One Thumb Up for the TalkOrigins Archive?

| 35 Comments | 1 TrackBack

In a column discussing the flap over antievolution resistance to reality-based IMAX documentaries, Roger Ebert puts in a plug for the TalkOrigins Archive.

An industry has grown up around the “science” supporting the “argument for intelligent design.” It refuses the possibility that evolution itself is the most elegant and plausible argument for those who wish to believe in intelligent design. If you are interested, you might want to go to, where the errors of creationist science are patiently explained. And you might want to ask at your local IMAX theater why they allow a few of their customers to make decisions for all of the rest.

Film about volcanoes falls victim to creationists

1 TrackBack

The Panda's Thumb suggests "One Thumb Up for the TalkOrigins Archive?" over this startlingly frank piece by Roger Ebert: "Film about volcanoes falls victim to creationists", on the basis on the final paragraph: [...] Surely moviegoers deserve th... Read More


Two thumbs up for Roger Ebert!

Roger Ebert has grown greatly in my estimation. I do wish that his familiarity with film had been equaled by a familiarity with Genesis.

Unfortunately, I expect that creationists will obsess over his minor error regarding the sequence of events in the first and second chapters of Genesis merely in order to “blow smoke” obscuring the rest of his argument.

It is a good column but I think Ebert accepts too readily the incorrect notion that there is no conflict between evolution and Christianity. There are many contradictions including the following;

Most Christians believe in some kind of afterlife or resurrection (whether to Earth in the future, Heaven or some other place). Abraham, e.g., is assured a place in Heaven in Hebrews. So, if we evolved at what point does the ransom start to apply? To Homo Sapiens alone? Will heaven be populated with H. floriensis types as well, or what? Since we have a smoothish progression backwards - see Dawkins’s book - where does the ransom start to apply?

Basically it’s a huge can of worms that, imho, cannot be reconciled.

Sorry, I meant to say “religion” not “Christianity” in the first paragraph above - the second paragrph gives a specific example from Christianity,

Ebert makes an especially interesting point here:

“Fundamentalism denies this majestic idea and substitutes God as a magician who created everything more or less as it is now, all at once or very quickly. Dinosaur bones, geologic strata and carbon dating, by providing evidence that seems to contradict their beliefs, are a test of faith.”

Why do creationists believe that God amounts to a cosmic magic trick?

Furthermore, why do they assume that God is apparently dishonest and paranoid enough to test their faith in a way that automatically sets their faith up for failure?

I hereby move that Ebert’s opinion of be added to the Awards page.

Preferably in quotes in some flashy font.

Good column, but I predict the YECs will leap on it to say aaahh. but look at our results on carbon dating; expert geologist (but untrained geochronologist) Andrew Snelling found some radiocarbon in some supposedly x million year old rock therefore the bible is true etc etc etc etc.


imho, to have no conflict between religion and evolution (without postulating some strange divine intervention in the evolution of humans), one has to assume that whatever is valid for humans is valid to all other life-forms to some degree, depending on their exact nature. This would not contradict faith, but it would surely throw a spanner into the notion that people of faith did have all the answers, and instill some healthy scepticism concerning the naive, universal applicability of ‘historic revelation’. Somehow there are lots of religious movements I just cannot see accepting a notion like this.

It’s actually fitting that a movie critic would weigh in on the evolutionary debate. After all, evolutionism is very similar to science fiction films, which Mr. Ebert reviews often.

So of course he is going to like evolutionism, because he loves science fiction. LOL

Take it easy guys.

Roger, thats clever, I see what you’ve done there.

Rearrange the following:

day, job, don’t, give, up, the.

Trolls the feed don’t…

For those who like appeals to chruch authority the Christian critics of evolution should try St. Augustine.

Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

Just a quick side note on this whole issue. I wrote to my local Imax theaters (we have two in the Twin Cities, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and at the Minnesota Zoo), and also to the Imax Corporation. I received nice, comprehensive responses from everyone. I am a writer (I used to be a “real” writer–a newspaper reporter–but now I write to get paid), and thought to send an opinion piece using the information to the local dailies. No sooner had I thought to do this than the film critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Hewitt, actually did something so similar, my idea became redundant. He did a good job (I’d put the link here but I can’t find it). On a whim, I sent my notes to Hewitt and thanked him for the excellent job he did presenting the issue. As part of his response, he wrote the following: “One interesting side note is that I hear the whole New York Times story seems to have begun with a filmmaker who is miffed that no one wants to show his film and doesn’t seem to realize that it’s not very good.”

