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Science and Faith at the Movies: “Creation,” Part 1

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March 29, 2011 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now

Today's entry was written by Brian Godawa. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Science and Faith at the Movies: “Creation,” Part 1

This is part of filmmaker Brian Godawa's series "Science and Faith at the Movies." The full paper on Creation can be found here. Godawa, together with filmmaker, Michael Corwin produced the BioLogos video, "Are Science and Faith in Conflict?"

In this new column I will review both recent and past movies that deal with the issues surrounding science and faith. If you read my preliminary paper, you know that I consider storytelling to have as much influence on the cultural conversation as science and politics. The discourse of imagination, though different in how it operates from the rational and empirical disciplines, is just as legitimate an aspect of our human quest for truth. In light of that goal, I thought it would be most fitting to start this column with a review of Creation, the biopic about Charles Darwin, the patron saint of evolution.

This movie telegraphs its intent on the opening title card that it is the story about how The Origin of the Species, “the biggest single idea in the history of thought” came to be written and published in 1859. As anyone educated in the history of ideas knows, paradigms and grand narratives do not originate in a vacuum of intellectual abstraction or objective scientific observation. They are often birthed through a confluence of new discoveries as well as the cultural zeitgeist fertilizing the idiosyncratic history, psyche, and imagination of their authors. Creation makes the argument that Darwin’s Origin is no exception to this rule, thereby crafting a deeply personal look at the rich genealogy of this world changing book in the noble sufferings of a reluctant but brave scientist.

This is a rather dour and somber period British story, not the light fanfare of Jane Austen fans, but a smartly crafted, melodramatic bittersweet love story between Charles and his dearly devoted wife, Emma. Charles is depicted as losing his faith, and Emma is a Christian believer, so their tumultuous relationship becomes a metaphor for the very “warfare of science and religion” that was being constructed in the progressive circles of European naturalists of the day. Charles Darwin, played with a personal and private sensitivity by Paul Bettany is nicely complemented by the Victorian yet loving austerity of Jennifer Connelley as Emma Darwin.

The very spirit of the era is captured in the desaturated cinematography of Jess Hall, using wide angle close ups of drab or cluttered environments and intimate microzooms to capture the world through the eyes of 19th century naturalists -- a world of detailed examination of the processes, pieces and minutiae of nature. One poignant visual moment is when we follow Charles’ eyes at a picnic to a little rat in the grass. The camera zooms in, following the rat up to a cattle skull in the ground where time lapse shows us the maggots that breed, and are picked up by a bird for her chicks. One of the chicks falls to the ground, dies, and is eaten by bugs and maggots form again. A cinematic depiction of the cycle of nature red in tooth and claw, life founded upon death.

Though the movie depicts evolution as an enemy of God, Emma is not unfairly portrayed as the typical Hollywood version of an uneducated fanatical zealot. Yes, she cares for her husband’s soul, and tells him she doesn’t want to see him end up in hell, but it comes out of a deeply held conviction and true love for her spouse. A portrayal of their different view of life is embodied in a contrast of their focused activities: he in joyfully recording minute details of his daughter’s physical growth while Emma plays passionately beautiful music on the piano -- a Thomistic portrait of nature versus grace, or is this a more balanced picture of the beauty of science and the science of beauty?

Even the Reverend Innes, played with caring sensitivity by Jeremy Northam, is not a preachy oppressive authoritarian, but rather a man of his time, sincerely affirming the consensus view. In fact, Darwin becomes as much at fault for their eventual breakup when he lashes out at Innes from his own intolerance. And the movie also portrays some of the very science and medicine of the day in all its glaring weaknesses showing its own share of superstition. Charles spurns the Reverend’s religion that makes his daughter kneel on stones at religious school as punishment for asserting her belief in dinosaurs (only recently discovered) but engages in the now laughable hydrotherapy and sweating treatment to purify the blood. So science and religion are not as black and white opposites as first supposed.

