Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus (2006) Poster

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The Scientific Community's Extinct-ential crisis
anandblr14 September 2006
I was lucky enough to go to a small screening of FOD at my college. Randy Olson was present at the end to discuss opinions and answer questions.

What struck me about this movie was how unashamedly it looks at pretension and ego in the scientific community today. Though ostensibly about the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debate, this movie delves quite deeply into the levels of effective communication between scientist and layman. Anyone out there who's ever studied under a particularly brilliant professor will know exactly what I mean- they usually have quite earth-shatteringly amazing ideas and thoughts that they are woefully unequipped to communicate to the rest of us mortals.

The movie covers the Evolution/ID debate (and its theological implications) from a variety of perspectives, ranging from Conservative right-wingers to Athiest Liberals. To be entirely honest, I went in to see this movie with a preexisting bias- I am a student of Evolution and an Athiest. However, what I like about this movie is that it does not hide or suppress the opinions of either side, but lets them be heard. While my opinion on Evolution remains unchanged, this movie did uproot some prejudices in my mind relating to certain very common social stereotypes. Fundamentalist Christians are not necessarily scary bible-spouting messengers of doom, nor are scientists with an arsenal of PhDs necessarily the calm voice of reason.

Ultimately, Flock of Dodos is precise, to the point, and in a way- manages to do exactly what it asks the scientific community to do. It communicates a complex idea to the everyman without resorting to falsification or 'dumbing-down.' (9*/10*)
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Funny, timely doc
Shiftb12 January 2007
This was a really funny, interesting movie. It kind of has the tone of Super-Size Me, where it's a comedic documentary. But it's amazing how it jumps from funny to serious at the drop of a hat, the issue behind Intelligent Design/Evolution is one that everyone has an opinion about, and it is really at the heart of the divide between red state/blue state (I know those terms have been exploited in the media, but the movie does a good job of honestly showing both sides of the debate). Very even-handed film, made by an evolutionist Ph.D., but he's not afraid to make fun of the scientists he works with, so the movie is interesting to watch and very original/ unexpected. I saw it as part of an advanced screening at my college, they're apparently doing screenings all across the country starting in Feb. 2007, but it's not really out on Video or in Theatres besides that. Hard movie to find in theaters, so if you get a chance to see it you should go.
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Exposing the Dodos
lastliberal5 June 2007
I love science. I am not a scientist, but when it comes to books, magazines, etc., I am more likely to pick up something about science than anything else. I also love movies, so when a movie about Science comes along, I will see it.

I am not anti-religion. If it helps you get through life, then I am all for it. I prefer Effexor myself, but whatever floats your boat is OK with me as long as you don't try to teach my children your fantasies.

This is what it's all about. The fantasy of Creationism versus the facts of Evolution. This film makes it simple to understand even for the uneducated dodos that let others do their talking and thinking for them. It is even-handed and gives time to both sides of this non-debate.

The Creationists want to promote "teaching the controversy." This film is perfect for that and should be shown in all schools and all classes.
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Case study of unnatural selection.
rmax30482317 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A documentary film about discrepancies between Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design, focusing on the Kansas school board controversy of a few years ago.

It's a pretty good movie too. We get to know both sides of the issue, nobody is demonized, nobody exalted. The graphics are entertaining and the editing about as good as you can expect. Randy Olson, who made the film and narrates it, makes some low-key witty remarks along the way. Some documentaries, whether good or bad in their own right, consist of so many talking heads that you can listen to it from the next room and still follow the presentation. Not this one. Talking heads abound but so do cartoons and travelogue-like on-location shooting.

Olson himself is an evolutionary biologist who's studied at Harvard and done research on changes in coral communities. He's a sharp guy, and he's pleasant and polite, and when he's negative about something it's in a gently ironic way.

But don't expect a movie about evolution. It's about the nature of two pretty much antagonistic groups and the conflict between their belief systems. The debate is important because it is evidently not going to go away by itself. These are existential propositions being examined, not hortative. What I mean is that this is a debate over what IS, not over what ought to be. It's not a symbolic issue like having the ten commandments in a courthouse or having a state flag that resembles the Confederate stars and bars or whether or not films that show a lot of smoking should get an R rating. The argument is about whether something exists or not, and that's a different order of argument.