I don’t know how true that rumor is, but I do want the chance to find out for myself, by SEEING the movie. The good news is, at least one of our local Imax theaters is planning on showing it. The thing is, no mater what the actual reason for not showing the movie, it seems no one has any trouble imagining that, in our current climate, it amounts to science censorship. The very notion that that is a possibility that can be seriously entertained should put people who care about science on full-blown red alert.

“Will heaven be populated with H. floriensis types as well, or what? “

Oh, that would *rock!*

If they have mammoths up there too, that’s it - I’m converting!

The whole contradiction thing seems similar, in my mind, to the assertion that divine creation is a more elegant or sensible *scientific* explanation (but then how did …etc). I mean, does reconciling religion and evolution cause markedly more contradictions than (for whatever reasons) religion and anything else?

If hell is other people, then heaven must be an active imagination. Have you seen the National Geographic cover story this month on H. Floriensis? The paintings inside are way cool. Necessarily very speculative, but way cool. It’s Hobbit versus komodo dragon in one fold-out. Another reason to love real science…it feeds the imagination, and imagination is the only heavenly substance.

Go to heaven for the climate. Go to hell for the company. - Mark Twain

Ben Goff,

Excellent. I’ll also point out that St. Augustine had a very non-literal interpretation of Genesis. He believed that creation did not take six days, but was, in fact, instantaneous. I can almost hear him saying: “My God doesn’t need six whole days to create the universe!”

In a certain way of looking at it (via ratios), St. Augustine’s view of creation was “more” non-literal than the old earth view of 4.5 billion years.

“Most Christians believe in some kind of afterlife or resurrection (whether to Earth in the future, Heaven or some other place). Abraham, e.g., is assured a place in Heaven in Hebrews. So, if we evolved at what point does the ransom start to apply? To Homo Sapiens alone? Will heaven be populated with H. floriensis types as well, or what? Since we have a smoothish progression backwards - see Dawkins’s book - where does the ransom start to apply?

Basically it’s a huge can of worms that, imho, cannot be reconciled.”

As a Christian who accepts evolution, please allow me to offer you a simple reconciliation.

Most Christians accept that parts of the Bible are figurative speech, metaphors and analogies. Evolution is the mechanism by which God brought forth homo sapiens on this planet. Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, tells the figurative story of how God ensouled the first Man and Woman. The soul, or spirit, is not a physical thing encoded by DNA. Homo sapiens had been around for a long time before the first Man and Woman appeared.


Thanks. So you’re saying that the container evolved but it didn’t have a soul until God poured the soul into Adam & Eve? At that point the ransom starts to apply (retroactively)?

Here are some questions;

What happened to the other H. sapiens that were not so ensouled?

How was it guaranteed that human descent came through Adam and Eve only?

How did ensouled and unsouled H. sapiens differ? For example, was the nonsouled variety capable of speech? If the soul has nothing to do with DNA then, presumably, intellect etc were the same between the two varieties? What did pre-souled A&E do to deserve ensouling while the rest didn’t?

After Adam and Eve sinned then what did God tweak to make them imperfect? Why didn’t he simply ensoul another pair and see what happened to them instead of condemning A&E’s descendents to millenia of suffering?

Finally, while the Bible may contain figurative speech is it really so plastic that one can make up anything at all? What Bible arguments do you use to arrive at these conclusions? To be honest they seem to be made up to fit new facts.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 3, column 108, byte 349 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/mach/5.18/XML/ line 187.

This really isn’t the forum for a theological debate; but quickly:

The Ransom of Christ begins to apply, once people have been informed of the nature of the gift of Christ and have a chance to make a free will choice in the matter. Prior to about 2000 years ago, God used other mechanisms such as blood sacrifice.

“What happened to the other H. sapiens that were not so ensouled?”

What happens to any animal? They died.

“How was it guaranteed that human descent came through Adam and Eve only? How did ensouled…etc. etc.”

Beats me. Maybe Adam and Eve are metaphors for all humananity and everyone got a soul simultaneously. Not my problem - trusting God to handle those things is what faith is all about.

“Finally, while the Bible may contain figurative speech is it really so plastic that one can make up anything at all? What Bible arguments do you use to arrive at these conclusions? To be honest they seem to be made up to fit new facts.”

