Free film presents a history of the ID movement

Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines
Documentary
60 minutes / 2016
RATING: 7/10

Revolutionary is a fantastic documentary about what a quiet professor did to get Darwinian evolutionists very, very upset with him.

Michael Behe is not a creationist – he seems to believe in an old earth and that some sort of evolution may well have occurred.

So why would Darwinians be so very disturbed by him? Because Behe doesn’t believe the world came about by chance. While studying the human cell he realized the microscopic machines within it are so intricate and complex it’s inconceivable they could have come about via only random mutation and natural selection.

The cell’s outboard motor and “irreducible complexity”

While Behe is the subject of this documentary, the real “star” of the show is one of those “micro-machines” that so fascinated him: the bacterial flagellum motor. As the documentary’s narration explains:

“Perhaps the most amazing propulsion system on our entire planet is one that exists in bacteria. It is called the flagellum, a miniature propellor driven by a motor with many distinct mechanical parts, each made of proteins. The flagellum’s motor resembles a human-designed rotary engine. It has a universal joint, bushings, a stator, and a rotor. It has a drive shaft and even its own clutch and braking system. In some bacteria the flagellum motor has been clocked at a 100,000 revolutions per minute. The motor is bi-directional and can shift from forward to reverse almost instantaneously. Some scientists suggest it operates at near-100% energy efficiency. All of this is done on a microscopic scale that is hard to imagine. The diameter of the flagellum motor is no more than 5 millionths of a centimeter.”

In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Behe argued that Darwinian evolution could not account for micro-machines like this because Darwin required all complex living things to have evolved through a step-by-step process from simpler lifeforms. Behe couldn’t see how these micro-machines could have developed in stages. They were, as he put it, “irreducibly complex” – take one piece out, and they don’t simply function less efficiently, but instead seize functioning at all.

The flagellum motor is astonishing, and yet it’s only one of many “molecular machines” scientists have discovered in the last several decades, all of them operating with a single cell. Some of the others include: “energy-producing turbines, information-copying machines, and even robotic walking motors.”

(The title of Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, is a reference to how, when Darwin presented his theory,  he didn’t know how incredibly complex the inner workings of the cell were – they were only a “black box” to him. Would Darwin have ever suggested his theory if he’d had an inkling of how complex even the simplest life really is?)

The documentary shows that since Behe first poised the problem of “irreducible complexity” many have tried to address it, but with no real success.

CAUTIONS

The ID movement is sometimes caricatured as being creationism in disguise. But it is made up of a very diverse group of scientists. There are Christians, cultists and atheists too, and while it seems most believe in an ancient earth, there are also 6-day creationists. What unites the ID movement is the shared belief that the evidence shows there must have been intelligence – an Intelligent Designer – behind the formation of the universe.

But because they are trying to avoid being labelled as a religious movement they won’t name the “Intelligent Designer.” This is the ID movement’s greatest flaw: in this refusal they are not giving God the glory that is His due!

Since the “good guys” in this film hold to a wide variety of views on the age of the Earth, Who made it, and to what extent He made use of evolution, this is not a film for the undiscerning.

CONCLUSION

That said, this is an important and well-made documentary. Revolutionary shows how Behe became one of the fathers of the Intelligent Design (ID), and in documenting his history, they also provide a overview of ID movement itself. That’s the best reason to see this film – to get a good introduction to a movement that questions unguided, Darwinian evolution, on scientific grounds. In just one hour it traces the impact Behe has had on the Darwinian debate since his pivotal book, Darwin’s Black Box, was published two decades ago. There’s a lot packed in here, and it is well worth repeated viewings.

While Revolutionary is important and has some wonderful computer animations of the inner workings of the cell, it is not for everyone. Since the central figure is a mild-mannered sort, it just isn’t going to grab the attention of children or other casual viewers.

However, for anyone interested in the sciences and the origins debate, it is a must-see!

And – bonus! – it is now available to be viewed online for free (at the top of this review) and if you want to explore further, their website – http://revolutionarybehe.com – has a wealth of information.

This review first appeared on ReelConservative.com.

Concerning the Genetic Fallacy

Logical fallacies abound in public discourse. Spend a bit of time watching or listening to political discussions. If you have some knowledge of logic, and logical fallacies, you may near the point of doing violence to yourself or others due to your frustration at the lack of simple logic that is often evidenced in such conversations. And due to a widespread ignorance of the basics of logic, these fallacies often go completely unnoticed.

The same holds true for the issue of origins, and the ongoing discussion about creation and evolution, the relationship between Scripture’s account and the findings of science. One logical fallacy continues to rear its ugly head, being raised again and again, as if repeating the argument will make it less fallacious. This fallacy is known as the genetic fallacy.

