I read a news report today that I find quite amazing.
If you look back a few posts to my review of Tarantino’s new film ‘Inglorious Basterds’ you’ll see I mentioned a few other films that I’m eager to see in the next few months. One of which is ‘Creation’ – a film based on the life and struggle of Charles Darwin before, during and after he wrote On the Origin of Species, battling between his faith and his science with his highly religious wife. As you can read from the report I’ve linked above, however, no film distributor in the US will show Creation when it is released because they deem it to be ‘too controversial’ to show it in there, citing statistics that only 39% of US citizens believe the theory of evolution over intelligent design.
If you’ve read what few posts I’ve written about my own beliefs, you’ll know that I’m an hesistent atheist, I don’t believe in the Bible and miracles etc. though I’m hesitant to say outright that there is no God and shoulder some belief in a higher power, possibly not supernatural or omnipotent but something we’ve come to identify as God. However, my stance on evolution is unfaultering, it is, in my mind, simply a fact. If you choose to stop reading here because my belief doesn’t concur with yours and you believe that my opinion is of no futher validity because of that fact, then goodbye, the exit button is on the top-right of the window, or if you’re using a Mac the top-left. My own beliefs (and the fact that I’m reading ‘The God Delusion’ at the moment) aside it seems incredible that simply the faith, fundamental or otherwise, of a nation can have such a massive influence on the film industry simply because it involves Darwin and Evolution, regardless of it’s story or it’s visual integrity or simply whether or not it’s a good film, as a film.
Granted, everybody is entitled to their opinion, a policy I exercise on a regular basis in this very blog and indeed it would be most hypocritical of me not to consider the other side of the coin, I delight in doing so. But it seems to me that, regardless of your opinion of the theory of evolution and the story of creation and, by extension, intelligent design (note: for fairness I use theory/story as both suggest but neither affirm truth), there is no reason to, passively I’ll admit, ban this film from cinemas. I’m not going to go into the evidence or reasons that I myself have for believing, as I most firmly do, in Evolution as biological fact because I’m simply not a biologist and could offer no articulate reasoning. I don’t believe that there is an alien man in a blue box travelling through time and space either but I’ll still watch Doctor Who, the same applies, even if you don’t believe or accept something as truth is no reason to cause such controversy about a film depicting it as truth. The premise of the film isn’t even the validity, or lack thereof if you want, of the theory of evolution, it is simply a character piece on the man himself (based on a fictionalised account of the events written by Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, in 2000), who was a scientist, not the devil. Although some would have you believe otherwise…
I’m being very British and doing my utmost to be fair and polite but I was astounded and somewhat sickened to read in the report about the comments on Darwin by a Christian film review website movieguide.org, which apparentely is quite influential in America. There is no review of the film itself (nor, by the sounds of it, will there ever be) but there is a review of a newly released book called “Darwin’s Racists” (mentioning they only rarely review books if they are noteworthy, describing this as “timely”), the review itself (as you will also see quoted in the news report) says that ‘Darwin’s Racist’s’ “exposes the real Charles Darwin: a racist, a bigot and 1800′s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder. This well written book shows that Adolf Hitler, along with other genocidal mass murderers, was influenced by Darwin’s half-baked Theory of Evolution. This book exposes Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for what it is: an elitist and racist dogma that has infiltrated our every area of culture thereby undermining sense and sensibility.”
Now, if I may exercise my own right to opinion, this is outright ridiculous. Charles Darwin, being the scientist that he was, observed and drew up his theory with, initially, no idea how controversial it would be until he began to develop it. Even when he had collaborated his theory it sat there, take it or leave it. It was down to Hitler to, as is frequently alleged, interpret this into the baffling view that the Germans make up a Master Race that should dominate the globe. I can’t think of a decent analogy to use to expostulate this point further, and I’ve really tried, but the point is that Hitler was responsible for how he interpreted Darwin’s findings, and he was responsible for the actions he took and attrocities he committed based on his own interpretation. Charles Darwin was an amicable and benevolent scientist who created a theory and was in no way responsible for the interpretation of his theory and despicable actions of Adolf Hitler a full 80 years later (and 57 years after Darwin had died). Where, in Darwin’s findings, does he so much as hint that his findings suggest that Germans had evolved differently, let alone superior, to the rest of humanity. If I recall correctly, which I may not and can find little evidence either way so forgive me a brief freestyle, I believe Darwin says relatively little on the evolutionary origins of humans specifically and focuses more broadly on other animals and plants, perhaps knowing what uproar a direct and clear contradiction of intelligent design and “God….Man….Own Likeness” would cause, though he (evidently) wasn’t subtle enough. I will grant you that there are links, but the Bible itself teaches responsibility for one’s own actions, so shouldn’t this arguement make perfect sense to you instead of using it as cannon fodder to slander Darwin. I should note here that I am referencing all genocidal murderers throughout history to which the review refers under the same arguement as I have done with Hitler, much as I am referencing all variations on Christianity into the same title as simply Christianity and not uniquely considering each slight variation thereupon.
We didn’t see Passion of the Christ banned (again, banned is not literally what’s happened but it is close) because it doesn’t conform with Muslim views, of which there are nearly 100,000 permanent residents in the US. We didn’t see Inglourious Basterds or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas banned because it dealt with the Holocaust, Nazism and World War 2 which may upset the 5.3 million Jewish citizens in America. Why is it that the majority, as Christianity is with 76% of the US population, can yield such authority when the United States Bill of Rights expressly forbad any sort of official state religion or for that religion to have any kind of governing power, the Bill of Rights offered total and equal freedom of religion. So why has the US film industry been so easily persuaded not to show this film owing to the controversy it could cause from a religious group if the US has that?
You may say, given that this film was deemed too controversial and not actually banned, that I am exaggerating, but clearly the problem was sufficient for the US film industry to reject any kind of sales from this film, and that suggests a serious issue arising. Granted, the Christian lobby in the US has had no political or governing power to use to stop this film being shown in the States, and technically they haven’t, but if the film industry was so swayed by the controversy that it could, and probably will (even without being shown), cause from the uproar that 76% of America can cause, then something isn’t right. It’s close to scaremongering.
Having read the first 100-pages of ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, I found it hard to fathom or even believe that the extent to which Dawkin’s describes the US to be devout theists in the twenty-first century. Lo and behold, once I started reading this book, a report such as this appears, were I a supersticious or religious man I might even call it fate, or God. It’s still, nevertheless, hard for me to grasp such a scale that people hold this belief living in the UK, where though there is no an absence of religion, controversy is limited by our general British politeness to quiet frustration and the voice of Christianity itself is a clear but calm voice (the gentle eccentric tea-drinking vicar that Dawkins paints is still going strong in the UK) that has undoubtedly allowed me to maintain friendships with Christians who, in a more fundamentalist environment, may not be so accepting of me, and possibly nor me of him. Though, I should mention, this is not entirely the case and I know a fair few fundamentalist Christians who are less sporting in a fair debate with me as the ones I am friends with.
As usual for ANY of my posts, feel free to reply with comments arguing for or against my view, even if you just want to insult me, that’s your choice. I have conjectured my opinion with as much evidence as I feel is necessary (carefully avoiding the subject of evolution vs intelligent design, I’m not a biologist so could offer no intelligent or articulate evidence myself) so if you will write a rebuke to my words, back it up with evidence and I will gladly listen.