Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that the Ark Encounter says dinosaurs were saved by Noah's ark from the flood described in Genesis. In fact, dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago.
Folks who identify as “creation scientists” have no problem with the notion that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth. They just think the beasts lived alongside humans on a planet that’s only about 6,000 years old.
Their theory is that most of the dinos were wiped out 4,000 years ago in the worldwide flood described in Genesis – except for a few that hitched a ride on Noah’s Ark.
This is the version of history on display at the Ark Encounter, a $100 million theme park in Williamstown, Ky., that features a reproduction of Noah’s boat. And it’s the subject of “We Believe in Dinosaurs,” an upcoming documentary that is fundraising through Indiegogo.
The secular team behind the film — including Morgan Spurlock of “Super Size Me” fame — believes in evolution and promises to tell viewers “the story of the unsettling and uniquely American conflict between science and religion.” They have three years of footage of the building of the new ark, the protests against it and interviews with individuals on both sides of the issue. Two of the big names in the film are Ark Encounter leader Ken Ham and science educator Bill Nye, who squared off in a high-profile debate about evolution in 2014.
You’re less likely to have heard of former creationist David MacMillan. He joined the directors of “We Believe in Dinosaurs” for a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to explain why some people accept “creation science.”
One key question: Why is it called “science”?
The label is popular with creationists, MacMillan writes, because it allows them “to set themselves up as participants in an equal controversy, as if there are two equal sides to choose from.” To bolster that idea, he adds, “some creationists also try to mimic the appearance of hypotheses, research, and so forth.”
When a child is raised with creationism — as MacMillan was — it’s the default position. If that’s what’s taught in school, the curriculum limits exposure to the mainstream evidence that life on Earth is far older than some Bible-based believers insist it is.
“The whole focus of organized creationism is advancing the idea that all the evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways and everyone is biased,” MacMillan writes. “Plausible deniability, you know?”
So dinosaur fossils, which should make creationism a pretty tough sell, are actually considered “talking points.” MacMillan offers some stock responses to people who question creationism: “Well, maybe humans just were better organized and made it to high ground faster than dinosaurs! Or maybe we just haven’t found the fossils together yet because there aren’t a lot of human fossils!”
Although these ideas are easy to debunk, he adds, even analyzing the evidence for himself wasn’t enough to change his mind. “It still took a lot of exposure to outside voices before I fully accepted it,” he writes.