Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Carson Weitnauer reviews the new DVD on hummingbird flight

Here is a review of a new DVD from Illustra Media about birds and flight. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Excerpt:

First, the film features interviews with a variety of scientists, a philosopher, and a wildlife photographer. The full list includes Carsten Egevang, Thomas Emmel, Ann Gauger, Paul Nelson, Timothy Standish, and Dylan Winter. While some of the interviews felt a bit repetitive, they were generally woven together with skill, suggestively making the case for intelligent design. (One of the weakest moments is when one of them admits he wants to “make a shrine” to honor the birds).

I don’t see why anything is wrong with that! These are birds we are talking about – not cats.

He continues:

That’s the power of the ‘argument’ in the film: they don’t quote any holy books, they don’t make up any “Christian” facts, they just explain, in some detail, how the different component parts of a bird makes avian flight possible. From the development of the egg, to the first flight of a new bird, to a microscopic view of the feathers, to the unique functionality of the hummingbird’s tongue and the distinct nature of its flight, to the extraordinary coordination of the massive starling murmuration, and the unbelievable migration pattern of the artic tern, the question is raised: how could this have come about by an unguided process of survival of the fittest, random mutation, and lots of time?

Flight is an “all or nothing proposition.” Either you can fly or you can’t. But to fly, birds require numerous, highly sophisticated systems to work in coordination: the rapid beating of the heart, the huge breast muscles to power the wings, an efficient respiratory system, a lightweight digestive system, navigational systems for migration, an internal gyroscope for stable flight, acute vision to identify food, and more. How could all of these interconnected systems have emerged, without any foresight or plan, to create the new ability to fly?

Furthermore, it is clear that hummingbirds are a very unique kind of bird, with, for example, wings that can beat more than a hundred times a second and a heart that can beat more than 1,250 times a minute. Hummingbirds eat so much, the equivalent amount of daily food for an adult human would be 150 pounds a day! To accomplish this feeding frenzy, the tongue extends and withdraws a unique mechanism in less than one-twentieth of a second, thousands of times a day.

The second line of argument is the comparison of birds with award-winning, groundbreaking examples of intelligently designed flying machines. That is, when you compare a Boeing 747 or the “Nano Air Vehicle” (an experimental surveillance drone), it is evident that the flying systems of birds are more advanced. Why, the film asks, if we so readily accept ‘intelligent design’ for 747s, are we averse to using this same explanation for birds?

[...]The third feature is a wide range of computer animations that provide detail and insight into various biological components. I was worried these might be cheesy or overwrought, but they are instead illuminating and interesting. Nor are they stuffed into the film to show off some fancy computer graphics, but inserted with purpose, to more emphatically make distinct points. The professional standards make these animations a strong addition to the overall effect of the film.

I already have this DVD, and I am going to watch it this weekend, and this review makes me even more interested in doing that. Sometimes I quote something from a review here and think “now the readers don’t need to read it” but I really do recommend clicking through and reading this review of the Flight DVD. He’s not just reviewing the DVD, there are a lot of opinions and ideas in there!

I noticed that Carson had some words of caution about Paul Nelson and Tim Standish because they are young Earth creationists, but I don’t think that is a problem because there is a huge difference between a Ken Ham or a Ken Hovind and a Paul Nelson or a Tim Standish. Paul Nelson has a PhD in philosophy of science from the University of Chicago and Tim Standish has a PhD in biology from George Mason University. They are also both involved with the intelligent design movement. These are not outsiders.

By the way, I posted previously about how scientists are trying to reverse engineer the design of the flight feature in the hummingbird system, for use in nanorobotics.

UPDATE: Eric Chabot of Ratio Christi has another review of it here.

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