Darwin film controversy: What is the evolutionary value of irrational anti-science ideology?


If it is true that US distributors are wary of the new British film “Creation,” about Charles Darwin, due to controversy and pressure generated by the anti-science irrationality of religious ideologues, what might it suggest about the prospects for the US being able to deal with climate change on the basis of scientific, evidence-based thought?

Hopefully the film, which premiered September 10 on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival, will find its US audience, who can judge it on its own merits.  But there is a problem that film distribution alone won’t solve.

Toronto film festival raises curtain on “Creation”

The UK Telegraph reports:

Charles Darwin film ‘too controversial for religious America’

A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.

Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as “a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder”. His “half-baked theory” directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to “atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering”, the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as “a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying”.

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

“That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said….

A Gallup survey earlier this year found that only 39% of the US public believes in evolution. What other configurations of belief and degree of openness to scientific thinking and empirical inquiry is that finding an indicator of?  What might this suggest about America’s future prospects in the 21st century?  What is the evolutionary value of anti-science ideology?

See our earlier posts:

Peter Gleick on “New McCarthyism: Fear of science and the war on rationality”

Just out: “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future”

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