Imax Theatres Reject Movies Containing Evolution

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The New York Times has an article (reg required) about Imax theatres refusing to carry films that mention evolution for fear of pissing off the religions right.

People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including “Cosmic Voyage,” which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; “Galápagos,” about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,” an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.

People who follow the issue say it is more likely to arise at science centers and other public institutions than at commercial theaters. The filmmaker James Cameron, who was a producer on “Volcanoes,” said the commercial film he made on the same topic, “Aliens of the Deep,” had not encountered opposition, except during post-production, when “it was requested from some theaters that we change a line of dialogue” relating to sun worship by ancient Egyptians. The line remained, he said.

Mr. Cameron said he was “surprised and somewhat offended” that people were sensitive to the references to evolution in “Volcanoes.”

“It seems to be a new phenomenon,” he said, “obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science.”

3 TrackBacks

Imax theaters in science museums are rejecting films that mention evolution. Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing ... Read More

IMAX films which mention evolution are having some distribution problems "We have definitely a lot more creation public than evolution public," said Lisa Buzzelli, who directs the Charleston Imax Theater in South Carolina, a commercial theater next to ... Read More

Via The Panda's Thumb, I see that Colin Purrington has something new, Charles Darwin bookmarks and stickers. Purrington, you may recall, is the man who brought us the textbook disclaimer stickers. You know, I've had those on my wall at work and not on... Read More

37 Comments

If you’d like to write Carol Murray, the business manager at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History who was responsible for the egregious decision to not show “Volcanoes” because some people in a focus group said things like “I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact”, her e-mail address is [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

And this, I think, is why we shouldn’t just give in and accept Creationism in high school science classes in the interest of peace and quiet or as a clever tactical maneuver. By the end we would have Hovind presenting documentaries on PBS . .

-Dan S.

According to the article: In their written comments, [Murray] explained, they made statements like “I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact,” or “I don’t agree with their presentation of human existence.” On other criteria, like narration and music, the film did not score as well as other films, Ms. Murray said, and over all, it did not receive high marks, so she recommended that the museum pass. “If it’s not going to draw a crowd and it is going to create controversy,” she said, “from a marketing standpoint I cannot make a recommendation” to show it.

Whatever else one thinks of this (marketing is important, but we can all make our own absurd situations showing what happens when the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (or any other) takes this a little too far … ) it shows one way the process of self-censorship works. Odd, because I really would have thought such institutions and productions could count on a firm core of pro-science people … I suppose spending a significant portion of my childhood in the American Museum of Natural History has warped my perception of human existance …

Off topic, Yahoo has a new story about Japan unveiling a frozen mammoth as part of the World Expo, with joint Russian-Japanese plans to try to clone it - http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm[…]050318070413

Hey, if I don’t get my baby mammoth because of creationist pressure, I am gonna be PISSED . …

Ok, time for coffee.

I often think America won’t be able to compete in biotech in the future. How will we compete against a billion Chinese people who won’t deny basic science? On the other hand, smart people here will always understand and accept evolution, regardless of what some school board or congressional idiots do.

“I often think America won’t be able to compete in biotech in the future. How will we  compete against a billion Chinese people who won’t deny basic science? “

Silly! That’s what missionaries (of the anti-science variety, that is) are for!

We have to stress the difference between evolution (the scientific theory) and ‘evilution’ (the imaginary doctrine, spread by imiginary evil Darwinists, that denies God and tells people that morality is for suckers), emphasizing that most religious people don’t have a problem with the former, and that the latter is, well, imaginary. -Dan S.

And so Imax is now showing reruns of the 700 Club with an 80-ft face of Pat Robertson squinting his eyes as he prays for degenerate evolutionists. It’s a favorite on Halloween.

Steve Wrote:

How will we compete against a billion Chinese people who won’t deny basic science?

I share this same fear, and plus I think it sucks on its own anyway. It pretty much defeats the purpose of Imax Science features not to portray one of the largest and most interesting fields of modern science. But even in third-world, theocratic sh*tholes, evolutionary biologists survive and even thrive. I’m sure they pay lip service to creationism or whatnot when they have to, but they’re not buying it.

