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“Creation,” the Movie About Charles Darwin—too Controversial for Religious USA?

(originally published September 12, 2012)

 

Creation opened the Toronto Film Festival 2009 and had British premiere on September 25. The movie relies on the book “Annie’s Box—Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Evolution,” first edition from 2001, written by Randal Keynes, a great-great-grandson of Darwin.

Creation has been sold in almost every country around the world. However, US distributors purposefully passed on the film, which they expected to prove hugely controversial in a country where only 39% of Americans accept the theory of evolution (according to a Gallup poll conducted in February 2012). Finally, the movie was released in the USA on January 22, 2010.

The creationists’ attacks on Darwin and evolution are unscientific and irrational, using tricks to stir strong emotions up and numb reason (with very few exceptions). 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 a 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 movie 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.

For the full article on the Telegraph.co.uk, by Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor, September 11, 2009, please click here.

 

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea*

*This is the title of a book by Daniel Dennett from 1995, a book this author recommends to all who want to know the full extent of Darwin’s magnificent idea.

 

 

Acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, or just evolution, is remarkably low in the USA as various polls and statistics have shown. Please, see statistics below from the New York Times here, Science 11 August 2006, Vol 313, here, and the National Geographic, here.

 

 

A recent study commissioned by the British Council reveals interesting facts (see the full spreadsheet). The study asked samples of a population of 10 countries different questions about Darwin and evolution. From among the many answers, the two below are maybe particularly interesting: as to whether people had heard of Darwin and they agreed we had scientific evidence supporting evolution.

The first column indicates the answers ‘No’ to ‘Have you heard of Darwin?’ The second column indicates the answers ‘No’ to ‘Do we have scientific evidence for evolution?’ All columns show percentages of the asked population.

 

Steve Kramer analyzed the full results for statistical significances (click here).

That 28% of the Spanish and 16% of the USA populations had not heard of Darwin is staggering. On the other side, it may surprise westerners that 90% of the Chinese and 93% of the Russians had heard of Darwin. 24% of the USA citizens deny the massive amount of scientific evidence in favor of evolution gathered throughout the last 150 years. This figure is impressive because since only 39% of all the USA population accepts evolution, this means that there are many who take the evidence for evolution as valid and yet refuse to accept it—an apparent contradiction and proof of irrational behavior for if A => B and B => C, then A => C.

Only 5% of the Chinese and 2% of the Indians disputed the scientific evidence. As to South Africa and Egypt, the figures may reflect these countries’ enormous social and economic struggle and, therefore, insufficient school and information systems—they have more pressing issues at hand than thinking of Darwin or evolution—which is not the case in the rich Western countries. However, among the South Africans that know about Darwin and evolution, only 4% dispute the scientific evidence.

It may appear surprising for westerners, not proficient in Asian culture, that Chinese and Indians seem to accept evolution much better than many westerners, even though Darwin was a western born and educated scientist. His theory of evolution by means of natural selection is a typical western idea, maybe the most brilliant product of western scientific thought.

 

The Asian Acceptance of Evolution

The Asian acceptance of evolution becomes less surprising, though, when we realize that most arguments against evolution are religious. Christianity and Islam are the religions with the highest numbers of followers, and both have a god creator and omnipotent.

Asia has Hinduism and Buddhism, and none of them precludes the notion of evolution, nor conflicts with it. In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is no god creator. In this sense, regarding Hinduism and Buddhism as religions might even be misleading. Both are more philosophies of life, a list of codes of conduct, help to self-help, than real religions based on faith alone rather than arguments of reason. Therefore, Buddhists and Hindus are more liable to welcome a sound explanation of the origins of life and evolution, when offered one, than Christians and Islamists. Western mainstream ideology and traditions are to a great extent based on matters of belief, religious oppression, faith rather than fact. That may seem paradoxical since most of the great scientific discoveries happened in the western world.

Hinduism is a way of living according to the understanding of the principles of Vedas and Upanishads. Veda is revealed knowledge, just as the knowledge of gravity was revealed to Newton. Hinduism is the world’s oldest ‘religion’. It has no single founder; it is a mixture of various traditions, practices, and lineages.

Buddhism, the largest ideology in Asia, derives from Hinduism and began with Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) who told people to assume responsibility for their lives, to search the end of suffering by modifying their lifestyle and seeking knowledge. He led by example, as human as anyone else. He gave people choices, a manual to self-help, the four noble truths and the eightfold path, all making perfect sense, no mysteries, no secrets, no threats, no holy wars.

