As I've said before, I think orthodoxy to political movements and political parties is a recipe for stupid behavior. When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail; when you are invested in being a Republican/Democrat/conservative/progressive/whatever, everything looks like one of the bugaboos of that particular ideology. (By the way, I am not suggesting that I am immune to this problem.)
Case in point: the Telegraph runs a piece about an upcoming movie called Creation about Charles Darwin. It looks terrific. This is the Telegraph's uncritical thesis:
However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.
Such critics, by and large, did not engage in critical scrutiny of the Telegraph's thesis or of the message that the film's producers were trying to promote. Fortunately, some people did. Take increasingly prominent science-fiction author and commentator John Scalzi, who writes a great blog. Scalzi is to the left of me; he's by no stretch of the imagination a conservative or someone sympathetic to pro-creationist anti-Darwinist sentiment. But he's also usually not an orthodox thinker. So he penned an awesome take-down of credulously accepting the premise that the film can't find a distributor because Americans are anti-science idiots:
Alternately, and leaving aside any discussion of the actual quality of the film, it may be that a quiet story about the difficult relationship between an increasingly agnostic 19th Century British scientist and his increasingly devout wife, thrown into sharp relief by the death of their beloved 10-year-old daughter, performed by mid-list stars, is not exactly the sort of film that’s going to draw in a huge winter holiday crowd, regardless of whether that scientist happens to be Darwin or not, and that these facts are rather more pertinent, from a potential distributor’s point of view.
Read the whole thing; I especially like his vision of the Will-Smith-vehicle Darwin biopic that would get distributed easily. Scalzi is enough of a skeptic that he suggests the same thing I immediately suspected — that this "halp halp Americans are idiots" notion is clever marketing at the movie's target audience. (That target audience, I submit, probably includes a sizable segment of people whose self-esteem is premised on being smarter, better people than the unwashed hordes of Middle America.) I frequently disagree with Scalzi's conclusions, but this openness to nuance is why I like to read him.
Credit is also due to frequent critic of religion and proponent of science P.Z. Myers, who also recognized that the film's situation might also not be all about American hostility to science.
As for the commentators who took it at face value — well, one has to wonder whether, in the days of William Castle's B-movie advertisements, they would have bought the advertised insurance policies in case they died of fright during the film:
Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. Showings also had fake nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.
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