China also has its share of mysticism and pseudoscience, albeit more along the lines of astrology and medical ‘potions’ made from all kinds of odd ingredients, rather than theism. Same thing though more or less.

I don’t know anything about marketing, but I have to wonder about the nature of the “sample audience” Murray showed the film to. Was it people who could reasonably be viewed as a potential audience for an Imax science feature about volcanoes in a museum? If your focus group for, let’s say, a new canned meat product has a number of vegetarians, it’s gonna give you less meaningful results, right?

And that makes me wonder about the behavior of various kinds of creationists, in terms of going to museums, watching science documentaries, etc. Anybody know anything?

Back in the Dark Ages, circa 1953, grammar school kids in California were shown nature films put out by the Moody Institute. The narration for these films had a theistic slant—the Moody Institute was a church outfit—but the quality of the photography was very good. The producers wanted kids to come away with a conviction that the clever adaptations depicted in the films were evidence of providence, but it wasn’t hard to draw different conclusions. The point is, anything that makes children seriously interested in living things and motivates them to learn more real science undermines Creationism and Intelligent Design.

There’s a pattern here. The great naturalists of the 18th Century certainly believed that they were uncovering the hand of God in the works of nature. Thus piety motivated the research that eventually overturned the teleological view of nature.

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Please don’t feed the trolls.

I recently saw the IMAX film “Aliens of the Deep” and I can understand why it makes the creationists tremble.

It was a beautiful film, full of meaningful science, and breathtaking photography on the amazing nature that thrives in the deep oceans.

In the film, they explore a small ecosystem of species that have entirely evolved to thrive off of a geothermal release at the bottom of the ocean. A rare collection of species indeed, since they do not require sunlight for any of the energy that is supplied to their ecosystem. This gives scientists new hope and ideas for life to evolve on other planets.

I would recommend seeing this picture to anyone who feels passionate about nature. Also, take your kids. Not only does it teach evolution, but it does so in a very exciting and meaninful way.

A moving film, not for those faint of the reality and beauty of the natural world.

Well, this is really sad. If SCIENCE museums are afraid to show films about science because of what creationists will think, then there isn’t much hope for the future of science or rational thought of any variety in those parts of the country.

If the opinions of a bunch of creationists are that influential in determining what the science museum does and doesn’t do, then I assume that there are no exhibits about evolution in the museum itself, which does make me wonder what else the museum isn’t doing in case it upsets the fundamentalists. It’s one thing to have your religious opinions reinforced in church, but it’s quite another thing when it happens in the local science museum.

It’s interesting that a passing reference to evolution is more important to these people than the whole basis of a programme about volcanoes, which would have to address the notion of an ancient earth and continental drift. I suppose it’s just another example of the abandonment of rationality and critical thinking.

What a good thing for the future of science that Europe and Asia are still taking it seriously. Last time it took Sputnik to shake the USA out of its religion-induced abandonment of science; I wonder what it’ll take this time.

Dear Ms. Murray,

Why does your museum use “Science” in its title?

I mean you might as well poll 200 people from your community, asked them which topics they don’t find offensive or religiously objectionable and just show those films. But please your “Museum” should not refer to itself as a “Science” Museum.

If the people in your community are uncomfortable with the principles of modern science, then I do not see the point of having a science museum in the first place if not to educate. I mean if your community finds Big Bang, Evolution and Plate Tectonics problematic for their belief systems, what is left exactly? Those three theories form much of the foundation of modern science. If you can’t touch either of those issues, you might as well close.

I understand that it may be tough in a neighborhood, where religious fundamentalists are trying to institute their version of “Sharia Law”, but in my opinion its better not to have a science museum at all, than to have a museum that is actually scared by real science. Because that suggests there are actual fundamental problems with it, when in fact those three pillars of modern science rest on firm theoretical and observational grounds.

I suggest that if the museum is unable to dispense the findings of modern science, you should close up that part of your operations now, and stop wasting people’s time and money.

Your museum has failed spetacularly in its mission. I suggest you take “Science” out and just call your museum a “History” Museum. To continue using the word “Science” in the name of your institution is an insult to those scientists who have worked long and hard (often at great personal risk; volcanologists have been killed) to bring us knowledge of the world we inhabit,

Dr. Stuart Weinstein Geophysicist

That’s a great letter Stuart.

