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Saturday, July 01, 2006

March of the Penguins: Now I know what the ID fuss was about

Okay, I finally got a chance to watch the March of the Penguins film and read the book. Here are some highlights from my comments elsewhere, linked below:

- In 2005, that very same year,National Geographic pronounced itself resolutely Darwinist, with a glowing photo spread on how Darwinian evolution explains life on Earth (a spread that unintentionally demonstrated the opposite).

So it was perhaps a bit surprising that a wildlife documentary that NG distributes, which won rave reviews from a variety of sources and an Oscar for best documentary, should be accused of promoting an intelligent design hypothesis.

[ ... ]

- Having seen and read the beautifully prepared, visually stunning film and book, I think that the absence of Darwinist cant is a huge literary improvement. In other words, if intelligent design becomes widely accepted in science, we can reasonably hope for better documentaries. No more "survival of the fittest" (Spencer) and "continual free fight" (Huxley) voiceovers where they do not really explain the evidence.

[ ... ]

- Responding to the idea that the male penguins co-operate to share the body warmth, Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, replies,
A group of penguins standing upright looks like co-operation, but in fact the ones on the outside are struggling to get in and those on the inside are trying to stand their ground: it's a classic Darwinian struggle. The idea that the life of a penguin is any more beautiful than that of a malaria virus is absurd.

Actually, the book narrative does not depict any classic Darwinian struggle at all. It states that the male penguins, left with the eggs in a harsh climate, spiral in and out of their "turtle" formation, in a slow and orderly way, taking their fair turn in the warm center of the huddle:

The males can be aggressive the rest of the year. But they are docile and cooperative now, united to protect the eggs and survive the cold. Each takes turns getting warm by spending time near the center of the turtle. The huddled mass coils around itself in an undulating spiral. The penguins on the outside move in toward the center, the ones on the inside go outward. And this rotation happens very gently in order to safeguard the eggs. (p. 75)


(Note: Apparently,a Guardian reporter misquoted Jones re a malaria "virus." Malaria is caused by a protozoan parasite.)

At Access Research network I provide a summary of the controversy and the story, as well as other comments.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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