Have you sometimes noticed when you have an argument with a person and the individual is backed into a corner after making a factual error or an illogical statement, that the person often changes course and goes off on a tangent? The tactic is called “moving the goal posts” (or changing the subject). It can be an effective strategy in getting out of a hole if the other person—the one holding the correct view—allows his opponent to get away with a diversionary tactic.
In the debate over creation vs. evolution (or a young earth vs. an old one), we have frequently observed how an opponent will change course when his bad argument has been exposed and then baits you to go into another area. For example, an antagonist of AiG will frequently make an accusation based on wrong information to attack this ministry, and it’s obvious the person has not done his homework. In fact, a long list of false accusations that is often made publicly against AiG could be compiled.1 When corrected, they usually decide to go on to something else. The most recent public examples have been charges against AiG that have had little to do with the origins debate per se but with AiG’s construction of a full-size Noah’s Ark, part of a larger attraction called Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky. We believe this web article will be instructive as it dissects one of the latest attacks on the Ark (and AiG) and exposes some false charges.
Since the Ark project was announced several months ago, a frequent refrain from vocal critics of AiG and Ark Encounter (including major news outlets, like the New York Times;2) is that tax dollars paid by Kentucky citizens will help build the attraction. Because we are typically allotted only about 150 words in a letter to the editor of a major newspaper (as is the case with the NY Times), it can be a challenge to effectively rebut a publicly made charge. To counter the false claim that Kentucky taxpayers will involuntarily help pay for the Ark Encounter, we will present below an exchange between AiG and a recent Ark critic, and offer a fuller refutation of the oft-claimed charge that money would be diverted from state services to Kentuckians and re-directed to the Ark.
Notice below how Joel, the Ark and AiG antagonist (and self-proclaimed Christian), is exposed for not doing his homework, and then moves the goalposts to extricate himself and hope his readers will consider other matters instead. In the exchange on his blog, we attempted to keep him on track and stick to the main reason he posted his commentary in the first place. You’ll also see how emotional and irrational he becomes, including how he makes one of the nastiest comments ever made about our ministry (sadly coming from someone who calls himself a Christian). This exercise should be helpful on a few levels as we cast more light on the nature of the debate regarding the historicity of the book of Genesis, the compromise within the church about Genesis, plus the nature of the Ark Encounter funding.
First, here is the original posting by Joel, in which he declares his support of the anti-Ark efforts of Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (see Clergyman Opposes Ark!) and then attacks the integrity of Answers in Genesis by calling it a dishonest ministry (with much harsher words still to come in his later postings):
I really don’t care what group wants to build what—but if I was in Kentucky, I’d be a little upset that my tax dollars were being used to in such a way.
Answers in Genesis is not a ministry—well, not an honest one. I have to agree with Lynn, that they are comparable with Harold Camping [a radio broadcaster who predicted Christ was to return last month]. Neither care about actually reading the bible. Period.
And, just to be clear—I wouldn’t want my tax dollars being used for any actual ministry either.
We posted this reply to his comments:
No fear—your tax dollars won’t be going to build the Ark. No money will be taken out of Kentucky’s state budget. Here’s what will really happen: if the Ark meets attendance goals and as tourism dollars pour into the state, it will receive rebates on sales taxes paid by its visitors. In other words, the money going back to the attraction will be from those who voluntarily chose to visit; no unwilling taxpayer will subsidize the Ark. There is no financial risk to the state.
Please get your facts straight before you go public with a comment such as “I wouldn’t want my tax dollars being used for any actual ministry.” That’s a flat-out wrong statement. Thank you.
Joel’s reply was the following:
When you give a tax credit or rebate, it is giving tax dollars back to the “ministry.” Unless you do not understand the tax system then you are lying to the public about the situation.
We responded with the following:
Joel: I don’t know how much clearer we can be in correcting your belief that “your” tax dollars will build the Ark. The only taxpayer involved in the Ark when it opens is the person who chooses to visit the Ark attraction and pays sales tax there. The Ark may get some of that sales tax money back if attendance meets certain milestones. It’s not tax dollars taken out of the state budget—in fact, the state coffers benefit from sales tax collected at the Ark, plus the income tax it receives from the thousands of employees working at Ark-related jobs that will be created, from sales tax collected from the businesses that pop up, etc. It is a net gain for the state treasury, and thus should lessen the tax burden for Kentuckians.
