Monday, November 10, 2008

Movies from a Godol Hador of Intelligent Design has a great set of Moody Institute of Science films from the 50's. They are described thusly:
The film's host Irwin Moon had an interest in science as a child and later incorporated that interest into his life as a pastor. He would tour the country giving his "Sermons of Science" where the marvels of science provide the visible evidence of a Divine plan of creation. His work with GIs during World War II showed him the impact that training films had on the troops. Moon partnered with the Moody Bible Institute to form the Moody Institute of Science, a company that made basic science films with a religious hook at the end. While revealing the complexity of nature, their films would end with Moon saying that this complexity was part of God's plan rather than evolution. Moody Institute of Science films were marketed to churches and also to public schools where today even the mention of the word "God" sparks a conflagration of protests and court cases.
Moon wasn't just some two-bit evangelist; he played to huge crowds at the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair, created sophisticated equipment out of war surplus material, and was a huge advocate of what is now called "intelligent design". Although the religious message of the films here are non-denominational, Moon is credited with first developing the concept of using science to illustrate the Gospel. There is some fascinating biographical material on Irwin Moon in James Gilbert's book on religion and science in American culture, Redeeming Culture; check out excerpts here.

Here are some of the movie highlights (if you do check these out, make sure and read the comments on each film):

In this 1960 movie on carnivorous plants, Moon mentions that the Venus Fly Trap is completely devoid of muscle tissue and a nervous system. At 5:10 he asks, "How does it happen? Someday we'll know" and gives a beatific look towards the heavens. Continuing, he explains that a master craftsman has laid out with intricate design a variety of traps to serve the needs of nature (but he doesn't say that the same craftsman allows another creature to die very slowly in the fly trap's digestive juices). At 7:30, Moon shows an intricate mechanical trip and asks rhetorically, "Can you imagine building all of this complicated mechanism into a trap the size of the head of a pin? God did it!"

The one on electric eels is well worth watching. You only get the kicker at the very end when he says about the eel, "you've given us a new understanding of God who made us all".

This 1957 one on Acara fish is geared to the under 10-year old crowd (here Moon is what you'd get if you crossed Mr Rogers with Mr Wizard). Some great comments on family values, especially the closer: "The acaras devotion to their babies is a wonderful thing, but the love of human parents for their children is different and far more wonderful. And what children do is important in family life too, for God requires that children obey their parents." Who can argue with that?

Living with Atom is a pretty long one at 25 minutes. We are treated to a lesson in atomic physics and are shown the frightening power of the atomic bomb. The moralizing begins, as usual, near the end. About the need to have reverence for the Creator, the importance of faith, righteous and humility before God. Principles upon which this country was founded (we'll ignore the fact that most of the founders - although deists - had very unfavorable things to say about Moon's religion) and principles upon which it can continue to exist.

In the Wonder of Water, Moon gives some younguns a science lesson plus tells them about the creators great wisdom and careful planning. If you want to hear much more detailed lectures on this subject with a decidedly Orthodox approach, check out Rabbi Shmuel Irons' lectures here and here (there is a fee).

And finally, The Wonder of Our Body tells us about the miracles of the eye, ear, the hand, and other parts of the body. I was scared for a minute when Uncle Bob ushered those boys into his back room to talk about their bodies, but my suspicions were for naught. Anyway, one of the boys takes the intelligent design talk to heart when he says "I guess God went to a lot of trouble just to make our bodies so perfect". A nice talk at the end about the importance about taking care of the body, keeping our bodies and minds clean. We can all take Irwin Moon's final words to heart: eat & drink good stuff, get plenty of fresh air, and plenty of exercise.

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