Movie review: Creation (2009)

Early in scientific exploration, scientists were comfortable reconciling science with religious beliefs. Of course, society at the time was not always comfortable with their discoveries (e.g., Galileo). Creation explores the uneasy commingling of religious and scientific beliefs in 19th century Britain, between Charles Darwin and his wife Emma, and within Darwin himself.

The movie focuses on a difficult period of time for Darwin: when he struggled with the death of his beloved first-born daughter Annie and when he labored to write The Origin of Species. One of these on its own would be enough to break anyone. Both happening concurrently almost destroyed him.

Creation reveals the tensions between science and religion at a micro level. Rather than looking at the tension in society at large, the movie hones in on the struggles between Charles and Emma as well as his own grappling with whether to follow science or follow belief.

Emma was a stanch believer. Their marriage struggled but ultimately remained strong despite Charles’ scientific studies and theories that would rock society and Christianity. Emma worried for his soul, his war with God as she called it. Charles also worried, not just for his soul but for his marriage. In the end, at least in the movie, he left the choice to publish his book up to Emma.

The movie shows snippets of the scientific and medical community in 19th century Britain, which was an intense time of scientific exploration in biology, anthropology, geology…you name it. Like-minded scientists appear from time to time to encourage Darwin. I was pleasantly surprised to see Joseph Hooker pop up to visit Darwin.

Creation is a wonderful look into the final push to produce The Origin of Species, a book that shook the foundation of Christian society and threatened his own marriage. How he reconciled differing beliefs in his marriage can provide insight into accepting and existing with others, which the world sorely needs.

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