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The highly anticipated, comic and controversial feature documentary, "Flock of Dodos: the evolution-intelligent design circus," is the first feature film to take an even-handed look at the intelligent design vs. evolution clash that appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek in 2005. Filmmaker, scientist, surfer and evolutionary biologist Dr. Randy Olson explores the controversy over the teaching of evolution and the recently developed alternative, intelligent design. Olson, a native of Kansas, visits his home state and the community of Dover, Pennsylvania, which attempted to introduce intelligent design in science classes. Olson draws on basic aspects of evolution as metaphors, including the extinct dodo, which he suggests symbolizes what happens to those unable to change with their environment. Featured are seven top advocates for intelligent design, including Dr. Michael Behe, author of "Darwin's Black Box," fourteen evolution Ph.D.'s, a poker game among eight evolutionists, a ... Written by
I want to begin by saying that I believe in evolution, and that I do not worship supernatural beings.
This is not a non-entertaining film, and I don't know of a better one about the teaching-intelligent-design-in-schools issue. However, ultimately, it's a disappointing, sometimes mildly amusing, hypocritical, smug documentary that is nevertheless not totally devoid of value about an important subject.
This film comes off as arrogantly insulting those who believe in intelligent design ("ID") itself, and it fails to get across the most important point that, even if you are pro-ID, while your views are arguably worthy of respect as a philosophical matter, you can't reasonably believe that your ID philosophy ought to be taught in science class.
Whether you believe in ID or don't, when it comes to whether ID should be taught in science class, it is clearly unreasonable to think that it ought to be, because science is a completely different way of looking at the world than that implied by ID. Teaching ID in science class would be a lot like teaching Kant's ethics or Russian literature in science class--it obviously doesn't belong there. The film really doesn't develop this idea enough, or, hardly at all actually, and devotes much too much time to trying to debate the truth or falsity of ID itself, which, in my view, is either (a) something that reasonable minds can and do differ upon or (b) completely incoherent babble, ultimately, on both sides of the debate.
I find it incredibly arrogant to presume to know that the universe was designed by a deity, just as I find it incredibly arrogant to presume to know that it wasn't. How would YOU know, unless you were a deity yourself? It might seem implausible to you that there's a deity behind all this, and it does in fact seem implausible to me that there's a deity behind all this, but I can assure you that it seems at least as implausible to many people that there isn't.
There are many reasonable people in the world who believe in ID but do not want it to be taught in science class. And this film is more about criticizing and insulting those who believe in ID itself than it is about criticizing those who not only believe in ID but also believe that it should be taught in science classes.
There are some positives though. This film does do a couple of interesting things. It briefly talks about an organization called the Discovery Institute which is a well-funded group which promotes the teaching of intelligent design in science classes, and it contrasts it with the relative lack of organization on the opposition-to-ID-in-schools. It criticizes the anti-ID camp for not doing what the pro-ID-in-schools camp is doing, i.e. for not really getting organized, not engaging in politicking, not being charming when in the public eye, insulting the other side and acting as though the subject is not worthy of debate rather than respecting its dignity and engaging in reasonable debate, and for not really explaining to the public its position and exactly why it's a bad idea to "teach" ID in science class.
It also explains a little about the legal and political history of the recent ID-in-schools phenomenon, and that's interesting stuff.
But the film lacks depth. I would have enjoyed hearing more about the subjects that I just discussed in the "positives" part of my review.
But the most glaring problem is its hypocrisy. It is guilty of exactly what it criticizes the anti-ID camp for, specifically: (1) not really explaining exactly why it's ridiculous for ID to be taught in science class, and (2) arrogantly insulting the pro-ID side rather than respecting its dignity and engaging in reasonable debate. At the very least, it should have reserved its insults and criticisms for those who not only believe in ID but who are also of the crazy view that ID ought to be taught in our science classes. There's nothing especially crazy about merely believing in ID. I don't, but most people actually do, and most of those people are not crazy.
For example, as far as (2) goes, the film basically calls the pro-ID camp a bunch of "dodos" in the first 5 minutes. The film's entire tone is one that basically kind of treats the pro-ID camp like it's just stupid and that you are stupid if you think it's anything other than obvious that the pro-ID camp is stupid. It is unlikely to turn on any pro-IDers for this reason alone. And that is really unfortunate. It would have been much more effective to grant that there is possibly some value to the ID viewpoint, but nevertheless that there is absolutely no value to the view that ID ought to be part of science classes.
As far as (1) goes, even though it seems pretty obvious to me why ID shouldn't be taught in science class, the film doesn't do much to explain why it's so obvious. It just spends almost all of its time childishly attacking people for merely believing that the universe was created by an intelligent designer. It seems to be of the viewpoint that somehow the standard position for a pro-ID person to take is that ID ought to be taught in science class, when in reality this is just an incredibly radical and idiotic position that most pro-IDers cannot possibly subscribe to.
There is some value to seeing this, but it is ultimately a pretty childish documentary that will insult the very people it claims to most want to influence--the pro-ID camp.
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