Olson is clearly on the side of the evolutionists but he's not a zealot. He criticizes them (or allows them to criticize themselves) for being too snooty to present their case to common people in common-sense terms, whereas the ID side hires The Discovery Institute to invent appealing bumper-sticker slogans like "teach the controversy." The same public-relations outfit developed the SwiftBoat ads that torpedoed Kerry's run for the presidency. The anti-evolutionists also seem to be cohesive, highly organized, and well funded. They fling out so much misinformation that the tactic has become known among scientists as "the Gish Gallop."

They're good at what they do, and the evolutionists are mostly aloof, indignant, arrogant, abrasive, disputatious, and sometimes kind of snotty with one another. In other words -- dare I say this? -- the ID people look like Republicans and the evolutionists look like Democrats.

Actually, "Teach the Controversy" isn't a bad idea per se. Why not? Only I would stipulate, as an ex-prof, that it belongs in a senior seminar organized around philosophical/scientific controversies -- Copernicus and all that. I can't see both views being given equal weight in biology classes because, if Darwinian evolution is "only a theory," as the ID people argue, then Intelligent Design hasn't yet cleared even that bar.

The film was at times a little irritating. It's okay when the film maker inserts himself into his work as narrator. Michael Moore does it entertainingly and numerous others, such as Milton Friedman, have walked us through scientific arguments in TV series. But Olson's movie is a little self congratulatory. I had to wince once in a while as the auteur explained that his father was a graduate of West Point in "the year of heroes" and his mother ("Muffy Moose") was a relative of General George C. Marshall or somebody and they both knew General Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor and -- well, and so forth.

Not to say anything against Olson's mother. She's savvy, keenly intelligent, and engaging. I just don't think we needed to know that she was a model. And the film is informed with a subtle elitism. Eight evolutionists are gathered together by Olson to play poker and talk about biology and we get the title card -- not only are they all PhDs but we get a list of the schools they attended. (Mostly Harvard.) PhDs are introduced to each other as "doctor," which doesn't happen except on film.

That's carping, though. The film's virtues as an exploration of a controversy that simply will not go away far outweighs any weaknesses it might have. Well, maybe I should add that not only does the theological interpretation of evolution refuse to disappear, but lots of public figures are obviously afraid to challenge it. One third of the American public does not "believe in" evolution. President Bush has argued publicly that both sides should be taught in school. And at the recent debate between Republican presidential candidates, one of the questions was, "Who does not believe in evolution," and three out of ten hands went up.
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This film isn't partisan: It's just that the anti-evolutionists are so obtuse
Kansas-520 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie a couple of years ago with an large audience of mixed partisans from both sides. There was also a discussion panel afterward that included a number of scholars and critics and politicians.

I think Olson showed everyone as they really were: The scientists were a bit supercilious but the fundamentalists were absolutely idiotic. The documentary had no obligation to make the latter seem anything other than the scientific illiterates and theocrats that they truly are. I wish the film had also shown the venality and pervasive corruption of the bible thumpers revealed in their mismanagement of and campaigns for the Kansas State Board of Education, but that complexity would have been harder to explain and would have taken much longer.

On the panel above, held in Kansas City, a local reactionary radio host participated on the "Intelligent (sic) Design" side. After a number of outrageous, preposterous statements, he got progressively more contentious and finally loudly contended that all the scientific advances since the birth of Christ were a product of "western Christian civilization." I'm sure that, for instance, dozens of Jewish Nobelists in the hard sciences would have been stunned by this calumny, but I think it revealed the true colors of these fundamentalists. Taken to task, the ideologue even claimed that Gallileo had not actually been persecuted by religious zealots and the Vatican.

It should be mentioned that this was a truly amusing documentary in many ways. It captured some leading scientists in their most casual, unguarded and perhaps slightly inebriated moments. It showed the "I.D.ers" for the bumpkins they are, with ludicrous statements against interest right from their own mouths. Audiences even got to identify with Olson's mom, "Muffy Moose," who was an endearingly hilarious example of a fence sitter, and were educated about the peculiar digestive processes of rabbits (I'll avoid a spoiler here, but just that part makes the movie worth attending).