What is the genetic fallacy? When someone points to the origin of an argument or arguer, and draws the conclusion that the argument must be right, or wrong, based on its origin, the genetic fallacy is being committed. For example, we could argue in this way:

  • That man told me that the sun is shining.
  • That man was once committed to a psychiatric institution because of delusional thinking.
  • Therefore, that man must be wrong, and the sun is not in fact shining.

The genetic fallacy has become evident in a couple of ways in the current discussion. First of all, the claim is made that the modern “creationist” movement has its roots in Seventh-Day Adventism. Of course, this is not the sole argument that is employed to encourage suspicion of “creationists” among people who are not Seventh-Day Adventists. But it is an argument that is used to buttress the idea that “creationism” is not “Reformed.” Obviously, this argument only makes sense when it’s being addressed to people who are members of Reformed churches; it would make no sense to use this argument when speaking with, say, a Seventh-Day Adventist! Here’s the argument:

  • The “creationist” movement was begun by Seventh-Day Adventists.
  • Seventh-Day Adventists are not a reliable source of theological truth.
  • Therefore, as Reformed Christians, we must reject anything that smacks of “creationism.”

The second way in which the genetic fallacy has been employed in the discussion has happened when well-known and respected Reformed theologians have been cited as allowing for varying interpretations of the Genesis account of creation, and granting room for people to believe that God used an evolutionary process to form the universe. Again, this is one of several arguments that are often used in tandem. But the intended impact of this combination of arguments is to cast doubt on the “Reformed-ness” of a denial of evolution (be it theistic evolution, Darwinian evolution, or “progressive creation”). Therefore, the argument goes like this:

  • Dr. Johannes VanHolland, the famous Reformed theologian (or, Dr. Angus McDuncan, the famous Presbyterian theologian) allowed that belief in evolution is not incompatible with belief in Scripture, and that the correct interpretation of the Genesis account does not necessarily mean we must reject the idea that the universe came into existence through a long process of gradual change.
  • Dr. Johannes VanHolland (like his eminent and renowned Scottish counterpart) is a respected Reformed theologian, whose work has greatly impacted the Reformed Church until this very day.
  • Therefore, arguing that evolution is absolutely incompatible with Scripture and should be wholeheartedly rejected is not Reformed.

What’s wrong with these arguments? First of all, they are not necessarily true. Long before there was even such a thing as a Seventh-Day Adventist, Reformed and Presbyterian theologians strongly upheld the understanding that the correct understanding of Scripture requires us to hold to a literal creation week and a historical Adam and Eve. While Seventh-Day Adventists may have been active in the Twentieth-Century “creationist” movement, they are far from being the originators of the movement. Furthermore, it has been shown repeatedly that the Reformed theologians whose arguments are often used by those who wish to allow for evolution have often been misunderstood and misrepresented.

In the second place, when it comes right down to it, while the origin of an argument will have some bearing on our personal inclinations to accept or reject it, it has nothing whatsoever to do with its truth or falsity!

As a minister of the Word, I write sermons. When I write sermons, I use commentaries as part of my research. Those commentaries vary in quality and usefulness, and they also vary widely in terms of their origin. For example, I am currently preaching a series of sermons on 1 Corinthians. For this series, I’m using commentaries by David E. Garland (who received his Ph.D from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), (Richard Hays, an ordained United Methodist minister), Ben Witherington III (also a United Methodist minister), Craig Blomberg, who teaches at Denver Seminary in Colorado, and is involved in something called the “Scum of the Earth Church”(!), and John Calvin, who you may have heard of.

My point is this: if I were to succumb to the genetic fallacy, I would reject what most of these men write out-of-hand. What have I, as a Reformed pastor, to do with Southern Baptists, United Methodists, and non-denominational churches with strange names? But the fact is, to varying degrees, the commentaries written by each of these men are all very helpful in their own way. While I reject a number of these New Testament scholars’ theological views, they offer some very helpful insights into the passage of Scripture. To reject their conclusions outright based upon their point of origin (or, conversely, to accept all of John Calvin’s conclusions uncritically because I am, after all, a Calvinist) is to commit the genetic fallacy.

The key is to read, and listen, critically. Sure, when you’re listening to a friend, you will not be as “on guard” about what they’re telling you as you would if you were listening to a stranger. But when it comes to theological matters, we always have a foundation to go back to – God’s Word. If John Calvin (or any other theologian, for that matter) said something, it may or may not be correct; all theologians are human after all. But God’s Word is true and trustworthy, and what matters most is not the person who made a particular argument, but whether or not it agrees with God’s Word.

Let’s be on guard against logical fallacies. When the genetic fallacy is used, we should be aware of that use, and make our judgments about the arguments we hear using Scripture as our final and ultimate authority.