(Image courtesy of PBS)
California School of the Arts

‘We Believe in Dinosaurs’ inspects the controversy around the Kentucky Creation Museum and Ark Encounter

“We Believe in Dinosaurs” explores when faith and scientific method come together at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Their latest sister attraction, the Ark Encounter, features a 510-foot replica of Noah’s ark.

They were built to honor a particular branch of Christian fundamentalism known as “Young Earth creationism,” which believes that God created the universe 6,000 years ago.

This documentary, directed by Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown, investigates Answers in Genesis, the corporation behind the museum, and covers different points of view from other organizations, opinions and protests.

Located in Williamstown, this creationism museum was thought to bring 900 new jobs to a struggling economy. The Answers in Genesis sold the idea of this museum as an economic boost while appealing to the religious through the ark’s evangelical aspects.

It immediately sparked controversy, some criticizing its ‘anti-science’ image and others complaining about the amount of government involvement in a religious attraction. 

Lawsuits were filed soon after it was revealed that it was required for workers to sign a Statement of Faith and give a salvation testimony.

In response, Kentucky pulled “Ark Encounter. LLC” from their tourism tax incentive program and the corporation filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Kentucky for the exclusion. Ark Encounter won the lawsuit after Mark Bevin was elected Kentucky governor, as he was convinced that the exhibit would positively impact tourism. 

Ark Encounters opened nine years after the Creation Museum on July 7, 2016. Immediately, protests and counter-protests arose.

Paleontologist Dan Phelps points out the scientific flaws in the pseudoscience within the museum exhibits while David MacMillan explains his anti-creationist yet Christian standpoint. Groups like the atheist Tri-State Free Thinkers protested the Ark, claiming that Noah’s story promotes “genocide and incest.” 

Yet, the main person behind the whole documentary’s issue presumably refused to be interviewed. Ken Ham, the CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, is only shown in small clips or interviews, appealing to his audience by using similar terminology and relating to similar desires in his talks with evangelicals, news outlets or government.

The documentary also shows a stream of scenes where Ham brainwashes children to reply “were you there?” in response to scientists defying the ideas of creationism by saying the world was created millions of years ago. 

Ultimately, “We Believe in Dinosaurs” exposes the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in how they gathered attention from children through the heavy incorporation of dinosaurs into Bible history, swindled the government into helping with funds by fronting as a tourist site, and getting support from the religious by claiming their mission is to evangelize.

Instead of proving creationism or evolution, or even choosing a side, the documentary focuses on how people react, believe, and think to such issues.

The documentary was acquired by Independent Lens, making its broadcast debut on Feb. 17 on PBS.