Rod Dreher

Via a New Scientist blog, here’s a nifty notice of the stage play “Re: Design,” built on the real-life 40-year correspondence between Charles Darwin and his friend, Harvard botanist Asa Gray, who accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution without losing his religious faith. Excerpt:

As a piece of theatre, Re: Design stands in contrast to Creation, the? Darwin bio-pic that opened in North America this past weekend to mixed reviews. Despite earnest intentions the silver screen rendition ?of the father of evolution has failed to impress some critics (read New Scientist’s review of Creation here).
Perhaps it’s evolution fatigue. Or maybe it’s just the usual problem ?that arises when famous scientists are depicted in popular films: nothing drowns out the subtle essence of discovery better than a flood? of dramatized genius angst.?
Re: Design has a simple formula for avoiding this pitfall. Every line ?spoken by Darwin and Gray in the play are taken from their documented? written exchanges, now available online at the Darwin Correspondence Project.?
“That’s what makes this play unique because everyone knows it’s their?own words,” says director Paul Bourne. “It takes any pressure off us? because we’re not doing a fictional play with a particular slant. We?don’t have an agenda.”
Perhaps not, says actor and co-director Patrick Morris, “But I don’t?think Richard Dawkins would like it.”

Why not? Because, says New Scientist blogger Ivan Semeniuk, the play depicts a scientist who accepts to some extent Darwin’s theories, but affirms his religious faith all the same. Moreover, having read some of the script (via a link in Semeniuk’s blog entry), it’s genuinely admirable, even touching, how these two friends wrestled over powerful and antithetical ideas, yet remained respectful of and devoted to each other, and to civil dialogue between and about science and religion. Again, note well that this isn’t fiction produced out of wishful thinking and idealism; this play consists of the actual words of Darwin and Gray. Little surprise, then, that the play was developed thanks to a grant from the Templeton Foundation.

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