This week I talk with film-makers Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown about their bizarre and wonderful documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs — and how a creationist amusement park in Kentucky provides a lens through which to examine the tense relationship between science, religion, and business in America. This is a conversation about what happens when premodern, modern, and postmodern worldviews duke it out on a landscape of rapid change for which none of them are sufficient. It’s about the surreal Young Earth dinosaur museums of Late Capitalism, but more, it is about our trust (or lack of trust) and where we put it when we lose the plot.
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Additional Intro Music: “Lambent” by Michael Garfield
How an Australian fundamentalist extremist ended up building a $200M “replica” of Noah’s Ark as a theme park in rural Kentucky.
How Young Earth creationists can doubt geology but trust high-energy physics: their distinction between experimental versus observational science.
The role of Big Money and economic development in the entire history of dinosaur science, and the use of dinosaurs as rhetorical tools (or “missionary lizards”).
What’s really behind the culture wars between science and religion…and how it is that fundamentalists can come to believe they’re practicing better science than the scientists.
The fractal weirdness of culture wars between different sects of American Christianity about matters of scientific investigation.
Amusement parks and museums as architectural arguments for particular worldviews.
Why so many people distrust science, and why people seek out preposterous but easy-to-understand narratives when history moves too fast for comfort.
What it looks like when 21st Century global industry meets 1st Century religious zealotry: giant warehouses full of masterfully produced educational media for Bible propaganda.
Why our origin story and Earth history will probably always be an issue of contention and an area where people will distrust scientists.
How faith and hope appears in the science of the abstract and its practitioners: both legitimate high energy physics, and illegitimate cold fusion.
Religious privilege versus religious freedom (and how trying to teach Genesis in high school biology is not about religious freedom, but power).
Entering a recombinant flux of personal worldviews, thanks to the Web, in which all possible religions exist.
What is the tipping point where an abstract risk becomes tangible enough for all of us to agree on its existence, much less a strategy for adaptation?
Bill Nye, Ken Ham, Mirta Galesic, Henrik Olsson, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, Isaac Newton, Aristophanes, Charles Darwin, Steve Brusatte, David B. Kinney, Santa Fe Institute, Large Hadron Collider, The Ark Encounter, The Smithsonian Institute, University of Kansas Natural History Museum