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New Documentary from Terrence Malick Is Bound to Stir Complaints About a Nod to Intelligent Design

Revered director Terrence Malick has released the trailer for a new documentary, Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, that tells the story of our origins from the birth of the universe to the emergence of man. You couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious and exciting choice than Malick. What there is to see so far is gorgeous — and bound to renew complaints that he gives a subtle wink and nod to intelligent design.

The same was said about his 2011 film The Tree of Life, with its theme of something numinous shining through nature and human life, framed by an ordinary childhood in 1950s Texas. The trailers are not dissimilar either.

Actually the new film comes in two forms — one for IMAX narrated by Brad Pitt, 40 minutes long, the other for theaters, at 90 minutes, narrated by Cate Blanchet. The former will be released on October 7, the latter is still uncertain — but will debut at the Venice Film Festival on September 7.

The version of the trailer with Brad Pitt sounds a little low affect to my ear, but the version with Miss Blanchet is fantastic and stirring. “Stunning,” says Slate.

No one really knows if Malick seeks to say anything definite about evolution or what underlies it, but he’s been working on the material of this documentary since the 1970s, which could have afforded plenty of time for relevant study. Certainly there’s a powerful intuition he’s trying to express that the world gives testimony to something beyond blind shuffling. Hence the criticism of his work for lending comfort to ID.

But this is unfair, of course, because ID doesn’t stop at the intuition of design. As Douglas Axe makes plain in Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, it explores the objective evidence that justifies the intuitive sense as a scientific judgment.

Malick, on the other hand, gives us art infused with what Alvin Plantinga refers to as a sensus divinitatis, “the innate sense of the divine,” a human endowment that most but not all people possess.

This is something to look forward to along with a couple of other gifts from the culture scheduled for coming weeks — Tom Wolfe’s book The Kingdom of Speech, taking on Darwinian theory from the angle of man as the creature uniquely gifted with speech, and yes, a thriller by novelist Bruce Buff, The Soul of the Matter, with ID as a theme.

We’ll have more to say on those two as we get closer to August 30 and September 13, the respective publication dates.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.