After waiting patiently for it to reach the top of my Netflix cue, I recently watched Randy Olsen’s “Flock of Dodos”. Although I haven’t seen Expelled yet, I believe “Flock of Dodos” is its antithesis. Randy Olsen, PhD is a trained marine biologist and former tenured professor, while Ben Stein was a political speech writer and professor of law. Right from the start, you can see that one side is treating the evolution/intelligent design debate coming from the side of science and the other from the side of politics. Presumably, Stein would say that his film comes from an outsiders perspective so he is able to present an unbiased opinion.
Olsen does a good job giving both sides of the debate their fair share of time. He even interviews Michael Behe, one of the superstars of Intelligent Design, and lets him speak freely. Of course the pro-evolution proponents are plentiful. He even brings together a group of evolutionary biologists to play poker and discuss Intelligent Design. He also covers much of the Kansas school board debacle and the Dover, PA trial.
The movie has a light and cheerful feel, which was obviously intentional yet appreciated. So many documentaries, even highly acclaimed ones, are outright boring. Olsen achieves this feeling by sprinkling in amusing cartoons, colorful anecdotes, and of course lightly mocking people. He even introduces us to his mother, Muffy Moose, who appears that she needs a movie or two of her own. The “dodos” Olsen is referring to are not just Intelligent Design proponents. He makes a point to say that the scientists who do not combat attacks evolutionary theory are as much dodos as anyone.
One of the things that I really appreciated about the movie was the way that Olson made fun of the idea of Intelligent Design. In particular, he and his interviewees mockhow badly some things were designed. The worst example of intelligent design (or the best example of unintelligent design) was digestive system of rabbits. Apparently, rabbits have their fermentation organ (where the complex plant material is digested) at the very end of their digestive system. In order for the rabbits to fully digest a meal, it has to eat its own poop. Behold: Intelligent! Design!
Olson makes the comment during the movie that when scientists try to share their side of the story, they are talking above the general audience. Not completely their fault as most have been working in their area of expertise most of their lives, and therefore they have a hard time bringing the conversation to a lower level. However, I think the problem is even worse than Olson believes. The target audience of the documentary was you average person, but one of the people who watched the documentary with me was a little lost. After all, she said she stopped learning about biology during “leaf collecting.” This leads me to believe that our educations system may be lacking, but that is a subject of another post.
My general feeling after finishing the movie, is that there is a war of ideas, where the two sides are playing by different rules. The evolutionists are using facts and evidence, while Intelligent Design proponents are using catch phrases and religious appeal. Intelligent design proponents are not evil or malicious (for the most part). In fact, most in the movie came across as being honest, caring, and kind-hearted. These attributes could be part of the problem because they are a little too nice, a little too naive, and a lot too trusting.
So for those of you interested in the Evolution / Intelligent Design debate, I recommend that you see this movie.