Disagree with our Ark’s message all you want, but not for the bogus reason you cited in your poorly researched postings. Frankly, you are the one who does not understand the system and the nature of the rebate.
Joel then replied with the following:
When you get a tax rebate, that is money not being used by the state, thus, tax dollars being given to the ark project from other tax payers.
The following is our reply to that claim:
Joel: Let me repeat—the only taxpayer involved in the Ark’s operation is the person who voluntarily chooses to visit the Ark attraction and pays sales tax there, and a part of their sales tax may come back to us in the form of a rebate.
So Joel responds with the following:
Rebate = Tax money coming to you.
You are a business peddling things under the guise of religion. By giving you a rebate, the State is missing out on much needed funds. Because they choose to give you money back, you as a “religious” institution, you are getting tax dollars which should be used by the State. That means that there are less to go around—because you want a rebate.
At this point, AiG was beginning to get tired of the exchange, but we wanted Joel’s readers to notice where the debate had headed and see if Joel would write anything even more outrageous:
Joel: You’re moving the goalposts now that you’ve been shown to be wrong in your claim that Kentucky taxpayers are involuntarily subsidizing the Ark. Let me correct you on two other matters: 1. the reason the state offers an “incentive” in the form of tax rebates to tourist attractions is to have them build here as opposed to another state (two counties in Indiana have courted us) and still see a net gain for Kentucky even after the rebate is given (that’s why it’s called an incentive), and 2. that means there is more money to go around for the services the state provides, not less as you contend in post #15. How many times must I write that there is a net gain for the state if we build in Kentucky and not elsewhere? If we built out of state, millions of dollars would go with the project and Kentuckians lose.
What is your real opposition to a project that will see a state greatly benefiting by increased tax revenue and thousands of new jobs? And why get so emotional and suggest that I might be “lying” about the nature of the rebate (your posting above)?
In his reply, Joel started to reveal more of his cards, as he wrote the following words in the last of the exchange AiG had with him, including a hand-waving claim—without substantiation—that he had not been changing the subject:
No goal posts—not wrong.
1.) You claim to be a religious organization. Thus, you should not get tax dollars. You are a business, operating under the guise of religion—nevertheless, tax dollars should not be used to support religion.
You are trying to argue something different now. Regardless if it does bring jobs, tax dollars should not be use to lure ministries, or prop them up. Period.
My position is that it is a religious business and thus should not be supported by the public. Duh.
Not emotional, really, but you guys are lying in many of your statements—and not least about the 6000 year thing.
Joel had also not done his research about the nature of AiG’s relationship with the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC, which owns the Ark Encounter and will receive the rebates; AiG will design the attraction and then operate it for the LLC when it opens (through a non-profit subsidiary called Crosswater Canyon). See arkencounter.com/faq/ for more background. By the way, for the scriptural and scientific case that the earth is closer to 6,000 years old and not billions, go to Young-Earth Creationist View Summarized And Defended.
In a later addition to his blog, Joel dug another hole for himself. He made the charge (also stated by Rev. Lynn) that AiG intends to place the mythical unicorn on our proposed Ark. For a refutation of that false claim, read
A final remark here. One of the people who commented on Joel’s posting noted that Joel had written in his original post that “I really don’t care what group wants to build what.” But it does matter to Joel, as this commenter observed: “your whole post and comments proclaims exactly that you do [care]!” Joel, even as he says he is a Christian (and it is not our place to question his salvation), apparently has a great deal of antipathy towards ministries that espouse biblical Christianity.
Another comment Joel posted to his blog further revealed his heart as he likened the Ark Encounter to “a porn shop.”
As we have noted many times on this website, there is an increasing number of Christians who publically proclaim their compromising beliefs regarding the Bible’s authority in Genesis. They have accepted the opinions of fallible scientists and have used them to reinterpret Scripture, rather than let Genesis—written as history, not poetry—speak for itself.
When we engage such compromising Christians, let’s not allow them to move the goal posts and let them escape their mistakes. Their unbiblical or illogical positions should not go uncorrected.