I should probably open with a disclaimer, that any opinions expressed in this review are mine and not of Film Threat or its staff. This point is especially true as the only practicing Christian at Film Threat. So, I walked in with a little trepidation upon screening documentarians Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross’ We Believe in Dinosaurs. Their film covers the most recent and unbelievable battle in the creation vs. evolution debate.
It’s important to understand that We Believe in Dinosaurs in no way settles the debate on the “origins of species.” It clearly falls on the side of evolution and instead documents the building and opening of the Ark Encounter museum deep in the Bible Belt in Williamstown, Kentucky. Brown and Ross examine the organization behind the museum, the local government that supported their cause, the town set to benefit economically from increased tourism, and the critics and experts incensed by its mere presence.
What is the Ark Encounter? It’s a museum, whose centerpiece is a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark from the book of Genesis (in the Bible). Inside the art are exhibits designed to poke holes in the theory of evolution, show the universe is roughly 6,000 years old, and how dinosaurs walked with early man. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to build the museum along with its fossil displays, pre-flood dioramas, and audio-animatronic figures discussing a life without God. Along with the millions came significant tax incentives and government bonds, specifically for this venture.
The greatest criticisms of creationists laid out by We Believe in Dinosaurs is: one, the aggressive indoctrination within the walls of the museum and “lies” with no science to back them up, and two, the fact the venture is being financially backed and supported by state and local government in apparent violation of the separation of church and state.
“…documents the building and opening of the Ark Encounter museum deep in the Bible Belt in Williamstown, Kentucky…”
Let me start by saying, my biggest fear was We Believe in Dinosaurs was going to be a hit-piece on Christianity and creationism. My worries were assuaged early on. While the filmmakers are not fundamentalist Christians in any sense, they made a noble attempt to be fair in their portrayal of its leader Ken Ham, founder of Answers In Genesis (AiG) and everyone involved in the construction of the Ark.
The film brings in two of its experts for a testimonial. First is geologist Dan Phelps, who (you guessed it) is not a creationist. His big beef is the lies and misstatements of facts presented by Ham and AiG, particularly those in his field of expertise and how this monstrosity of a museum does nothing but tarnish the reputation of the people of Kentucky.
Next, is a former creationist, David MacMillan. As a young Christian, MacMillan was a fervent apologist for creationism. He was a lifetime member of the original Creation Museum and a volunteer “ready to give an answer” about evolution. He wrote blog posts until he did some deep soul and fact searching and came around to finding faults in what he believed. Now, cast aside by the church, who once hailed him as an expert, MacMillan shares his new revelations about Ham and company on sites like the Huffington Post.
From here the film follows all the players in the months and years leading up to the opening of the Ark Encounter. It goes into the economically depressed town of Williamstown and the hope they have in the economic boom the opening of the museum will bring. Then follows the organizing of a local protest by a pro-science and atheist group upset by the museum’s message of “genocide and incest.” And while the filmmakers have remarkable access to the designers and builders of the Ark, we only get to see its founder Ken Ham in his public appearances (Note: you must sit through the ending credits).
As a person, who has had the where-did-we-come-from debate while attending seminary for several years, I’ve taken a very moderate view of the discussion. From a macro level, what I see in the film is a battle between “people who believe, what they believe, solely because God tells them so” versus “people who believe, what they believe, because science tells them so.” Two sides who believe God or science is on their side there no room to come together. One side sees a godless heathen and the other side sees a mindless moron.
“…made a noble attempt to be fair in their portrayal of its leader Ken Ham…and everyone involved in the construction of the Ark.”
After viewing from what is inside the Ark Encounter and its founders, I have some serious reservations about its conclusions about Noah’s ark. They present several facts that I just don’t agree with and draw a few conclusions that defy logic. In other words, this is their explanation of Creationism and does not represent what I’ve understood creationism to be. These creationists are honestly not helping their argument at all.
I’ll give you one example. The ark submits that dinosaurs were on board Noah’s Ark during the flood. The dinosaurs represented as animatronic robots on the ark are ones never seen before in fossil records and represents a transitory state to some species familiar to us today. Which essentially proves that species have been evolving over the last few millennia, thus proving evolution is true. Go figure.
Lastly, regarding the fair portrayal of Christians, for over two decades I was associated with fundamentalist Christians eager to play the “hell” card at the drop of the pants. We acted out of judgment in the name of God, instead of love. Not much has changed and our hateful tactics are now being used against us.
In the end, I liked We Believe in Dinosaurs. Unlike most of you reading this, in the past, I viewed the debate from the Creationist side. On occasion, I’d venture to the other side for education and the facts presented in this film are both fascinating and fair. Brown and Ross smartly bring in local church leaders, who have equally grave concerns about the museum and its problematic existence. Films like this serve as a mirror to Christians to show just how the world sees our actions.
We Believe in Dinosaurs (2019) Directed by Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross. We Believe in Dinosaurs screened at the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival.
7.5 out of 10 stars