A Flock of Dodos -- a fair assessment?

A new movie on the debate between evolutionism and intelligent design has recently been released in limited circulation entitled A Flock of Dodos. The website for the movie, which features a preview of the film, shows the film to be a light-hearted look at this issue that has become a key part of the culture wars.

Now, I personally don't mind seeing films that take a light-hearted view of things I view seriously. I personally loved the movie Monty Python's Life of Brian even though the movie was an obviously irreverent, thinly-disguised slap at Christian belief. Thus, the fact that the movie takes a lighter view of the discussion is actually quite interesting, and I look forward to seeing the film if I get the opportunity.

Having said that, it seems fairly apparent that the film is not going to give a fair shake to intelligent design. The filmmaker is an evolutionary biologist, Randy Olson, and it is apparent from his interview at NPR that he doesn't think that the real problem with evolution is its failure to explain intelligent design to the public. In other words, he doesn't think that the problems pointed out by ID advocates are really legitimate concerns, but rather the problem is that the poor ignorant people who doubt evolution simply don't understand the issue.

He does seem to acknowledge that he is somewhat favorable towards Intelligent Design as people who have good personality skills who are more easy-going. Meanwhile, the evolutionists, he notes, are coming across as bad people by their condescending attitude. He agrees with the interviewer that the evolutionists are "winning on points" but losing the debate. In other words, he sees the problem not as a real issue with science, but as merely a failure to properly market evolution to the public in a way that they can understand it.

According to Sigemund at The Design Paradigm who has seen the film, it is not a fair assessment of the ID movement. In a post entitled "Of Dodos and Filmmakers – a Reflection on Randy Olson’s Flock of Dodos", he makes the following comment:

However, the film is not the impartial assessment of the ID debate as it is sometimes billed. Whether by simply reflecting the filmmaker’s own leanings (he was a tenured professor of evolutionary marine ecology at the University of New Hampshire before turning to filmmaking) or through an intentional desire to do so, the film conveys both explicit and subtle messages that seek to steer viewers at an emotive level against the ID position. I am no expert in ID, having only recently begun to read on the subject. But I have seen enough to conclude that, for whatever reason, FOD mischaracterizes or omits pertinent issues in the ID debate. Some were evident during the film and subsequent audience interaction with Olson; others become more apparent on reflection.

Sigemund then proceeds to note several of the problems that he sees with the movie including problems of straw man, poisoning the well, and intolerance. Thus, while the movie looks entertaining, I hardly suppose that anyone should accept this movie as an unpartisan effort to show the debate in an equal light.


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