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This weekend Cars 2 opens. It will be the first Pixar movie I make a point of not seeing. It’s not that I even mind so much that it’s propaganda, or even that it’s propaganda for “The Manufacturer.” In theory, I could forgive that. What I can’t forgive is that director John Lasseter and his team hung their hat on Intelligent Design, and alas, it’s anything but.

The Design Observer / Observatory: “Cars: Pixar Falls for Intelligent Design” by Josh Berta, June 23, 2011

First, there was this post by Josh Berta over at the Design Observer’s blog. Basically, Berta is arguing that Pixar’s latest installment Cars 2 is a propaganda film promoting “intelligent design”. The whole argument is obviously a joke (Berta previously wrote a satirical piece on his blog about James Cameron’s Avatar).
The very same idea was put forward a few days ago regarding the whole Transformers franchise. American film critic Roger Ebert (who notoriously hates the whole Transformers trilogy) is arguing that since Transformers were not manufactured by humans and could not have been produced by nature, there were “designed” by an “Intelligent Designer”:

The advocates of ID, who are arguing that their belief should be included in science classes in Texas, Tennessee and other states, say that if a living organism has a design that cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection, it is proof of an Intelligent Designer. If you consider a Camaro, for example, wouldn’t it obviously have had a Designer? Could its parts have been assembled by a hurricane (or a trillion hurricanes) blowing through a junkyard?
Certainly not. Therefore, this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone. (Chicago Sun-Times: “On the Origin of Transformers” by Roger Ebert, July 4th, 2011)

The two satirical texts about intelligent design being published a few days apart is no coincidence: Ebert tweeted about Josh Berta’s piece on June 24:

Pixar’s “Cars” universe is an argument for Intelligent Design? Maybe, but only about as convincing as ID itself.

“but only about as convincing as ID itself”? I wonder if Ebert understood that Berta’s piece was intended as a joke. Anyway, to my knowledge, Ebert did not clearly acknowledge Josh Berta’s piece as his source of inspiration. I also found Ebert’s piece to be less interesting than Berta satire. Finally, unlike Berta, Ebert felt the need to tell its readers about the humorous nature of his post (in the comments, many readers thought Ebert was serious). In the comments under his blog post, Ebert confirmed that his theory was intended as a satire:

This is a satire. I suppose if I need to say so, I failed. On the other hand, whenever I post an Onion video some people believe it.

[UPDATE – July 14, 2011] Josh Berta sums up his thoughts and feelings about having “inspired” Roger Ebert’s piece on his blog: Stolen “Cars”, July 14, 2011.

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The same joke could be made about Short Circuit (1986), The Iron Giant (1999), Robots (2005), and all the like.
Trying to seriously put forward such an argument would be problematic, if not dubious (that’s the main tip about the satirical nature of both Berta and Ebert pieces: the logic behind their arguments is grotesque). Without stepping into the whole evolutionism vs. intelligent design controversy, one can wonder: what if all fictional stories have to strictly obey the same scientific rules that govern our daily lives (“science fiction” would become an oxymoron)? What if all work of fiction need to stem from an evolutionary perspective in order not to be propaganda material about creationism?
Now that I think about it, where do all the Smurfs come from?

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