Recently, I sat down and watched all five of the original Planet of the Apes movies again. It has been many years since I’ve seen them, but it immediately struck me that the plot of the first Planet of the Apes movie was very appropriate to the creation/evolution “debate”.
In the movie, Dr. Zaius, chief scientist and defender of the faith, knows the real history of his world, he knows that evolution is true but he can’t bear to let anyone else know. Instead, he imprisons those who violate the religious order and discredits anyone who doubts the ape scriptures.
Doesn’t that sound pretty familiar?
In the original 1968 film, Dr. Zira asks Zaius, “how can scientific truth be heresy?” However, Zaius and the rest of the tribunal of orangutan elders holds that it is, no matter how much evidence there might be for it, they refuse to see it. Near the end of the film, after Taylor and Nova escape into the forbidden zone and Zaius leads troops to recapture or kill them, they come upon a cave where Cornelius had led an archaeological expedition. There, they found human artifacts including a child’s doll. Zaius refuses to even go into the cave, he doesn’t care what evidence is there, all he cares about is his doctrinal purity. In fact, much of what we see in Planet of the Apes is a topsy-turvy replay of the concepts behind the Scopes Monkey Trial. Today, we see the same thing among modern-day creationists, they can’t possibly be so stupid not to know that evolution is supported by an absurd amount of evidence, they just don’t care. They are only concerned with doctrinal purity, not factual reality.
One interesting bit from the film that I’d really like to be true comes at the end of the movie when Cornelius, Zira and Taylor take Zaius prisoner and he admits, perhaps not in so many words, that he knows it won’t be long before the old ways come down but he’s going to fight for them for as long as he possibly can. I’m hoping that today, almost 50 years later, creationism and other such primitive beliefs are in their death throes. They deserve to be and the sooner they become a relic of primitive human thought, the better. We’re better than that as a species, isn’t it about time we stop letting these monkey assemblies run the intellectual argument over human origins? Cornelius and Zira had it right. Evolution happens. The orangutans had it wrong. Religion is nonsense. Unfortunately, Charlton Heston turned out to be a creationist all along. I guess you can’t win them all.