I have to give it two opposed thumbs up!
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I'd have a beer with Randy anytime! Even if he didn't ask a couple of obvious questions.
gamecorps-126 February 2008
I enjoyed watching this documentary.

The filmmaker, Randy Olson, seems like a pretty down to earth kind of guy. His documentary, Flock of Dodos, could pretty much be summed up the same way.

I wouldn't consider myself to be in either the intelligent design or the evolutionists' camp. Honestly, I'm not even sure it really matters which camp a person finds themselves in when it comes to their spirituality. This brings me to my point: Randy, though I found his documentary enjoyable, failed to ask an obvious question that I feel strikes directly at the heart of the current debate. That question being - do the evolutionists that were seated around the poker table feel that the theory/fact that they have devoted their lives to leaves no place for a creator...no place for a designer? Though beyond the empirical realm, this question was never opened for consideration. Yes, the evolution guys attacked the credibility of the ID guys, but they were never directly asked about whether they felt that evolution and the possibility of design were mutually exclusive ideas.

Most of the educated ID guys didn't discount that evolution has occurred. They just seemed to discount the idea that it occurred unassisted. I would have liked to have heard some equally candid thoughts from the evolution camp about whether or not they felt that the theory/fact removes the possibility of a designer.

A side note: Several of the reviewers, who I assume fall into the ID camp, seemed to feel that Randy treated the ID side unfairly. Let me just say that I don't think that he did this on purpose. Randy, like the rest of us, is subject to the knowledge and experience in his possession. He has his own set of biases. When those biases go unchallenged it logically results in the appearance of bias, i.e. the faulty red state/blue state construct as well as other indications of bias that again are probably more the result of a lack of knowledge than a malicious attempt at arrogance. To me, at least, Randy seemed like a pretty open-minded sort of guy.

Just my two cents. Fun doc to watch.
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Not enough keep-theology-out-of-science class
youaresquishy27 May 2007
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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Lucid & Intelligent Analysis of the Loonies Who Believe in Intelligent Design
meddlecore5 October 2013
"Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus" is a film which debunks the claims and myths promoted by those who are proponents of the Intelligent Design movement- a movement that is essentially revealed to be a modern "re-packaging" and politicization of the Creationism movement that is central for the religious right. This time being brought to the forefront by marketing the evolution vs intelligent design "controversy" (and I use this term lightly) as a theoretical debate- one half based on science and understanding nature...the other based on well...nothing, except some extremely flawed (laughable even) logic. It's an all around intelligent, humorous and entertaining film that has been made in vain of the ever growing do-it-yourself documentary regime.

It was made by Kansas-born evolutionary biologist turned filmmaker Ralph Olson , whom I personally like a lot- looking forward to seeing more from him. He is extremely intelligent, witty, and always succinct in a way even the layman can understand. He's also confrontational with a bit of charm, making him more palatable to the less tolerant, when compared to someone like Michael Moore. And most of all....he knows what he is talking about.

Being born and raised in Kansas, he's familiar with the culture which is acting as the home front for both the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements' attack on Evolution. Graduating from Harvard with a concentration in cellular biology, has also put him in a privileged position to analyze and criticize such a subject.

The concept of the film is to root out who the "Flock of Dodo's" really are- those using the US Constitution to politicize and force upon the masses the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside Evolution as a possible alternative to the theory or the counter-revolutionary Evolutionists attempting to quell them? Olson goes through the history of the Creationist/Intelligent Design movement from it's birth, showing how the anti-darwinist, anti-scientific, anti-intellectual ideas of a man named Thomas Henry Huxley have grown into something societally destructive. The film reveals how "God" has been relegated to the ever-narrowing gaps that modern science has yet to explain.

Some of the commenters on IMDb were making this film out to be a "fair and balanced" look at the Evolution-Intelligent Desgin debate.....but it's not...the film is clearly pro-evolution, as it should be. What it is, is a subjective look at the debate- one man's memories weaved cinematically into a film that enlightens and entertains those who are lucky enough to view it.

