CONTENT This hour long documentary makes a compelling case that we live on a privileged planet. Were Earth a different size, in a different location, or were the moon’s orbit to shift ever so slightly, many of the most important scientific discoveries we’ve made about space could never have happened. It’s clear, then, that not only has Earth been designed for life, it has also been equipped for those living on it to discover all that is going on around them.
CAUTION The only downside to this “Intelligent Designer” presentation is that our triune God is never specifically given his due credit as that Designer.
CONCLUSION Stunning graphics accompany a strong argument. This is a superior documentary that will appeal to anyone interested in the way God has designed the solar system, the Milky Way, and our planet Earth.
You can watch this for free online (in 12 parts) below, or buy a copy of the DVD at many online retailers.
This documentary is a couple of decades old now, and it’s more important than ever. When it was released, it had cutting-edge computer graphics unveiling the inner workings of the cell, and it told the story of the origin of life research current to that time. Today, it also serves as a history of the early days of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, highlighting key figures in it like Phillip E. Johnson, Stephen C. Meyer, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Dean Kenyon.
Kenyon had previously written a textbook in support of evolution, and Behe had also begun his career as an evolutionist before reassessing after he read Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. As he describes it, reading this book made him feel like he’d been cheated; he’d had years of scientific education, was on faculty at Lehigh University, and he’d never once heard of the many problems with evolutionary theory! We get to come along as Behe and Kenyon explain how their eyes were opened.
We also get presented key ID arguments like Irreducible Complexity, which proposes that some biological machines need all their pieces to work, and could never have been formed by evolution’s step-by-step process. This is an issue being as hotly debated today as it was back then.
Other highlights include a look at the bacterial flagellum, which is effectively an outboard motor on a bacteria, propelling it as much as 100,000 rotations a minute. This is a marvel of engineering, evidencing the brilliant Designer behind it.
And we’re shown how biological machines are needed to assemble biological machines, which make the question of how they could have first formed one that evolution seems incapable of answering. It’s a chicken and egg problem: which came first, the Machine A, needed to assemble Machine B? Or was it Machine C, which was needed to assemble Machine A?
The ID Movement looks at the origins debate from a philosophical and scientific, but not religious perspective. They argue that evidence outside the Bible makes it clear there is a Designer. On this point, the apostle Paul, writing in Romans 1:20, agrees. But the weakness with ID is that it doesn’t give the glory that is His due specifically to the God of the Bible. ID has a “big tent” approach which includes other religions, and both those who believe in a young Earth and those who believe it is more than 4 billion years old. However, this documentary doesn’t touch on old ages.
While the computer graphics aren’t as cutting edge, they are still amazing. We get a closeup look at the operation of micro machines we never knew about, but which are in our own cells! This is a must-see for high school science classes, and it could make for fascinating family viewing too with teens and parents.
Speaking of the classroom, Illustra Media has packaged this exact same material, in a slightly different order, in Where Does the Evidence Lead? (2003). There it comes in 6 distinct chapters, all around ten minutes long, making them easy to present one or two at a time in high school or university classrooms. Illustra Media has made that repackaged version available for free online, and you can watch it below.
Part 1 – Life: the Big Question (10 min)
We being with Darwin, his trip to the Gallipolis Islands, and how he developed his theory of Natural Selection.
Part 2 – What Darwin didn’t know (8 min)
We’re introduced to Michael Behe, who explains why he used to be an evolutionist: no one had ever previously presented him with any problems with evolutionary theory. But the more he learned about the cell, and how complex the simplest block of life is, the clearer it became that chance processes couldn’t explain it. One example: the bacterial flagellum motor, which has been called “the most efficient machine in the universe.”
Part 3 – Molecules and mousetraps (12 min)
In Part 3 we’re introduced to the concept of “Irreducible Complexity” which proposes that in biological systems there are some machines that could never have come about by a step-by-step process – they would have to come together all at once. That is a powerful challenge to evolutionary theory, which precisely proposes everything can come about by small incremental steps. Michael Behe illustrates this point using a mousetrap as an example.
In answer, evolutionists have proposed their own theory of “co-option”… which has its own problems.
Part 4 – How did life begin? (11 min)
How did life begin in the first place? Darwin had very little to say on the subject. In recent years scientists have experimented with trying to get some form of “chemical evolution” started by mixing various chemicals together. But it isn’t simply the chemicals that make life happen, but how the chemicals are arranged. Like letters in a sentence, we don’t need just the right sort, but we also need them in the right order. The math here – the odds against even a single amino acid forming by chance – is fascinating!
