Over the years The Virtual Pew has been on the forefront of online ministry. As a result I have been involved in various online social groups. One of the things I have seen is many debates on various issues. Near the top of those debates is the debate of Evolution VS Creation. Not many sources from the view of a Creationist have been available. With the release of The Mysterious Islands, this documentary may very well be the best exploration on the subject from a Creationist perspective.
Unfortunately, it seems as if most Christian filmmakers are satisfied with lack luster quality. I have personally seen many a documentary that isn’t worth the cost of the plastic it is pressed on. In regards to the technical quality of The Mysterious Islands I was more than pleasantly surprised at the quality of cinematography, sound, editing, and story. This top notch documentary accomplishes its purpose in providing a quality product beyond the typical lackluster ‘Christian’ film.
The Mysterious Islands follows the journey of the father son team of 16-year-old Joshua Phillips and with his father Doug. Also on the journey is Dr. John Morris, a noted Creationist. They travel with their team to the Galapagos Islands to search for evidence to refute many of the teachings and beliefs of Charles Darwin. The fact that this is done on Darwin’s 200th anniversary and 150th anniversary of the release of the book Origin of the Species is not lost in the production. It has been said that the Galapagos Islands are the birth place of evolutionary thought. While this is partially true, it is certain that many of the concepts espoused by Darwin were birthed on the islands.
The Mysterious Islands does a good job at following this road journey format as the exploration team searches out to discuss some of Darwin’s findings and conclusions regarding Evolution and the Origin of the Species. One of the concepts strongly challenged through out the journey is the belief in the Survival of the Fittest. Most documentaries start out with a premise supported by the film makers. Unfortunately, many don’t state their intent and present their film under the premise of fair journalism. The makers of The Mysterious Islands, from the get go, lets the viewer know of their intent and beliefs. There is no doubt their view will be presented from a Conservative Christian Creationist point of view. Thankfully on the exploration of the subject matter, they present their case in a logical way with the layman in mind. Most will understand the scientific material in a way that makes sense to them.
Unfortunately, I felt the action between the father and son was somewhat contrived and not needed. The story involving the two seemed to take away from the material being presented. The documentary would have been just as good without the preconceived concept of a father, son journey; I think it would have in fact been better.
This film respectfully explores the differences between Creationist and Evolutionists. From the start, they clearly point out that in their opinion; there were many things Darwin got right. They also point out that he got more wrong than right. They use the arguments of several well known individuals in the field who do not accept their faith to point this out. There is also respect and recognition given to many religions of the world that recognize and believe in creation. They also come to a place where they state that one who says they believe in God cannot believe any concept outside of creation. I would have liked to have seen more debate and openness on this subject. Especially from those who believe that God may have used parts of evolution, or even evolution as a means of creation. It is one of the things that Exposed by Ben Stein has over this film, a more open means of possibility. There are certainly far more beliefs than were presented by the makers of The Mysterious Islands, even from within a Christian perspective. One gets the opinion that if one doesn’t agree with a literal 6 day creation, then one can’t believe in the God of the Bible or be a Christian. It is these types of dogma that have the tendency to turn people away from a faith journey and honest discussion on the subject.
The Mysterious Islands does explore the concepts of transitional design within species. This is an interesting concept that was somewhat educational. As a lay person, I found this concept interesting and at times seemingly only a matter of semantics in regards to the differences between the two trains of thought. Concepts of transitioning, sounding like evolution seem to be accepted by the Creationists in the film. In this view however, the concept of transitions or changes outside of species is strongly attacked. There are compelling arguments and concepts presented that would have been interesting to hear from Evolutionists on. The documentary looks at the concepts presented in the Genesis account, specifically looking at the concepts of God created animals ‘in kind.’ From these various kinds of ‘in kind’ animals others came about.
Some other interesting views in the film look at the history of what they say have occurred as a result of Evolutionary thought. Here they present that the human species have been devalued. There are quotes provided by Darwin and others that accepted Evolution to promote their beliefs. These include people like Hitler and Margaret Sanger, the creator of Planned Parenthood. While it is debatable as to the role evolution played in supporting their perspectives and support of things like racism and prejudice, the quotes provided, seem to support these premises. They also seem to support the general notion that concepts held and presented from Darwin’s teachings were in agreement with the thought process of these individuals. There are additional interesting historical information presented including information regarding an affair between HG Wells and Sanger. It seems these are attempts to not just attack the various beliefs, but the character of these individuals.
While I greatly appreciated the technical quality of The Mysterious Islands, and the ability to communicate the message in layman’s terms I felt part of the story, while done to a small extent, could have been better developed with a more open exploration of the points. This would have taken this film from being widely supported by the Creationist community to a film widely used and effective to people in all belief systems. This could have effectively been used as a discussion point between Evolutionists and Creationists. This could have facilitated great discussions at Film Festivals, Churches, and Scientific Study Groups among others.
The Mysterious Islands is interesting and beautiful to watch. I appreciated that the makers recognize that their argument is an argument of faith, they also point out that the argument of the Evolutionist is also an argument of faith. When presenting the randomness and possibilities of evolution they ask the question of what it is greater to have faith in, random chance, or a God.
One of the things I like to comment on is the special features. I actually give them a mixed review. While there are ample features and information on how to obtain a study guide, much of the focus is more editorial. They vary from the history of the Galapagos to the history of Whaling in the area. It is certain; much of the features material will be controversial. I personally enjoyed The Flightless Cormorant, and their response to the findings of noted Atheist, Richard Dawkins as well as the history of the islands.
As stated earlier, while not perfect, this may be the best documentary on the subject from a Christian, Creationist perspective that has been made. While it will do little to change minds, it is done in such a way it can be understood and appreciated by audiences outside of Academia. I would have appreciated a more balanced approach, but I recognize this wasn’t the intent. It is worthwhile viewing and one Creationists will likely want to own.
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