 

Western Religion and Evolution

The Western World had an excellent chance to emulate Buddha, when Jesus of Nazareth came around some 500 years later, but didn’t. It could have given people a manual to self-help, like Buddhism’s. Instead, it made Jesus the son of God, the creator, the omnipotent, and omnipresent. The ensuing fanaticism and the church did not inspire people to seek their own fortunes by actively improving their lifestyle and searching for results. It took their responsibilities away, put all the burden on the shoulders of Jesus of Nazareth, declared him the savior of humanity, God himself (according to the Bible). Then, it created a lot of mysterious occurrences like the descent into hell and resurrection. It scared people senseless and exercised coercion—like the infamous Inquisition and the Crusades (holy wars)—declared the holiness of the church, and told the followers, “believe, repent and leave the rest to us” (or otherwise you’ll burn in hell—if we don’t burn you on Earth).

It took many years for westerners to liberate themselves from the iron hand of the church and some did it better than others for various reasons. While Europe managed that to an extent, the USA still finds it disturbing. Still, religion alone does not explain why USAnians more than Europeans find it difficult to accept evolution. Many religious Europeans reconcile their faith with evolution (and so do some USAnians). The explanation lies rather in the way USA politicians have used, and use, religion to achieve their goals. “Believe (in us) and leave the rest to us” suits them perfectly well.

 

Evolution in the USA

The USA is a country of strong emotions, of great economic and political manipulation and clever demagogues. It is maybe fitting, not by accident, that, in the USA, Darwin is also often misquoted and the “survival of the fittest” becomes “the survival of the strongest.” USA fundamentalism differs from mainstream Protestantism in both the USA and Europe. The biblical fundamentalism in the United States considers Genesis, as a true and accurate account of the creation, superseding any scientific evidence.

In contrast, mainstream Protestants in Europe (and in the USA), as well as the Catholic Church are more contemporary in the sense that they keep pace, until a certain degree, with the evolution of the world and scientific discoveries. They consider Genesis as a metaphor and are more likely to reconcile their faith with the work of Darwin and other scientists. Furthermore, evolution has been politicized in the USA in a manner never seen in Europe or anywhere else. The conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of their program to consolidate their support. In the 1990s, the Republican plans in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of creation science (see 1 and 2). There are Christian political parties in Europe, but none, at least major party, uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political program.

Creation (the title is somehow unfortunate, and I’m sure Darwin would find it too pretentious) will stir up some (evolutive) discussions. We have had them in Europe (we still have them), and we grew fitter, I believe. What (most) Europeans don’t accept any longer is, “believe and leave the rest to us.” It will happen one day in the USA as well—it’s only a question of time.

Oppression, censorship, conformism, in their many facets, are not evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS), not in the Christian world, not in the Islamic world, not in any world. Variation leads to ESS and has proved it again and again. Evolution is in no rush, time works for it, and its algorithm is relentless.

Learn more in our course Evolution. Evolution is the process of change in all forms of life over generations; behavior is as a tool in the struggle for survival and reproduction. This is an indispensable course to understand how behavior originates, develops and evolves. Evolutionary biologist Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. This is a free course. Start today.

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Everything We Do Has Consequences

Everything We Do Has Consequences

Everything we do has consequences, some trivial, other more serious. A good rule is to ask the three following questions:
1. What do I give my animal and what do I take? (What does my animal give me and what does it take?)
2. What am I teaching the animal?
3. How does my animal (probably) interpret my behavior?

The relationship you have to your animal is the relationship you have created. It’s as simple as that, and it is your responsibility to build a relationship that will serve all parties best. Ignorance is no excuse. If you don’t know how to do it, take your time and learn.

Dog owners create the majority of the problem behavior of their dogs for they reinforce those behaviors never giving it a thought. Owners cause excessive barking, home alone problems, and even many biting cases, fear, and phobias. They didn’t think of the consequences of their behavior when responding to their dogs’ behavior. The same applies to all other animals we keep as companion animals. It’s easier to see it in dogs because we live with them in our homes. We share a significant part of our daily lives with them, and they adopt many of our bad habits.

Everything we do has consequences. That should be no surprise for anyone. I’m sure our ancestors knew it very well. Back then, second chances were rarely an option. We should recognize it as well, but since we live highly protected lives in the western world, we tend to forget that indeed everything we do has consequences. We pass this indifference of ours to our companion animals, and the result in the long term is the emergence of maybe unsolvable but avoidable issues.

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