Part 5 – Language of life (13 min)
Dean Kenyon wrote a best-selling textbook on the evolutionary origins of life. But then one of his students challenged him to explain how the first proteins could have been formed. Kenyon had originally proposed they would self-assemble, but what we were learning was that proteins are formed by other micro-machines, using instructions – there was no self-assembling. So Kenyon started to ask, what was the source of the instructions?
In this part, we also get to look into the cell to see how that information is put to use.
Part 6 – The Design Inference (14 min)
Design has been ruled out at the start – not by the evidence, but by mainstream Science’s anti-Supernatural bias – as a legitimate answer to origins question.
But Man is fully capable of spotting and recognizing design. It is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry.
Stephen C. Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis continues to receive accolades. Most recently, World magazine chose it as one of their 2021 books of the year. On Amazon, it’s currently the #1 best-seller under “Creationism” and #4 under “Science & Religion.” This is an important and influential book coming out of the Intelligent Design movement. However, from a biblical perspective, it has several glaring problems.
The subtitle reads, “Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe.” Those three “discoveries” are: the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the existence of highly-detailed DNA information. Meyer works with these “discoveries” to argue for the eminent plausibility of the “God hypothesis.”
I’m not qualified to evaluate the scientific evidence for the Big Bang. However, I do know that Big Bang cosmology is not consistent with the biblical account of origins. Rather than explain the details of how and why myself, I’ll leave that to Christian astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle:
A Bible-believing Christian can’t use something that contradicts the Bible in order to argue for the likelihood of the existence of God. That brings us down to two scientific discoveries.
When arguing for the “God hypothesis” with DNA information, Meyer makes his case using what’s called “deep time.” Contrary to what the Bible indicates, Meyer believes the earth has a history involving hundreds of millions of years. In fact, chapter 10 is entitled, “The Cambrian and Other Information Explosions.” The Cambrian explosion allegedly took place 530 million years ago. As the story goes, this involves an explosion of new life forms in the fossil record. Meyer argues that this also represents an explosion of biological information. It poses a difficulty for materialistic theories of biological evolution, but could possibly “also provide positive evidence for intelligent design” (p.209). However, for a Bible-believing Christian, the problem is that God said he created the heavens and the earth at the beginning (Gen. 1:1) – and Jesus said that God created Adam and Eve at the beginning (Matt. 19:4). If you subsequently take the genealogies of Scripture seriously, even granting some gaps, you’re left with a world with an age on the order of thousands of years, not millions.
Now before I get to the most serious issues with The Return of the God Hypothesis, let me say that Bible-believing Christians can get some value out of it. Some of the value comes when Meyer is critiquing materialist scientists. For example, Stephen Hawking is quoted, “Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” But Meyer points out that “causes and scientific laws are not the same things…The laws of physics represent only our descriptions of nature. Descriptions in themselves do not cause things to happen” (p.371). There’s yet more value in Meyer’s critique of theistic evolutionists like Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos. I appreciate his setting the historical record straight on Isaac Newton and his alleged “God-of-the-gaps blunder.” Finally, Meyer illustrates how materialist scientists and philosophers live contrary to the beliefs they profess to hold. For example, David Hume put the uniformity of nature into question, yet acted as though he believed in it (p.441). Alvin Plantinga pointed out how, if evolutionary naturalism is true, “we have significant reason to doubt the reliability of our minds” (p.445). Yet no one really does. To do so would ultimately be self-defeating, since we would also have to doubt our beliefs about evolutionary naturalism. This is a good example of answering a fool according to his folly (Prov. 26:5).
My two biggest beefs with Return of the God Hypothesis have to do with the method of argumentation and the conclusion which results. There are these three scientific discoveries mentioned earlier. Meyer incorporates these discoveries into what’s called an abductive argument for the existence of God. Such an argument works by way of inference to the best explanation. It takes this form:
Logic: If A were true, then C would be as a matter of course.
Data: The surprising fact C is observed.
Conclusion: Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true.
Filling it out, it looks something like this:
Logic: If a personal God existed, then DNA information would be as a matter of course.
Data: The surprising fact of DNA information is observed.
Conclusion: Hence, there is reason to suspect that a personal God exists.
One of the crucial things to note here is that the “logic of abduction…does not produce certainty, but instead plausibility or possibility” (p.224). This tentativeness is reflected throughout Meyer’s book. His argument is ultimately that “the God hypothesis” is possibly the best explanation of the three scientific “discoveries” discussed. So: a personal God quite likely exists.
