Thursday, March 24, 2005

Devolution revisited - or, ye of little faith...

So, Sean Carroll's blog tipped me off on the little controversy brewing over the refusal of some IMAX theaters, including ones in science museums, to show movies that explicitly made a reference to evolution or the Earth's true age, for fear of offending people. Thanks to Google, here is the original story on this, NYT 19 March.
This is personal, one of the movies is affected is "Cosmic Voyage", a couple of my office mates were involved in producing some of the simulations for that movie, and the "galaxy collision" in it used a code based on a code I worked on. (Dubinski and Mihos implemented the simulation, which uses, as I recall, a variation on the SCF code that Dubinski put together. The variation was based on a code I helped implement and test, based on Hernquist & Ostriker's algorithm, based on Bodenheimer and Ostriker's original concept. Phew). I use this movie in my intro class sometimes.

There are three issues here:

The science museum directors need to remember that they have a mission other than, and orthogonal to, just selling tickets and getting bums on seats. They have a mission to inform and educate the public, not shield them from controversy and avoid challenging their beliefs. If they want to become religious studies centers or commercial movie theaters with a neato gift shop, fine, just take down the "science museum" part of the title. You want science, go where the evidence in nature takes you.

Secondly, people, get a grip. If you are so challenged and offended by an off-cuff mention to the actual age of the Earth, or cosmogonic processes, then the problem is not with the movie, it is with you. Maybe it is time to look within your heart and contemplate your faith, because if it is so fragile and tenuous you truly do not believe.
I'm quite serious about this; people are welcome to their religion, but if their belief is so shallow that it does not hold up to even casual exposure to the evidence uncovered from an inspection of nature, then the problem is with people's faith, not the scientists presentation or discussion of the information in nature, or our reasoning and inferences about this data.

Finally, people need to be careful with their creation myths. Vili and his brother Vé worked hard to make sure that Ýmir's skull was secure over the fundament, I will not tolerate anyone challenging this millenium old worldview and the foundation of faith for generations of my ancestors. So cut out the fables about 7 days and gardens, if it doesn't have a Cosmic Cow in it, I don't want to hear it (Auðhumla for the infidels).

Ár var alda...


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