Darwin on the silver screen

There's bound to be some fuss over a new film scheduled for release later this year. Creation follows Charles Darwin as he ponders whether to write On the Origin of Species. Sounds like a great subject, but there are some worrying signs. PZ Myers, for example, doesn't like the producers' decision to include the ghost of Darwin's daughter, unless it's just as a hallucination. I'm more concerned about the main theme, which, according to the film's Facebook page is:

What happens when a world-renowned scientist, crushed by the loss of his eldest daughter, conceives a book which will prove the non-existence of God.

I hope that's just some web jockey's imprecise precis of the producers' pitch. First, Darwin wasn't world-renowned until he wrote the book. More importantly, though, Darwin's book does not and was not intended to, prove the non-existence of any god. Come to think of it, nothing proves the non-existence of gods. What evolution does do is eliminate the need for a god when it comes to explaining the diversity of life on Earth. You don't have to be a believer to reconcile a Deist interpretation of the divine and biological evolution without violating common sense and logic

There's already enough misrepresentation of Darwin's evolving attitude toward religion and faith as he pondered the implications of evolution by natural selection. We don't need more.

The good news is the film's official website contains a more accurate description of Darwin's dilemma:

Torn between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world where God has no place.

So maybe it won't be so bad after all.

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I'm cautiously optimistic. Bettany and Connelly are great, but movies tend to emphasize excitement over accuracy. (Which is the same problem with reporting science in the media, except Hollywood has an excuse.)

Darwin wasn't world-renowned until he wrote the book.

Maybe not the world, but Voyage of the Beagle certainly made him well-known much before Origin at least in England.

Why couldn't they call the film Origins? Just as snappy, and rather more accurate and apposite.

Darwin was a famous scientist before he wrote Origins. Maybe not "world" famous.

But there's a worse error in the statement you quoted. Darwin conceived of his book before he was married and he wrote an extended summary in 1842. That was nine years before Anne died.