Saturday, March 19

Bad Headline of the Week

The New York Times > National > A New Screen Test for Imax: It's the Bible vs. the Volcano: "
Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth -- fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures. The number of theaters rejecting such films is small, people in the industry say - perhaps a dozen or fewer, most in the South. But because only a few dozen Imax theaters routinely show science documentaries, the decisions of a few can have a big impact on a film's bottom line - or a producer's decision to make a documentary in the first place. People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including 'Cosmic Voyage,' which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; 'Gal´┐Żpagos,' about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and 'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,' an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.

The really interesting debate in this story is not between the creationist kooks and the science educators but between the marketing people and the scientists who underwrite the films.

Hyman Field, who as a science foundation official had a role in the financing of "Volcanoes," said he understood that theaters must be responsive to their audiences. But Dr. Field he said he was "furious" that a science museum would decide not to show a scientifically accurate documentary like "Volcanoes" because it mentioned evolution. "It's very alarming," he said, "all of this pressure being put on a lot of the public institutions by the fundamentalists."

Science no longers sells, so let's pull it from the shelves. It's the marketplace of ideas in action!

I'm a kind of low-key Christian myself--I tend to like those Bibles with the words of Jesus in red, which invite you to take St. Paul with a grain of salt. It bowls me over that there are seminarians out there who actually preach the literal sense of the old testament. Does the phrase "through a glass darkly" mean anything to you? It's well accepted in a number of theological traditions that God, the infinite, all-knowing, and unpredictable, knowing that we are feeble-minded little clods, communicates to us in allegories and fables to try to get us to think.

Muslims like to point with pride, in fact, to passages in the Qur'an that they interpret as embodying and endorsing the scientific standpoint. I'm down with all that. The cosmos is huge and miraculous.

Maybe we ought to just deny modern technology to people who repudiate the methods used to devise it. Don't believe in evolution? No gene-therapies for you, and if you get sent up for a crime you didn't do, no DNA testing to get you out. And the next time there's an earthquake, we won't dig you out. Hey, you don't believe in all that plate tectonics jazz, right? Fine, little piggy. Enjoy life in your house of straw.

That's an awful headline the Times came up with, by the way. One bad pun you can get away with sometimes. A bad pun connected to another one with a colon, though ....

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