Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Washington Times Reviews Mysterious

That the Washington Times tends to lean toward the right is not unexpected, given that the major daily in Washington, D.C. the Washington Post (or 'WaPo' as it is known in the blogosphere) tilts left. As a result, that it is sympathetic to creationism is also not totally unexpected but adds another name to the list of organizations that have a connexion between the modern-day conservative movement and the anti-evolution movement.

Julia Duin writes a column called Stairway to Heaven for the Times and her column for December 13 is on the film Mysterious Islands, about the voyage of Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands and how he came to all of the wrong conclusions about the animals that he found there. She writes:
The film was geared to counter an expected "unprecedented onslaught of pro-evolutionary propaganda as the major media and leaders of academia heap praise on Charles Darwin, the patron saint of evolutionism," executive producer Doug Phillips said.

It is called "The Mysterious Islands," after the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, which Darwin visited as a 26-year-old in 1835. That life-changing experience led him to form his theory of evolution.

"For the followers of Charles Darwin, the Galapagos archipelago is the spiritual homeland to their evolutionary faith," Mr. Phillips said. "Our film — shot on ground zero of evolutionism — will be a counteroffensive to the Darwin adulation that blows holes in the conclusions he formed while observing the wonder-filled creatures that inhabit the Galapagos Islands."

The Galapagos is an Edenic place where many of the animals show no fear of humans and where five ocean currents merge. Mr. Phillips led a team of scientists — along with his 16-year-old son — there to determine, he said, whether the place is an exhibit for evolution or divine creation. Although he refused to divulge the full cost of his project, just getting the permits to film there, he said, cost $10,000.
That this idea is so tied to the 1840s is only one of its problems. For the average evolutionary biologist, so much research has gone on that has validated the basic tenets of evolution that to try to show that Darwin got some of his findings wrong is almost irrelevant. Newton and Einstein both got some of what they theorized wrong too, but we still use both theories of gravitation.

Furthermore, the Galapagos Islands represent one small geographic region for which evidence for evolution exists. How about the predictive nature of evolutionary theory that allowed Neil Shubin to find exactly the tetrapod ancestor he expected to find in Devonian shallow sea deposits on Ellesmere Island? How about Ardipithecus, Australopithecus and Homo erectus that turned up in South Africa after it was hypothesized that the earliest precursors of humans would likely be found in the same area as chimpanzees and gorillas? There are countless examples in which the theory has had amazing explanatory and predictive power. What are we to make of these examples?

What these filmmakers, who are so bent on demonizing Darwin and his theory, won't tell you is that across the world, at exactly the same time, Alfred Russel Wallace was developing exactly the same theory of evolution based on natural selection. Biological evolution, as a concept, was already emerging by the time of Darwin and Wallace because there was so much empirical evidence for it. They simply gave it a mechanism. That the modern creation movement centers their sights on Charles Darwin as a modern-day devil incarnate is beside the point.

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