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Review: Darwin, The Voyage that Shook the World

Many of the papers and books I’ve been reading these days have been influenced by Darwin’s thought; most of our news items are as well; and our entire culture is driven by offshoots of his ideas.  Science, politics, medicine, social sciences, law, literature, music, and even Christian thought have largely absorbed Darwinian concepts of survival of the fittest, natural selection, evolution, and the irrelevance of God and his gospel to everyday life.

A decade ago a documentary was being prepared about this man and his thought, Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World.

We have watched Darwin a few times now, and each time I enjoy both the professional quality of the film and the discussions with experts from around the world.  Each time something new sticks with me.  This time, I remember the boy Darwin exploring nature, the young man absorbed in the exhilarating world of ideas, and life aboard the ship.  Costumes, acting, scenery, and the HMS Beagle itself were a treat to watch.  I also happily noticed that several of the experts are science historians, a field I have been dabbling in for a few years.

Although Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World is full of information, the cinematography and the well-written script make it interesting to children as well as adults, to laypeople as well as scientists.

What is unusual about this quality documentary is its even-handedness.  It does not idealize or idolize Darwin, but on the other hand, it does not vilify him either.  Instead it presents him as a brilliant and engaging person who thought deeply about many things and whose thought was shaped by great men such as Erasmus Darwin, Lyell, and others.  It shows how his observations, beliefs, and aspirations led to his ideas. Finally it discusses his ideas and shows under what circumstances they are valid and where they have problems.

The overall tenor of the film is that Darwin’s discoveries lead to our culture’s main paradigm as well as to significant scientific ‘research problems’.  These problems are well-known to the actual researchers in various fields but not to many others, and any scientists who are willing to discuss them openly risk being targeted by promoters of evolution theory.

With its beauty, professionalism, broad spectrum of recognized experts, and clarity, this documentary gets around some of the rhetoric commonly used in the origin of life debate and can be appreciated by people on both sides of the argument.  If only people would listen to each other, respect each other, and be willing to acknowledge their own presuppositions, they could examine facts together and understand each other’s conclusions.  But people with opposing religions rarely do such things and, for Darwin and many of his followers, the theory is as much about fundamental religious/philosophical  presuppositions as it is about facts.

I highly recommend Darwin:  The Voyage that Shook the World for homeschoolers in middle school and high school.  It is an excellent accompaniment to Apologia’s Biology chapter 9 but is interesting on its own as well.  Of course, the concepts discussed in this movie are vitally important for everyone in our society, not just homeschooling teens.

Resources like this form part of our math and science reading and ‘extras’, an essential aspect of our homeschool science studies.

Books I’m pondering that lead back, in some way, to Darwin’s ideas (links are to my reviews):

Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey—cultural and social results of the theory.

No Christian Silence on Science by Margaret Helder—research problems involved in modern origins research.

A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan—a classic example of how evolution is assumed and used as a basis of a whole train of thought.  (In this particular case, the awe and deference accorded to evolution and the universe could just as easily be given to God; most social science books are not ‘spiritual’ like this.)

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis—how to make unbelievers and influence people, profoundly but obliquely relevant.

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey—cultural results of evolution and examples of the fabrications, acknowledged in prestigious scientific journals, used to promote it over the years.

Busting Myths by Sarfati and Bates, a tip-of-the-iceberg biographical collection of scientists who use the paradigm of creation in their research.

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Disclosure: We borrowed this DVD from the library and have expressed our own honest opinion.

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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