Film: CREATION – a very human Charles Darwin

A deliciously-named film, CREATION, is a dramatic recreation of Darwin’s anguish over the death of his 10 year daughter, development of a scientific theory challenging religion of the day, and the impact on this theory on his very devout wife. The film draws from Annie’s Box, a biography from Randal Keynes, Darwin’s great, great-grandson , and promises to be a powerful film about a great man – father, husband, and scientist – wrestling with the ultimate questions of personal meaning. Director Jon Amiel has a tremendous cast of actors (details linked below) including Paul Bettany and real-life partner, Jennifer Connelly. But let me mention a personal favourite – Toby Jones as Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s bull-dog). Jones was excellent in Infamous as Truman Capote, one of my favourite on-screen character portrayals.

We have seen some tremendous books and documentaries on Charles Darwin over the last twelve months as part of the 200 year celebration of his birth (and 150 years since the publication of ‘On The Origin of the Species’). Darwin is certainly one of the great figures of science. CREATION fills in the portrait as only good dramatic film can do to give us a person we can love.

I had the opportunity to join an on-line chat between bloggers and Jon Amiel,the director, where he discussed the film and the humanity of Darwin as he struggled to publish his theory of evolution.

I would heartily recommend adding this to your viewing list.

Alex McCullie

CREATION web-site

News: Darwin and Religion and the Fallout

I recommend Darwin The Disturber, an article by well-known US author Susan Jacoby.

I struggle to understand responses of many liberal religious people to evolution. They accept that evolution best explains through physical processes the development of all living things including humans. However these same people want to exempt our sense of consciousness and “spirituality” from evolution by claiming these charactistics result not from naturalistic evolution but from the addition of some mysterious, undetectable force or intelligence.

So for billions of years the evolutionary processes took their meandering, undirected courses and then in the last few minutes, relatively speaking, a supernatural process intercedes to inject humans with consciousness and/or spirituality, that allows us to have a special connection with the divine.

Please give me a break! Ironically I have more respect for the evolution-deniers who attempt to reject the whole idea of evolution. At least they are more consistent in their beliefs even though totally misguided.

Alex McCullie

News: Latest from Evolution & Religion Front in US – Pew Report

Pew has a series of reports about Evolution and Religion in the US as part of Darwin’s 150 years celebrations (opening summary screen). Evolutionary theory, though accepted by the vast majority scientists in the field, continues to be rejected by many Christians (and other religious believers) in the US as contrary to own religious stories. This is so even though so many religious organisations like the Roman Catholic church have adopted at least a partial acceptance with typically that evolution is part of God’s plan.

Religious leaders now explain that God works behind the scenes through complicated, convoluted evolutionary processes rather than simply creating the species as required. On that basis there’s been a major re-interpretation of scriptures turning readings from literal to metaphorical – the more metaphorical the better if you ask me. Incidently the very large and powerful South Baptist Convention simply rejects evolution outright.

Here’s a denomination-by-denomination breakdown of support (or lack of) across the US:
Click to view article

Alex McCullie

News: Devil Incarnate – Richard Attenborough

Click to view article
I couldn’t let this one pass.

According to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, gentle, nature-loving Richard Attenborough receives regular hate-mail from faithful Christian creationists who threaten him with eternal damnation for supporting evolution.

This is religious faith gone mad. (See full article)

Alex McCullie

Comment: Humans Evolved by Accident – Not God’s Deliberate Creation

This is the major problem evangelists, creations and other devout religious believers have with evolutionary theory. They usually then vilify Charles Darwin and Darwinism as something from Satan.


Despite the reluctance of scientists to comment on religious matters, the accidental implications of evolution have enormous implications for people’s understanding of themselves in the world and on the foundations of most religious beliefs. Moving from “God’s children” to “accidental outcome” is unpalatable for traditional religious believers. So it is not surprising that 200 years after Darwin’s birth there are concerted attacks on Darwin and vehement denials of the most diversely validated scientific theory we have today – one that is accepted by virtually every scientist working in the field of biology.

Liberal-minded believers try to accommodate evolution without losing the God’s children myth. They say that God works mysteriously through evolution processes to achieve the outcome they seek, namely special divine position of humankind. So they take evolutionary processes that provide the best explanation we have of the diversity of life and add a magical “God” factor. Unfortunately this addition is totally unnecessary as it offers nothing extra in explanatory terms nor in predictability. In fact the religious magic only complicates unnecessarily. These religious people should read the great axiom from Franciscan friar, William of Ockham, that essentially says one should minimise unnecessary assumptions.