From a biblical perspective, this is unacceptable. The Bible doesn’t reveal the existence of God to us as a likelihood, but a certainty. His existence is real and everyone knows it (Rom. 1:18-20). Furthermore, the idea that God is a hypothesis to be tested or evaluated by sinful creatures is repugnant to biblical revelation. The creature ought never to stand in judgment over the Creator or reduce him to a hypothesis. As I was reading Return of the God Hypothesis, the words of D.A. Carson from this old video clip kept ringing in my ears:
Carson is quite right: human beings have no right to judge God’s existence. The whole premise of Meyer’s book flatters people into thinking they do have such a right. That’s not a minor procedural peccadillo, but a massive misstep, even an affront to the Creator.
Meyer’s conclusion has another problem embedded in it. He argues for the plausibility of the existence of a personal God. In chapters 13 and 14, his reasoning excludes pantheism and deism as possibilities. That leaves him with a God who is personal and involved with his creation, not only at the beginning, but on an ongoing basis. But the problem is that this is still not the God of the Bible. Meyer’s God who very likely exists could be the Allah of the Muslims, the God of the Jews, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Mormons. What we’re left with is plain vanilla theism. Meyer has argued for a god, but not the Triune God of the Bible, and certainly not for the biblical worldview package. Meyer professes to be a Christian, but this book could just as well have been written by a Jew.
Ultimately all the problems in Return of the God Hypothesis trace back to one fundamental difficulty in Meyer’s method: he doesn’t start with the Word of God. Instead, he starts with the notion of neutral intellectual ground. He doesn’t seem to apprehend that the problem with unbelief isn’t intellectual, but moral. There is no neutrality. Those who reject the God of the Bible are rejecting him because of the wicked rebellion in their hearts. It’s this foundational issue that really needs to be addressed. Meyer doesn’t do that. In his book, there’s no sin from which unbelievers need to repent. There’s just errant thinking that needs more information and sounder logic. In his book, there’s no Saviour to whom unbelievers need to turn, no gospel to deliver from vanity and futility. There’s just science and logic putting our minds at ease about origins. I bought Return of the God Hypothesis in a Christian bookstore, but I really don’t know why it was there. Even if Christians may find some things of value, it’s not a Christian book.
Note: for a biblical alternative, I highly recommend Jason Lisle’s The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate. You can read my review here.
We all know about the standard five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing – but did you know some of God’s creatures have a little something extra?
In some animals that extra amounts to “super senses”: hummingbirds can see in the ultraviolet range (their eyes’ 4 types of color receptors is one more than we have), and elephants can communicate over long distances by using tones that are so low our ears can’t detect them.
In other animals that extra something goes beyond the standard five senses. Bumblebees seem to be able to use the positive electrical charge their bodies generate while buzzing around to help them detect flowers’ pollen which has a negative charge.
Meanwhile, sea turtles are able to somehow navigate across the ocean using variations in the Earth’s magnetic field to guide them on their way. Exactly how they do it is unclear, but scientists are closing in on how birds do something similar, and remarkably, it may involve quantum mechanics. It’s theory at this point and a really complicated one at that, but just the gist of it is amazing enough. Scientists are speculating that some birds can “see” the earth’s magnetic fields and do so by using particles in their eyes that are in a “quantum entangled” state. We don’t need to worry about what that exactly means; here’s one key point: that state lasts for just 1/10,000th of a second. That these birds might be processing information derived from a state lasting such a short time is pretty cool, but there’s another incredible wrinkle, as detailed by PBS Nova‘s Katherine J. Wu.
“Even in ideal laboratory conditions, which usually involve powerful vacuums or astoundingly icy temperatures, artificial quantum entanglement can unravel in just nanoseconds. And yet, in the wet, messy environment of a bird’s eye, entanglement holds. ‘It seems nature has found a way to make these quantum states live much longer than we’d expect, and much longer than we can do in the lab,’ Gauger says. ‘No one thought that was possible.’”
A nanosecond is a billionth of a second (yes, I had to look it up). This might have us tempted to say that the birdbrains are beating the brainiacs, but as amazing as the bird’s performance is, to give the credit where it is due we should be singing the praises of its Designer!
Humans beings also have a sixth sense, and we’re not talking about ESP. Proprioception is your sense of bodily awareness – the ability to know where all the bits of your body are without looking or feeling them. That might not seem as cool as “seeing” magnetic fields, but just consider what it allows you to do. When you close your eyes and can still touch your nose, that’s proprioception enabling you to do it. This is also why a quarterback can throw the ball accurately, even though his overhand motion doesn’t really allow him to see his throwing arm until the ball is released. And proprioception is why you can be balanced (even on one leg!) and how you can walk, without having to look down at your feet. This is one important sense!
