"Evolution" Series Rewrites History to Fit Religious Stereotype
Circuit-Science, Education, & TV Writers
SEATTLE--The first episode of the upcoming WGBH/Clear Blue Sky's series "Evolution" rewrites history to fit a pre-determined religious stereotype, say scholars affiliated with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. The episode ("Darwin's Dangerous Idea") portrays all of Darwin's critics during the nineteenth century as biblical literalists whose objections to Darwin's theory were motivated by religion rather than science.
"In fact, much of the initial controversy over Darwin's theory focused on the scientific shortcomings of the theory," says Discovery Institute Senior Fellow John West, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University. "Since 'Evolution' purports to be about science, not religion, it is strange that it virtually ignores the scientific controversy sparked by Darwin and replaces it with a hackneyed story of fundamentalists battling science."
According to West, while most scientists during Darwin's time eventually became persuaded that evolution occurred, many of them sharply disputed Darwin's claim that evolution was driven by an unguided process of natural selection acting on random variations. "They didn't see evidence that natural selection acting on random variations could produce all of the intricate complexity we see in the natural world."
"As a result, leading scientists such as Charles Lyell and St. George Mivart advocated a type of guided evolution that flatly contradicted Darwin's core thesis. Even Alfred Wallace, who shared credit with Darwin for proposing the theory of evolution by natural selection, doubted that natural selection alone could explain the development of the human brain."
West says that scientific objections to Darwin's theory became so severe that by the turn of the century Darwin's version of evolution was held in disrepute by much of the scientific community. Indeed, according to historian Peter Bowler, Darwin's theory "had slipped in popularity to such an extent that by 1900 its opponents were convinced it would never recover." Darwin's theory of natural selection only revived after the laws of genetics became more clearly understood in the twentieth century.
"The real story doesn't fit the stereotype of a war between religious fundamentalists and science," says Cambridge-trained philosopher of science Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. "But the producers of 'Evolution' have chosen to perpetuate the stereotype at the expense of historical accuracy. They clearly want to tell a kind of morality tale. That's unfortunate, because the real story is a lot richer and more fascinating than the cliche presented by the series."
Meyer adds that the "Evolution" series blurs the line between fact and fiction by inventing scenes that never actually happened. "For example, the first episode shows Charles Darwin's brother Erasmus lampooning the classic hymn 'Rock of Ages' during a church service. But the scene is a complete fabrication, supported by no evidence whatsoever. The same is true of some of the scenes between Darwin and Capt. Robert Fitzroy during the famous voyage of the Beagle. PBS should have to explain its resort to fictionalized history."
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