‘Questioning Darwin’ is a Darwin Dud

Happy Darwin Day, readers! A day that is a simple recognition of Darwin and his evolutionary theory.

I decided I would check out HBO’s new documentary Questioning Darwin which “Explores the thinking behind modern-day creationist theory and those who refute evolution, as well as Charles Darwin’s own internal struggle as he grappled with the implications of his theory of natural selection.” Christians can rest easy. This documentary is so tame it was meant for a classroom full of kids in public high school (who would probably fall asleep). At best, biblical literalists can see their viewpoint on screen (which is treated respectfully) and an overview of Darwin’s life including the death of his daughter Annie. It may help conservative Christians see that Darwin was hardly the monster he’s made out to be, but a man who struggled with his theory and its implications.

But this is HBO, I expect more from them! What you ask? Well, how about actually getting into what creationists think and then the counter arguments? How about some entertainment value? Yes, they did allow creationists to say what they believe to a point, but I believe out of fear of being labeled biased or disrespectful they didn’t go further. An example being dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden which was shown at a creationist museum. But can we get into the specifics of how biology would function in Eden with no bloodshed? Maybe the producers thought it would add unintended humor because it brings up so many ridiculous images of men riding dinosaurs (proper ladies would ride side-saddle) and T. Rex using his enormous teeth to chew on coconuts because all dinosaurs were vegetarians prior to sin (apparently sin makes T.Rex want to eat meat…mmmm, sin).

Hardcore creationists may find the documentary rather boring too for the same reasons as there’s not much that’s explored in relation to what they would consider to be damning arguments with possibly the exception of an emphasis on the effects and meaning of suffering and death. Christians chalk suffering and death up to God’s mysterious ways blaming it ultimately on man’s sin and Darwin saw death and suffering as necessary for natural selection, a blind process of design that eliminates weaknesses and keeps strengths found in animal species so they can evolve. I found it sad in one scene where a devout Christian family had to find God’s purpose in a car accident involving a young girl–she must be suffering because God has a plan. Why can’t it be a random, unfortunate act? Why must everything have a meaning? Bad things will happen to us in percentages. It’s an unpleasant fact of life, but it is reality.

Overall, the film was about generalities and little science with Christians saying something to the effect:  if the evidence leads to something I do not believe in then how am I to cope with the complex question of human morality because I no longer have simple answers. This is great for theological debate, but not for issues regarding strata, the fossil record, laws of thermodynamics, etc. In other words, the evidence and/or arguments creationists would need to even get to the moral philosophical questions. Truth doesn’t cease to be truth simply because there’s a moral complexity or the risk of eliminating a moral guide. Truth is truth in science because of evidence. What we have in Questioning Darwin is a lack of questions, specific questions by creationists aimed at evolution and specific questions aimed back at creationists by evolutionists. Fact is, even the history of the creationist movement, which was a brief foray into the Scopes Trial, was lacking.

Unfortunately, Questioning Darwin is so broad and “respectful” it is a weak product. I would hand it over to the public school system because it would be hard for me to see both creationists and evolutionists objecting to their children viewing it. HBO should have a higher, more creative standard even when attempting to present both sides. Yawn.

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