Basically, it boils down to this: I don’t believe God would lie to us. Creating a universe that looks old in all its particulars, but then telling us that it was created 6009 years ago is a form of deception. If our interpretation of Scripture conflicts with the physical evidence, then I would put the fault on our interpretation of Scripture.

Maybe God created the universe so that it just looks old. By that reasoning, He could have created it just this moment and all our memories of anything prior to this instant are merely part of the creation. Whether or not, God created the universe exactly as stated in Genesis, is really irrellevant to our understanding of the physical evidences. Our science, including biology, must still use the assumption that the universe is old because that is the theory that best fits the available measurable evidence.

“Today’s fundamentalist fanatics — as I see it Wow! That has to be the shallowest, emptiest, most pro forma ID cheerleading I’ve ever seen. I’m surprised the DI isn’t embarrassed to post it. Dembski is so much better at disguising the nothingness of his message with sesquipedalian flatulence.

Who is this Bedhed guy?

To continue in the vein from Tim’s excellent comments, I recently came across the following quote:

If sound science appears to contradict the Bible, we may be sure that it is our interpretation of the Bible that is at fault.” Christian Observer, 1832, pg. 437.

The Ransom of Christ begins to apply, once people have been informed of the nature of the gift of Christ and have a chance to make a free will choice in the matter. Prior to about 2000 years ago, God used other mechanisms such as blood sacrifice.

No, blood sacrifices never had any redeeming power, they only foreshadowed. Throughout man’s history, OT and NT, there is only one way people are saved, by faith. The blood of an animal has never saved nor redeemed anyone.

Thanks David. I accept and agree with “blood sacrifices never had any redeeming power.” I was referring to the procedures followed rather than the operative power.

The blood of an animal has never saved nor redeemed anyone.

You forgot to add: “according to my personal religious beliefs.”

Can we please try to keep the religious bigotry to a minimum, David? There are surely a few pagans reading this blog and there’s no point in offending their sensibilities.

Also, animal blood has undoubtedly saved some people from dehydration and/or starvation.

The artist Hermann Nitsch has staged some fantastic performances involving blood rituals. If I were inclined to believe in transformative redemptive magical happenings, these would be near the top of the list.[…]p;category=1

Great music, too:[…]hermann.html

Roger Ebert is no scientist. There has never been any real conflict between Intelligent Design and evolution. Without the former there never could have been the latter. Evolution, like ontogeny proceeded by the derepression of preprogrammed front-loaded information and, like ontogeny. did so without any input from the environment.

“We may summarize the present section in the following way: the laws of the organic world are the same, whether we are dealing with the development of the individual (ontogeny) or that of a palaeontological series (phylogeny). neither in the one nor in the other is there any room for chance.” Leo Berg, “Nomogenesis or Evolution Determined by Law.” page 134

I assume this post too will be relegated to the Bathroom Wall. The Bathroom Wall is Panda’s Thumb’s version of EvC’s “Boot Camp,” a kind of Darwinian dungeon for dissenters. Actually I should be flattered by the special attention. Like Brer Rabbit :

“Please don’t put me in the brier patch.”

John A. Davison, chronically and irreversibly unfair, clearly cerifiable but still an out patient and so out of touch with reality that he stumbles on, gloriously unafraid, like Don Quixote, tilting the slowly revolving vanes of Darwinian mysticism with gay abandon. He even has a sort of Sancho Panza in the person of DaveScot.

The whole ensoulment issue does emphasize an important difference. Hominid evolution - can be usefully explored by science (with possible implications for theological arguements). Theology doesn’t really help here.

Ensoulment - cannot be usefully explored by science; a theological issue (with possible implications for how people understand or interpret scientific findings.) Science doesn’t really help here.

(Although there’s probably a clever short story using the conceit that science has discovered how to measure soul ‘traces’ from bones, etc.)

Confusing the two is just kinda pointless.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 10, column 18, byte 669 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/mach/5.18/XML/ line 187.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, Roger Ebert is actually a pretty liberal guy. For example, check out this article on the Bush 2000 election, where he plugs Dawkins’ ‘meme’ concept. Every now and then he likes to get a dig in against creationists in his movie reviews, like this one from a review of the documentary, “Aliens of the Deep”:

“Aliens of the Deep” is a convincing demonstration of Darwin’s theory of evolution, since it shows creatures not only adapted perfectly to their environment but obviously generated by that environment. It drives me crazy when people say evolution is “only a theory,” since that reveals they don’t know what a scientific theory is. As the National Geographic pointed out only a month ago, a theory is a scientific hypothesis that is consistent with observed and experimental data, and the observations and experiments must be able to be repeated. Darwin passes that test. His rival, creationism, is not a theory, but a belief. There is a big difference.

