Reviews of documentary "We Believe in Dinosaurs"

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Ark
Ark on Opening Day, courtesy of Dan Phelps.

Reviews of “We Believe in Dinosaurs.” Links courtesy of Dan Phelps. Excerpts by me.

“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.” – Alan Ng, Film Threat.

We Believe in Dinosaurs captures a disturbing current in contemporary America, but it’s far from the whole story. There are a few naysayers among the film’s interview subjects — a former creationist who changed his mind and a geologist who tries to debunk the pseudo-science depicted at the museums — but the doc cries out for a few more scientific voices. The directors understandably didn’t want to overwhelm their audience with talking heads, but a few more sage voices would have been welcome.” – Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter.

Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown’s look at the Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s monument to young-earth creationism, highlights the false legitimacy afforded by competent design. Most responsible for that is Patrick Marsh, who created the Jaws ride and whose enthusiastic participation almost feels like a betrayal. Opposite him is beleaguered paleontologist and audience proxy Dan Phelps, whose role in the drama can sometimes feel a little Quixotic, with the Ark standing in for windmills. … I could have done with a a smidgen of humor in a film about people who believe dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago.” – Arlin Goldin, Film Inquiry.

“And while the film checks all the boxes you expect from a documentary about this issue, with interviews with believers and non-believers alike, by trying to cover such a massive story (both figuratively and literally) ‘Dinosaurs’ spreads itself so thin and loses its grip on the basics of storytelling.

“If “We Believe in Dinosaurs” has one saving grace, it’s the subjects that are interviewed. From artists that sculpt the titular beasts that will populate the 510-foot long, 51-foot high Ark to a former creationist that is struggling with his own personal beliefs to a lonely, non-believing paleontologist that makes it his life’s mission to be the thorn in Ken Ham’s side, Brown and Ross have culled together a group of characters that are sincere, open, and above all, fascinating.

“The best of the group, without a doubt, is Dan Phelps, the aforementioned paleontologist and one-man army against the Ark Encounter exhibit. ‘Dinosaurs’ paints a portrait of a man who loves science from an early age and illustrates his day-to-day life, foraging for interesting specimens on the side of the highway. ‘Dinosaurs’ helps you get to know Phelps on a very deep level through his actions and his own words, and it’s an utter joy to behold. …

“Ultimately, the film struggles with its ambition. Brown and Ross attempt to tell the entire story of the Ark Encounter, down to every nail used to build the boat and every legal battle fought to ensure specific tax incentives. When the credits finally roll, and there is even more information being fed into your eyeballs—it’s just too much.” – Charles Barfield, The Playlist.

“The multi-year journey features a number of fascinating and complex personalities, including Dan Phelps, a geologist and head of the Kentucky Paleontology Society who serves as a frequent and vocal critic of the museum’s faulty science; David MacMillan, a former creationist who could no longer reconcile his beliefs with the facts of the real world; and the Tri-State Free Thinkers, an atheist group who show up on opening day to protest the museum’s message of “incest and genocide,” for which a conservative radio host condemns their leader to an eternity of damnation.

“Notably absent are any direct interviews with Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, ….

“We Believe in Dinosaurs illustrates the ever-growing divide between religion and science, and manages a fairly even-handed portrayal of both sides of the debate, despite the clear skepticism of the filmmakers toward the Creationist belief system. Some stones are left unturned, and it would have made for a compelling addition to explore the conflict between the teachings of Answers in Genesis and their actions, such as Ham’s decidedly non-Christian scheme to escape tax liability by selling the Ark Encounter land to his own non-profit organization for $10. But the existing material is certainly captivating and disquieting enough to engage with.” – Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review.

You may also see a clip from the film and a short background article in The Playlist here.

Aphididae

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Aphids
Aphididae – family of aphids munching (sucking, actually) on a cabbage leaf.

Kent Hovind resurfaces

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Kent Hovind
Kent Hovind in 2015. Escambia County Sheriff's Office, public domain.

Kent Hovind has surfaced again, near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, according to an article, Controversial figure to lead seminar at Petal church, by Beth Bunch, in the Hub City Spokes (Petal is a city near Hattiesburg). Mr. Hovind, whom we profiled here in 2004, was convicted of tax evasion and other crimes in 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, plus 3 years probation, according to the Wikipedia article. He was released in 2015 and charged with mail fraud, conspiracy, and contempt; though convicted of contempt charges by a jury, he was ultimately acquitted by the judge.

Mr. Hovind is scheduled to lead seminars next weekend. You may read about his crackpot “theories” in some detail in Ms. Bunch’s article. Besides being a creationist, which, yes, I consider a crackpot theory, Mr. Hovind believes in various conspiracy theories such as the conceit that

creationism is not taught in public schools due to a New World Order conspiracy, established by Satan and involving Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, the British Royal Family, the State of Israel, the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. government officials, business leaders, and social activists[;]

the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks; and the government is conspiring to withhold the long-discredited drug laetrile. It is impressive that Ms. Bunch and her paper ran a real news article detailing Mr. Hovind’s frankly lunatic opinions, rather than just credulously gave free publicity to a local church.

Acknowledgement. Thanks once again to the indefatigable Dan Phelps for providing the link.

Ardea herodias

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Great blue heron
Ardea herodias, great blue heron. It is always exciting to see a great blue heron, and we have posted heron pictures no less than four times before. Usually, in Walden Ponds, Boulder, Colorado, we see a heron or two, once in a while three. This year, people have reported counting between 24 and 30 at one time. This picture shows six or eight herons (I am not sure of one or two), and there were more on a sand bar behind these birds and yet more off to the right – probably 15 or so, but who is counting? No one seems to know precisely why there are so many herons this year. They are not herd animals (they are birds, so I suppose we would say they do not flock), and these seem to be pretty much ignoring each other. Why so many this year? Does anyone know? Are people seeing the same phenomenon elsewhere? Yes, I performed a Web search and came up with nothing.



Heron pictures in the Panda’s Thumb archive: photographs by Reed Cartwright, Matt Young, Matt Young, and Tom Gillespie (photography contest, honorable mention).

Highly favorable review of God’s Word or Human Reason?

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Book cover

Highly favorable, if not rave review of God’s Word or Human Reason?, co-edited by occasional PT contributor Jonathan Kane here. The review, by Philip Senter, shows how the book counters many of the pseudo-scientific arguments put forward by creationists, particularly in the last decade or so. Professor Senter points out that one of the strengths of the book and also one of its weaknesses are that the editors are all former creationists. As such, they know how to talk to other creationists, but also all have given up practicing Christianity, which would make them suspect. Professor Senter, a paleontologist with a degree in theology, notes, “Chapter 6 masterfully delineates a solution [to the problem of reconciling acceptance of the Bible with the paleontological record] that is both theologically sound … and consistent with the physical evidence of macroevolution and an old Earth.”

You may find Mr. Kane’s articles on similar topics here, here, and here. The first is a rebuttal to an unfavorable review of his book.


Acknowledgment. Thanks to Glenn Branch of NCSE for bringing the review to our attention.