Mike Johnson(l), Noah's Ark(r)

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Were there baby dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? New House Speaker Mike Johnson worked for organization that pushes extreme creationist claims

Johnson sued the government on behalf of a life-sized creation of Noah’s Ark.

 

Mike Rothschild

Tech

Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) endorses some of the most extreme political and cultural stances of the conservative movement. 

The Louisiana Republican is an ardent 2020 election conspiracy theorist, playing a key role in the failed amicus brief attempting to get the Supreme Court to overturn the results in multiple swing states. He also supports a federal abortion ban, the criminalization of sexual activity between same-sex adults, and is a climate change denier.

He also might just believes dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time.

Many, if not most of those beliefs are now standard Republican orthodoxy, to the point where every name to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House Speaker was an election denier of some sort. 

But Speaker Johnson also worked on behalf of a cause that even many hardcore Trump-aligned evangelical Christian Republicans haven’t endorsed.

Belief in what’s generally called “Young Earth Creationism” (YEC) revolves around the scientifically debunked and evidence-free idea that “the creation days of Genesis 1 were six literal (24-hour) days, which occurred 6,000–12,000 years ago,” according to the prominent YEC website Answers in Genesis. 

As such, the planet is around 10,000 years old, with every record of anything older either fake or misinterpreted. 

And because “fruit trees were created before any sea creatures [and] birds were created before dinosaurs,” the great beasts were saved from the Great Flood by Noah himself, who crammed his Ark full of juvenile species of terrible lizards.

Speaker Johnson actively worked to advance and help fund the belief that the earth is an infant on the geological scale, and that humans and dinosaurs peacefully coexisted. 

Before his election to the House, Johnson worked as a spokesman and senior attorney to what’s now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group working to erase the boundary between church and state. In this capacity, Johnson—a Louisiana state senator at the time—filed suit against the state of Kentucky on behalf of Ken Ham, who runs the same Answers in Genesis website, which serves as a “scientific” backstop attempting to justify the validity of YEC.

The 2015 lawsuit by Ham demanded economic subsidies from the state’s tourism-focused sales tax to realize his dream of building a Bible-based Noah’s Ark theme park in northern Kentucky. Ham envisioned a monument to the “real” story of human creation and the Flood, featuring as its centerpiece a 510-foot long, 85-foot wide, and 51-foot high wooden “replica” of the Ark; along with museum displays on pseudoscientific topics like the Grand Canyon being formed during the Flood, and dioramas of Noah’s workshop. According to the Museum, there were at least 85 pairs of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

Of course, building a giant wooden ship big enough to carry dinosaurs isn’t cheap—the Ark Encounter park would eventually cost more than $100 million, according to Ham himself. So Ham went to the state of Kentucky for support, only to have the state’s subsidies withdrawn due to the blatantly religious nature of the project and Ham’s plan to require employees to sign pledges that they believed in the tenets of Young Earth Creationism.

Enter the new Speaker of the House, Johnson, who filed suit for Ham to get access to that money.

As Johnson himself wrote in an op-ed still available on Answers in Genesis, the “Ark Encounter” should have access to state sales tax revenue because it would be an economic boon to the region that was protected by the First Amendment. “Kentucky officials are smart to enthusiastically embrace the Ark Encounter,” Johnson wrote, “and the millions of tourists the park will welcome to the area from every viewpoint, race, color, religion and creed.”

Young Earth Creationism has been almost completely rejected by the scientific establishment, due to its reliance on faith, as opposed to scientific evidence. In one Gallup survey, as many as 98% of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe that humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years—a view that three-quarters of Americans share. 

Answers in Genesis repeats the “98% figure” as proof of how rigged the scientific establishment is. 

But to Johnson, the question of whether the state of Kentucky should financially incentivize creationism wasn’t just a religious or scientific issue, but one of free speech, concluding his op-ed by claiming “If the secularists were truly proponents of the First Amendment as they claim, they would want to welcome that civic discourse (and tremendous economic development), rather than stamp it out. When the Ark Project sails, everybody will benefit—even those who are stubbornly trying to sink it.”

And the Ark Project did indeed sail. Ham’s theme park opened in July 2017, and despite a veritable flood of mainstream ridicule and poor reviews, it has attracted millions of visitors each year, other than when it was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaker Johnson’s lawsuit succeeded, with a federal judge ruling in favor of Answers in Genesis, and state officials announcing they wouldn’t appeal the decision. 

To put it plainly, the new Speaker of the House ensured that Kentucky sales tax revenue would support a theme park that claimed Noah’s Ark saved the dinosaurs from a flood that happened on a planet that was 10,000 years old.

Despite—or perhaps because of—its lack of evidence and disregard by the scientific community, creationism is remarkably popular in America. Even with numbers of admitted believers at an all-time low, a 2017 poll found 38% of Americans believed in some form of God having created humanity within the last 10,000 years.  

Johnson has never publicly claimed he is one of these believers, only that he is an evangelical Christian. His press office didn’t return an email requesting clarification on the topic. 

He has only one other article on the Answers in Genesis site, attacking the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize what he deems same-sex “marriage.” 

With his new position as Speaker of the House, Johnson won’t just have enormous political influence and sit second in line to the presidency. He will be giving a powerful public voice to Biblical literalism, a belief system often used to justify slavery, discrimination, homophobia, and spousal abuse. He appears to already be taking advantage of the speaker’s pulpit to evangelize, telling the House in his first remarks after winning his election “I believe that scripture and the Bible is very clear that God is the one that raised up each of you and God has allowed us to be brought here to this specific moment and time.”

And He did that in just 10,000 years. 

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