A new pro-evolution film

The “religion” section of PuffHo reports the release of a new evolution-friendly film, “No dinosaurs in Heaven.”  The theme sounds good:

The film, “No Dinosaurs in Heaven,” follows Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, down the Colorado River as she refutes creationist theories that the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old and shows evidence of the biblical flood.

It also charts the story of its director, Greta Schiller, as she studies to become a science teacher and is assigned a biology professor who refuses to teach evolution because of his religious beliefs.

But two things took the wind out of my sails. One was this statement by the director:

“I made the film to convey three major ideas,” Schiller said. The most important, she said, is “that science is a way to understand the natural world and is not inherently in conflict with a belief in God.”

Must they always try to sell evolution by showing that it’s down with Jesus?  And what does not “inherently in conflict with a belief in God” mean? Doesn’t that depend on what kind of faith you hold?

And the other is a dreadful video clip inserted at the end of the PuffHo piece, which shows physicist, priest, and Templeton Prize winner John Polkinghorne pontificating about science and religion.   I hope to God that this isn’t from the film!  Perhaps PuffHo just added it at the end of the piece to show the amiability of science and faith.  Nevertheless, the director’s “major idea” of showing how science comports with religion presages some dire accommodationism in “No dinosaurs in Heaven.”

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The film opens October 25 at the New York Academy of Sciences.

27 Comments

  1. Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    What else did you expect from Eugenie?

  2. Steve Smith
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”

    I eagerly await the sequel All Dinosaurs Go to Heaven 2:

    Seriously, listen to the Miltonian anti-religious lyrics in this children’s cartoon, “It’s too heavenly here … my brain cells are turning to jello … this place is deader than death.” If a popular children’s cartoon can actually be anti-religious, why must a pro-science movie about dinosaurs be compatible with religion?

  3. Stonyground
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    The only people who try to claim that science and religion are compatible are the religious and those who are desperate to appease the religious.

    The Bible and the Koran both make supposedly factual statements about the real world. Modern science reveals that these statements are not only mistaken but match very closely the limited understanding of the world that was prevelant at the time that these books were written. The claim that these books were written by divine inspiration is thus falsified according to the scientific method. You can use some other method to claim otherwise, but that would not be compatible with science.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      You ametaphorist, you!

      • Stonyground
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        On the contrary, I love a metaphor when the writer is actually using one to express a difficult to grasp concept. On the other hand, when a theologian tries to pretend that the bits of the Bible that we now know to be false are metaphorical I have a problem. Basically they are desperately trying to avoid the admission that the Bible has to be true, otherwise it cannot be what it is claimed to be. The alternative is to admit that God is either a liar or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Either that or he doesn’t exist and the Bible is just a random pile of old scrolls, translated and bound into a book.

  4. Terry
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Personally, I like the fact that religionists, and accommodationists, believe that the Grand Canyon is 6 or 7 thousand years old. Their ignorance has no bearing on fact, and I’m not that smart, so it’s great to find there are people decidedly dumber than me!

    • Scryptic
      Posted October 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Alas, the unfortunate truth is that sometimes smart people can hold some pretty stupid beliefs, particularly if they’re the victims of indoctrination.

  5. Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I take issue with the title.

  6. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    If successful, this movie seems likely to draw more attention to Dr. Coyne and his book.

  7. leebowman
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    “But two things took the wind out of my sails. One was this statement by the director:”

    “I made the film to convey three major ideas,” Schiller said. The most important, she said, is “that science is a way to understand the natural world and is not inherently in conflict with a belief in God.”

    Me too, and for reasons more similar than you may think. It seems a dichotomy from the purported purpose of the film.

    I commented here:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/film-explores-shifting-debate-over-evolution/2011/10/11/gIQAcUvDdL_allComments.html#comments

    And my reflection that “But of course, make no mention of God in the classroom” is not an endorcement of so doing, but merely an agreement with that constraint.

    My further diagribe is more of my defense of ID when properly explored [an adjunct hypothesis], than to comment on the film.

    But regarding the flick, we’ll see.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      “My further diagribe [sic] is more of my defense of ID when properly explored [an adjunct hypothesis], than to comment on the film.”

      But that is the point, isn’t it? If you want to make religious anti-scientific claims like Paley’s watchmaker ID argument, you should not do that around science.

      There are comparative religion classes that explores, and Dishonest Institute’s that exploits, such atrocious BS.

