Saturday, October 22, 2005


It's Not Nice To Quote-Mine Mother Nature

I previously noted the Religious Right’s infatuation with March of the Penguins. The film’s director, Luc Jacquet, has also noted it . . . with some dismay.

Responding to claims that the movie supports "traditional norms" like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing, Jacquet is quoted in a London Times piece on the premier of his movie in England as saying:

The divorce rate in emperor penguins is 80 to 90 per cent each year. After they see the chick is OK, most of them divorce. They change every year.
He goes on to say:

It does annoy me to a certain degree. For me there is no doubt about evolution. I am a scientist. The intelligent design theory is a step back to the thinking of 300 years ago. My film is not supposed to be interpreted in this way. Some scientists I know find the film interesting because it can be a good argument against intelligent design. People should not jump on these bandwagons.
The article mentions an attempt by Andrew Coffin in World magazine to take just the opposite lesson from the movie, that it supports Intelligent Design. The interesting part of the review is:

That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat -- and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design. It's sad that acknowledgment of a creator is absent in the examination of such strange and wonderful animals. But it's also a gap easily filled by family discussion after the film. Talk of evolution is minimal, as is much scientific discussion of onscreen events, with Mr. Freeman's narration focused more on the poetic than Discovery Channel-style details.
One can't help but wonder what Mr. Coffin thinks the movie would be about if none of the eggs ever survived. And if it is obvious to Mr. Coffin how survival of one species makes a case for intelligent design, considering that somewhere around 98% of all species are extinct, he might deign to pass the information along next time.

But maybe the thing I found most amusing was the notion of the Discovery Channel as some sort of paradigm of "scientific discussion".

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