On the origin of calumnies

October 1, 2009

An open letter to Lord Drayson from Charles Darwin

Minister, it is a most distressing eventuality to find one's life's work "distorted" in the popular media. Last night, I attended a cinematograph theatre displaying to the assemblage moving pictures called Creation that purported to present my theories to a mass audience.

My beloved finches were represented as a hallucination, my comparative anatomical studies of pigeons displayed as obsessional butchery, and my geological observations given the crudity of a seaside donkey. To further belittle years of scientific evidence, I, the "author", was portrayed as a cruel neglecter of children, a snubber of old friends, and like Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire, a person in thrall to quackery. How glad I am that my father, Dr Robert Darwin, did not witness those scenes ...

One supposes it is the common burden of old age to be held up as a figure of fun, to entertain younger and more idle persons (a process begun long ago in the periodical Punch). However, to see the patient and careful labours of natural philosophy itself so mocked to provide crude entertainment was unendurable. Science seeks redress!

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