Building Too High

I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence, so says author and mediaman Doug McLeod (not to be confused with bluesman Doug MacLeod).

Traditionally, lightning was thought to be work of the divine, and the proper protocol was for the priest to climb the tower and ring the bell as vehemently as he could for the duration of the storm. According to the logic, the peels would appease any lightning-slinging deities listening.

It didn’t work at all. Lightning strike was so common a cause-of-death for parish priests that laws had to be passed forbidding bell-ringing during thunderstorms. The lightning would still topple steeples well into the twentieth century, and in modern times, grounded lighting pathways running up to the highest point (with a replaceable conductive tip) are intrinsic to steeple design codes.

Cut to the this year: The Ark Encounter themepark, allegedly a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark was opened slightly less than a year ago (2016-07-07) by Ken Ham and the organization Answers In Genesis. Mr. Ham and AiG are on a mission to teach a literal (non-scholarly) interpretation of the Old Testament, featuring talking snakes, mass incest and, regarding the ark / flood story, global genocide by an angry god. (To be fair, biologists, autoclave their petri dishes without shame every day.)

The Ark Encounter features ambiguously-featured moderately-tanned Israelites, short-necked giraffes and scaly (not feathery) dinosaurs. It’s had about same number of construction complications and corruption / graft scandals and difficulties with Kentucky regulatory agencies one would expect from any other large scale contractual project. It’s big and wood and, actually, no small achievement.

What caught my interest, though, is Mr. Ham’s interest in creating a theme-park replica of the Tower of Babel. The tower was a building so tall that humans could touch the Heavens. Mind you, Ham and the AiG organization regard a literal interpretation of the biblical narrative in their statement of faith.

That means they (allegedly) really believe God was a bit irate about the last time humans tried to build one.

God regarded King Nimrod’s Tower construction project an act of hubris and defiance of the divine. It really pissed Him off. In response, God scattered the engineers, architects and construction labor unions asunder to the corners of the Earth, giving each their own language and culture.

I suspect it was at this time (extrapolating from the same mythology), that God stirred human hearts that each of our ethnic groups would hate the others with a passion, so that Germans couldn’t stand Austrians or Prussians or Franks, and vice versa. All human groups regarded themselves as the real people who believed the the true faith. Everyone else are petty barbarians who construct false idols to false gods. Heretics! Infidels! Philistines!

And He made everyone hate the Jews extra hard to make them tough-as-nails. But I digress.

So how does Ken Ham think building another Tower of Babel is a good idea? That smacks of the same hubris that pissed off God before.

It’s possible that Ken Ham is not immune to rationality and the logic of inductive evidence. Existing skyscrapers suggest that height alone is not the matter, though Ham might want to find out what is.

It’s interesting to me the Burj Kalifa in Dubai now exceeds even the height of Sauron’s tower Barad-dûr, which was partly supported by his own life energy. Sauron’s Eye, at the top of Barad-dûr is about two-thousand feet, according to most Middle Earth scholars. Though some like to double that height, now that two-thousand is no longer a wondrous height. Current projects in the design phase will even dwarf tallest estimations of Sauron’s tower. But they’re not actually built yet.

And then we’ve landed humans on the moon. If that’s not touching the Heavens by transcending altitude, I don’t know what is.

Considering the degree to which Ken Ham has clung to literalist arguments in the face of evidence before, none of this should convince him a new Tower of Babel is a good idea.

Mr. Ham may find he’s not as literalist as he thought.

Or rather, I suspect, it is the allure of sweet, sweet Kentucky-tourist lucre that tempts him to dig too greedily and too deep.


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