The assumed enmity between God and evolution is incarnate in the first frames of the film when we see a series of images of nature ascending in complexity from bacterium all the way up to a human fetus, which has its little hand out in the pose from Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting, The Creation of Adam. But in this case there is no creator’s hand to meet it, just the title of the movie. Charles tells the true story of Captain Fitzroy attempting to “civilize” captured native children from the del Fuego tribe with Christian culture, only to fail when taking them back to their people for evangelism. The children discard their western garb and instantly turn back into their little savage selves, thus displaying the incompetence of Christianity to understand human nature.

T.H. Huxley, played with vindictive acidity by Toby Jones, arrives to challenge Darwin to write his book based on his new ideas of natural selection and descent with modification. Huxley spews his venom with delight, “You killed God, sir. And I for one say good riddance to the vindictive old bugger. Science is at war with religion. And when we win, we’ll finally be rid of those damned archbishops and their threats of eternal punishment.”

Charles is deeply troubled by this antagonism because of his apparent commitment to the church as a social binding force. He is visibly sickened and will be so for the rest of the story, because of the very implications of his pursuits being against his tradition as well as his wife’s beliefs. This is a man who does not have the same hostility toward religion that his enemies do. For him, to lose God is to lose everything. As he states to his daughter in answer to her question of why he is troubled, “Suppose the whole world stopped believing God had a plan for us. Nothing mattered. Not love, trust, faith, not honor. Only brute survival. Apart from everything else, it would break your mother’s heart.”

But this is not just a love story of man and wife; this is also a story of Charles’ tortured love for his favorite eldest daughter Annie, played with lively vigor by Martha West. Annie became ill and died at age ten. The movie’s use of non-linear storytelling allows us to see contemporary events in their context with past events surrounding Annie and her special relationship with Charles in order to craft a deep identification between the two. And the filmmakers also effectively use a technique of Charles talking to a figment of his own imagination of Annie to show his guilt haunting him.

We ultimately see that in Annie’s death lies the emotional crux between Charles and Emma and with Charles’ own lack of faith in God. For the very thing that brought anger with a “loving” God, the death of his most beloved child, a mirror of his own intellectual curiosity, also becomes the one thing that haunts him as he writes his Origin. As He writes his book about survival of the fittest we discover that Charles’ marriage to his first cousin Emma is in fact an example of the weak genes of such interbreeding being weeded out by survival.

But Charles cannot accept this. Because of his love for his dying daughter, he fights against his own theory of survival of the fittest. He cannot allow the weak to die, and he behaves in an altruistic Christ-like fashion by leaving his family flock to save his one sheep by bringing her to a cure center far away in the town of Malvern. In a deeply moving and ironic exchange of places, Emma, the Christian, chooses the evolutionary path of staying with her brood of children instead of going with him -- and never forgives herself for it.

When Charles himself goes to the same cure center for the same hydrotherapy years later, we see through intercuts of Annie’s water therapy years earlier a sort of religious atonement that Charles engages in taking on the guilt of his child’s suffering and seeking to purge the sins of his blood. He even prays to the God he has not yet left to be a sacrificial substitute: “Take me if you must take someone.” So, in a sense, we see a man who does not want to accept the perceived consequences of his own ideas, who seeks to maintain the very meaning and purpose in life that he believes his theory has expunged. He is a tormented soul.

We eventually learn that Annie’s death is what drove Emma to faith for comfort, and Charles to science. It is not until Charles heals his relationship with Emma that he overcomes his physical sickness. And when he comes face to face with Emma’s unchanging love for Charles, he is reborn in a marriage that would last until he died at age 73. In a creative scene of renewed intimacy, Charles and Emma make love, but it is not the raw physical “scientific” details of the natural sex act that is shown, but rather, the afterglow of intimate human connection, the spiritual side of love. This pivotal moment serves to highlight the relationship of Charles and Emma as one of deep love despite their personal religious differences, and may in fact be an analogy for how faith and love transcends the physical world.