Perhaps Ms. Murray also needs to be educated as to how people acquire their anti-science views.

What the Museum should be showing is a movie about how corrupt and slick the jerks at extremist fundie think tanks like the so-called Discovery Institute are for peddling the sleazy anti-science scripts which the Museum’s patrons recited to Ms. Murray.

My apologize for use of the term “jerks.” I realize that offends some people. But I read that article in the NYTimes this morning and it made me very very angry. I was especially angry because I think a more aggressive stance by websites such as this in the past might have prevented that from happening today. Just my opinion, albeit a reasonable one which I’m prepared to defend (alone, if necessary).

Here is the letter I sent Ms. Murray:

—– Original Message —– To: [Enable javascript to see this email address.] Subject: Museums and their responsibilities Dear Ms. Murray, I grew up in Kentucky, where the nearest large science museum was in Cincinnati – almost 90 miles away. About 15 years ago I moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area while working as a geologist for a major oil company. I was so proud to move to an enlightened area that had wonderful science museums such as the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History. Whenever I had out of town guests, I would make it a point to bring them to your museum and watch an IMAX movie after touring the professional exhibits. I remember the IMAX films “Ring of Fire” and “Blue Planet” as being excellent introductions for non-scientists to basic ideas in geology such as plate tectonics.

While in Texas I also visited the “Creation Evidences Museum” in Glen Rose. In contrast to your museum, the Creation Evidences Museum was located in a musty mobile home and specialized in egregious pseudoscience. The proprietor of the museum had numerous crude carvings that he claimed were human footprints discovered alongside those of dinosaurs. Even more amusing was the fossil human finger which he claimed was discovered in local rocks. The “human finger” was actually a concretion formed in a fossil burrow; it had only the most vague resemblance to a human finger – only the most credulous could look at the specimen and see otherwise. I was amused and saddened by the fake museum at Glen Rose; it made me appreciate real museums in Dallas and Ft. Worth even more. Real natural history and science museums should attempt to show the public the world as it is, not how the scientifically challenged would like it to be.

I have moved back to Kentucky and now work as an environmental geologist and teach freshman level classes in geology and paleontology at my local community college. Several friends and myself have been campaigning for years for Kentucky to have a real natural history museum. Unfortunately, money and public enthusiasm are not on our side. Our local public is more interested in basketball than anything scientific.

Today I was forwarded a link to a New York Times article where you admit to bowing to pressure from the anti-intellectual portion of your community in choosing which IMAX movies to show the general public at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History. How absolutely shameful. Have you no honor or respect for the ideas that make your job possible? I would live in a cardboard box before I would shirk my professional duty to educate my students. If ideas such as evolution or the immense age of the earth make them uncomfortable, so be it. I do not force my students to agree with what they are taught, but they must understand it. Education, at a minimum, is about evaluating new ideas based on evidence, not on how the uneducated would like the world to be. I cannot believe that the views of anti-science dullards are used to choose which science films your museum offers. What is next? Will you label your Allosaurus and other dinosaur skeletons as “Jesus Lizards”? I fear that the spineless cowards of the world will continue to back down to anti-intellectuals, such as the creationists, until the United States is more backward than many third world countries.

Please show more commitment to education and less to pandering to the ignorant in your future endeavors. Sincerely, Daniel Phelps President, Kentucky Paleontological Society http://www.kyps.org

“If it’s not going to draw a crowd and it is going to create controversy,” she said, “from a marketing standpoint I cannot make a recommendation” to show it.

if science documentaries were popular and profitable, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. If you want to support science IMAX presentations, take your friends and family to the next one.

“Volcanoes” is currently running at the Columbus (Ohio) science museum (COSI) for anyone intereseted and within driving distance. There was one letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch from some disgruntled creationist, but I guess it failed to raise the torch-bearing mob.

I just dumped a ton of off topic posts to the Bathroom Wall.

Please keep your comments on topic, don’t troll, and don’t feed the trolls. Any off topic posts risk being disemvoweled.

