Guests at the Ark Encounter will observe many descriptions and artistic impressions of what happened before, during and just after Noah’s Flood. One set of images was especially interesting to me because it visualized different stages of the Flood. One panel which explains how the Flood waters prevailed over the highest mountains was particularly perplexing because of the mixed messages it was sending. In this panel the portrayal of the Flood waters runs contrary to the creationist’s own literature in addition to containing implicit messages that are not supported by any evidence. Below is my photo of that image. My eye was drawn to two things: the animals swimming in the water and the water itself.
Let’s start by taking a look at the animals that are being depicted. There is a plesiosaur, an ichthyosaur and at least one cetacean – a whale. This depiction is accurate with respect to the YECs own literature. Just as they believe dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans and other mammals, they also believe the sea reptiles must have lived contemporaneously with whales and dolphins. Nonetheless, like their claims about dinosaurs, this depiction is not supported by any evidence.
What does the fossil record – the observable, objective facts – tell us about these animals. The first – the sea reptiles – existed as more than 500 species and are found solely as fossils in sedimentary rocks that are dated, by conventional methods, older than 65 million years old. Young-earth creationists all agree these rocks formed during a global Flood. Hence, for the creationist, the evidence strongly suggests that the Flood caused the extinction of hundreds of species of great sea reptiles.
The fossil record also tells us that no cetaceans (dolphin, porpoise or whale) have ever been found in rock older than 65 million years. Clearly identifiable cetaceans are only found in young rocks which young earth creationists claim are post-flood in origin. From the young-earth perspective the message of the fossil record is crystal clear: there is no physical evidence that any whale or dolphin was destroyed by the Flood. At the same time, the fossil record clearly indicates that not a single sea reptile – turtles excluded – survived the Flood. Yet, here we have a depiction of both types of animals peaceably swimming below the Ark. Given what happened to both how are we to believe that the Flood would have selected one sea animal for extinction while not killing any of the other? to confuse the matter, in this portrayal of the Flood the waters under the Ark are clear and the plesiosaur has plenty to eat. And yet they all died. From this image you would think the plesiosaurs would have no problem surviving the Flood and therefore might be living in Loch Ness in Scotland.
A deep time perspective has little difficulty explaining these observed facts of the fossil record. Sea reptiles evolved from land reptiles during the Age of the Dinosaurs (Triassic – Cretaceous). Following their extinction, around the same time as the dinosaurs, the oceans lacked large animal predators other than sharks. With the diversification of mammals after the dinosaur age, some lineages, including one that became cetaceans, found conditions advantageous for adapting to life in the ocean. A deep time perspective also provides an explanation for how so many species could have existed.
In the Flood scenario millions of individuals of each of 700 or more species of sea reptiles and mammals must have been sharing the same space and competing for much of the same food. Today only 88 species of cetaceans fill our oceans. One might argue that a few more species could coexist with our current species but 600 more species? Where would they all fit? On the other hand, over millions of years some species could have gone extinct as other formed from their ancestors. The gradual replacement of species with new ones allows a sustainable balance of species in the world’s oceans at any point in time.
Unrealistic depictions of the Flood used to convince guests of the plausibility of a real ark and a real global flood
The very same depiction of the Noahic Flood that contains the sea reptiles and mammals also struck me as inconsistent with the message of the Ark Encounter. Don’t you think there is something strange about the water itself? The water is blue and clear!
Where is the sediment? This image depicts a tranquil sea. Nothing in the young-earth flood geology literature suggests a placid flood covering the earth. If the Ark has already been raised above the mountain tops, as shown in the image, how could 20,000 feet of sediment be deposited onto the pre-flood land from clear water? Small particulates in the water column could not have settled out in enough time for the waters to ever have been clear during the Flood.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? Well, maybe a bit but stick with me because I think this image provides an illustration of a problem that is found throughout the Ark Encounter.
I recognize the clarity of the water is not as important as getting the dimensions of the ark right in the mind of the AiG staff. In addition, they acknowledge that they have used creative and artistic license to depict some aspects of the Noahic account. I believe the artistic license is in reference to giving names to wives of Noah and what their living quarters may have looked like and other such clearly speculative information provided at the Ark Encounter. But, couldn’t this image of the Flood waters covering the earth be just an artistic way of depicting the events of the Flood and therefore not objectionable? No, I don’t think so. I think it presents an inconsistent message and that inconsistently hits right at the core of what the presumed educational value of the Ark is.
The problem is that young-earth creationists would not consider the geological consequences of Noah’s flood as being subject to speculation and thus artistic license. There is a well-established base of creationist’ literature which purports to account for how the Flood was initiated, was sustained and subsided on the Earth resulting in all of the sedimentary rock and fossils found in those rocks. A calm sediment-free ocean as depicted here is a direct contradiction to all of their published literature.
I understand that showing a murky-brown sediment-filled ocean below the Ark would not be especially pleasing to the eye. It also raises even more questions such as how would filter feeding whales survive in muddy water? However, around the corner they weren’t afraid to get real about the devastation of the Flood by showing a heathen teenager girl who missed the boat being eaten by a shark. I will grant that the latter is artistic license but it doesn’t violate any of the young-earth creationist predictions of what could have happened at the onset of the Flood. Showing clear blue seas, on the other hand, is a depiction of a history they believe to be false.
What is this image doing? It is creating a false impression of the geological realities of the global flood in the mind of the viewer. What was the point of the “bathtub ark” room on the Ark Encounter? The point was that there is a danger is portraying the ark unrealistically lest it not be taken seriously. We are told in that room that the bathtub arks get everything wrong including the modern animals they portray on the ark. There we are presented with the 7 D’s of Deception. One of those (pictured below) is the deception of “disorienting the reader.” We learn that “presenting contradictory information confuses readers rather than properly instructing them.”
But this image does nothing but cause confusion about how the Flood waters covered the earth and what effects they would have the animals living in the sea. The Ark Encounter seeks to dispel many of the “false” images of the Ark that have crept in the consciousness of Christians. Unfortunately the Ark Encounter turns right around and plants many new false images in the minds of those that will visit this attraction. One cannot expect guests at the ark to be able to parse artistic license, pure speculation, and some facts from each other any more than AiG expects children to comprehend the size of the Ark and the tremendous devastation wrought on the Earth from reading their bathtub ark books. If they wish to present as accurate portrait of the Flood as possible they can’t send mixed messages to their audience.