Saturday, October 08, 2005

Penquin Empiricism

There is a current frenzy on the right over the movie March of the Penquins.
Every year, Emperor Penguins march, in single file, to their mating ground deep in Antarctica. They mate monogamously, and the females hang around long enough only to lay a single egg. While the male looks after it, the female goes to fend off approaching stavation. Then the roles are reversed, so that Dad can find food for the hatchling.

They are having a warm fuzzy feeling about the apparent monogamous relations that the film shows Emperor Penquins having. As Bill Moyers points out In the New York Times recently, Jonathan Miller reported that conservatives are invoking "March of the Penguins" as an inspiration for their various causes. Some praise the penguins for their monogamy. Opponents of abortion say it verifies "the beauty of life and the rightness of protecting it." A Christian magazine claims it makes "a strong case for intelligent design." On the website "" you can find instructions to take a notebook, flashlight and pen to the movie "to write down what God speaks to you" as you watch the film.

Opps don't let George II into the theatre we know what happens when God talks to him.

As for intelligent design, as The Panda's Thumb points out:

That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat—and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design.

Sadly, that’s the sum total of his argument. It would be interesting to know why having a high mortality rate makes a good argument for ID, but I guess that’ll have to remain a mystery. Maybe it’s because these penguins live in such harsh conditions that he can’t imagine how they could have adapted to the cold so suddenly. But given the fact that penguins live at the equator, it wouldn’t have been sudden.

Well unfortunately Empire Penquins are not monogamous they only pair up until the chicks hatch and then the males are off again looking for a new mate. Which is the biological function of males, to impregnate and leave....which leaves rearing and caring to the female of the species, which is why females determine if they can support their young, if not then they abort or commit infanticide, as a social neccesity, regardless of the moral values of the conservative right. Once again empiricism and science contradicts the faith of the religious right.

Adam Leipzig, president of National Geographic Feature Films,
'pointed out that this species of penguin, the emperor, is usually monogamous for a year, but not for life: the following year, it takes a different partner. He added: 'People read it into what they want. There are universal truths about parenting and bonding with offspring, but it's not a film with a political and social agenda. When we put the English-language version together, we never once had a discussion about social, religious or cultural points of view. We wanted to get the audience involved to follow the penguins' lives.'

Yeah right except that this version is different than the original.Had the American Christian Right Wingnutz seen the original French version it would have made them even happier.

Remaking the March of the Penguins
The original film (en fran├žais) features voiceovers for each of the main family characters (dad, mom, baby boy) and some French pop songs. The effect is quite cheesy at times, particularly during the singing of the love songs.

And a couple of folks have noted that they still have to explain the homosexual tendencies of Emperor Penguins.

Marriage advocate and conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher praised the recent surprise hit documentary March of the Penguins for extolling the values of love and devotion. But instances of homosexuality in the penguin world might add an unwanted twist to her analogy

Gay Penguins!

It seems that the world is suddenly overflowing with gay penguins. At Central Park Zoo in New York, there are two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who appear to be in a gay relationship. They nuzzle each other and behave just like other sets of mates. They have sex with each other. When the zoo put female penguins in to entice them to mate with them, they had no interest at all. But they apparently make great parents:

And even some Christians have trouble with the anthropomorphizing of Penguins, cause it leads to difficult questions about God's creation, but whew then again he only made MAN in his image, not the rest of the universe he inhabits, created, destroyed, recreated.....

Morality not from animals

Indeed, Christians must be careful about using examples from the animal world to support human morality. Some animals (in this fallen world) exhibit homosexual behavior! Remember, man was made in the image of God. Even though our body has features which enable it to be classified in the same grouping as mammals, for instance, people were created differently than the animals. God commanded, and the animals came into existence. But for man He said, “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26). There is an insurmountable gap between people and animals. God gave us His Word (and our consciences) to inform us of right and wrong—we don’t get our morality from animals. The movie showed what happened when a young chick didn’t make the tricky transfer from Dad to Mom. When a failed transfer resulted in a frozen newborn chick, a grieving mother (of course this is interpreted by man as “grieving”—but is it “grieving” as we understand it, or an instinctive behavioral reaction programmed into the animal?) tried to steal another penguin’s chick (we trust people who are comparing the penguins’ behavior with humans won’t use this to justify stealing someone’s baby!). The tribe wouldn’t allow her to take it and the mother had no choice but to head back to sea. This was yet another reminder of living in a fallen world which includes death and suffering.

Of course some folks could ask Are Penguins Communist?

Since they act collectively in order to survive their harsh geography, no rabid individualism here, survival of the fittest is through mutual aid, cooperation and collective solidarity of the species. Something that the American Right denies is 'natural', opps, empiricism trumps ideology again.

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