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Unnatural Selection: Jon Amiel’s “Creation”

Unnatural Selection: Jon Amiel's "Creation"

Charles Darwin’s articulation of his theory of evolution by natural selection was less a discovery or invention in the sense that those words are typically used than simply the recognition of a fundamental order in the world we inhabit. The difference is slight, but important: Darwin didn’t build a useful object or stumble upon a new element or continent—he merely looked closely at what was around him, asked “why?” and then proceeded to answer his own question as best he could. It’s telling that the man spent so many years of his life working on a treatise on barnacles; always searching for the great in the small, here was a man attentive to detail, all details, and the elegance in his theory is merely the same elegance that arises when one learns to look carefully at the natural world. Darwin didn’t create anything; he read the signs that were there for all to see and changed everything.

It’s ironic, then, that Jon Amiel’s (Entrapment, Sommersby) biopic concerning the fraught period of Darwin’s life leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species is saddled with the title Creation. Surely meant to be provocative, its monumentality doesn’t befit the humble scientist, and surely doesn’t fit the book itself, whose conclusions didn’t so much displace the idea of a creating God, but merely offered an alternative possible involvement for a Godlike figure in the evolution of the natural order. Read Jeff Reichert’s review of Creation.

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