July 21, 2000
Hollywood movies that mix science fiction and evolution are certainly not new. For example, Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey in the 1960s quickly come to mind. Such popular films—joined by the more-recent Jurassic Park movies—demonstrate how evolutionary thinking has found itself well outside the academic arena and inside popular culture.
The just-released movie X-Men—which is receiving generally glowing reviews and good box-office receipts (it was the #1 movie in America during the week it was released)—is the most recent film that blends the fiction of evolution with science fiction. Like the “Batman" films of the 1990s, X-Men is definitely “over the top” and comic bookish, which is not surprising given that X-Men itself is based on a comic book series, first published in the 1960s. Therefore the movie’s fantasy elements should not be taken too seriously by Bible believers as a propaganda piece for evolution. But when a film’s very first line is “mutation is the key to our evolution”—followed soon by the line “every few millennia, evolution jumps forward”—our major concern is not so much that the film is scientifically suspect (it is, after all, “science fiction”), but that the film has become a reflection of how such lines could even be uttered and sound plausible to moviegoers in the first place.
Here is the story line of this big-budget, impressive-looking film. In an early scene that takes place in the U.S. Senate, a Senator proposes legislation that “mutants” (i.e., humans who have mutated/evolved to a higher level and now possess superhuman abilities) are dangerous and should be registered (later he privately proposes that they all should be locked up). Because the mutants are not “normal” (although on the outside most appear normal) and sometimes display frightful abilities (e.g., a simple kiss from a mutant girl puts a normal boy into a coma for three weeks), they are the targets of widespread fear and discrimination. In depicting the treatment of mutants in everyday society, the movie draws parallels to the discrimination of Jews by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, and even shows flashbacks to that era.
There are both good and bad mutant characters in the film. The “bad” mutants are led by an embittered Holocaust survivor—also a mutant—who hates “normal” people because of their harsh treatment of him as both a Jew and an evolved mutant. The “good” mutants, who battle the “bad” mutants throughout the film, insist, however, that “mankind has evolved since then” (i.e., the Holocaust), and are capable of a greater acceptance of mutants. The leader of the bad mutants views this as “weak” and sees no redeeming value with humans … except in one aspect. “The bad mutants discover a way in which they can increase the rate of mutations in humans (and also mutants themselves) to turn them into mutants. This is done by means of a machine that discharges genetic-altering radiation. The evil mutant leader purposes to unleash this technology on world leaders gathered on Ellis Island near Manhattan (New York City), and sets up his radiation machine at the nearby Statue of Liberty, aiming it at the leaders in the distance. He wishes to turn them into mutants so that they will—as mutants themselves—be won over”. Interestingly, this character declares that his rapid way of increasing human evolution through mutations is accomplishing something that God was so slow Himself in doing (i.e., inferring that “God” used a slow evolutionary process of mutations to bring about the higher forms of life over evolutionary history, a view called “theistic evolution”—which we reject outright as totally contrary to what God has revealed in His Word—and boasting that he has improved upon God’s method). It is ironic that the film on one hand depicts the horrors of the Holocaust but on the other embraces evolutionary premises. We must point out that it was evolutionary ideas that actually fueled Hitler’s genocide of ‘less-evolved’ peoples like Jews, Gypsies, Slavic peoples, etc. Evolutionary ideas have never advanced humankind either biologically or socially. On the contrary, they lead to the decay of societies—for example, today’s increase in abortion has been greatly influenced by evolutionary thinking (see Ken Ham’s book Genesis and the Decay of the Nations). By the way, for the scientific reasons why mutations—even if acted upon by natural selection—could never evolve a creature into a higher form of life, go to our Q&A page on mutations. We find it fitting that the fairy tale of evolution has morphed with comic strip fantasy, and thus for more than one reason, X-Men is rightly labeled “science fiction.”