Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Natural theology in a 1958 religious infomercial from Pakistan

Ok...so I'm finally back in US. And Matt, no - the freemason (ultra-secret) hand signal didn't work at the immigration. I must have used the wrong finger. In fact, I had an hour long chat with an immigration officer. The conversation was actually quite pleasant - the guy was Catholic and accepted evolution, his mother does not. Oh - and he also asked me how I spent my 20 years in the US. Yes, it is fun these days to travel with a Pakistani passport. Oh well...

I have a backlog of posts. But first, here is a fascinating clip of a Pakistani religious infomercial from 1958. I don't know where was it screened or how widely it was viewed. If any one knows that, please let me know. My guess is that it was made for TV - perhaps shown prime time.

The clip is in Urdu. However, couple of things to note. Notice that this is a setting for a university or a college. There are no Taliban-style beards - with either the instructor or the students. They are also all dressed in western clothes. I'm sure a comparable movie today will have a very different atmosphere - tracing the changes in Pakistan itself.

The main point of the clip is natural theology. It starts with the story of Adam and Eve, but quickly moves to highlight harmony in the world: the day-night cycle, the flow of rivers, the perfection of rainfall, the animals and their respective niches. Fascinatingly, it singles out the phrase "survival of the fittest" and rejects it (yes, it is used in English at 5:53 in the clip). But evolution or natural selection is not the focus at all. This is just an off-hand comment in the clip. In contrast, the adaptation of animals to their environments is presented as further evidence of God's perfect creation: since birds have been given the ability to fly in the air and fish to swim in water, it doesn't happen that birds give birth in water and fish on the land. You get the drift (and you can find detailed versions of this type of Natural theology in William Paley and others in the 18th and 19th centuries). From the visuals perspective, note that the clip predominantly uses footage of animals living (happily?) together rather than eating each other. Take that Tennyson. And the Shark Week.

In any case, enjoy the clip - and its 1950s docu-music (tip Zakir Thaver):

4 comments:

Matthew said...

I can't believe you've been here 20 years. And I've known you for fifteen of them....

Wow. We're really old. (But I think you're older. Ha-ha!)

Salman Hameed said...

"Wow. We're really old. (But I think you're older. Ha-ha!)"

Speak for yourself. I was 1 when I came to the US - so according to my math, that makes me just about 21 :)

AYDIN Ă–RSTAN said...

Pakistan had TV broadcasting in 1958?

Salman Hameed said...

Aydin,

Excellent point! No, Pakistan's TV transmission started in 1964 (what? No TV before that!).

So, then this must be for the theaters - perhaps played before the start of a film.

Thanks for pointing it out.