Life can take some surprising turns…
I went with my 20-year-old son Christopher (a budding wildlife biologist) to see the movie “Creation” the other day, expecting to see Darwin portrayed as a man pummeling his peers with hypotheses about the origin of species.
What I discovered, instead, was a refreshing alternative to today’s divisive and polarizing treatments of the topic of evolution.
If the movie depicts Charles Darwin—a British naturalist who lived from 1809 to 1882–with any degree of accuracy, he wasn’t anything like modern-day caricatures that paint him as an egotistical heretic hell-bent on destroying faith in God or respect for the church.
It seems quite possible, after seeing this film, that he valued faith and its institutions as the very fabrics of a society that might run amok without them–at least until tragedy struck too close to home.
I’m no Darwin scholar, so I can’t claim any insight into the ‘real’ Charles Darwin.
But the man I saw on film this week seemed humble rather than heretical, and far more tempered in his skepticism than peers who used his work to further their own anti-faith agenda.
If you’ve ever struggled to balance work with family, to embrace friends or family members with vastly different world views, to reconcile your own dreams with the expectations others have for you, “Creation” may speak to you in unexpected ways.
This movie surprised me on several fronts.
I hadn’t realized it was so exquisite visually—with its lush depictions of everything from forests and oceans to indigenous peoples and European architecture. Nor had I expected such a stunning soundtrack—alternating moving moments of silence with delicate violin and piano solos.
But what truly touched me was the tender relationship of Darwin to his children, especially eldest daughter Anne who appears to have shared his curiosity and love of the natural world. His interactions with animals—including an orangutan named “Jenny”—were equally profound.
Darwin with daughter "Annie"
Darwin and his wife Emma had ten children together, two of whom died in infancy. I loved watching Darwin tell “Annie” stories of the people and animals he encountered in his travels.
Whatever your view of the theory of evolution, you’ll likely find this movie is less about the origin of species than the bond between father and beloved daughter. It’s quite enchanting and, in time, heartwrenching.
I was no less surprised, when checking for movie times online, to uncover something called “The Charles Darwin Experience.” It’s an all-improvisation comedy troupe at the University of Arizona in Tucson that performs Tuesday evenings at 10pm at the Gallagher Theater at the U of A Student Union Memorial Center.
For those more serious moments, there’s something called the “Darwinfest,” presented last year by Arizona State University to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his On the Origin of Species. Transcripts and podcasts are available online.
So there you have it—the fine art of Charles Darwin—via everything from film to iTunes. I’ll bet he never saw that one coming…
Note: “Creation” plays for a limited time at the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe. Visit www.harkinstheaters.com for show times.
- To learn more about Darwin and related topics, visit the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change at www.shesc.asu.edu.
- Save the date…The ASU Herberger Institute of Theatre and Film “New Work Series” will feature “Dreaming Darwin” by Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster Feb. 11th to 19th next year at Prism Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus. Visit
learn more about this piece as well as the institute’s newly-announced MainStage 2010-2011 Season.
- If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., consider a visit to the newly-opened Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History. Visit
to learn more.
Coming Friday: Sampling of family-friendly arts events happening this weekend