Charles finishes the book and in a daring scene of renewed trust in his wife, asks her to read it and make the decision of what to do with it: publish or let it perish. She looks at him with surprise as he tells her, “Someone needs to take God’s side in all this.” Well, we all know what happened: the book was published. So in the last moments of the film, now Emma looks into his eyes and says with bittersweet love for him, “And so. You’ve finally made an accomplice of me.” Perhaps the filmmakers are seeking to make a metaphor here of an uneasy harmony between faith and science that avoids the hostility of atheism while seeking an honest pursuit of science no matter where it leads.

But the journey of Charles Darwin in this movie is one of a troubled soul in conflict with his pursuit of truth. The very suffering and death that he personally experienced with his own beloved child and echoed in a world built upon mass extinction and death is a legitimate concern for the Christian who believes in a loving God. One poignant moment occurs in the film when Reverend Innes attempts to comfort Charles with the glib, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways.” Charles responds, “Yes he does, doesn’t he. He has endowed us in all of his blessed generosity with not one but 900 species of intestinal worms. And on the love he shows butterflies by inventing a wasp that lays its eggs inside the living flesh of caterpillars.”

Brian will continue his series this Thursday with a look at creation and the problem of evil.


Brian Godawa is the screenwriter of To End All Wars and other feature films. He has written and directed documentaries on church-state relations, stem cell research and higher education politics. He is the author of Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment (InterVarsity Press) and Chronicles of the Nephilim, a series of fantasy novels about Biblical heroes within their ancient Near Eastern mythological context. He speaks around the country to churches, high schools and colleges on movies, worldviews and faith. His movie blog can be found at godawa.com/movieblog/.

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conrad - #55953

March 29th 2011

Why would a movie about evolution carry the title of “Creation”/

Shouldn’t that title be reserved for a movie about Edwin Hubbel featuring Father George Lemaitre as the church man?

And,.....DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT?


John VanZwieten - #55965

March 29th 2011

Conrad,

Maybe you could try engaging with the content of the post rather than just trotting out the same stuff you post in every other thread.

Why do you think the moviemaker might chose the title Creation for this film?


S. Scott Mapes - #55962

March 29th 2011

What is presented in the film agrees well with I have understood about Darwin’s life to this point.  It sounds like a well-done film.  I will be certain to see it.  Also, truth always has a way of inconveniencing our lives, just as it did for Darwin.  In fact, if we aren’t inconvenienced in some small way at least, I’m not sure that we have encountered, biblical or otherwise.


conrad - #55968

March 29th 2011

“Charles is depicted as losing his faith, and Emma is a Christian believer, so their tumultuous relationship becomes a metaphor for the very “warfare of science and religion” that was being constructed in the progressive circles of European naturalists of the day”

 Losing his faith? I think Darwin described himself as an agnostic at the end and he never believed that evolution produced “creation”. We owe that exageration to the movie producers
 He only explained ,....speciation,.. not the origin of life,... and certainly not the univers’s physical  origin.
 Cosmology and quantum mechanics deal with the subject of the physical “creation” of the universe,.. AND IF DARWIN HAD LIVED TO LEARN ABOUT THE “BIG BANG” I AM SURE HIS FAITH IN GOD’S CREATION ROLE WOULD HAVE BEEN RESTORED.


conrad - #55973

March 29th 2011

Why do you think the moviemaker might chose the title Creation for this film?


It seems to me they are attacking those who believe in God.
 Why they are doing that I don not know.
 Darwin did not attack anyone’s belief in God.
 Our web site founder Dr. Collins sees no conflict.
 But Hollywood and others insist they are incompatible.


The old play “Inherit the Wind” did the same thing and totally savaged Wm. Jennings Bryan.
 WHY?
Why do you thiink they do it?<!—/uploads/static-content/comment_flag.png—>


John VanZwieten - #55990

March 29th 2011

A little surfing and I found this description of how the movie got its title:

Freedoms notwithstanding, taking Annie’s Box [the name of the book the movie is based on] from page to screen was a complex task, as Creation director Jon Amiel explains. “I was very clear that I didn’t want to make a drama documentary, I definitely didn’t want to make a biopic, and I wasn’t even greatly interested in making a period film,” he says. “But as I came to know Darwin, I became more and more passionate about the film I thought we could make: one which points a finger towards the grand issue of life and creation but which was also about the act of creation itself.”
 
( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/entertainment/creation/6137379/Creation-from-book-to-screen.html )

So the title is based on the fact that it’s a story of the creation of a theory of life’s creation.  Seems rather apropriate to me.


conrad - #55984

March 29th 2011

“As He writes his book about survival of the fittest we discover that Charles’ marriage to his first cousin Emma is in fact an example of the weak genes of such interbreeding being weeded out by survival.”

  This is where Darwinism takes it’s NAZI twist.
 
There is nothing in our understanding of the genome that validates merciless extermination of the “weak”.
Learning how to repair genetic defects and give loving support to the weak is equally construed from our added understanding of DNA.
 Hitler sent retarded people to the gas chamber and Nietsche talked about Superman but science does not prove that line of thought to be superior.

 A strong society comes from supporting the weak not annihilating them.
 Strength for the human race’s survival gomes from God’s love where strengths are shares with the weak.
 The so-called harsh truth Darwin was portrayed as resisting is in fact NO TRUTH AT ALL.
 SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST SOCIETIES FALL  WHEREAS SOCIETIES THAT TRY TO HELP EVERYONE SURVIVE FLOURISH.
 Even when survival is assigned the highest value, religion is more valuable in bringing about survival of the society than cold rejection of the “unfit”.... and “survival of the fittest”.


John VanZwieten - #55992

March 29th 2011

There is nothing in our understanding of the genome that validates merciless extermination of the “weak”.

So don’t you find interesting a story about Darwin himself doing the opposite of what some have proposed as a “take-away” based on his theory?


conrad - #55996

March 29th 2011

John,
 Yes I do find the story interesting.
It show how far the “Darwinians” have distorted the historical Darwin.
 “Darwinian evolution” has become the grand unified title of anti-Christianity.

And by extension science has been  projected as atheistic.
But this is bunk.
 Science and religion agree.
 And Darwin himself wanted love and care for the weak and was a purveyer of God’s love not “The Devil take the hindmost” ,..“survival of the fittest” bunk.
 So why has he become the symbol and the diety for atheists?
 
Well because the actual parallelism and mutual affirmation of science and religion has not been stressed.
 AND IT IS STILL NOT BEING STRESSED.

Try getting people to realizew that the “expanse” separating “waters” on Day 2 of “Creation” ,,,,represents Guth cosmic inflation ... where quantum fluctuations leadvto the WMAP satellite’s anisotropy map of cosmic microwave background radiation THAT,..
 IN TURN WAS THE BLUEPRINT FOR ALL GALAXIES AND SOLAR SYSTEMS LIKE THE ONE WE LIVE IN.
 PEOPLE WILL SAY… “Whoa! Now you are WAY off topic!!! That was a solid roof that God created on day two.”


John - #55998

March 29th 2011

conrad:
”“Darwinian evolution” has become the grand unified title of anti-Christianity.”

So non-Darwinian evolution would be pro-Christianity? Tell me more. 


conrad - #56015

March 29th 2011

John,
  NonDarwinian evolution attributes the adaptation capabilities of life forms to  an all-wise God who wanted a form of life for every ecologic niche ,..... and therefore created the ability to mutate,..... deliberately.

 Think of an adjustable wrench.

  Its adaptability was a feature deliberately created to make it more useful.
 In fact the language of Day 5 refers to an infinitely variable host of life forms, created together,not many individual fixed life forms.

God invented evolution.
The existence of evolution does NOT support atheism or contradict the Bible.
 Charles Darwin did not make himself an atheist.
OTHERS PORTRAY HIM AS ATHEIST,
We call this others “Darwinian evolutionists”,.. although it is a misnomer.


Headless Unicorn Guy - #56041

March 30th 2011

”“Darwinian evolution” has become the grand unified title of anti-Christianity.”

And the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory of Christianity.


Brian - #56007

March 29th 2011

Great Post. Thank you. Also - lets stick to the point of the post and not others.


