ark Encounter creationist theme park and the state tax incentives Beshear says the park will receive.

From the Teaching Sapiens blog:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the severe injury done to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s reputation. It is a sad day when Kansans can look down on Kentucky, that at least Kansas is not trying to attract an amusement park catering to the unscientific concept of young earth creationism.

Worse still, Kentucky is offering tax incentives to attract further development by Answers in Genesis, a group that can only further decrease our reputation as a state that values higher learning.

[edit]

It wouldn’t be a slap in the face to all of my fellow alumni of the University of Kentucky, devaluing the doctoral diploma that I proudly display in my office and  denigrating the verifiable and evidence based science taught in our land grant universities and private colleges if Kentucky wasn’t looking to help fund an ethically bankrupt amusement park. The presence of the Creation “Museum” is embarrassment enough, but to know that my tax dollars may help to fund its expansion, when researchers at UK and University of Louisville face tight budgets while performing ground breaking scientific research, it is simply too much.

Today, you helped to tarnish my hard won degree with the scorn of the academic community. In an instant, my years of scholarship became worth a tiny little bit less. I will have to defend my state as I once did as a child. “Yes, we wear shoes,” becomes, “No, we aren’t all stuck in a scientific stone age.”

[edit]

Ignorance is bliss to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, ignorance and fear of a wrathful and genocidal god. I wonder, shall the amusement park include a wave pool filled with the simulated bobbing bodies of the dead, as the Museum cheerfully displays the Genesis account of the Great Flood via computer animation and artistic dioramas of the wholesale slaughter of the world?Having been to this “Museum”, I can say that no depth is too low to subject young minds to in order to scare them away from inquiry and learning.

What shall I expect next from the government of our fair Commonwealth? Should UK and the University of Louisville begin to offer degrees in astrology? Will the UK medical school offer coursework in homeopathy? Perhaps you could establish a Department of Divination to direct the government’s future goals and to offer you a morning horoscope? Or should I expect some other discipline of magical thinking to be given the stamp of approval of the state?

Why did you choose to encourage what can only harm our state’s reputation? Was it a promise of 30 pieces of silver (a temporary increase in construction jobs) to betray our good name?

You can read the whole letter here.

(h/t to B&P)

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