The DVD is a thorough examination of a big mystery in the study of fossils: the sudden appearance of complex creatures with no evidence of ancestors of even remotely similar complexity. It is aptly named "Darwin's Dilemma" because Darwin himself was disturbed by the problems these very fossils represented for his theory of gradualism. He hoped that future discoveries would provide an explanation, but 150 years of intense fossil-hunting later, that looks to be increasingly unlikely.
The video is professionally narrated and quite well done, presenting the evidence in a balanced, detailed yet entertaining way. It features many interview segments with scientists on both sides of the Intelligent Design issue that affirm the basic dilemma. Don't, though, expect support for the young-earth literal interpretation of Genesis. For example, nearly all of the scientists endorse a 4-plus billion year age for the Earth.
But if you would like a break from the "chance did everything" point of view that is so common in academia and television programs these days, you will find this video to be a breath of fresh air.
Darwin's Dilemma is part of the Illustra "ID trilogy" that includes "The Privileged Planet" (2004) and "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" (2002). Like Darwin's Dilemma, these two other DVDs are also professionally done and the science behind them is entirely authentic.
The Privileged Planet discusses the following question: Are there many places in the universe that could harbor life, or only a few, or perhaps only one? The video proceeds to explain many of the ways that the Earth is ideally positioned both within our Milky Way Galaxy and within our solar system, not only to allow for life but (surprisingly) to allow for astronomical discovery as well. For example, of all the planets and moons in our solar system, only on Earth can a moon exactly eclipse the sun. This allowed several discoveries to occur, such as the solar corona and verification of Einstein's theory of relativity, among other things. That Earth's place is remarkably special is no longer controversial in the astronomy community. But the fact that the best place for life also appears to be the best place for observation is either an odd coincidence or an intended result -- you decide.
Unlocking the Mystery of Life delves into the complexity of living cells, which contain myriads of what can only be described as molecular machines. In fact, cells resemble (and exceed) modern factories in terms of the extensive cooperation of many highly specialized parts. As a long-term professor of organic chemistry, I can sum up cellular complexity in one word: stunning. And new levels of complexity are continually being discovered. From the densely compacted digital code found in DNA to the extreme irreducible complexity of molecular machines, living things strongly suggest design. Organic compounds simply do not organize themselves to any degree remotely approaching what is needed for life, but we know that intelligence (and only intelligence) can impose high levels of organization. If you have ever had any interest in what goes on in living systems, or what all the fuss over DNA is about, you really need to see this to appreciate it.
Charles M. Garner is associate professor of chemistry at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
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