Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Students on the Ark | Righting America

by Susan Trollinger

I (Sue) am teaching a class this term on the argumentation and visual rhetorics of two non-Catholic religious traditions. One of those traditions is fundamentalism, particularly, young Earth creationist fundamentalism. Last week, I took my class to Ark Encounter so that they might experience some of those arguments and visual rhetorics first hand. In the post below, students offer their initial responses to what they experienced at Ark Encounter. Some are quite insightful!

*It is impressive to observe the time, energy, and thought that went into the Ark. AiG put together a fascinating argument that comes to life within the walls of the Ark. Due to the nature of the facility, I can imagine being a little boy and seeing all of this as factual. It is also quite interesting to view how their interpretation of Genesis impacts their views on capital punishment, the family, and politics.

*I thought the Ark was a mind-blowing and intense sensory experience. Overall, what interested me the most was that it didn’t feel like a museum. Instead, it felt like a theme park, almost like I was walking around Disney World. They do a great job of immersing you.

*The Ark was really slick and polished but maybe a little too much so. It felt more like a theme park or something like that, rather than a realistic depiction of the ark, which all the plaques claimed it was. The constant efforts to sell you stuff didn’t help with this. In a way, I almost felt too old for it. So many of the exhibits had bright pictures, moving eye candy, and simple or few words of description (at least less than most museums). It felt like it was designed to entice and grab little kids and, by extension, the parents who bring them there. If today’s crowd was any indication, it works.

*I found it very interesting to see how so much effort was put into creating the Ark. The members of AiG are very concerned with establishing an argument for creationism and protecting themselves from counterarguments.

*I noticed that many of the questions posed were given a response but not an answer. That made me think more about the arguments they make. For example, they state that music was a sign of the Fall, yet throughout the Ark, music was played and some of Noah’s sons played instruments.

*One thing that I noticed was that everywhere you turned in Ark Encounter someone or something was posing questions. Lots of placards were titled with questions. The videos were about people questioning. And you could even ask Noah questions. I thought that, by providing viewers with tons of questions, it keeps them from asking their own questions. It gives the illusion that the Ark Encounter has thought of everything.

*AiG only uses faith as an explanation when they cannot use their scientific reasoning. For example, they cannot explain why animals stopped being carnivorous on the ark using science, so they tell visitors to believe that God can do anything.

*It was astonishing to walk through the Ark and see just how thorough each exhibit’s explanation is. The most surprising feature of these placards, however, was the language. Words like “if”, “could”, “maybe”, and “possibly” can be found throughout the explanations. Language like this makes any and all of their arguments for “same evidence, two views” much less compelling.

*I thought they were asking a lot of questions I was asking. For example, how did so few people feed the animals? But they failed to answer any of the questions posed satisfactorily. I thought the area about life on the Ark was crazy because it was “artistic license.” They could have said that the clouds rained hamburgers, and that would have been as valid as that whole section. I was also interested in the “racism” part because it gave some very vague lines about anti-racism in the Bible, but it never said anything about slavery.

*One thing I found interesting was how little there was that mentioned Jesus. The one place where we did find mention of Jesus they didn’t even use his name. The roles of women throughout the Ark was interesting too. They always followed a man.  

*Something I noticed was the lack of inclusion and agency for women. In the beginning, we see Adam and Eve where it talks about Adam’s sin. It doesn’t give Eve any agency. Then later at the living quarters and other sections, Noah speaks and answers questions but Emzara’s animatronic figure doesn’t speak. So, again, women aren’t given agency. 

Students at Ark Encounter. Photo (c) 2018, Sue Trollinger.