Marv Falconburg - #56048

March 30th 2011

As a modern Christian, I accept science, including evolution as truth.  I enjoyed this movie very much and found it to be a good representation of the struggle of a man coming to grips with evidence that challenges his worldview and religion.  I especially liked how they made it personal and showed the tension in relationships with his wife and pastor.  My favorite scene is towards the end, when he presents the completed manuscript to his wife and gives her the choice of what to do with it.  We all have that choice….to ignore it….to burn it….or to read it!  I suggest we read it.


penman - #56053

March 30th 2011

I’ve seen the film at least twice (I lose count these days of how many times I’ve watched a DVD). It’s definitely worth watching: visually striking & vividly acted. My copy also has some extras including a surprisingly big section of interviews with three thinkers - a TE?EC (Denis Alexander himself), a YEC, & an atheist evolutionary scientist. Don’t know if these are on the American version.

I had two qualms:

1 - I thought the science vs religion angle was overstressed to the point of becoming a bit simplistic. It was actually hugely complex. Nick Spencer’s book “Darwin and God” is a brilliant & user-friendly exploration that gives a more accurate picture. (Nick Spencer appears in the extras offering comments.)

2 - The portrayal of T.H.Huxley made him a caricature, a 19th century Christopher Hitchens. The real Huxley was (again) far more complex. He was quite self-consciously & outspokenly NOT an atheist but an agnostic (I think he coined the term), he had a good grasp of theological issues, & he could be surprisingly sympathetic in his critiques of religion.


Brian Godawa - #56120

March 30th 2011

Penman,

You have your finger on one of the disadvantages of movies: They have to sometimes be oversimplified for the sake of time and drama, which does not always lend itself well to nuanced approach.

Characters like Huxley will of necessity almost always be caricatured because you have to communicate the essence of the man that is related to the theme of your story or suffer confusion in the story. Basically, storytellers, like everyone exclude some things and include some things based on the bigger picture of their agenda or theme.


Gregory - #56055

March 30th 2011

Yes, thanks for this, Brian. I too watched and enjoyed the film. In fact, I’ll be addressing clips from it in a presentation this Friday on ‘evolution’ (& ‘creation’). Would recommend it, but don’t think it comes off well for ‘theistic Darwinists’ especially, and even for tamer theistic evolution/evolutionary creation in general. This film does not ‘smooth over’ things about his life that are uncomfortable for such persons; we are left with Bethany’s discomforted look & walk-aways & indeed haunted memories.

“As He writes his book about survival of the fittest we discover that Charles’ marriage to his first cousin Emma is in fact an example of the weak genes of such interbreeding being weeded out by survival.” - Brian

Yes, the (relatively) close genetic relationship between them is an issue. We should also be reminded that ‘survival of the fittest’ was a term Darwin borrowed from fellow Englishman Herbert Spencer (military->industrial society). This also marks the recognition that storytelling can “have as much influence on the cultural conversation as science and politics.”

The ‘nature is a battlefield’ scene, which Rev. Henslow (?) nods towards Charles as if those were his views, is also an important demonstration of the churchmen holding the more ‘altruistic’ or ‘socially responsible’ viewpoint.

“So much beauty for so little purpose,” says Darwin in the film.

”[W]e see a man who does not want to accept the perceived consequences of his own ideas, who seeks to maintain the very meaning and purpose in life that he believes his theory has expunged. He is a tormented soul.” - Brian

I agree with your assessment if I understand it, Brian, and wonder if you would mind fleshing it out a bit more. There is a great tension in this man, which might also have influenced his ill health.

Do you mean to suggest that Darwin (the real man or character in the film) perceived/believed that the consequences of his ideas would be to expunge (people’s views of) meaning & purpose in life? Why does he not want to accept these consequences if he believes them to be true; doesn’t their scientific truth justify him in properly accepting them? Is his a tormented soul because he feels ‘forced’ or ‘fated’ into this position, the ‘scientist/naturalist’ who has made an ‘objective’ discovery that have affected his ‘subjective’ views of the world?

