Business incentives that are a real leap of faith: State of Kentucky to help pay for Noah’s Ark

1036693826_8a11e4ac03_oThe Christian organization Answers in Genesis, known for its rigorous campaigning against “secular evolutionists” through young earth creationist propaganda, has been struggling financially over the years to raise enough funds to build its $150 million Noah’s Ark theme park. But thankfully Kentucky, one of the few states that can apparently compete with North Carolina when it comes to flawed budget and tax policy, has come to the rescue by approving $18 million in new tax breaks for the project. Meanwhile, 27% of the state’s children live in poverty.

Unless the state means to show blatant religious favoritism, which would obviously be unconstitutional (if not, perhaps, terribly surprising), we will just assume that the officials behind the subsidy are intending to bring in more tourists in order to promote economic development.

So, given that as a backdrop (and awkwardly sidestep the question of whether state-funded creationist propaganda is good for the scientific literacy of the general populace) let’s assess whether this is a fiscally responsible plan.

Initial signs are not terribly encouraging. The Creation Museum, which opened in 2007, was reported to have a sizable attendance drop for the fourth year in a row in 2012.  That doesn’t leave a very large window of time for an increase. Indeed, just last year it was reported that the museum is in financial trouble as a consequence. The reasons why are not difficult to discern.

The museum has a reputation of being boring and repetitious. Rather than filling the museum with scientific information alongside fossils and informative exhibits, the tour mostly consists of Bible verses, fake vegetarian dinosaurs living with people, and anti-secular propaganda. Unlike real science museums in which exhibits and information are continually updated and revised according to the latest research, the Creation Museum just stays the same as it is based on ancient Biblical literature that never changes. In fact, Answers in Genesis gladly places the “Word of God” over scientific data any day, referring to the latter as “man’s word.” In other words, if the data contradicts the Bible, the data is automatically incorrect.

Due to declining attendance and loss of ticket sales, the Creation Museum did what any science museum would do in that situation: it added a zip line and dragon exhibit. That’s right. Equally comical and terribly ironic, the Christian fundamentalists–known for attributing natural catastrophe to divine wrath–were on one occasion on the receiving end of a lightning strike on the zip line, injuring one employee.

The prediction here: Ultimately, the State of Kentucky’s $18 million tax break for AIG’s Ark Encounter will be an encounter with broken policy and fiscal irresponsibility. Year one: an influx of out-of-state tourists will come aboard the ark either out of pure curiosity or religious conviction. Years two-infinity: attendance will drop as past attendees will have “seen it all.” Unless, of course, AIG adds another zip line onto the ark or brings some extra dragons and unicorns on board.

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