  8. MadScientist
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    With a little help from the ghost of Templeton it can become the National Center for Science and Religion.

  9. Keith
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Polkinghorne’s belief system conveniently privileges his own understanding of what he calls God, and thinks he knows God’s true nature. Looks to me like your standard issue power grab from the priestly class, claiming priestly knowledge.

  10. Posted October 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Either this man is seriously deluded. Or he’s lying. He sneakingly represents emotional experiences as spiritual experiences. And it’s this kind of misleading rhetoric that continues to keep the masses in a deluded state.

  11. Posted October 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    It would be unfortunate if what, upon actual checking, seems to be a valuable tool to combat the encroachment of creationism, is successfully undermined by falling for the narrative of a theist religion reporter posting in HuffPo’s woo-woo Religion section.

    In fact, based on your critique, Jerry, I Googled the film, and immediately found its website: http://nodinos.com/

    I found no evidence that Templeton has any role in this film – not in its funding, not being noted in its list of characters. I found no evidence of the Templeton video clip which (you correctly intuit) was apparently inserted there by the reporter or editor, rather than being sn actual excerpt from Schiller’s film.

    There is also no mention whatsoever of Schiller making the kind of accommodationist argument the theistic reporter (who writers books defending the value of the “faith” part of faith healing even when there is no evidence it works, and who has a blog devoted to prayer beads) carefully cherry-quotes. I note in particular that “the most important part” is not actually a quote of Schiller’s, but a paraphrasing by the reporter. I see no evidence that this is even a part of the film’s intent, let alone “the most important part.

    In fact, in the presskit section of the film website, I found the following:

    No Dinosaurs in Heaven is a film essay that examines the hijacking of science
    education by religious fundamentalists, threatening the separation of church and state and dangerously undermining scientific literacy.

    In the FAQ section of the presskit, I found the following:

    What was your inspiration or motivation for making the film?

    While enrolled in a Masters of Science Education program, I discovered my biology professor was actually a creationist who denied evolution and refused to teach it in one of the world’s great metropolitan cities, New York. Perhaps even more startling than hearing him say, “Evolution has not been proven, it is just a theory,” was the resulting low level of discourse from both students and administration, after he had been exposed. This firsthand experience, along with my deep, long-standing interest in the natural world, and my distress in witnessing our increasing alienation from it, inspired me to make this film. I find it untenable in the 21st Century that in our public discourse, faith is posited against reason.

    I wonder if that last sentence, or a similarly expressed sentiment, is the basis for the theist reporter’s clever accommodationist about “the most important part”.

    Based on the trailer and the material on the film website, this looks like a potentially valuable, accessible and informative film that can help raise awareness of the dangers of religious wedge strategy – inserting creationists into legitimate educational institutions – and, remind viewers of the importance of both evolution and the separation of church and state.

    Jerry, you should know better than using a 2nd-hand HuffPo piece – in their woo-woo Religion section, no less – as a reference, when the source material – the film’s actual website, complete with actual film’s trailer – was readily available.

    I haven’t seen the film yet, and have no prior knowledge of it or relationship to it. I think it is ill-advised to undermine it so hastily by association.

    Perhaps, Jerry, it is worth a follow-up post based on some first-hand research or communication with Schiller?

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      You do add some hope for optimism here, and some helpful material. I just don’t get the “Jerry, you should know better” part. The original post only mentions misgivings, not final pronouncements, and the director’s quote does appear to be sufficient grounds to suspect that some bit of accomodationism may have found its way into the film. (And who knows, it might even be against the director’s wishes–I’m sure the bean counters lobby heavily for appealing to as wide an audience as possible, and in the US, that would have to include the religious, alas.)

      Our host is a very busy person and I’m continually amazed at how much time he can spend on this blog. As a community, we can improve discussions by doing the sort of looking around you did, but why not offer it in a helpful rather than scolding way?

      The OP reads to me as an appropriate expression of skepticism, nothing more.

      • Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Would *you* recommend the Huffington Post’s Religion section as the best primary source for a busy scientist’s posts about pro-evolution films?

        I didn’t think so. And I think saying that Jerry should know better *is* a constructive addendum to a wholly constructive comment, with a clear recommendation contained within.

        Finally, “constructive” would be focusing on the primary thrust of my critique, not making this about the allegedly objectionable tone of a minor part of it.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          I only replied because I *did* appreciate the *research* you added to the thread. You’re absolutely right about how mistaken it is to ever say anything about tone.