In this sense the term ‘Darwinist’ may not apply if the person in question doesn’t ‘feel ill’ about the prospect of, what Darwin says in the film, which you quote:
“Suppose the whole world stopped believing God had a plan for us. Nothing mattered. Not love, trust, faith, not honor. Only brute survival. Apart from everything else, it would break your mother’s heart.” Even if a person doesn’t have a spouse with a different worldview, they should ‘feel ill’ if faced with the consequences of this theoretical perspective that Darwin held & was articulating, interwoven with his natural-physical scientific observations & evidence-gathering.

This seems to be the key message the screenwriter wishes to express regarding Darwin’s views of his own theory. Darwin as such is portrayed as a victim. In this light, can ‘Darwinism’ be thought of today as a ‘neutral’ scientific theory, whether in biological or other sciences?

p.s. hey, conrad, it’s an artistic film, right? not a documentary either…


Brian Godawa - #56124

March 30th 2011

Gregory wrote:

“Do you mean to suggest that Darwin (the real man or character in the film) perceived/believed that the consequences of his ideas would be to expunge (people’s views of) meaning & purpose in life?”

Only that the filmmakers were making that point. I am not well read enough to say either way, although it seems to me to make logical and medical sense that a sickness can come from suppression of cognitive dissonance. Sociologists would argue that the cognitive dissonance comes from the social values embedded in his cultural experience. He was a VIctorian who retained the residue of his Victorian morality, and that’s what hurt him. Maybe so, but that does not address the truth or falsity of those values, which is another discussion. There is a book that seems to suggest this that BioLogos recommends called, “Darwin: The Life of A Tormented Evolutionist.”

“Darwin as such is portrayed as a victim.”

Absolutely. And isn’t that the way to portray heroes these days in our cultural of victimization? Let’s face it, The Passion of the Christ was Gibson’s argument to a postmodern culture that CHRIST was the ultimate victim. I’m not saying it is wrong, just that our particular cultural prejudices privilege victim status, which can have good and bad ramifications.

This is also the standard portrayal of geniuses in movies as persecuted by ignorance because they are ahead of their time. 


S. Scott Mapes - #56073

March 30th 2011

Thank you for the post, Gregory.  As I consider Darwin’s scientific and theological dissonance regarding his discoveries, I remember Nietzsche’s reaction to those who were celebrating his “God is dead discovery.”  Quoting a French priest, he warned, “Carcasse, tu tremble?  Tu tremblerai bien d’avantage, si tu savais ou je te mene.”  Translation:  “You piece of meat, you’re trembling (with excitement)?  You will tremble (with fear) much more, if you understood where I am taking you.”  Even the great atheist himself had a fear about where his whole endeavor was taking mankind. 


Joe Francis - #56255

March 31st 2011

Brian,  thanks for your post.  that is helpful.  In the YEC circles where I tend to hang-out, there is a growing consensus that species fixity as an idea is dead; in fact it is not really considered to be a biblically based idea.  It seems like Darwin was eventually driven to his atheist position for two reasons; his inability to reconcile a good God with natural evil and the concept of species fixity which was associated with Christian theism.  Do you think he would have viewed evolution as a Godless process if species fixity was not the only theist alternative?


Brian G - #56357

April 1st 2011

Joe,

It is possible Darwin may have thought differently, but…

I doubt it because I believe man prioritizes his morality and personal agenda over “facts.”


Larry - #56257

March 31st 2011

One modern proponent of species fixity is Hugh Ross. He still apparently (somehow) maintains a belief that no new species have appeared on the earth since the arrival of modern humans. It would seem that he does this by using the term ‘species’ to mean an undefined taxonomic level, a defintion that is not found in the biological literature. However, seeing that his understanding of biology is at least several decades (if not several centuries) behind the times this is not suprising. Most of what RTB presents on the subject of evolutionary biology is so laughably inaccurate, and riddled with flaws, that it makes much of what can be found on AIG or ICR appear to be first-rate scholarship in comparison.


