The Intersection

More Bad PR for Scientists

A new documentary, Flock of Dodos, is now out. The auteur, Randy Olson, is an “evolutionary ecologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard University.” But he’s also from Kansas originally, and he has made a film that apparently heaps a fair amount of scorn on both sides of the evolution debate:

“Flock of Dodos” audiences laugh at the expense of Olson’s own evolutionist friends. While the evolutionists are playing poker and calling intelligent design proponents “yahoos” and “idiots,” he turns the evolutionists into animated dodos, the extinct, flightless birds that were known for their lack of grace.

Or as Olson himself puts it: “This is a fairly embarrassing film for scientists; the guys at the poker table are very arrogant and obnoxious.”I haven’t seen the film yet, but if the description above is accurate, I can only hope that it will help serve as a wake-up call to scientists, alerting them to the fact that they are losing touch with the American public.


  1. #1 Carl Zimmer
    February 23, 2006

    If anyone’s interested, I blogged about watching the movie here. On the whole, I think it’s good.

  2. #2 Chris Mooney
    February 23, 2006

    Thanks, Carl. I don’t know how I missed that. Everyone, I hope you’ll check out Carl’s reflections on Flock of Dodos, which are considerably richer than (if also consistent with) my own.

  3. #3 Ginger Yellow
    February 23, 2006

    I don’t get this bit:

    Even though Olson himself is clearly pro-evolution, he said his heart is still in Kansas, which kept him from taking shots at intelligent design supporters. “I respect people of character who are willing to stand up and speak their mind for what they believe in, on either side of the fence,” he said. “This is a fairly embarrassing film for scientists; the guys at the poker table are very arrogant and obnoxious.”

    Did Buckingham and Bonsell, who lied under oath, speak their mind for what they believe in? Does Behe, when he has admitted under oath that the only experiment he’s ever done to test irreducible complexity actually demonstrated that IC systems can evolve even under extremely unfavourable parameters? Does Dembski, who charges $20,000 for his “expert” testimony and tells one audience that ID is the logos of St John reformulated, but another that it is not religious at all? What about all the ID proponents at the Kansas hearings who prevaricated when asked about the age of the earth? The ID proponents are profoundly dishonest, as their eagerness and willingness to airbrush the history of their own movement demonstrates.

  4. #4 Jon Winsor
    February 23, 2006

    I enjoyed reading your blog post, Carl. Wish I had been there. You paraphrase John Hare as saying that

    a lot of the trouble over evolution–needless trouble, in his view–came from those who would try to explain every tiny facet of human existence as the product of an adaptation finely honed by natural selection.

    Hear hear. It seems to me that this is where science strays into scientism (Wikipedia has a good writeup on this term.) I wouldn’t think that sweeping, speculative, reductionistic statements like Dennett’s (e. g., “all our ‘intrinsic’ values started out as instrumental values”) would help the cause.

  5. #5 Typhis
    February 24, 2006

    Dodos “were “known for their lack of grace.” As distinct from the charming and sophisticated humans who drove them to extinction I suppose?

  6. #6 Dustin
    February 27, 2006

    “This is a fairly embarrassing film for scientists; the guys at the poker table are very arrogant and obnoxious.”

    I see statements like this about those horrible eletist evolutionists quite often. I find it a little ironic though. The people that usually make the statement are not biologists, most of them aren’t even scientists. I don’t find it that arrogant for a vertebrate paleontologist to talk how intelligent design is flawed science; I find it arrogant for a theologian or lawyer to talk about how all the vertebrate paleontologists are wrong.

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