For millennia human beings have looked up at the sky in amazement, wondering what it must feel like to soar through the air like birds. We’ve marveled at this incredible feature of the natural world. The dawn of modern science allowed for better examination of these magnificent creatures, and finally that curiosity turned into an actuality in the early part of the 20th century, as human flight through the aid of machines was finally achieved in the form of one of the greatest engineering feats of human history. Flight, the Genius of Birds (henceforth simply “Flight“) takes the viewer on a journey into the nature of flight, specifically that of the natural world, and provides insight into the various dynamic cooperative systems that must all be working in unison to allow for such an amazing feature as flight. It is a truly enlightening film that is bound to tickle the curiosity of anythoughtfuland open-minded person.
Since the first airplanes greaterengineeringrefinements would take place – faster, more agile and moreaerodynamicplanes, better instrumentation. And all along one interesting and odd fact has remained – the more we learn about birds, the better we are able to engineer our aircraft. It is no wonder that the poet William Blake referred to birds in flight as “a portion of genius.”Flight, the Genius of Birds offers a compelling display of evidence of design in the natural world, and it is, therefore, nosurprisethat the brilliant engineering of this kind should be borrowed by other engineers who would try to achieve the same end.
Flightgives us many insights into birds and the technical inner-workings of the biomechanics of birds. It is a journey takes the viewer into the organism from fertilization, egg, to incubation and development and finally to maturation. The incredible footage of the development of birds is especially dramatic as it demonstrates the single cell that slowly develops into a complex organism. One of the most interesting aspects of the development of birds, as with other organisms, is that the blueprint information for every feature of bird’s organism are already present at the very outset of the development cycle, which is translated into body plans and function.
Though birds need to strengthen their wings first, the ability to fly is already hardwired in them. When we look at birds and their flight through the naked eye we get a somewhat superficial understanding of how they fly. However, flight requires not just a pair of wings, but the entire biologycoordinatedtoward that function. A few of the features include a light body, flexible wings, aeordynamic body, structural strength of bones, etc. Of particular surprise is how light are the skeletal system of birds in general. For example, theentire skeleton of seagull that typically weighs around 20 lbs. is only 30 oz.
Every minute detail of a birds anatomy is needed to allow it to fly, including its feathers, specialized muscles to control flight, itslight, strong and extrmely flexible body, etc. – multiple systems working together in a coorindated manner. Some of the more astounding features of birds include:
Flighthighlights some birds, such ashummingbirds,starlings, andArctic terns,that demonstrate especiallyintriguingqualities. For example, thewings of the hummingbird beat more than 100 times a second, and its flight muscles are 43% of body mass; starlingsfly in large groups of up to 300,000 birds in one flock, and have a refined ability for coordinatingtopological distance that allows them an in-flight reaction time of 100 ms (3x faster than the blink of an eye); the Arctic ternstravel from pole to pole, the longest migration of any animal with an astounding round trip of roughly 24k miles, and can detect and use coastal winds to take advantage of the most energy efficient route that allows them to fly upwards of200 miles a day.
As with systems engineered by people, the more coordinated the system, typically the more complex is the manner of its function, and more challenging it is to reverse-engineer and explain that system. Interestingly birds exemplify such finely coordinated systems. Such systems are the result of forethought. As with all other aspects of the natural world, mutation and natural selection are typically inferred to explain all aspects of things we find in nature. However, natural selection is unguided and blind to the end result, and lacks forethought. Building an organism with so many independent yet interdependent features without forethought would seem extraordinary. It would be difficult to explain how it all came together. As some biochemists have exclaimed as an integrated whole (not the sum of their parts), birds are much more complicated than a 747 jet aircraft.
However, from the purely materialistic perspective, a transcendent mind as a causal agent is ruled out a priori. Thus, all accounts of effects are assumed to have material causes, even though many scientists admit at the very least that they perceive design in nature. Intuitively the appearance of design is unmistakable. However, as molecular biologist Francis Crick has stated,
“Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
It’s fascinating that a rule as such must be imposed on scientific research, that whatever design looks to be presenting itself, must be deferred in favor of merely the perception of such design. Why would explorers of any kind need to consistently remind themselves that what they’re exploring must fit within the current paradigms they embrace? As biologist Timothy Standish (Geoscience Research Institute) explains in the film,
“There’s a reason why a rule like that [‘it just looks designed’] has to be imposed, because if it isn’t, you’re going to see that it’s designed. That’s what our brains logically tell us.”
Interestingly, many biologist and biochemists these days are actually seeing more than merely the perception of design; they tend to respect their perception and logic and are open-minded enough to openly admit that such engineering masterpieces are difficult to explain in a step-wise manner,
“It’s so hard not to use language that suggests a purpose in biology because everywhere we look we see purpose and we see design, and yet we’re told over and over ‘It just looks like it’s full of purpose. It just looks like it’s designed for a function.'” – Ann Gauger, Developmental Biology (Biologic Institute)
An efficient cause for suchmeticulouslyengineered systems is far more reasonably understood to be the result of an architect outside of the system, not merely a mechanism of propagation and gradual change. This is one of the many reasons that is leading increasing numbers of people to conclude that the purely material processes are insufficient to mastermind such genius as birds,
“An engineered system is the product of a mind that anticipated a problem, and figured out a multi-stepped way of addressing that problem. In birds you see exactly that kind of process.” – Timothy Standish, Biologist (Geoscience Research Institute)
These are some of the reasons why biomimeticsplays such a big role in science today, especially of flight. These are indications of the engineering masterpiece of birds.
Flight, the Genius of Birds is an extremely fascinating film that takes viewers on a journey, and with all journeys of the kind, it is extremely difficult to find the words to do it justice. For those who may be so inclined to see intelligent design in nature, it is a thrilling film that only adds to the thrust of intelligent design as a means to explain such systems we find in nature. For those who are curious or are not so inclined to see intelligent design in nature, but are open-minded to weigh the evidence presented in the film, it should at the very least provide entertainment and some food for thought and reflection. For those who are not open-minded and are more inclined to offer theirbelligerencetoward and ridicule ofintelligentdesign and their proponents, I suppose the film may offer some amusement, but beware – ridicule is often purchased by the wages garnered from ignorance.
For more information and ways to purchase the film, please visit the film’s website by clicking here.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.