Reed A. Cartwright,

Funny, I thought my comment about how books are shelved at the public library (Phillip Johnson next to Ernst Myers) was relevant to Imax banning evolutin-supporting movies. Maybe I am mistaken, (I will look into it more tonight at my library) but I didn’t think it was so horribly off-topic. Of course, you be the judge of that.

Katarina,

I dumped 80-something off-topic posts. Yours might have gotten caught with them.

That is what I figured. Admittedly, I still do not know whether or not I have a case, but if I find that I do, and want to tell you about it, hopefully this is the best thread for that topic.

My offerings on the subject:

Carol Murray Director of Marketing Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Dear Ms. Murray:

I am a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Missouri, and the founder of a science course for non-science majors, a large number of whom will go into marketing and public relations. The coursework integrates biological, physical and earth science to show the students that science is a unified process of understanding the observable world.

Biological Evolution is a central concept that unifies these sciences; it is as essential to modern science as the law of gravitation, the conservation of energy, or any other principle. It would be a travesty for myself or any science educator to “skip” Biological Evolution because it might go against a religious belief, making some people uncomfortable. Science is science.

I was therefore deeply disappointed to learn that the FWMSH had made the decision not to show “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea” because of some person’s claims of beimg made “uncomfortable.” Occasional discomfort is a hallmark of true education.

FWMSH has failed in its chartered duty to educate the public about the wonders of the observable world. Those responsible for this cowardly decision should reconsider whether they are fitted for their life’s work.

and:

To the Editor, NY Times:

Biological Evolution is a central concept that unifies the Physical, Life, Space and Earth sciences; it is as essential to modern science as are the Law of Universal Gravitation, the Conservation of Energy, or Plate Tectonics.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has failed in its chartered duty to educate the public about the wonders of the observable world. Occasional discomfort is a hallmark of education. Those responsible for this cowardly decision should reconsider whether they are fitted for their life’s work.

With best regards, Francis J. (Frank) Schmidt, Ph.D. Professor of Biochemistry University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia MO 65212

The author is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and originator of an interdisciplinary course sequence in Science for non-Science majors.

For Reed A. Cartwright:

Hmm.

I realize this relates to Imax theaters, but it seems the conflict here is still Evolution vs. Creationism. That it manifests itself in the Imax arena, is merely a symptom of the overall greater problem.

I notice that MY posts have been dumped as I guess you must feel they are “off topic”. Hmmm. Interesting how “on topic” can take on such a narrowly defined view. Particularly in a forum sponsored by “Talk Origins”.

How is your form of censorship here different from anyone else’s then?

It seems to me that any comments regarding the E. vs. C. is indeed “on topic”. Perhaps my knowledge of Evolution as evidence is indeed not relevant under the “topic”.

Perhaps I shall just not contribute further and the “allowed” contributions here can beat the topic of Imax to death.

It’s a nice looking show, Imax that is. If the issue of E. vs. C. is off topic, then what else is there really to say about it other than “It’s a nice looking show.”

For Reed A. Cartwright:

Hmm.

I realize this relates to Imax theaters, but it seems the conflict here is still Evolution vs. Creationism. That it manifests itself in the Imax arena, is merely a symptom of the overall greater problem.

I notice that MY posts have been dumped as I guess you must feel they are “off topic”. Hmmm. Interesting how “on topic” can take on such a narrowly defined view. Particularly in a forum sponsored by “Talk Origins”.

How is your form of censorship here different from anyone else’s then?

It seems to me that any comments regarding the E. vs. C. is indeed “on topic”. Perhaps my knowledge of Evolution as evidence is indeed not relevant under the “topic”.

Perhaps I shall just not contribute further and the “allowed” contributions here can beat the topic of Imax to death.

It’s a nice looking show, Imax that is. If the issue of E. vs. C. is off topic, then what else is there really to say about it other than “It’s a nice looking show.”

I apologize for the double post.

My Mozilla/Firefox seems to think this last one did not take.

I’ll try to do better if I continue.

This is regarding DS’s comment: You mention China among the countries having problems of their own with superstitious environment. Still, the Chinese (and Indians) are going through the huge boost/motivation in technology (and some sciences). They are on a roll much the same way the US was in the early 60s. Science is cool in those countries and nothing can be stopped.

