I have to be realistic and expect that when I link to the purchase page for Illustra Media’s new film, Metamorphosis: The Beauty & Design of Butterflies, you’re going to find the trailer there and you’re going to want to watch it. I hope that if you do that, you’ll stop the playback right after you hear the first three voices or so, ending with “As you watch a butterfly, to describe what you’re looking at, you can’t really put it into words…” You don’t need to watch the trailer; you need to see the film.
The reason you need to watch the film is because of the astonishment you’ll discover in its full 64 minutes. In the lushest of visual treats, it shows what cannot be put into words. Metamorphosis is just now being introduced to audiences around the country, and as one who has viewed the DVD, I have to admit I’m envious. On our television it was stunningly beautiful. I can only imagine how astonishing it would look on the big screen. I’m thinking especially of the Monarch butterflies’ nesting place in Mexico—you won’t believe your eyes.
The story it tells is astonishing, too. The trailer jumps far too quickly into argument and conclusion, so that you’re likely to think Metamorphosis is mostly about Intelligent Design. That’s unfortunately misleading. The film isn’t mostly about ID, it’s mostly about metamorphosis. And butterflies. And the amazing things butterflies do in their journey from egg to caterpillar to cocoon to adult. The film displays the process without preaching. No preaching is necessary, for there is indeed something very amazing that takes place there, something that needs very little commentary.
But of course it is an Intelligent Design film, too, coming as it does from the producers of Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, and the recently suppressed Darwin’s Dilemma (that case has been resolved in favor of free speech). Unlike its trailer, though (don’t watch the trailer!), it shows rather than tells. The astonishment drifts gradually into one’s consciousness, so that anyone with a sensitivity to the origins question is going to have to wonder, “how did evolution do that?” Toward the end of the film, several biologists voice that question, though not in a heavy-handed manner. Finally Paul Nelson suggests an answer.
The film’s gentle approach to the topic of ID, and its use of beauty and wonder, remind me in many ways of what may be my favorite Intelligent Design book: A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature. There is art in butterflies’ wings, and there is material for science, too.
Do evolutionists have a good explanation for the origin of metamorphosis? Alas, for this I am out of my field; I am dependent on Google and on evolutionists, whom I heartily invite to respond here. The first page returned on a Google search for “evolution of metamorphosis” is decidedly unsatisfactory. Another page cites a 1999 Nature article whose abstract says, “There is much uncertainty as to how [metamorphosis] evolved,” and then goes on to say it will offer a possible partial answer. The article is a speculative congeries of if this, then possibly this and the like; and to me it seems not to address the issue Paul Nelson raised: “It’s very carefully engineered, so you’ve got to know where you’re going to end up before you start.”
That’s certainly going to raise controversy. What not ought not be disputed is that there is great wonder and beauty in this film. Every home-school and every Christian school should rush to buy it. It would be a tremendous addition to any science curriculum (maybe arts, too!). I wish I could recommend it for public school classrooms, too; although even there it might actually work, too. It would only require a bit of judicious ducking of the volume here and there, to protect sensitive young ears from subversive questions like, “how could evolution have done that?”