Monday, August 23, 2010

Creation

I recently got the chance to see the 2009 biographical drama, Creation, based on the life of Charles Darwin surrounding the death of his eldest daughter, Annie, and his struggle to write On the Origin of Species. Although it is a partly fictionalized account of Darwin's life it humanizes Darwin who is often demonized by Creationist for his elevation of scientific inquiry over the belief of God's Providence over all of creation. I admit I know very little of Charles Darwin as his books are on the bottom of my booklist (not for any particular reason though). I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay and inquisitiveness of Charles Darwin with his daughter but I connected the most with his struggle to balance his beliefs and scientific research with his love for his family and neighbors who felt threatened by his life's work.

All of nature is a battlefield...

Played by Paul Bettany, Charles Darwin is a man drawn to the beauty of nature. As he traverses gently through the woods with his children, he presents to them the struggle for life which is constantly happening all around them. And like nature, there is a struggle within all of us: a struggle in knowing our own mortality, a struggle to love and be loved, and a struggle to discover meaning within nature's battlefield. This is not a film toting the superiority of science over faith, but one man's struggle for balance between a search for truth unwrapped by the senses and truth felt by the heart. Is this an accurate historical portrayal of Charles Darwin? I'm not sure (it is a film), but I do know it is a human portrayal of a man who suffered from the death of his children, impacted most of all by the death of his eldest daughter, Annie. Is it wrong to question the Will of God when that same God takes your children from you? Is it wrong to to question the church's view on the nature and origin of man when our senses give us contradictory data? In the film, Darwin doesn't fear the questions but the implications which may come from people losing faith in God, the Constant behind the chaos. At the time, the world relied on the belief that everything moved within the power and guidance of God. Darwin who witnessed the balance of life and death in the natural world could not balance the savagery of the cosmos with a compassionate God.



Tell me a story about everything...

Darwin sought not to destroy God, as his friend Thomas Huxley (grandfather of Aldous Huxley) would have liked (or as he's portrayed in the film), but to tell the story of everything: our origin, our evolution through history, and what the future may hold for us. He wanted to tell of the beauty and wonders of nature not bring society to its knees. Telling this story nearly killed him since he knew what it would mean for the ones he loved. Coming out to the world with the truth studied by our senses would crush truth accepted by the heart. To Darwin, there is no compassion in the universe which does not come from an outside source, it is all survival. This sense of accepting reality for what it is and the sense of despair which may come accompany it is summed up in his question, "Suppose everyone stopped believing that God had any sort of plan for us?" What then? Who or what do we turn to for strength, where do we go when the chaos presses in from all sides?

You have finally made an accomplice of me...

There is no dramatic twist at the end, Darwin finishes his book which has reshaped how we view the world. It may seem that the core of the film is about religion vs. science but that's too clich├ęd for my taste. The film is about our story, the human story, and all of its complexities and intricacy that comes with being human. We each have a story that we cling too, but cling too tightly and we ignore the big picture, the human story. As a species aware of its own mortality we fear the unknown, and as we stare into the unknown we struggle with what it all may mean. Life itself may not have any inherent meaning except that which we give it. This line of thinking is too chaotic for some and understandably they may turn to religion for strength as did Emma Darwin, played by Jennifer Connelly, after the death of their eldest daughter. Charles Darwin was not afraid to pull back the curtain of the unknown as he sought to learn the story of everything, yet he feared what may happen if he finished his book. The story may frighten us but that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue telling it because we have each other to turn to, to lean on. Embracing our shared fear should inspire us to boldly continue because life continues. Life was here before us and will remain after us evolving into all manners of new life.

I must say that although many people, especially here in the States, may find it uncomfortable watching a movie about Darwin (a biographical drama based on his life) I highly recommend watching it.

4 comments:

Renee Douglas said...

My husband and I just watched this movie last week. Your blog accurately summed up our feelings about it. I have found myself challenged and my view of Darwin changed. He was not an evil man seeking to "destroy God," but a man who loved nature, science, his wife, children and friends. Were he living now, he would be a man whom we would want to befriend and know. A man who asks questions and struggles with doubts - just like us.

Eruesso said...

@Renee-

Welcome and thanks for your insightful comment. I feel once people get past their presumptions of Darwin (and a lot of other things for that matter) they may come to see him for who he was, a human who loved his family, nature, and who struggled with doubt as we all do. You're right he's just like us. Thanks again for stopping by.

captron52 said...

Personally I havent really read much about Mr Darwin but I have always figured him to have been a very open minded person who like the rest of us was only looking at all possibilities.Why he has been cursed by many I dont understand. Thanks Sam for another great post.

Doug B said...

Personally, I think Darwin was a genius.

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