Creationist Ken Ham says his highly publicized Feb. 4 debate with TV “Science Guy” Bill Nye had helped his organization raise enough money to begin construction of a 510-foot Noah’s Ark attraction.
The Creation Museum founder said Thursday that a $62 million municipal bond offering had raised enough to start construction of the Ark Encounter project, which is expected to cost about $73 million.
"It did help," Ham told the Associated Press. "We obviously had a big spurt toward the end, and I think it was people who were involved in this, who really decided they were going to do something."
Groundbreaking was set for May, and the religious theme park is expected to be completed by summer 2016.
Nye, who has been highly critical of creationist teaching, said he was disappointed that the project would move forward and offered his hope that it “goes out of business.”
"If he builds that ark, it's my strong opinion [that] it's bad for the commonwealth of Kentucky and bad for scientists based in Kentucky and bad for the U.S.," Nye said. "And, I'm not joking, bad for the world."
Ham declined to offer details about bond investors, but he said his group had “generous supporters around the country” – although he noted that private donations had not increased noticeably following the debate.
His Answers in Genesis ministry announced a proposal in 2010 for a $150 religious theme park that would include the ark, but private donations could not keep the project on track for completion as originally planned.
Ham said his debate with Nye, which was streamed online and watched by millions around the world, helped overcome what he called misleading media reports about his organization and its work.
Nye remained skeptical that the project -- planned for Williamstown, Ky., about 40 miles south of Cincinnati and the ministry’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. – would ever be completed.
He also doubted that it could match the biblical account.
"I challenge them to try to float this ship, to try and make this a seaworthy ship," Nye said.
Watch Bill Nye's comments about Noah's Ark during his debate with Ken Ham, posted online by The Daily Conversation: