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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: We Believe In Dinosaurs

Dinosaur display aboard the Ark in Williamstown, Ky.
Courtesy of We Believe in Dinosaurs
Dinosaur display aboard the Ark in Williamstown, Ky.

Airs Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Feb. 20 at 12:30 p.m. on KPBS 2

Witness creationism and science collide aboard an enormous Noah's Ark in rural Kentucky

“We Believe In Dinosaurs” on INDEPENDENT LENS explores what happens when religious ideology clashes with mainstream science in modern day America. Called the Ark Encounter, the 510-foot Noah’s Ark experience in rural Williamstown, Kentucky, is located 45 miles south of its sister attraction, the Creation Museum.

It has been designed to prove the Bible is scientifically and historically accurate, that evolution is heresy, and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.

Shot over the course of four years, filmmakers Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross document the Ark Encounter’s construction from blueprints through opening day, following the efforts of creationists, scientists, atheists, and activists as they draw battle lines over evolution, the age of the Earth, and the separation of church and state.

The Ark, of the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky.
Courtesy of Clayton Brown © 137 Films
The Ark, of the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky.

Among those involved in the struggle is Doug, an artisan who leads a team of artists and designers that create lifelike animals for the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter; Dan, a geologist who blows the whistle on the Ark’s discriminatory hiring practices; David, a former creationist who blogs critically about beliefs he once held; and atheist activist Jim Helton, co-founder of Tri-State Freethinkers, who leads a protest rally outside the Ark on opening day.

Jessie Pie sculpts a juvenile T-Rex for the Ark Encounter.
Courtesy of Clayton Brown © 137 Films
Jessie Pie sculpts a juvenile T-Rex for the Ark Encounter.

Brown and Ross continue their commitment to chronicling America’s complicated relationship with science in “We Believe In Dinosaurs,” the anticipated follow-up to their past award-winning documentaries “The Atom Smashers” and “The Believers.”

The film was lauded as “intriguing...and timely” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Rick Skinner, mayor of Williamstown, cutting the ribbon for the Ark Encounter. Williamstown, Ky.
Courtesy of Clayton Brown © 137 Films
Rick Skinner, mayor of Williamstown, cutting the ribbon for the Ark Encounter. Williamstown, Ky.

The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter were built to honor a particular branch of Christian fundamentalism known as Young Earth creationism.

It is a belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible that God created the universe 6,000 years ago in six 24-hour days, contending that humans coexisted with dinosaurs, as depicted in the museum.

The Ark Encounter made national news before it even opened when controversy erupted over state tax incentives it received.

Highlighting the growing discord between church and state policies in the town where the park is located, the film also explores the local economic boom promised by the Ark Encounter’s founders and examines whether those promises have been met since the attraction’s opening.

A worker loads T-Rex onto the Ark.
Courtesy of Clayton Brown © 137 Films
A worker loads T-Rex onto the Ark.

“Science policy and the intersection of church and state have always inspired passionate discussion in the U.S.,” said INDEPENDENT LENS Executive Producer Lois Vossen. “While we accept the science behind the theory of evolution, our goal with this film wasn’t to disparage or ridicule anyone’s right to believe whatever they want regarding how the universe was created. It’s important to listen respectfully in order to develop an understanding of what forms our various beliefs, especially when our belief systems differ. We hope our viewers will walk away from this story wanting to have informed discussions on science education, science policy, and the separation of church and state.”

Close-up of a figurine of The King for a diorama about the pre-flood world.
Courtesy of Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown "We Believe In Dinosaurs"
Close-up of a figurine of The King for a diorama about the pre-flood world.

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Entrance to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.
Courtesy of Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown "We Believe In Dinosaurs"
Entrance to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.

Join The Conversation:

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. #IndieLensPBS #WeBelieveInDinosPBS

"We Believe In Dinosaurs" film is on Facebook.

Credits:

Directed by Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown. Produced by Amy Ellison, Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown. Written by Monica Long Ross. Music by Kate Simko. Animations by Ian Benjamin Kenny. Edited by Clayton Brown. Executive Producers: Philip Cable, Paul and Danah Fisher, Sally Jo Fifer, Keith McCready and Lois Vossen.