Creation. 2009. Jon Amiel, director. Great Britain.

Creation is the story of Charles Darwin; the man most often associated with thought surrounding the evolution of life. While persons previous had laid groundwork, none proved the truth of evolutionary thought to the extent that Darwin was able through his meticulous gathering of scientific data. In his identification of natural selection – the how of evolution – Darwin enjoys a certain originality.

Creation, though, is not really about science. It does not document his famous voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle nor, mercifully, narrate “On the Origin of Species”. Creation is primarily the story of the two great loves of Charles Darwin; his daughter Annie and his wife Emma. Creation is a captivating and emotionally affecting love story.

I do not mean to suggest, however, that the relationship between science and religion is not given attention in Creation. While the Darwin of Creation is generally sensitive to religious sensibilities – he feels, for example, that the society of which he is a part is bound together by the Church and he rejects, what he feels, is the desire of Huxley to “rebuild, plank by plank, the very vessel” in which society sails – proponents of Intelligent Design should, nonetheless, be challenged by Creation.

Enraged by Reverend Innes making his daughter Annie kneel on rock salt – for disagreeing with his instruction about dinosaurs – Darwin sarcastically opines about “the love God shows for the butterflies by inventing a wasp that lays its eggs inside the living flesh of caterpillars.” Elsewhere referencing Malthus – Malthus observed the way in which epidemics and famines and wars seemed to keep the limited resources of the world in balance with those who would consume such resources – Darwin asks: “Why this exceedingly wasteful plan?” In light of a Creator often associated with goodness, why does it have to be, as the Victorian contemporary Tennyson had already described, a nature “red in tooth and claw”?

How God fits into that experience of suffering and death runs throughout Creation. A desperate Darwin is not above praying for those he loves and yet he must also endure the Reverend Innes horrifically pray that God teach his congregants that “all misfortune, all sickness and death, all the trials and miseries which we daily complain are intended for our good…[are] the corrections of a wise and affectionate parent.”

Spiritual abuse also manifests in reflection surrounding what is owed to truth. Emma Darwin, on one occasion, asks: “Charles, do you not care that you may never pass through the gates of heaven and that you and I may be separated for all eternity?” Emma believes that her husband is “at war with God” – a war which, she feels, her husband will lose – but what Emma sees as damning is, to her husband, simply part of having the courage of his convictions.

Creation presents Darwin in a way I have often pictured; presents him as a cautious naturalist and as a point of moderation between the extremes of those believing he is at war with God and those praising him for having killed that projection. The grandeur Darwin was able to see in an evolutionary view of life is something which Creation presents as manifesting, in his own personal life, in the experience of love. That makes death – whether of a person or a relationship – that much more heartbreaking.

Creation has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for “some intense thematic material”.

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