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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Intelligent design and popular culture: The ghost of Darwin rises

Yes - an entertaining play (for once) on the intelligent design controversy

Sociologist Steve Fuller who studies the intelligent design-Darwin controversy - and is in danger of being roasted by Darwin trolls - has written a play, and it's actually a good show.

I have gone on record saying that almost all "cause" art of any kind is "freakingly awful":

Most “cause” books and movies are terrible. Just terrible. Freakingly awful.

There is a good reason for that.

A novel or film must incarnate, not explain.

It must show people living the situation, not talking about it.
But Fuller has an interesting premise: A postmodern talk show on which Charles Darwin (Chuck) and Abe Lincoln (Abe), whose birthdays fall on the same day, appear.

They are interviewed, and decide if they want to stay in the present or go back to wherever they are now (not disclosed as a matter of broadcast policy).

There are two hosts - the big hair hostette (Sheila) and a wisecracking dude on a short lead (Jack). Here's just a snippet:

ABE [bemused]: Like it or not, Darwin, it seems that you’ve been turned into the God behind the new science of Genesis!

CHUCK [looks cross]: I fail to see the humour in all this. My good name has been misappropriated for some sophisticated form of alchemy!

SHEILA: Chuck, lighten up! The stuff works – at least most of the time. I mean – I’ve got this recent testimonial from an expert. Listen to what he says:

“Genes are digitally coded text, in a sense too full to be dismissed as an analogy. Like human words they have the power to hurt and to heal, and that power is the greater because, given the right conditions, genetic words can dictate with stronger predictability than most human imperatives.”

CHUCK: That sounds like the ravings of some theologian still stuck in the seventeenth century with his Book of Nature and Book of God.

SHEILA: No, Chuck! That’s Richard Dawkins. He’s on your side. He’s the greatest evolutionist ever produced by television!

CHUCK: That word again! Television.

JACK [Trying to be helpful]: Chuck, look at it this way: Not only do we need to manufacture evolution and the science of evolution, but we also need to manufacture a demand for the science of evolution. And so, in the end, most of our money gets thrown at the marketing department to sell evolution to the masses. And by God, can Dawkins reel in the punters! And he does this in the medium we call television…
Actually Dawkins and the ponderous "evolution" TV specials have been the best source of business for the intelligent design advocates in my view.

I am glad someone understands this, even if it is only the ghost of Darwin.

Hey, let's give the ol' ghost a glass of spirits to ease his passage back to wherever ...

Update (Saturday, September 20): In response to my question whether the play is online anywhere and how it was received, Steve Fuller writes to say,
The play has been video-recorded and DVDs are currently being made. However, I
don't think the video-recording compnay is making it available through the
internet. However, the buzz surrounding the play has been strong. This week's
issue of The New Scientist will have a story on it and I've been asked to stage
it at the largest science event venue in Oxford next year.
I hope they videorecord it.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


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