Here’s another great line, from the review to ‘Starship Troopers’:

I was particularly intrigued by the way the Bugs had evolved organic launching pods that could spit their spores into space, and could also fire big globs of unidentified fiery matter at attacking space ships. Since they have no technology, these abilities must have evolved along Darwinian lines; to say they severely test the theory of evolution is putting it mildly.

Just for the heck of it, a few more examples of Ebert’s use of evolutionary terminology in his movie reviews.

28 Days Later

Darwinians will observe that a virus that acts within 20 seconds will not be an efficient survivor; the host population will soon be dead–and along with it, the virus. I think the movie’s answer to this objection is that the “rage virus” did not evolve in the usual way, but was created through genetic manipulation in the Cambridge laboratory where the story begins.

Ice Age

It is true that altruism is a positive evolutionary trait; a species with individuals willing to die for the survival of the race is a species that will get somewhere in the Darwinian sweepstakes. But listen closely. When Diego the Sabertooth asks Manfred the Mammoth why he saved him, Manny replies, “That’s what you do as a herd.” Yes, absolutely. But herds are by definition made up of members of the same species (and tigers are not herd animals, anyway). If Manny’s philosophy were to get around in the animal kingdom, evolution would break down, overpopulation would result, there would be starvation among the non-vegetarians, and it would be an ugly picture. Much of the serenity and order of nature depends on eating the neighbors

Pitch Black

Since sunlight is the source of heat and energy, Darwinian principles would seem severely challenged by the task of evolving living things that hibernate for 22 years between eclipses. How does a thing that lives in the dark evolve in a planet where it is almost always daytime? This is not the kind of question you’re supposed to ask about “Pitch Black,” but I’d rather have the answer than any 45 minutes of this movie.

Tomb Raider 2

In “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” which with becoming modesty is 10 letters shorter than “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” she engages in a deadly race for control of Pandora’s Box, which brought life to earth but was slammed shut before it could also release a plague that would kill us all. Devout Darwinians will note that if the box was opened to admit life and then immediately closed on death, whoever or whatever came out of it must have evolved with startling speed into a box-closing organism.


Darwinian processes seem irrelevant in robot society, since as nearly as I can tell every robot is a unique example of intelligent design, including Aunt Fanny (Jennifer Coolidge), whose enormous derriere would no doubt confer an evolutionary advantage not immediately apparent, if robots reproduced according to the laws of DNA instead of the whims of manufacturers and repairmen. Imagine going to the garage after a breakdown and asking, “How long will it be before I can get myself back?”

The Time Machine

“The Time Machine” is a witless recycling of the H.G. Wells story from 1895, with the absurdity intact but the wonderment missing. It makes use of computer-aided graphics to create a future race of grubby underground beasties, who like the characters in “Battleship Earth” have evolved beyond the need for bathing and fingernail clippers. Since this race–the Morlocks–is allegedly a Darwinian offshoot of humans, and since they are remarkably unattractive, they call into question the theory that over a long period of time a race grows more attractive through natural selection. They are obviously the result of 800,000 years of ugly brides.


The narrator informs us that “evolution takes thousands and thousands of years,” which is putting it mildly, and that we live in an age of great evolutionary leaps forward. Some of the X-Men develop paranormal powers which cannot be accounted for by the strictly physical mutations which form the basis of Darwinian theory; I get restless when real science is evoked in the name of pseudoscience, but, hey, that’s just me.

Hmm. If movie misrepresentation of evolution annoys Ebert, there’s a couple of Star Trek TNG episodes that must’ve driven him up the wall (metaphorically speaking), if he saw them.


My point in citing St. Augustine was to suggest before a science such as the study of evolution is condemned by Christians it should be studied. The literal interpretation of the Bible should not be used as the reference unless you read Hebrew and even then it is worst than dangerous. A more immediate problem is that a substantial number of Americans including the President do not accept evolution as a fact. As few as 1/3 to the teachers in this country do not teach evolution. Some teachers have said that this is because thay want to avoid contraversy, but I suspect it is because they do not understand it. Just try to explain the title to this blog to an educated friend and you will see what I mean. ID is not the problem. It goes deeper than that.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on March 29, 2005 3:42 PM.

Project Steve Steve was the previous entry in this blog.

It must be Spring… is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter