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What happens when a world-renowned scientist, crushed by the loss of his eldest daughter, formulates a theory in conflict with religious dogma? This is the story of Charles Darwin and his master-work "The Origin of Species". It tells of a global revolution played out within the confines of a small English village; a passionate marriage torn apart by the most dangerous idea in history; and a theory saved from extinction by the logic of a child. Written by
Historically inaccurate, anachronistic and not suitable for educational purpose
This could have been a great movie with plenty of educational potential for teachers around the world about evolution, biology, the creative work in science, research and Darwin's life, but it is not.
The screenplay is mostly historically inaccurate and transforms a true story into a Mexican soup-opera melodrama. While it is true that Darwin gradually lost his religious beliefs, this was in great part due to his findings during the voyage of the Beagle and not solely due to the loss of his daughter. He was certainly disturbed by his loss, but that did not made him literally insane, delusional and detached from his friends and family. The such portrayal of Darwin is an invention of the script writer. Thus it cannot be used in any way as place to learn a bit about Darwin's life and psyche. According to most historians, Darwin had the theory ready by the end of the Beagle voyage, and kept it from going public because he wanted to develop further the consequences of it and check against more data. In the movie, it is an imaginary conflict of Darwin with his religious beliefs and the mental illness that he developed after his daughter's death that kept him from going public.
The movie brings a modern situation, the creationists vs scientists debate, into the life and times of Darwin, thus it is anachronistic. It depicts Thomas Huxley not as a man trying to develop further understanding of biology but as someone eager to "kill God", in his own words from the movie, and destroy the church, who would accept the theory of evolution for such purposes and not because it was a synthesis of plenty of disconnected data. Huxley is presented as a very arrogant and insensible person, a combination that I interpret was an attempt to ridicule active atheists who speak up against religion. In real life, Huxley accepted Darwin's ideas after publication only gradually, and before the work of Darwin he thought that there was not enough evidence to support evolution. His first support of evolution was published one month after the Origin of Species became public. He was agnostic but did not think it was necessary "to kill God", only thought that there was not enough evidence to believe in the supernatural. The debate creationists vs scientists appears throughout the movie, and creationists catch-phrases such as "It is only a theory" are part of the discussion. Of course, no such dispute or catch-phrases existed at that time. In fact, the Anglican Church published a positive review of the Origin's saying that they saw God's work in evolution, in some sense, quite in fact in contradiction to the way that the clergy is portrayed in the screenplay.
Another awful aspect of this movie is that it gives the wrong impression to the general public that scientific research is done by a solitary crazy man who just writes a lot. Nothing could be further from the truth. The conception of the theory of evolution was the result of thorough observations of living forms by Darwin during five years in the HMS Beagle, and was developed gradually as it can be seen from Darwin's notes of the voyage. Even though the Beagle voyage was the sole most important part of Darwin's life to the conception of "Origin of Species", the voyage is briefly mentioned only once at the beginning, and no attempt is made to show that the book came as an elaborate analysis of observations. To make it worse, Darwin is shown performing a single experiment (pigeon breeding) to test his theory and, in the end, quits it. And I'm not really sure whether such experiment did actually occur.
Great disappointment. It is not in any way a homage to Darwin and science.
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