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Flight, Metamorphosis, Where Does the Evidence Lead? and Unlocking the Mystery of Life Review by Debra Brinkman

Illustra Media
P.O. Box 636, La Mirada, CA 90637-0636
(877) 436-0955
Reviewed in2015

Illustra Media is a Southern California company specializing in creating films that showcase the scientific arguments for design, while also pointing out the limitations of Darwin-based theories about origins. My family had the chance to work with four of their videos, along with the accompanying study guides.

Flight: The Genius of Birds is the first title in the Design of Life series. The DVD focuses on the science involved in flight, specifically the flight of birds.

My 17-year-old thought it was great in shedding light on “how things work and in pointing out how ridiculously complex all of this stuff is.” There was discussion about bones, feathers, instincts, embryos. There was enough science to make him happy but not so much that my 8-year-old was lost.

Her comment was, “The baby birds were just SO cute!” I’d have been happier had she gotten a bit more detail out of this hour-long video, but it did hold her attention, and she is happy to watch again.

Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies was similar in style to Flight. Stunning videography, amazing animations, and a fascinating topic (I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t fascinated by butterflies!) make this another keeper.

Butterflies are something I’ve studied quite a bit over the years, and we’ve covered them multiple times in our homeschooling. My children aren’t easily impressed when it comes to insect study, especially the teen boys. Their general eye-rolling attitude is “we knew this already.”

I didn’t hear any of that with Metamorphosis. There was plenty that we all knew already, but the footage was intriguing, and the approach drew them in. The discussion of monarch butterflies, for instance, pointed out how monarchs born in the spring have a life span of a couple of weeks, but those born in August can live up to nine months. How is that even possible?

This title adequately addressed the ideas behind natural selection, which was great information for everyone here.

One illustration I loved during the explanation of metamorphosis was the idea of parking a Model T. Once parked in the garage, it creates a garage around itself, melts itself down, and starts recreating and reassembling parts. It then destroys the garage and flies off as a helicopter. That got my 10-year-old’s attention.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life: The Scientific Case for Intelligent Design is a title we’ve owned in the past. I had lent it out to some people in a Bible Study, and the DVD never did make it back home. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to own it again, and we chose to work through the study guide with this one. I’m going to focus on the study guide here.

These guides are put out by IDEA Center – Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center. The 24-page guide is chock-full of information. The materials are split into four sections. Each section covers 11-25 minutes of the video. You can watch the video section and then go through the study guide questions. We ended up watching the entire 65-minute video on one day and then went back through the individual sections at a later time.

The first section covers the first three chapters (18:07) of the video. There are short answer questions that come straight from the video. “List one example of a functional advantage given in the video segment” is one example. “How fast can some flagella spin?” is another. I started pausing the video after each chapter to ask these questions as we went along, as some are pretty specific.

Discussion questions come next. These require more thinking and analysis, but the necessary information is in the video. “What were some of Darwin’s key findings during the HMS (His Majesty’s Ship) Beagle’s journey of 1831?”

Finally, there are discussion questions that require some extra digging or previous knowledge. This is where we really had fun. For instance, one question in the second section kept us talking for a few days:

Some critics have claimed that IC (irreducible complexity) is actually just an argument from ignorance—simply because we cannot think of how the flagellum arose through natural processes does not mean it did not. How would you respond to such claims?”

Questions in the last section relate to the difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design. Those also involved days-long discussions in this house.

In the answers’ section of the study guide, answers, or possible answers, for some of the more open-ended questions are provided. There is also an extensive list of resources for further study that includes links to articles, websites, studies, etc.

Where Does the Evidence Lead? Exploring the Theory of Intelligent Design covers some of the same information as Unlocking the Mystery of Life. This video is split into six distinct sections:

  1. Life: The Big Questions—A new challenge to the theory of natural selection

  2. What Darwin Didn’t Know—Exploring the complexity of the living cell

  3. Molecules & Mousetraps—Molecular machines that defy Darwin’s theory

  4. How Did Life Begin?—Why “chance” cannot explain the origin of life

  5. The Language of Life—DNA, genetic information, and life on Earth

  6. The Design Inference—The scientific evidence for intelligent design

Each section is between eight and fourteen minutes, and the study guide is set up similarly to the one I outlined above. This video seems a better choice for a youth group or other non-home setting, just because of the consistency in length of the sections. The study guide has more questions that are appropriate for group discussion.

Our Overall Impressions

The videos are wonderful just to watch on their own and to discuss within the family or as part of a bigger group. The study guides take that a step (or two or three) further, with excellent guidance for more in-depth questions, including help for whoever is leading that discussion.

I love how this gets my children thinking, not only about the basic evidence in the videos, but also about how that differs from what they’ve heard elsewhere or about how they can respond to evolutionary ideas in the future.

We are planning to purchase The Privileged Planet next and to go through that with the study guide.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Assistant Director, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, January, 2015