Olson narrates the film himself and is often on camera (as you may have picked up)- both alone and when questioning others. He even uses his mother, not only for opinion, but as a source to some of the top people in the Intelligent Design movement (as the one man was now her neighbor). He interviews numerous professors from top universities versed in the theoretical and practical study of Evolution, some of the major people forcing elements of Intelligent Design through the political process (not Bush, though he is discussed- but mostly the major players in the highly publicized Kansas controversy where the schoolboard tried to force teachers into teaching Intelligent Design), the lawyers fighting these battles in the courts, and some high-profile scientists and authors from both sides of the argument. Olson thus does, though, while always remaining pro-evolution, provide detailed information concerning the arguments and criticisms made by both parties. So I suppose it is fair in that sense.

Worth a watch. 6 out of 10
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Who Will Win the Evolution Debate?
gavin694213 March 2013
Filmmaker and evolutionary biologist Randy Olson tries to figure out if it is the Darwinists or Intelligent Design supporters who will become a flock of dodos.

Of course, this documentary is very one-sided. It is coming from the point of view of an evolutionary biologist. He points out flaws in animal (and human) design. He also makes a comment early on that he was expecting a city full of yokels where the intelligent design movement was the strongest.

But, even one-sided, he certainly lets the other side speak plenty. So that is good, and about as balanced as you can expect from someone who obviously has a dog in the fight.
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Interesting companion piece to Expelled
ergundel15 May 2008
Watch either "Dodos" or "Expelled" if you do NOT want to learn much about Evolution or Intelligent Design.

Both movies are more about attitudes towards their respective theories rather than the merits of the theories themselves. "Expelled" argues that scientific communities act with the same partisan and even repressive behavior seen in almost every kind of community, and "Dodos" argues that anyone who questions Evolutionary theory is an idiot or a quack (albeit likable idiots and quacks).

And this utter lack of respect for it's opposing position is why I give this movie a low grade. It doesn't even pose provocative ideas (like Expelled), or a sense of humor (like a Michael Moore film).

Instead Dodos offers criticisms of ID that would easily be destroyed if posed to one of the various ID representatives the movie interviews. The scientists offered as friendly witnesses on the side of Darwin rarely if ever pose a scientific argument, and instead offer ad hominem attacks, and other examples of logical terrorism that should make any scientist ashamed.

But perhaps worst of all is the recommendation the movie makes to scientists in the following statement: "The bigger issue in this whole thing is who will be the voice not just of evolution, but of science in general. Is it going to be scientists who are handicapped by their blind obsession with the truth? Or will it be public relations firms that know the importance of a good story but feel no constraints by the truth?" This is not the kind of statement made by people assured of the merits of their argument; no, this kind of statement is made by one with blind faith who lacks confidence in their ability to persuade by reason.

Dodos argues that ID succeeds in the public arena because it tells a simple story, while the truth is much more complex. I would argue that the opposite is true. Evolution succeeds because it is such a simple explanation; ID succeeds when the simplicity of Evolutionary theory fails to account for the evidence. IDs biggest problem is that it's central argument (that there is a designer to life) opens up so many more questions that sticking to the simple "selection via random mutation" is often more attractive intellectually.

Dodos claims that scientists have good answers to the questions posed by ID, but those answers require time and a depth of knowledge to understand. Personally, I've tried to find those answers, but such responses will rarely convince anyone not already converted, and often are rebuttals to arguments no one is even making.

I will agree with Dodos about one thing: if champions of Neo-Darwinism hope to squash the "pseudoscience" of ID, they need to have a more compelling presence in the media. But when they lose the veneer of a "blind obsession with the truth", scientists lose all credibility.
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A disappointment...
JoeB13121 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I think the problem with this film is that it goes into the Darwinism/Intelligent Design debate with its mind already made up.

It does recognize that the ID side is a lot better at connecting with people. It attributes this to the fact that they've gotten slick public relations firms, not that they actually make legitimate points that the Darwinist side is unable to answer.

It does engage in some chicanery. For instance, it attacks Dr. Wells "Icons of Evolution" on the dispute over Haeckel's embryos. THe problem is that Haeckel's embryos are frequently included in a lot of textbooks. They engage in misdirection by pointing out they aren't in advanced embryology textbooks. Well, most people aren't going to take advanced embryology, they are going to maybe take High School biology.

