About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The Passion of the Penguins
Conservative commentators have being all over the web and radio waves to insist that the movie "verified the beauty of life and the rightness of protecting it," even though penguins aren't really "beautiful" other than to other penguins (and coackroaches to other coackroaches), and every species on earth tends to protect its own offspring. Of course, the fact that penguins and everybody else destroy, life both in competition with other species and with their own, is conveniently overlooked by the pious Christian.
According to another comment, the movie is "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing." Again, a moment of reflection should convince anybody that all parents make some sacrifice to rear their offspring, but that this -- at least in the animal world -- has nothing to do with moral principles: it's got to do with increasing the chances of the parent's DNA to pass on to the next generation. Moreover, penguins may be monogamous, but other birds aren't. Why not pick the latter as examples to hold for the moral education of our children? (Incidentally, many species of birds also show a degree of homosexuality as a natural part of their biology...)
A minister in Ohio reached astonishingly ridiculous heights when he said: "Some of the circumstances they [the penguins] experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians. The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit." Wow, my Catholic upbringing didn't prepare me for the astounding discovery that the Holy Spirit affects penguins, but that just goes to show you how much one can learn from a documentary which, incidentally, makes absolutely no moral statement at all. In the words of Laura Kim, a vice president of Warner Independent, which distributed the movie in the US: "You know what? They're just birds." Indeed they are.