Jeff Tamblyn

Putting Darwin on Trial


Mention Kansas these days and Darwin is as likely to come to mind as fields of wheat or Dorothy landing in Oz. For over a decade, the divide between those who believe in the science of evolution and those who don’t has been fueling the battle over what should be taught in the schools of this midwestern state. In one of the most publicized events in the ongoing cultural war between science and conservative Christianity, public hearings were held in the spring of 2005 by the Kansas State School Board in order to decide whether or not to rewrite high school science standards. Filmmaker and native son Jeff Tamblyn filmed the proceedings, and his new documentary, Kansas vs. Darwin, gives a fascinating glimpse into the arguments and passions of the Intelligent Designers, who are challenging evolutionary theory, and the scientists who find themselves in the unlikely position of defending it.   

In this week’s audio, WIE editor Ross Robertson speaks with Tamblyn about the making of the film, exploring the background of the controversy in Kansas and highlighting the major players in the debate. Tamblyn explains that scientists felt that the hearings were a smokescreen and refused to testify in protest of what some called a “kangaroo court.” He also describes how he earned the trust of people on both sides of the issue and succeeded in presenting this highly contentious topic in an unbiased, thought-provoking way.

“We don’t really understand the relationship of spirituality to science very well.” Tamblyn remarks. “It’s undiscovered country.” From his perspective on the front lines of the culture wars, he makes it clear that the task of reconciling the insights of science with those of religion is still very much alive in America today.

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Jeff Tamblyn
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