March 20, 2005

The Anti-Science Fundamentalists and IMAX

Huh. Barely have I made my first post about evolution when I have to do it again. Today, the New York Times has a story titled "A New Screen Test for Imax: It's the Bible vs. the Volcano." IMAX films that mention evolution, the Big Bang or "the geology of the earth" are being refused at some (not all, admittedly) IMAX theatres, mostly in the South (yeah, who knew geology could be so controversial?). Let's jump into some choice quotes:

"Volcanoes," released in 2003 and sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and Rutgers University, has been turned down at about a dozen science centers, mostly in the South, said Dr. Richard Lutz, the Rutgers oceanographer who was chief scientist for the film. He said theater officials rejected the film because of its brief references to evolution, in particular to the possibility that life on Earth originated at the undersea vents.
Oh no! They made a brief reference to evolution! Let's can entire movie! Or maybe they should go stick their heads deeper into the sand.
Carol Murray, director of marketing for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, said the museum decided not to offer the movie after showing it to a sample audience, a practice often followed by managers of Imax theaters. Ms. Murray said 137 people participated in the survey, and while some thought it was well done, "some people said it was blasphemous."

In their written comments, she explained, they made statements like "I really hate it when the theory of evolution is presented as fact," or "I don't agree with their presentation of human existence."

To be fair, if your target market doesn't want to buy a product, it may not make sense to offer that product. But I wonder, have they done actual demographic studies to see what part of their community would actually reject seeing the movie altogether? Or do they take the strong opinions of a few people to decide on what's presented to the majority?

And to the person who hates it when the "theory" of evolution is presented as fact: Get over it! Evolution is about as close as a fact as it's possible to get in science. We also have a theory that virtual particles are constantly created and destroyed on a sub-atomic scale. These particles are not directly observable, but experiments confirm predictions from the theory (such as the pressure between two plates in a vacuum). There are still some questions (e.g., is it possible to extract energy from the sea of particles?), but that doesn't mean that virtual particles are not as close to fact as it's possible to get. Most importantly, there are no plausible counter-vailing theories. Wikipedia has a much more cogent and concise article on theory than what I just wrote. :-) In particular, read the section "Characteristics of a Theory."

One last quote:

"We have definitely a lot more creation public than evolution public," said Lisa Buzzelli, who directs the Charleston Imax Theater in South Carolina, a commercial theater next to the Charleston Aquarium. Her theater had not ruled out ever showing "Volcanoes," Ms. Buzzelli said, "but being in the Bible Belt, the movie does have a lot to do with evolution, and we weigh that carefully."

"More creation public than evolution public." I think that statement says it all. Religion seems to define most aspects of society in the Bible Belt. Non-Christians need not apply.

And if you only follow one link from this post, make it the Wikipedia article on theory one. It

Posted by Tom Nugent at March 20, 2005 09:06 AM

More interesting notes on the topic:

Dutch A.G. Supports Scientology v. Spaink Verdic

Edit by Tom: (hyperlink seems to not work; here's the URL: )

Posted by: Seth at March 20, 2005 09:16 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?