Historians respond to “The Voyage that Shook the World”

Peter Bowler, Sandra Herbert and Janet Brown have responded to their misrepresentation in the CMI docu-drama The Voyage That Shook The World in the current edition of the History of Science Society newsletter:

The interviews filmed with us have been edited to highlight certain aspects of Darwin’s views and character. Janet Browne’s remarks about his childhood delight in making up stories to impress people is used to imply that the same motive may have driven his scientific thinking. Peter Bowler’s description of Darwin’s later views on racial inequality is used in the film, but not Bowler’s account of Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s thesis that Darwin was inspired by his opposition to racism and slavery. Sandra Herbert’s comment that Darwin’s theory required explanation of many aspects of life was edited down to imply that his theory required explanation of all aspects of life. The overall impression is given that Darwin had an enquiring mind but was led astray by his theoretical preconceptions, a view backed up through interviews with several scientists, including one who expresses open doubts about evolution. The film also suggests that what is ultimately at stake is a clash of world views rather than the resolution of scientific questions.

More here.

I have received a screener of the movie and will hopefully get to view it (and write more) sometime over the next few weeks. See here, here and here for my previous coverage of Voyage.


5 thoughts on “Historians respond to “The Voyage that Shook the World”

  1. Short version: the film makers edited the three historians’ interviews to make them appear to imply stuff they didn’t say or intend?

  2. It’s the Lee Atwater school of documentary.
    Spin it. and when you can’t spin it, lie. People won’t check, and in fifteen minutes everyone will either forget or decide it’s not worth it to call you on it.
    Funny thing to do for people who wish to be known as holding the moral high ground.

  3. Hello. I am the Director for the above film and actually thought the article in the History of Science Society was in many respects accurate and fair (as opposed to the NCSE ‘spin’ on the same article).

    However I did take issue with the claims of both Sandra Herbert and Peter Bowler as to how I treated their interview material. Regrettably, as they have made such specific claims in the public arena, I am left with no choice but to offer a response.

    My response to those claims, along with transcripts of the interview segments in question have been posted here:


    I invite any fair-minded reader to evaluate for themselves the actual content and context of the disputed interviews.


  4. Pingback: Lippard on “The Voyage That Shook The World” « a simple prop

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