Just a couple-o-thoughts:

I wonder if the market/focus groups were top-heavy with creationists in laymens’ clothing.

Since marketing is a consideration for a science film at a science museum, what better marketing could one hope for than a big creation/evolution controversy complete with prodigious amounts of free media?

This is perhaps the msot disturbing story I’ve ever read on here.

what is happening in this nation to rationality and common sense?

I am disappointed in this.

the article Wrote:

“It’s going to be hard for our filmmakers to continue to make unfettered documentaries when they know going in that 10 percent of the market” will reject them.

Can you say Texas textbooks?

Maybe the Imax marketer sees something the majority of us here don’t. Check out the public opinion polls at:

http://pollingreport.com/science.htm

According to these polls, roughly 15% of Americans accept an evolutionary process not directed by God. Roughly 45% believe in the 6-day Biblical creation story.

It’s not a pretty sight.

All the more reason for real science eduction, but we’re not making much headway

Maybe the Imax marketer sees something the majority of us here don’t.

I just had a quick web search and found the following site for an additional perspective.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_comp.htm

It has results from a 1991 poll of individuals allowing a comparison between multiple countries of what people believe in “Christian” countries.

Anyone know of anything similar but more recent (1991 was a while ago now)?

Is anyone out there?

I realize my posts are not on the order of someone with a PHD in Paleobiology but as yet, I don’t even see an aknowledgement of the fact that I’ve even said anything here.

Perhaps this BBS software does not operate as it seems.

Granted, I’ve not been to Imax in a few years, and my experetise lies in Music and Software Engineering, but I have studied at least a bit of Dawkins and Darwin, and do in fact breed large Macaws. The “mules” in the Avian world would astound most non-educated genetic experimentalists.

But then, the “Birds” have been around for a lot longer than we Human/Primate/Mammals have.

If Evolution vs. Creation has any argument favoring Evolution itself, it can be found here as opposed to within Horses and Pigs.

Therapods anyone???

I was hoping to find an interesting dialogue on the Topic here, but it’s beginning to appear that I may be out-classed by the Philosophical Snobs.

No offense, but some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been made by us Amateurs.

Anyone remember Shoemaker-Levy when it crashed into Jupiter?

I said I would post a comment here when I found out whether my hunch about the wrongness of anti-evolution literature being shelved at the library with evolution books turned out to be good. I wrote a letter to the NCSE, and Glenn Branch wrote back saying that the cataloging system wasn’t perfect, but in principle, cataloging is done “to indicate what the book is about, not to endorse the book as treating its topic competently, thoroughly, or honestly.” There is a section on creationism, which is separate from the life sciences and evolution section, but if a book is about intelligent design, or merely a critique of evolution without the mention of creation, then it gets into the life sciences and evolution section.

The letter suggested that the best way is donation, and looking at the library’s collection policy. That seems fine to me.

One interesting tidbit I learned from the letter is this: “…a Minnesota librarian named Sandy Berman, who’s legendary in cataloging, circles, recently successfully lobbied the Library of Congerss to introduce “intelligent design’ as a LC descriptor, which enables people to find works advocating, describing, and criticizing intelligent design creationism more easily.”

Thanks for indulging my little quest on this thread,

katarina

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History reverses decision

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/11218459.htm

‘Volcanoes’ to be shown.

Intelligent Design (ID) suffers from the same philosophical shortfall as Young Earth Creation (YEC).

It is driven by a single desire to prove what one already believes, without regard to the possible consideration that what one believes may indeed be just plain wrong.

This is always bad Science any way you look at it.

Good Science is the pursuit of that which you do not know. NOT the re-affirmation of what you THINK you DO.

Evidence, evidence, evidence.

Gee, if ID created Pam Anderson, what the heck created Kathy Bates? Particualrly since Ms. Bates is a far more intelligent, gifted and talented actress than Ms. Anderson will ever be.

Perhaps the ID proponents can get Ms. Anderson to do some IMAX material since given the current state of affairs, I doubt Ms. Bates would agree to.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on March 19, 2005 6:02 AM.

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