The Voyage That Shook the World: An Interview with Carl Wieland
- Darren Nelson The Old Schoolhouse
- 2009 11 Nov
Dr. Carl Wieland, managing director of Creation Ministries International, answers a few questions regarding Darwin and the release of The Voyage That Shook the World. The prospect of such a film airing on network television is incredibly significant. Especially in this "Year of Darwin," the underlying evolutionary beliefs of much of the populace will rise to the surface and perhaps be more vulnerable to scrutiny. The timing of the release of the movie is excellent in hopes of achieving that goal.
TOS: From what we gather, the approach of this movie is to use the voyage of the HMS Beagle itself as a backdrop for a critique of the theory of evolution. But what is unheard of in a film made for mainstream television is that Biblical history is offered as a real and better alternative for explaining the observational evidence Darwin encountered on his voyage. How do you intend to get this out to the worldwide audience? It seems like TV networks would want to stonewall such openly Christian material.
Dr. Wieland: That is really the point. We had to make it subtle yet powerful so that it would be seen as fair and not just a tub-thumping polemic. It is almost like a "neutral" narrator exploring the issue. Things like the Flood and our descent from Adam and Eve are mentioned because of the historical content (i.e. these were the sorts of things that were being opposed by Darwinism), but by showing the shortcomings of the evidence at crucial points, people are led to think about alternatives, like "Maybe the Bible was right all along?" It has to be a soft sell, yet without being "mealy-mouthed." It would be misleading to say that it is "openly Christian." If it were a pro-Christian plug, it would not get past first base. Simply by being open-minded, something is electrifying to a pro-Darwin-conditioned world. It's hard to explain—you really have to see how it does it.
We have it in the hands of several broadcast buyers. We hope they will understand that the touch of controversy it explores will be a "plus." There will be immense pressure on them not to screen it, of course, which is why we want them to at least make their commercial decisions about broadcast before the word gets out as to who is behind it.
TOS: In making a film such as The Voyage That Shook the World, a great deal of care must be taken to represent the historical character, in this case, Charles Darwin, as he actually was, and not a caricature. A running debate has been as to whether (1) Darwin was an honest scientist sincerely seeking to understand truth, or (2) that he was anti-religiously motivated, intentionally and consciously trying to undermine belief in God. First of all, how significant do you think the answer to that question should be for people considering the claims of evolution? In other words, if we discovered, as the film contends, that Darwin had antireligious sentiments, should that fact cause us even greater pause in our judgment of the theory itself? Second, I'm curious to know how you would respond to the oft-asked question, "If Darwin knew then what we know now (regarding, say, the paucity of transitional form candidates or the complexity of biochemical systems), would he have scrapped his theory?"
Dr. Wieland: Ultimately, truth claims should be evaluated independent of the motives or character of the person who puts them forward. Copernicus put forward the heliocentric model of the solar system, it now appears, because of the very much pagan mystical Hermetical writings, which gave the sun a godlike status. But that doesn't change the fact that Copernicus seems to have been right. The great chemist Kekulé dreamed of snakes to come up with his ideas of the structure of the benzene ring—but he turns out to be right. Darwin was right about natural selection, but he was wrong about common descent.
The film actually explores that [second] question. Of course, there is no way of knowing for certain. But the message is clear: since Darwin was a careful observer, and since the evidence that he saw with his eyes and interpreted through the "glasses" of Lyell's long-age geology theories is nowadays not believed to support things the way he believed, he may well have not put his theory forward. In fact, that presents a dilemma for today's Darwin-worshipper—we are putting forward, very subtly, the proposal that since the evidence is so clearly different today in many areas from what he thought, then either (1) as a good scientist, he would change his views, or (2) if not, he cannot be said to be as good or objective a scientist as today's hymns of praise maintain.
TOS: Many people don't realize that the idea of an ancient earth preceded Darwin's theory of evolution. The old Earth view has long held substantially more credibility than the theory of evolution. Even today, many people who reject Darwinian evolution firmly believe that ancient universe cosmology is beyond doubt due to hard evidence in the fields of geology and especially astronomy. Do you find that CMI receives as many questions and criticisms regarding its stance on "deep time" as it does evolution? How much attention is given that issue, both in the film and in CMI literature?
Dr. Wieland: Time is obviously a crucial issue. Because if the millions of years are true, then not only is grand-scale evolution much easier to swallow (in fact, without deep time, there is no evolutionary theory), but also the notion of a good world that fell into sin after people were on the earth is clearly wrong, because if there were fossils millions of years ago showing evidence of death, disease, and suffering, they cannot be the consequence of the Fall. And the Gospel is all about the origin of sin and death. So the millions of years destroy the logic of the Gospel.
A great deal of attention in our literature and resources in general is devoted to this key question. The film spends a good deal of time on geological issues, in relation to deep time. We see the places Darwin saw and how he interpreted them to support the millions of years. Then we see how they would be understood today in light of better knowledge.
TOS: A few years ago, a speaker boldly asserted the claim that in fifty years evolution would be looked back upon as the greatest hoax ever perpetrated upon mankind. While still firmly entrenched in the popular mindset, evolutionary theory is more and more revealing its soft underbelly. For the first time in living memory, a significant and growing number of secular scientists are seriously and openly challenging its plausibility. Strong creation ministries such as CMI, the birth of the ID movement, and an increasing number of films such as Voyage reveal that the theory is in crisis. Is there a chance that we could, in our lifetimes, witness the debunking of the theory of evolution?
Dr. Wieland: I find that a dubious proposition. Romans 1 tells us that unregenerate people naturally reject God. The only way to be able to not want to retain God in one's knowledge and still be intellectually consistent is to have some way of escaping from the witness all around us of this incredible created world. So some form of evolution is a philosophical necessity for unbelief. Darwin's is just one mechanism of "how"—the belief itself has been around since the times of antiquity. The best book on this subject is going to come out in a few months at the latest: Creation Without Compromise, by Donald Crowe.
So even though I am not intrinsically a pessimist, realistically I do not envision this in my lifetime. Perhaps neo-Darwinism will give way to a neo-neo-Darwinism, but as far as being overthrown totally, it would require people to believe in the miracle-working creator God of the Bible. And I don't think it will happen unless and until a majority of people in the world become born-again believers. The two go hand in hand. Because if the Bible is right about creation in six days, then it's right about heaven and hell, the whole box and dice—and as Paul said, that carries with it all of the "offense of the Cross." But I am hopeful that in this ferment of questioning we are seeing at present, that there could well be millions of people liberated from materialism and led into the light of the glorious Gospel. Ultimately that's what it's all about. To see it as purely related to the overthrow of a particular theory would be to see the whole concept of creation ministry short.
Miracles happen, and the fact that we were able to raise over $700,000 U.S. dollars globally made us aware of the providence of God more than ever in our history. To us, the idea that we would be involved in a million-dollar production was not believable a couple years ago. But God can do great things if believers get behind it.
Darren Nelson currently resides outside Knoxville, Tennessee. A high school mathematics teacher for many years, he has taken an indefinite sabbatical from the classroom to be the primary homeschool educator of his two children, Muriel and Noah.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2009. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store.
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