‘Flock’ Offers a Look at Intelligent Design

Posted February 14, 2007 at 4:43pm

This evening, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) will host a screening of “Flock of Dodos: the Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus” as part of a Congressional briefing sponsored by the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy, a self-described “think tank of scientific naturalism.”

“Flock of Dodos” is a documentary written and directed by scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson. The film has garnered several awards for its presentation of the debate between the Darwinian theory of evolution through random gene mutation and natural selection versus the newer idea of intelligent design.

Woolsey, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, is an honorary co-sponsor of the Center for Inquiry.

Intelligent design is the belief that complex living structures are evidence for a gifted “designer.” The designer is not explicitly God — some supporters believe it is an alien life form — but its powers are divine, supernatural and unable to be proved through scientific methods. On these grounds, efforts to include intelligent design in science classes in Pennsylvania, Montana and Kansas have been dismissed, citing the separation between church and state.

The film is “an extended public service announcement to help the broader audience understand that the intelligent design issue is not about science — it’s about communication,” Olson said. “Intelligent designers know how to tell more powerful and effective stories and know how to use fear more effectively.”

Throughout the documentary, intelligent design advocates offer points devised by the movement’s scientists and lawyers, most of whom are affiliated with the Seattle-based think tank the Discovery Institute. Meanwhile, supporters of evolution often fumble while attempting to explain their positions. Olson often cuts to one scene in which eight scientists with evolutionary Ph.D.s debate how intelligent design has gained so much headway in the public conscience. With empty beer bottles and wine glasses in front of them, they froth with indignation at intelligent design.

“Intelligent design puts all of its focus on communication instead of science, where scientists put all of their focus on science and none of it on communication,” Olson explained.

“I would hope the people Capitol Hill could appreciate the film,” Olson said. “I know they have frustrations with scientists, hiring experts and getting a whole lot of Greek thrown at them.”

“We believe it is really important to teach only science in science class,” said Toni Van Pelt, director of governmental affairs for the Office of Public Policy. Van Pelt noted that the institution is working to review bills on stem-cell research, reformat language for the upcoming debate on the No Child Left Behind Act, and reintroduce the Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policymaking Act, which originally was offered in 2005 by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

In the past, many Members have been vocal in their support of teaching intelligent design, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), as well as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Bob Inglis (R-S.C.). Inglis and DeMint spoke at the same Greenville, S.C., intelligent design conference featured in “Flock of Dodos.”

When Olson found that out he laughed, “Those guys don’t even know they’re being duped.”

The event will take place in Room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building, from 4:30 to 7 p.m.