Over the New Year’s Day holiday my family and I took in the new IMAX feature Voyage of Time from Terrence Malick. I had been looking forward to that and was not disappointed. It’s spectacular visually, and a compelling, unsettling presentation of the director’s vision of life, its history and future.
My wife thought the narration by Brad Pitt was a bit “cheesy.” That was not because of any shortcoming of Mr. Pitt’s but because Malick’s script consistently elides the question of how animals transition from one form to another. As he tells the story, major new forms of life are continually “arising” as if out of nowhere. “Arose” seemed to be pretty much Mr. Malick’s favorite word in the whole film, pronounced with a stately majesty by Brad Pitt.
I don’t fault Malick for this at all, though. In fact, I wonder if the folks at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, where we saw the film, noticed that it makes not one reference to Darwinian explanations. Admitting that things like whales (and much else) appear in the fossil record without plausible ancestors is the beginning of wisdom when it comes to evolution.
Whales nevertheless remain a notable evolutionary icon. They’re not Malick’s focus, of course, but no account of evolution is complete without confronting the problem they present. And what do you know — in a series of interviews for ID the Future, our biologist colleagues Jonathan Wells and Ray Bohlin do just that, launching into a detailed deconstruction. Part 1 is up now.
Download the episode by clicking here:
Back in the day, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould found in whales “the sweetest series of transitional fossils an evolutionist could ever hope to find.” No doubt it honestly looked that way to him, but no longer.
Not that that keeps popular and science media from invoking whales on behalf of Darwinism. In truth, the “picture-perfect intermediacy,” which Gould commended as a weapon to be deployed against “creationists,” looks increasingly like a patchwork. The situation was made worse by the recent documenting of a 49-million-year-old Antarctic whale jawbone fossil that narrowed the window available for the evolution from a fully terrestrial ancestor to an unbearably rushed 1 million years.
Whales as a poster child for Darwin are looking like another case of evolutionary fake science, right up there with the myth of a 99 percent equation between chimp and human DNA.
Photo: Humpback whale, from Living Waters courtesy of Illustra Media.