It criticizes the ID side for using catchphrases, while repeating catchphrases of the Darwinist side- such as 'God of the gaps". It's a clever phrase, but it doesn't really address the problem - that there are some huge gaping holes in Evolutionary theory- how did life evolve from chemicals, why are there so few transitional fossils in the records, how would a complex structure like an eye evolve.

It also engages in "guilt by association". The Discovery institute uses the same public relation firm as the Swift Vets who attacked Kerry, that makes them evil. Sorry, the Swift Vets had a legitimate point, Kerry was presenting himself as something he wasn't.

It also presents it as a "blue state/red state" issue. Again, wrong. I know a LOT of liberal democrats who believe that God had something to do with the origin of life in the world.

In all, it tries to be fair, but really isn't.
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very lopsided
tumblez0075 June 2010
I picked this film to watch because I enjoy studying creationism and evolution. Was thinking the film was going to be objective, but very early in the film found it to be biased toward the evolutionist with those who do not believe in evolution being considered the "dodo's" of the film. Having been myself a former evolutionist I can understand the reasoning of the filmmaker, an evolutionist, to be totally lopsided in his presentation.

Evolutionist will watch this and get the affirmation of their beliefs from this film. Intelligent design believers will find that they are mocked throughout the film. I Myself, as young earth creationist,don't find any merit in intelligent design directing evolution, thought they have far better arguments than that proposed by evolutionist. This film gave very weak arguments to support evolution.

Would recommend those on all sides of the fence to view this film. This film will not convert a non-evolutionist into being an evolutionist, though it will help the beginning non-critical thinking evolutionist to feel he has some legitimate reasons to believe the way he does. As I encourage all sides to view this, I likewise encourage all sides to view the creationist arguments for a young earth with no evolution. A great resource to begin with is answersingenesis.com.
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And which dodo wrote this movie?
RNMorton14 April 2009
It never ceases to amaze me how evolutionists posture themselves as the great intellectual victims in America. Hey, wake up, you won! In fact, YOU WON BIG, so stop whining. Forget for a moment that you are crusading for a theory which has scant little verifiable evidence for where its advocates want to take it, or as a general explanation of the development of life on earth. It's like one of the great scams of the last century. In the home of the free and the land of the brave you get to teach unimpeded and unquestioned a theory with gaping holes and little actual factual support as an explanation for the development of life. Congratulations!

And what the school district wanted to do in the Dover case was so insignificant, that is, inform kids that another theory existed. Oh my goodness, what happened to the opportunity to form your own opinion? If John Scopes were alive today he'd be fired for teaching that Darwinism might just not be right. Heresy!! It's like the Dark Ages all over again, except this time the left is in control. Isn't the free expression of reasoned belief and opinion what PBS and the ACLU are supposed to stand for, or does that only apply to beliefs without Christian support? The only thing I agree with Bush on (and I voted Dem the last two presidential elections) is that both theories have some factual basis, neither have complete validation, and both are appropriate for the classroom where neither can scientifically prove itself to be the definitive answer.

This movie and the even more intellectually dishonest NOVA "documentary" (I gag at the use of that word with the NOVA "effort", my tax dollars at work) assume that Darwin's theories have been conclusively proved to be correct as an explanation for the development of life on earth, and that if you were just smart enough and didn't let your mind be clouded by the religious nonsense you'd see the truth too. Unfortunately, that just AIN'T TRUE. The Inconvenient Truth (ignored by these position papers) is that there are as many issues with Darwin's theories as there are with the intelligent design theory. The dishonesty of this movie (and the NOVA "effort") in appearing to show the creationist view, but simply as a set up to the Darwinist response, is so contrived as to suggest the weakness of the Darwinist position. This one does the intellectual dishonesty in a particularly coy, pseudo self-effacing manner, making it in its own way even more dishonest. And they always have to throw in the personal stuff, just to show how all the creationists are Nazis and the anti-creationists just humble little folks (who nonetheless would like to impress their unsupported beliefs on your kids). I'm sure there are personal issues both ways, but you won't see it here or on NOVA. Let's have an intelligent debate on this issue, not the propaganda machine. Be professional journalists and grow up guys.

For an interesting counterpoint to this position piece check out http://www.frankcaw.com/science.html.
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