Doesn't the story of Charles Darwin deserve a good movie with A-list talent? After all, the movie industry has no problem making movie about murderers, criminals, addicts, villains and jerks -- surely they could find some time for the man whose theory of evolution by natural selection is probably the greatest idea ever thought. And as someone who grew up in a family of scientists (my father and brother are professors and my mother does research), was raised with a respect and admiration for how science works and the people who devote their lives to it, and has been to the Galapagos Islands (the holy land for scientists), I firmly believe that a great film about Darwin is possible and way overdue.
I hoped that Creation, starring Paul Bettany and Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, would be that film. Sadly, I was wrong. Watch my ReThink Review of Creation below and my discussion with Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks about how many Americans believe in evolution, how many believe the Flinstones is a documentary, and why people who claim they don't believe in evolution actually do.
I realize that Creation was not made to be the story of how Darwin discovered his theory of evolution, but I think it should have spent a bit more time on the topic. Otherwise, it becomes like Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ, a movie about Jesus that spends almost no time on his revolutionary, paradigm-shifting teachings and focuses most of its energy showing him being beaten like a human pinata.
Sadly, the sustained attacks on science that began during the Bush Jr. administration -- when it was decided that any science that disagreed with party/religious ideology should be ignored -- have continued, intensified, and in some cases, even gained ground. As the New York Times recently reported, some of these attackers are beginning to join forces -- as in the case of creationists and climate change deniers -- believing that mounting an all-out assault on science as a concept is a good way to achieve their very narrow religious/political/ideological/cultural/economic goals. And scientists -- never known for their PR, communication and lobbying skills -- have done a poor job fighting back, partly because they made the rational assumption that the science and logic of their arguments were so overwhelming that they no longer needed defending. If only the world really worked that way.
That's why I put much of the blame on the media for why only 39% of Americans believe in evolution and just 35% believe that humans are causing climate change. The media has fallen for the FOX "News" myth of "balance", believing that two minutes of truth should be "balanced" by two minutes of lies, then essentially calling the discussion a draw without identifying which side is which. One of the many problems with this is that it gives a major advantage to the liars and the fringe. If what you're saying is a massive lie, you don't have to convince people that it's true to be victorious -- you just have to confuse them to the point that they're not sure if it's a lie or not.
"Balance" is also why a biologist representing the work of thousands of scientists and decades of research on evolution is given as much airtime as a single crackpot who claims (with no credible evidence) that humans lived with dinosaurs as recently as 10,000 years ago. By giving the anti-science fringe an equal amount of representation in the discussion as the overwhelming majority of scientists and thousands of peer-reviewed studies, the implication is that the two sides hold equal weight and, as importantly, that there is even a discussion to be had. This also leads to the media creating a horrible double standard, where inconsequential details like the "Climategate" emails and the IPCC's claim on melting glaciers are held up to the most intense scrutiny while James Inhofe goes unchallenged when he proclaims that global warming is a hoax because they feel cold. After all, if there are not two sides to a discussion because one side has no credible evidence, "balance" cannot be achieved.
I was surprised to learn that belief in evolution decreases with age. Maybe it's a result of my upbringing, but I always imagined that people got, you know, smarter over time. But the fact that the opposite seems to happen in the case of evolution should be seen as an indictment of the media, which is doing a woeful job of reinforcing some of the better lessons we learned in school -- even when they represent possibly the best lesson humans have ever learned about our planet and ourselves.
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