Every year there's at least one Super Bowl ad that rankles viewers and incites controversy. Like the misogynistic "Miller Lite catfight" ad of 2008, the anti-abortion Tim Tebow Focus on the Family ad of 2010, and the Go Daddy nerd kiss ad of 2013.
This year, a 60-second ad by Carnival Cruise Corporation, created by BBDO-Atlanta and directed by Academy-Award winning director Wally Pfister, upset a particular group of viewers – creationists.
Carnival – which itself has had a rough year, including fires, power outages, and the Costa Concordia wreck – ran a reflective ad featuring the solemn voice of President John F. Kennedy in a speech he delivered for America's Cup crews in 1962, one year before his assassination. In the ad, which is set off by a series of serene, sea-related images, President Kennedy, in a voiceover, shares his meditative views on human's connection to the sea.
Here it is, at length:
I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.
For some evangelical Christians, it was interpreted as a slap in the face.
On his Answers In Genesis blog, creationist Ken Ham slammed Carnival for its ad in a post titled "Carnival Cruise Corporation—Blatant Use of Evolution for Super Bowl Advertisement."
"Don’t you just want to go on one of their cruises so you can stand on the deck of a big cruise ship, look at the sea, and contemplate your accidental beginnings -- and perhaps worship the sea, because it gave birth to you!" Ham writes. "So we have Neil deGrasse Tyson in his cosmos series telling us we are all stardust -- we are children of the stars. And the Carnival Cruise Corporation telling us we all came from the sea. So -- worship the stars and worship the sea! That’s the increasing state of our culture as it abandons the truth of God’s Word."
"We see a connection to the world around us… Ham sees only sin," Mehta writes. "Turns out you can learn a lot when your library consists of more than just a single book," he adds, referring to the fact that Ham has said the only book anyone needs is the Bible.
On Twitter, others came out in support of Ham, including Christian talk radio host Janet Parshall.
In fact, 4 in 10 Americans may agree with the tweeters. Some 42 percent of Americans believe in a creationist view of human origins, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. Gallup's report found that almost half of Americans believe "God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades."
However, the report also found that half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. Interestingly, the percentage of respondents who say God was not involved in evolution is rising - and has doubled since 1999.
And while Ham writes that the Carnival Super Bowl ad "abandons the truth of God’s Word," David Badash of the New Civil Rights Movement insists that "it is possible to believe in god and evolution..."
Pope Francis once said that evolutionary theory does not contradict biblical teaching. Speaking at an October 2014 event in Vatican City, Pope Francis said, “The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve."
The Pope has not yet commented on Carnival's Super Bowl ad.