Planet of the Apes: An Apt Example

Planet of the ApesRecently, 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.

4 thoughts on “Planet of the Apes: An Apt Example”

  1. The believer's fall back position in the face of overwhelming scientific proof that his/her "doctrine" is false has to be denial/fingers in ears going " LaLaLa I can't hear you" because he cannot let go of his hoped for afterlife. He so desperately wants this fantasy to be true and it is absolutely essential to his ability to cope with the harsh realities of most of our lives. For most of these people their real mantra is ( as the song goes) "You can't take that away from me!"

    1. No, we can't take it away. It's always like a grand conspiracy theory. We don't want to take it away from them, we want them to recognize just how idiotic it actually is and reject it on their own.

  2. By far the best movie I've ever seen. I wasn't a fan of the sequels though, than again I generally have a disdain for sequels or prequels (think Star Wars). The first one has to be one of the finest examples of social commentary I've seen in a movie (apologies for the exaggerations, I really like the movie). The discussion of religion and science and how it interacts with society is phenomenal. One other aspect I have always perceived when watching it was the naturalistic/scientific (Cornelius & Zira) worldview which saw reality (albeit with a limited understanding) how it really was in contrast to the faith/authority/tradition of Dr. Zaius and the other orangutan goons, and the larger ape society. Its unfortunate human society hasn't grown up. Another point I think needs to be said is how naturalism is considered a philosophy even though it’s the only way of viewing the world that has been shown to be true. Oh…and yes I understand the problem of induction, however I think that is nothing more than philosophical masturbation with no real bearing on reality. Great post by the way!

    1. Having seen them all relatively recently, plus the short-lived PotA TV series, the first is definitely the best. Everything else was just trading on the popularity of the original and as time went on, the budgets went down, the makeup effects got worse and worse, such that by the time it ended, it was a mercy killing. Still, I think that the first movie really did show the foibles of religion in a way that perfectly mirrors what we see today, that religion puts out ideas that are indefensible, but those in charge, even if they know the ideas are false, have positions of power and influence to protect. Truth matters little, it's all about control.

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