conrad - #56337

April 1st 2011

“Suppose the whole world stopped believing God had a plan for us. Nothing mattered. Not love, trust, faith, not honor. Only brute survival. Apart from everything else, it would break your heart ”
 The point you are making is the same as the one Wm Jennings Bryan had prepared to make at the Scopes trial.
 He was prevented from making his speech as a closing argument by Darrow’s courtroom tricks  but he wrote down the speech and had it publidhed then died 1 week later.
I recently purcchased a rare copy of his ubdelivered remarks. He did not say evolution was non-existent or incorrect he just supported a law preventing it from replacing the Bible story in the schools because he ssaid humanity needed to be taught to be better not just smarter and the Bible’s message of love was more important .

The evolutionists of his day were also eugenecists who worried about Jukes and Kakalicacks and looked admiringly at Nietzsche.
Bryan was right  the Bible was still needed.


Brian G - #56355

April 1st 2011

Conrad,
You make good points here. In fact, I wrote a movie about the trial called “Alleged” that should come out this year. I wrote it when I was a young earther, which I am no longer. But we have all the things you mention in the film. Maybe I’ll cover it here when it comes out.


Joe Francis - #56404

April 1st 2011

Brian and Conrad,

Good discussion, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference on the Scopes trial.  Like so many things, there is not a lot of “black and white” with respect to the sides being clearly drawn.  With respect to eugenics, many Christian believers were also involved…it appears that progressivism was something common to both sides and racism was commonly accepted…Bryan even struggled with this and was not free from its stronghold.   The textbook used in the trial was written by a christian man (George Hunter) and his text was filled more eugenics than evolution.






Good discussion.  Don’t want to get off track, I have attended some conferences at Bryan College regarding the Scopes trial.  It is not all black and white.


Jon Garvey - #56500

April 2nd 2011

This is a good example of how “absorbed” worldview colours both science (despite insistence it’s all based on evidence) and faith (despite the Bible). Both camps have largely just become unconscious that eugenics/racism was ever on the agenda, or at least on their agenda - it’s handy to beat the other camp with it sometimes.  But if forced to confront it they would say, “Well, we know better now.”

But we don’t actually know better - we’ve just changed our minds and called it “better” because we now believe it.

It’s an interesting pastime to consider which of today’s “universal absolutes” will become tomorrow’s “absolute anathemas”. Whatever they are, we can be sure that the tribes of tomorrow will deny they ever had anything to do with them.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #56622

April 3rd 2011

Even though I confess that I have not seen the movie, from what I understand from the conversation and from what I have read, Darwin was very much a product of his times.  Intellectuals of his era tended to be deists who believed in a mechanistic view of the universe.  They were encouraged in this by Newton’s Laws of Motion and Adam Smith’s laws of economics, by Hegel’s and Marx’s dialectical view of history. 

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution seems to be a step forward in this trend, however it was not based on a sound scientific foundation like the ideas of Newton and Smith.  However the science of physics has come a long way since Newton and economic a long way since Smith.  “Natural selection” is still the myth that Darwin and Malthus created.  

Darwin understandably was caught in a bind between a meaningless mechanistic world based on the theory of the modern world and the human situation he found himself in.  The problem today is that many refuse to see this dilemna.  Atheists/agnostics see the universe as without meaning, but somehow their lives as meaningful.  Christians for some reason refuse to see Jesus, the Logos, as the foundation for the created universe, possibly because they think it reeks of hubris or because it takes away their ability to blame the world for everything they do not like.  

Thus God has given us the answer to this issue.  People for reasons of their own refuse to accept this answer.    


Mo - #59787

April 28th 2011

I have not seen the movie, but I did read the book the movie is based upon, formerly titled, Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution

. It completely revolutionized the way I viewed Charles Darwin. Until then, I’d seen him only as a name, as the starter of a movement, as a figure in history. But this deeply personal and very moving account helped me see him as a person. And, surprisingly, someone that I ended up liking and feeling deep compassion for.

It was heartbreaking to see how it was the loss of his beloved daughter that pushed him over the edge into denying God. I highly recommend it to everyone!


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