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Flock of Dodos Filmmaker Digs the Hole Deeper in His Hoaxing of Viewers

As reported earlier this week (see here and here), filmmaker Randy Olson presented fiction as fact in his anti-ID documentary Flock of Dodos. But rather than apologize for his film’s repeated bloopers and misrepresentations, Olson is now digging himself a deeper hole in recent comments posted to a Darwinist blog.

One of Olson’s biggest bloopers in the film is his purported refutation of biologist Jonathan Wells. Olson portrays Wells as dishonest and unreliable for claiming in Icons of Evolution (2000) that modern textbooks continued to reprint Haeckel’s bogus embryo diagrams misrepresenting the biological evidence for evolution. Olson admits that Haeckel’s embryo diagrams were fraudulent, but he insists they haven’t appeared in modern textbooks, and he has someone in the film equate Wells with the National Enquirer for saying otherwise. Even after being informed last year that he got his facts wrong,

Olson refused to correct his film or retract his smear of Wells. Now Olson is in full-spin mode, defensively insisting that his smear of Wells is inconsequential. On a pro-Darwin blogsite, Olson has claimed:

But while its important that everyone keep straight the absurdity of wrangling over Haeckel’s embryos, it is much more important that a single word is kept in mind throughout this — TRIVIA. Everyone needs to stay focused on the larger issue which is the subtitle of Wells book, “Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong.” As I point out in Dodos, he doesn’t say “some,” or “a little bit,” or “a few things.” He says MUCH.

The important thing is that the whole process needs to begin with THE BURDEN OF PROOF being on him to prove that his case consists of more than just trivia.

But it was Olson himself who chose to base his entire refutation of Wells on the spurious claim that Haeckel’s embryos weren’t reprinted by modern textbooks. Here is what Olson said in Flock of Dodos:

Wells chooses 11 standard examples used in the teaching of evolution. What he calls the icons of evolution. We don’t have time to go through all his examples, but if even one of them is wrong then we have to wonder about his whole book. (emphasis added)

Olson didn’t bother to present any other evidence in his film that Wells’ book is inaccurate, because he asserted that if he could refute one “icon” covered by Wells, that would be enough to refute the legitimacy of Wells’ entire book. But Olson got his facts wrong, and so his purported refutation of Wells has imploded. It is Olson who botched his case, not Wells. Wells’ book contains a wealth of information and documentation about each of his major claims (including 70 pages of research notes providing citations to the primary scientific literature). Wells has met his burden of proof. Randy Olson has not met his. He owes Wells a retraction—and an apology.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.