So if you’ve ever thanked God for the wonderful flowers you can smell, the amazing sunrise you can see, the funky music you can hear, the delicious pizza you can taste, or the amazing softness of a newborn’s cheek that you can just barely feel, now you know there’s also a sixth sense to marvel at and thank Him for!
When Darwin first published On the Origin of the Species, the science of his time saw the cell as an uncomplicated organism. That’s quite the contrast with what we’ve learned in the 150 years since: the deeper we delve into life on the smallest scale, the more we find there is yet to discover. Even the simplest cells are more intricate than the most complex automated factories.
In the five short videos that follow, Dr. Michael Behe shares “secrets of the cell” to show us how evolution’s random mutation and time simply can’t account for the magnificent design we find even on the cellular level. And in each episode, he uses helpful analogies and computer animations to introduce key Intelligent Design concepts.
Behe is one of the principal figures behind the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement, which argues that Nature gives evidence of being intelligently designed. Creationists would agree, but the two groups part ways on who gets the credit. ID proponents refuse to name their Intelligent Designer, leaving room in their tent for Muslims, Moonies, Christians, and even agnostics (some of whom might believe in thousands of years, and others who hold to millions of years). Meanwhile, creationists give glory specifically to God for how fearfully and wonderfully we have been made.
Thus these ID videos, on their own, don’t bring us to the Truth. However, they do a fantastic job of exposing the evolutionary lie.
In the opening episode, Dr. Michael Behe introduces us to “the unseen world of organic micro-machines” contained inside the “most fundamental unit of life,” the cell. He also shares how he first came to question the explanatory power of Darwin’s Theory:
“My own view of the cell took a turn years ago. I was in a lab at the National Institutes of Health doing postdoctoral research; I was discussing the origin of life with a fellow postdoc. As she and I thought about the cell, we wondered, how could its complex membrane, proteins, metabolism, genetic code, how could all that have formed by the accumulation of undirected changes? So we were both sort of stunned by the notion. But then we just laughed it off. We figured that even if we didn’t know the answer, somebody must know…”
One of the key evidences of Intelligent Design is how some biological “machines” could not have evolved via any sort of step-by-step process – they need all the steps already in place to function. This is what Behe calls “irreducible complexity” and he gives as one example, the flagellum – a type of “outboard motor” that some single-cell bacterium use to move about.
“[It] has a number of parts a driveshaft, a universal joint, a rotor, bushings, stator, even a clutch and braking system. The motor of the flagellum has been clocked at a hundred thousand revolutions per minute and…removing even one component of this elegant machine destroys its function…”
So how could such an irreducibly complex machine have been “developed blindly, in stages”?
Behe begins with how bugs are amazing, and far more intricate than anything Man can engineer. In fact, there is a whole field of science called biomimetics, or biomimicry devoted to improving human designs by studying bug and animal mechanisms that are “both precise and purposeful.” Did you know that one bug even comes complete with gears?!?
Behe talks about mutation and natural selection, and because these are key elements of Darwin’s Theory, Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must oppose and deny their impact. But the way to figure out the truth isn’t simply to hold to a position 180-degrees from that of mainstream science – evolutionists can’t be trusted to be that reliably wrong.
The key difference between evolution and creation is not in whether mutation and natural selection happen, but rather in what they can accomplish. Evolutionists say mutation and natural selection can, together, create wholly new species, accidentally. We argue that the changes possible are of a more minor sort, and the potential for them is largely built-in, or the changes come about as a result of mutations causing information loss, which would be better called devolution.
Richard Lenski’s 30-year long E coli bacteria experiment is one of the most popular, and seemingly best examples of evolution observably happening. Mutations had helped the offspring grow faster, and grow bigger than their ancestors.
But what sort of mutations were these? It turned out that they involved broken genes. Thus this was, once again, devolution and did nothing to explain the growth in complexity that would be needed to take us from the simple first molecules to the awesome creature that is Man.
But how does breaking genes help a cell grow faster? Behe notes that just as jettisoning key car parts – maybe the doors, most of the seats, the hood, and cigarette lighter – might allow it to run further on a tank of gas, so, too, some broken genes can increase a cell’s ability to reproduce in a given environment…but only at the expense of the complexity it might need to deal with other circumstances. As Behe puts it, such
In this conclusion, Behe invites us to follow where the evidence takes us.
For more Michael Behe, be sure to check out his full-length free documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of the Molecular Machines, which is both an account of the man, and also a history of the Intelligent Design Movement. The film, and my review, can be found here.