Mark Steel writes about our accidental evolution in The Independent (article 7 Jan 2009). Also philosopher Philip Kitcher explores the metaphysical implications of evolution in Living with Darwin (see Amazon link below).

Alex McCullie

News: Expelled and Expelled Exposed

Christian bookshops are keen to sell the Expelled DVD that is supposed to highlight the unfair favouring of evolution over the overtly religious creationism, now neatly re badged as Intelligent Design avoiding US Constitutional problems. The smart ideas of design are being expelled from the classroom by scientists and educators. Here’s an introduction by Christian Cinema.

Intelligent Design (ID), the ultimate oxymoron, keeps raising its ugly head. Instead of pontification about unsupported religious origin-beliefs, let’s see some real evidential support from the design supporters who want to be treated seriously. Evolution is one of most supported scientific theories of all time with numerous academic papers yearly in the most world’s most-respected scientific journals. Let the supporters of the ID achieve something similar and earn the right to be treated as scientific instead of being simply shouting about thinly disguised religious beliefs.

Mainstream scientists would welcome an alternate theory to evolution if it has stronger evidential support. There is nothing religious in science’s backing of evolution – it’s simply the best supported by a considerable margin. However we are yet to see the supporters of the various design beliefs present any sort of broad-based evidential support

Here’s an Expelled debunking site – Expelled Exposed.

Alex McCullie

Comment: Public Displays Instead of Science for Creationists

A friend put me onto a Dutch creationist, Johan Huibers, who created a one-fifth size of the mythological Noah’s Ark (from the Hebrew Bible). Like the US creationist museum and glossy books by Islamic creationist, Harun Yahya, creationists love to use PR to convince and persuade rather than boring scientific research like evolutionists. Then they have the nerve to seek to be treated seriously as a genuine ‘scientific’ alternative to the theory of evolution. Still there’s enough gullible people in the world to keep these guys in business.

Alex McCullie

News: Teaching Evolution to a Creationist World

Two articles on David Campbell’s struggle to teach evolution in the creationist state of Florida. (science blogs 24-Aug-2008) (NYT 23-Aug-2008)

Alex McCullie

News: Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

link to Complete Works of Charles Darwin

To quote:

“Only this site contains Darwin’s complete publications, 20,000 private papers, the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue and hundreds of supplementary works: specimens, biographies, obituaries, reviews, reference works and much more.”

Alex McCullie

Comment: Evolution – get the right attitude

These are not true…

• A nasty, vicious lion stalks, attacks and murders a poor defenceless antelope on an ‘Animal Planet’ documentary.

• My cat loves me. He knows when I’m upset and will deliberately comfort me.

• Selfish genes behave immorally.

• The Earth is a living thing just like us.

Empathy is one of the great strengths to have evolved in humans. Our ability to see from someone else’s point of view forms the basis of social and moral behaviour. Wonderfully, this is all done subconsciously. Subsequent moral discussions are mostly rationalisations justifying these intuitive responses. (Steven Pinker

But here’s the rub. We apply this empathy to other things – living and non-living – in unhelpful ways. People believe they can see the world as a non-human would. Recently, a friend told me that he could genuinely imagine the world as seen by a bat. This belief has benefits, of course. We are more likely to respect other living and non-living things (Gaia, for example), if we see them as “like us”. Unfortunately, however, we also can moralise about animal behaviour, seeking to punish as if animals are free moral agents with responsibility. Again, all is done subconsciously. So, lions are not nasty; cute looking dears are not innocent; cats don’t love; genes are not morally selfish and Earth is not alive like us. As an aside, biologists, like Richard Dawkins, often refer to observed behaviour metaphorically. So behaviour can be described a selfish or altruistic without any moral implications.

The bottom line is we should be aware that living things (and non-living for that matter) have no natural or moral purposes. They just evolved to what they are today and will continue to do so. Evolutionary processes are blind and uncaring and putting chance aside, they reward (non-morally) characteristics leading to successful reproduction and punish (again, non-morally) those that don’t. As suggested in Pinker’s article, even our moral attitudes can be seen to have developed in a similar way.

Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t use this awareness as an excuse to ignore the problems we create for all livings things and for the planet. Our capacity to see and remedy problems beyond conflicting immediate needs may be our true greatness.

© 2008 Alex McCullie