          Nevertheless, I stand by my reaction to your choice of phrasing.

          I think JAC’s made it clear that the only reason to pay attention to HuffPo lies in its enormous popularity; like it or not, it’s a way of sampling the zeitgeist.

          Bl…er, websites like this offer a range of posts, some of which will be spur-of-the-moment reflections designed to stimulate discussion. Worked well, didn’t it?

  12. Posted October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Errata:
    When I wrote “Templeton” for the second time, I meant, of course, Polkinghorne.

    Should have read:

    “I found no evidence that Templeton has any role in this film – not in its funding, not being noted in its list of characters. I found no evidence of the Polkinghorne video clip which (you correctly intuit) was apparently inserted there by the reporter or editor, rather than being sn actual excerpt from Schiller’s film.”

  13. Posted October 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen the film and wrote a review of it. I’m surprised how few real reviews (not just fawning promotions) of No Dinos are out there. The film has actually been out for a while now on tour.
    Review: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=1393

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Thanks for presenting a comprehensive review of the film.

  14. litchik
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m getting the sense it won’t knock Paul out of my number one spot.

  15. dunstar
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    lol. Superstition has got to be people’s funniest endeavours.

    “felt a guiding hand in the transition from physics to religion”

    “he didn’t hear a heavenly voice”

    “an encounter with god”

    “you have to be prepared”

    lol. what’s this dude talking about? lol.

  16. Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Science is progressive and not yet gone conclusive, When I was kid Butter was considered good for health and oil bad, coffee and chocolate was considered bad for heart patients, similarly research is also reconsidering many old theories. You can imagine anything good or bad, there is no scientific justification to the limits of imagination today, may be tomorrow we have a justification. Our scientific knowledge is restricted today, tomorrow we may start understand.Looking at the clouds, we can predict it might rain, similarly looking at the signs we can predict presence of God. Even if someone says all this a fiction, moving with God is such a satisfying experience that one must consider enjoying it.

  17. Ichthyic
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Science is progressive and not yet gone conclusive

    it entirely depends on the issue, for the ones you list as examples, a lot of that isn’t that the SCIENCE is different, or even that we know more, it’s that we figured out better and more reliable ways to design experiments.

    Things like double-blind studies weren’t nearly as common in the medical science literature in the 30’s as they are today.

    also, we now tend to look more at what the causative factors are, instead of just stopping with correlative data.

    sure, you might find eating chocolate correlates with the frequency of skiers breaking legs, but does it really make sense?

    to test THAT you would need to hypothesis, and TEST, what the underlying causative factors would be for such a correlation.

    so, it’s not really the case that at points A and B, both answers were “right” and scientists just changed their mind on a whim over time, like you are implying.

    and this:

    similarly looking at the signs we can predict presence of God

    is a complete non-sequitor to even your previous erroneous argument!

    moving with God is such a satisfying experience

    so is driving with Ms. Daisy…

  18. Ichthyic
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve decided I hate Friedrich Nietzsche.

    He didn’t kill God hard enough.

    he might have used a silver bullet, but apparently you also need to chop off the head and burn the corpse besides.

  19. Matt G
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    The predictions of religion are not as predictable as those of science?! What a load of crap! Religion makes NO predictions whatsoever. I made it through the first 22 seconds. Utter nonsense.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Jerry Coyne has a new post up about a new pro-evolution film that was announced today in the Huffington Post in an article entitled, of all things, “No Dinosaurs in Heaven.” Since there isn’t one — heaven, that is — and since heaven is reserved for ensouled beings, and animals don’t even get a bit part, the title is at best misleading; at worst it already sells half the store to religion just in the title. But then, at the end of the HuffPo article on the pro-evolution film, there’s a short video, entitled “Religion vs. Science”, and it really is just that. Religion is presented as a kind of “deeper” science — in fact, this is really said outright: “Religious experience provides more depth and complexity than scientific knowledge.” I’m going discuss a few selected ”highlights” from the video, though you might like to watch the whole thing, just to get the shape of the whole. The video itself focuses attention on the physicist turned priest John Polkinghorne, of whom Thomas D’Evelyn of the Christian Science Monitor had this to say: Polkinghorne is a model public intellectual; he refuses to distort one body of knowledge to advance his own position on another. […]

  2. […] had just reviewed John Polkinghorne’s accommodationist claptrap from Jerry Coyne’s post about a new film (followed later by Eric MacDonald’s usual excellent dismantling of why […]

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