Monday, February 6, 2017

Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review

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Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review @  #science  #IntelligentDesign

Some time ago I was given the opportunity to review two DVDs and study guides from Illustra Media that explore the topic of Intelligent Design theory. My reviews of the two documentaries were written for The Old Schoolhouse Product and Curriculum Reviews, and I'm pleased to be able to share them here as well.

Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review @  #science  #IntelligentDesign

Darwin's Dilemma is an educational DVD with about 72 minutes worth of stunning visual imagery and interviews with leading scientists that explores the fossil record and whether it supplies evidence for the Darwinian view of evolution. Those who question evolution are sometimes regarded as ignorant or opposed to science, but actually the fossil record poses a significant problem for evolutionary theory. The focus of this DVD is on the Cambrian explosion, or the relatively short period in the geological record when an abundance of new animals and body designs appeared, and without any evidence of gradual development as would be expected if these life forms had evolved. Charles Darwin himself wrote that if his theory was correct, the fossil record should show these patterns of gradual change and transitional forms.

The documentary looks at some of the most important fossil discoveries, and tackles the question of whether a theory of Intelligent Design could better explain the evidence. The film footage comes from four different continents and also makes use of extensive interviews with scientist of various backgrounds. There are many computer-generated animations to clearly illustrate details of cellular functions. Through these animations and the clear explanations, the film demonstrates that the amazing complexity of assembly instructions contained in the biological information in DNA points unmistakably to intention, purpose, and intelligent design.

Included on the DVD are some bonus features, notably a set of further interviews with scientists in which they answer questions about the Cambrian explosion and intelligent design, and a virtual museum of Cambrian fossils.

Accompanying the DVD is a Discussion and Study Guide produced by The IDEA Center, which provides resources and support for Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Clubs in colleges, high schools, and communities. The Discussion Guide has a variety of questions to clarify the information presented in the DVD. There are short answer questions, fill-in-the-blank, and multiple choice in this comprehension guide. For each chapter of the DVD there are a number of these types of questions, as well as several Discussion questions that are more open-ended and encourage further exploration of the topic.

For homeschool students, this Discussion and Study Guide could provide a comprehension test on the subject matter, and ideas for further research, so that the DVD could be used as a supplement in a high school course of study. It could also be used in a small group setting to open up discussion about the problems with evolutionary theory and the fossil evidence that supports Intelligent Design theory.

This professionally produced, and visually engaging DVD would be an excellent starting point for anyone who has been brought up to believe that evolution has been proven by the fossil record or that those who reject evolution must be anti-science. However, it is important to note that this documentary, while it features some Christians among the contributing scientists, is not presented from a Biblical Creationist standpoint, but from the standpoint of Intelligent Design theory. There is no speculation or discussion about the identity or nature of the Designer, only the presentation of the evidence that Intelligent Design theory makes sense of the fossil record in a way that evolution really cannot.

Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review @  #science  #IntelligentDesign

Where Does the Evidence Lead? is a documentary DVD featuring six chapters of about 10 minutes each, which examine Darwinian evolution and challenge the validity of the theory based on evidence. Each chapter explains an Intelligent Design concept in some detail, using computer animation, live footage, and interviews with leading academic experts. This documentary is geared for instructional purposes regarding the evidence for design in biology.

One chapter explores the complexity of the living cell and some of the components, and contrasts this information with what was known about cells at the time Charles Darwin produced his book, and discusses how the complexity at a cellular level is a challenge to the theory of evolution. This topic is explored in even more detail in a chapter titles Molecules and Mousetraps, which examines the concept of irreducible complexity and how this is a challenge to natural selection. Other topics explored are the origin of life and whether it can be explained by chance; the language of DNA and genetic information; and the scientific evidence in support of intelligent design.

Along with the DVD is a Discussion and Study Guide produced by The IDEA Center. The Discussion Guide contains some short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions for each chapter of the DVD to aid in comprehension of the material presented. For each chapter there are also a number of Discussion questions that could be used in a group setting, or to encourage deeper thought or perhaps research on the topics. Answers to all questions are provided in the back of the Guide. Homeschool students could use the Discussion and Study Guide as a comprehension test on each chapter, and as a starting point for further research, so that the DVD could provide a supplement to a study of high school Biology.

The DVD is professionally produced and uses beautiful and appealing images to capture attention. The information is scholarly, and yet clearly explained so that it can be appreciated by laypeople. While the Guide does make mention of a couple of books that take a Biblical view of Creation, it also points out that Intelligent Design theory is different from creationism, and this is an important distinction that Christians may want to note. Christians are among the contributors to the documentary, but the material is not presented from a Biblical Creationist standpoints as Intelligent Design theory stops short of any speculation about the identity or nature of the Designer. These materials are intended to clarify the evidence that supports Intelligent Design and to foster further discussion, especially on college and high school campuses about these concepts.

Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review @  #science  #IntelligentDesign

What I liked best:
  • visually appealing
  • scholarly scientific information presented in a way that makes it clear to laypeople
  • objective presentation, and not judgmental towards any particular viewpoint
What I need to mention:
  • most importantly, as I've already noted, these materials are NOT promoting a Biblical Creationism viewpoint. I think it's important that Christians are aware of this before choosing these DVDs for their homeschools or for small group Bible studies, etc. They would be excellent support materials for a high school biology study that I think would be helpful to prepare a student to engage in a secular biology study in a thoughtful way. They may be helpful for a small group to view and discuss in order to introduce the topic of evidence for Intelligent Design for skeptics of creationism; but directing the discussion towards God as the Designer would be up to the group's host or leader. Although our own church has used a couple of these DVDs as part of a larger small group study on Science and the Bible, overall I cannot recommend them on their own for Sunday School or Bible Study that is truly focused on God as the Creator. 
My bottom line: If you're looking for a neutral ground to introduce the evidence relating to intelligent design, these DVDs may fit the bill. I also think they would be helpful for a Christian student studying in a secular setting where Creationism is an unwelcome viewpoint but Intelligent Design may be accepted. Another DVD in the series, The Case for a Creator, would be a valuable complement, as it takes the topic to that next level - identifying a Creator. (It's based on the book by Lee Strobel.)

More info:
Darwin's Dilemma and Where Does The Evidence Lead? are both available at Amazon and other outlets, or may be purchased directly from Illustra Media.


My original review of Darwin's Dilemma can be found at The Old Schoolhouse Product and Curriculum Reviews.

My original review of Where Does the Evidence Lead? can be found at The Old Schoolhouse Product and Curriculum Reviews.

The Old Schoolhouse Product and Curriculum Reviews

Intelligent Design DVDs from Illustra Media - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review @  #science  #IntelligentDesign

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