Friday, May 18, 2007


Life's Persistent Questions

I watched Randy Olson's "Flock of Dodos" on Showtime (you can watch it too) with my oldest daughter the other night. She's 16 going on 27 and busy with school, and sports, and a boyfriend. She's not my little girl anymore. I don't get to spend much time with her now, and in a couple of years she'll be off to college and out of the house for good.

So it was nice sitting there with her and laughing about the zany antics of the creationists. She thought it was totally cool that I know Randy, Steve Case, Bill Wagnon, and Sue Gamble.

In recent years, her youthful admiration for my many talents seems to have waned in inverse proportion to her age. Knowing people who are on television, even if the show wasn't American Idol, brought me back up just a notch or two in her estimation.

Short lived as that no doubt will prove to be, it was still a good feeling.

I saw "Flock of Dodos" when it first premiered here in Overland Park. A panel discussion followed the screening which included many of those who were featured in the film: John Calvert, Jack Cashill, Kathy Martin, Steve Case, Sue Gamble, and Bill Wagnon.

In those days, the ID crowd hadn't yet decided that they came across as fools, and many science types weren't so sure they liked the film. Now, Discovery, which refused to participate in the film or even return Olson's phone calls -- they were too busy -- has set up a website that calls the film, rather unconvincingly, a hoax. Scientists have warmed to its charms albeit reluctantly in some cases.

Muffy Moose, Olson's mother, was also at the premiere. She has a role in the film, as well. While Muffy, a neighbor of John Calvert in Lake Quivira, finds intelligent design unattractive, she remains a searcher. She's tried out a number of what might be called alternative religions or belief systems. Near the end of the film, in one of its most touching moments, she says that she's become interested in Buddhism and the idea that in death, life might somehow be reborn.

The best thing about Olson's film is that it confounds everyone's expectations. No one quite knows what to make of it. Like life, it's complicated. One of the film's lessons for those of us who defend evolution is that, by its very nature, science doesn't have all the answers to life's persistent questions.

Each of us is searching in our own way for meaning in life. Some of us, like Muffy, find reasons to go on living as we approach the end. Others, like me, want to connect with a child before she goes off, all too quickly, into the world.

In a funny way, the film helped me do just that.


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