The world’s media have turned their attention to yet another rising controversy in the evolution/creation debate. Some IMAX movie theaters in the US are apparently choosing not to carry films that promote evolutionary ideas. Not surprisingly, this news has alarmed some evolutionists, including one who is implying that “fundamentalists” have been orchestrating some kind of boycott against these films.

IMAX theaters feature well-done documentaries on 70mm “large format film,” which allows high-quality definition (even though the screens are up to eight stories high) with superb surround sound. Many of the films explore the wonders of nature, and of the several IMAX films this author has seen over the years, most of them touch on evolutionary ideas (including a very old age for the earth).

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC),1 the International Herald Tribune2 and the New York Times 3 have been recently reporting that of the 240 IMAX theaters in 35 countries (some others are found in science museums), it appears that about a dozen theaters, primarily in America’s South, are not showing movies that carry evolution themes. Some theater managers, the Times reports, are concerned about potential movie-goers being offended by content that might contradict their belief in the biblical account of creation.

A man who has played a role in the financing of IMAX movie projects, Dr. Hyman Field (a former National Science Foundation official), was described by the Times as “furious” over this phenomenon in theaters.

“It's very alarming,” Field told the Times, “all of this pressure being put on a lot of the public institutions by the fundamentalists” [emphasis ours].

Actually, Dr. Field is giving credit where it’s not due. Contrary to his implication, no pressure is being directed by any denomination, political action group or creation organization like AiG on IMAX managers. There does not seem to be any orchestrated campaign (“all of this pressure?”) to boycott IMAX movies. Although AiG is glad to hear that individuals have been expressing their concerns to theater managers about evolution-oriented IMAX productions, their actions appear to be simply grassroots efforts that are happening in different communities.

The film's distributor (as quoted by the Times) says that some science museum officials have turned down IMAX productions like “Volcanoes” because of “evolutionary overtones.” According to Dr. Richard Lutz (who was cited by the Times), and who was the chief scientist involved in that film, about a dozen science centers rejected that movie because it presented the idea that life on earth may have originated in undersea vents.

The Times quoted others:

  • “‘We have definitely a lot more creation public than evolution public,’ says Lisa Buzzelli, of the Charleston, South Carolina, IMAX Theater. ‘Being in the Bible Belt, [‘Volcanoes’] does have a lot to do with evolution, and we weigh that carefully.’”

  • “When the Fort Worth [Texas] Museum of Science and History played the movie for a test audience, the responses were sufficiently negative for the museum to drop it from its offerings. Responses 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’ doomed the film's chances.”

  • Famed filmmaker James Cameron (he made the blockbuster “Titanic,” for example), who was a producer on “Volcanoes,” stated that he was “surprised and somewhat offended” that people were sensitive to the references to evolution in “Volcanoes”: “It seems to be a new phenomenon,” he added, “obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science.”

While AiG, ICR, CRS, CSF and other creation groups cannot take any direct credit for people expressing their concerns to theater managers, we would like to think that the holding of numerous creation seminars, the airing of radio/TV broadcasts, the publishing of books and articles, etc. all are having an impact at a grassroots level throughout America. Of course, having 1.2 million visitors to this website each month is also having an impact. That’s why we were not surprised to see the results of a Gallup poll, released earlier this month and cited by the Times, which revealed that 81% of US teens believe God was somehow involved in human origins (some sadly believe, however, that He worked through evolution), with only 18 percent holding a completely secular view of evolution.

By the way, a reporter with a major secular news magazine in the US recently told AiG that there appears to be growing grassroots movements in many states to challenge evolutionary thinking in schools, science museums and local media. He based that on recent interviews he has conducted with leading evolutionists who have expressed that concern with him.

Why else are evolutionists bothered about people expressing their opinion about IMAX films? The Times indicated that some of them are concerned that if some theaters will not show science films, producers will be thinking twice about investing a lot of money in making future science movies using this special, expensive format.

IMAX is now producing a film about dinosaurs. We can only imagine how much evolutionary content will be found in that movie, for evolutionists like to use dinosaurs perhaps more than any other topic to convince laypeople of the truth of the evolutionary worldview. Also, the quality of the filmmaking will no doubt be so visually impressive that many moviegoers will be further convinced of the evolutionary story.

This newest creation/evolution controversy comes on the heels of efforts in about twenty US states that are now engaged in creation/evolution battles in their public schools. For example, in Cobb County, Georgia, a federal judge has recently ruled that a sticker which had been placed inside the cover of biology textbooks by a school board—stating that evolution is not a fact—had to be removed. 4 In Dover, Pennsylvania, a school board passed a requirement that, as part of the science curriculum, a statement be read to students informing them about Intelligent Design, the idea that the universe is so complex that there must have been an intelligent designer of some sort as an alternative to purely naturalistic evolution. 5 (By the way, while AiG supports efforts to promote academic freedom and to question evolution, we believe it is currently counterproductive to mandate that evolutionists teach alternative ideas, who will probably do it poorly; furthermore, the ultimate issue is the truth and authority of the Word of God—the Bible.)

In both school districts, action is pending in the courts. Both controversies have become a focus of the world’s media.

Since President George W. Bush's inauguration, many recent news reports and syndicated editorials have equated people who support Christian morality (e.g., opposing “gay marriage”) as those who believe creation instead of evolution. Indeed, it has now become another frenzied time in the ongoing creation/evolution controversy, and it has kept creationists quite busy on the front lines of America's “culture wars” (even when we have chosen not to be in some battles; yet some evolutionists see creationists “behind every bush,” or, in this case, movie theaters).

Media now appear at AiG-US in N. Kentucky on a fairly regular basis to check on the progress of the Creation Museum project (e.g., this Friday evening, March 25, NBC-TV’s Nightly News with Brian Williams will feature the museum; other media stopping by recently have included ABC-TV’s Nightline program, PBS-TV’s The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, BBC-TV, etc., etc.).

The creation/evolution issue is a timely and gripping topic for many Americans. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that this controversy is not merely a battle over which one of the two is the better worldview to explain the world and how we got here. Rather, it is an “authority issue”: do we accept the authority of the infallible One who was there at the beginning, who told us in Genesis how and why He created—or the words of fallible scientists who weren’t there and who, for the most part, don’t want a Creator and his moral absolutes to be beholden to?

Indeed, such sweeping worldview issues have made the creation/evolution debate a centerpiece of today’s culture wars in America.

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Footnotes

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4365999.stm. Back
  2. http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/03/20/business/imax.htm. Back
  3. New York Times, March 19, 2005; http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/19/national/19imax.html?oref=login. Back
  4. For details on this Cobb County case, see The sticker didn’t stick (or did it?). Back
  5. For more background on this Pennsylvania dispute, see Will Intelligence Prevail in Dover, PA? Back