September 1, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Are We Lost on a Speck of Cosmic Dust?

A new Copernican revolution seems to be in the works, not another “demotion” of man from the center of the universe, but a promotion back to the ancient idea of plan or purpose for our existence.  The demotions reached their nadir with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and other books that declared we are nothing special, that we occupy no privileged position in the universe.  Signs that such notions went too far, far beyond what Copernicus himself ever dreamed, began with the Anthropic Principle– admissions by many cosmologists, including materialists, that we owe our existence to numerous lucky accidents of physics, astronomy, chemistry and geology.  Then books like Rare Earth proposed that advanced civilizations like ours might be few and far between, even among billions of possible planets.
    The latest revolutionary salvo comes from Illustra Media, producer of the highly successful film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, that showed evidence for intelligent design in the living cell.  Now they have taken the concept of intelligent design to the ends of the cosmos in their latest film, The Privileged Planet, just released this month.  Based on the new book of the same title by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, the film explores a revolutionary thesis that would make Copernicus himself nod in agreement: the universe not only appears designed for our existence, but shows an uncanny number of “coincidences” that make scientific discovery possible.  If so, science has uncovered evidence of a purpose to the existence of mankind on this “privileged” planet.
    On a related subject, JPL and news organizations like The Toronto Star have been reporting the discovery of Neptune-sized planets around other stars.  These are much smaller than earlier exoplanets found so far, which all rivaled or exceeded Jupiter.  But none of these new planets would be suitable for advanced life; the reports only indicate that progress is being made toward finding earth-sized worlds.  As the film explains, however, there is a lot more to making a planet habitable than just size, to say nothing of making it a suitable platform for discovery.  It takes the right kind of star, the right kind of moon, the right kind of position in the galaxy, and about 20 other improbable things.  Luck, or design?  And if it was the result of a plan or purpose, is there any way we could know?

This is a film worth watching on a big-screen home theater with surround sound, and one that after watching, will prompt you to rush out and buy copies for your friends.  The DVD version contains a wealth of interesting and important bonus features, such as answers to 15 questions viewers might have from the main program.  The film’s excellent videography and top-notch editing is surpassed by the content.  Tastefully and non-dogmatically presented, the main thesis is supported with a wealth of uncontroversial facts.  Numerous scientists on various sides of the origins issue appear in the film.  The point is all the more convincing when made by scientists who have no religious bias, and admit to the superiority of the design argument in spite of themselves.  Get this superb film; watch it, think about it, and share it.

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