Dear Darwin, because of you…
“Stop monkeying around,” angry students tell top scientist
When the celebrated scientist, Mr Charles Darwin received a box of letters from today’s teenagers, he was in two minds about whether to open it.
On the one hand, he was excited to know whether his ideas about evolution had survived into the twenty-first century.
But on the other hand, his book of ideas caused a huge controversy back in his own time. It would be a worry if the battles were still raging.
What kind of a picture would Year 9 of Maiden Erlegh School in Reading want to present to the great scientist about the legacy he leaves us with?
And on finding that this link between the past and today works both ways, what reply would Darwin send to the students to set the record straight?Please note that in the dramatised presentation of Darwin’s story given in the video, we have asked student volunteers to read out the letters and so the ideas presented in the letters may not reflect the views that those students personally hold.
Did you know that scholars were arguing about how to interpret the Creation story in Genesis long before Darwin’s book on evolution was published.
Augustine of Hippo was a Christian bishop who lived about 500 years after Christ’s birth. He said that in his view, the six days in the Genesis story are ‘figurative’ and not literal.
Interview with the Film Director
Why did you want to make this film?
I felt it was important to say that although Darwin’s theory caused a huge shake-up, it wasn’t the story that the Press turned it into. The story in the Press made out that before Darwin, people believed in God and they also believed that the world was made in six days. This makes for a dramatic finish because it means that when Darwin’s book was published, the religious description of Creation was torn up and religion suffered a mortal blow.
OK, so Darwin’s theory didn’t mean the end of religion, but you must admit, it makes it very hard to be religious. Once people found out that we’re evolved from other animals, there was no going back, right?
It depends on what you mean by ‘going back’. After Darwin, people had a lot to think about, that’s true. Darwin told us that there is a natural process which produces new species of animals over time. People had to change their ideas. Religious people had to take another look at the holy texts that teach them about God and think more carefully about what they were saying.
Oh, I see where you’re going with this. Sorry, but that’s a bit of a fudge isn’t it? Take the Bible, it talks about Creation and it says everything happened in six days and it says that God made all the sea creatures together and all the animals other than us together and so on. You can make out that it says something else, but in the end … well, either it’s right or it’s wrong. No two ways about it!
I like your thinking. It would be great if the Bible and other holy texts could be understood so easily. I write emails to people I know well and when they write back, I see they’ve missed the main point and picked out some other remark and decided that was the key point in the message. The holy texts we have now were written thousands of years ago, by people with a very different outlook to how we see things today.
For example, a lot of people, thousands of years ago, believed there were many gods. The Semitic faiths (that’s Judaism, Islam and Christianity) believe there is one God. Many of the lines in their Creation story are there to tell you about this one God and why He is different to the other gods that people were talking about at the time.
But in the end, the story we have now, from science – it makes more sense to most people. Maybe exactly for the reason you say, because it’s modern.
It won’t stand still though will it? I am pretty sure if we could jump into the future, we’d see that the story from science looks different again. That’s why I made the movie. I want people to know that after Darwin, there were big changes. Some people chose to oppose science, saying they wanted to stay with the view they had. Some people said they didn’t need religion now because for them, the story from science replaced the religious account. But most religious people didn’t do either of those. They said that the science updated their ideas about How God created us.
So the movie is about change then, that’s your message? You’re saying, Dear Darwin, because of you, we had to change what we think.
Thanks. Good luck with the movie.
A play script of the Great Debate is available for use in schools.
Information about Darwin and events leading to the debate:
Background on the Great Debate [Word doc]
Play script on the Great Debate [Word doc]