Seeking Ultimate Answers

Beliefs Aside, Who Can Offer Some Genuine Understanding?

The question: ‘Is there a God?’ can provoke a strong response, as it should. After all, there really couldn’t be a more important question. It is a matter, some have said of life, of ‘dust’ or ‘destiny.’ See if these DVDs lead you any closer to an answer, or to a better understanding.

 

The Call of the Cosmos:

What the Universe Reveals about God

Illustra Media

This documentary showcases breathtaking evidence for design and purpose in the natural world. Producer Lad Allen called it “one of most visually stunning films Illustra has ever made. It’s a cinematic feast that transports you to some of the most beautiful and mysterious corners of creation for a deeper understanding of God and His relationship with each of us.”

In Psalm 19, David wrote that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” These inspired words reveal a vital truth, say the producers—that the Creator who brought the universe into existence from absolutely nothing speaks to us eloquently through all that He has made.

The film begins with a voyage from Earth to the edge of the observable universe, 45 billion light years away. Then, in a series of visually stunning episodes, we are to consider the origin and structure of the cosmos and our significance within it—or not—because Carl Sagan offers his view of our cosmic insignificance.

Before Voyager prepared to leave the solar system, as a mission specialist, Carl Sagan requested a final series of photographs that would include planet Earth. He wanted to give the public a picture of just how tiny and isolated Earth is. One of the frames captured showed a view of Earth engulfed by a ray of sunlight, our planet from 3.7 billion miles away, just a tiny, little, bright pixel. The pale blue dot captured the imagination of the world; and in 1994 Sagan shared his reactions to the picture during a lecture at Cornell University: “We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people… Consider that everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives…lived there, on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena… our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

But we hear differently from Robert Jastrow, Director Emeritus, Mount Wilson Observatory, and Founder, Goddard Space Institute/NASA. He referred to the findings of astronomer, Edward Hubble, where Hubble verified that galaxies were moving away from each other at fantastic speeds. Our universe, long thought to be eternal, static, and relatively small was growing larger by the second. The implications were staggering. If the universe is continually expanding, then at some point early in its history, it must have been smaller and more compact.

As Jastrow puts it: “If you reverse the outward motions of the galaxies, and go backward in time, they come closer and closer together; you reach a point, finally, where they are nearly infinite in density and temperature, and farther than that you can’t go. So, there’s a beginning, a point in time from which it all started; and that’s a remarkable thing, because it has a very strong theological flavor to it. And that intrigued me because I am an agnostic, and if there was a beginning, a moment of the creation of the universe, then there was a Creator, and a Creator is not compatible with agnosticism. And, just as I can’t believe that there was a Creator, I can’t believe that this all happened by chance, which implies there was a Creator. So, you see, I’m in a completely hopeless bind, and I’ve stayed there.”

Jastrow’s uncertainty was fueled by multiple discoveries (Second Law of Thermodynamics; Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity; Discovery of the Expanding Universe; Cosmic Background Radiation) that pointed to a universe created out of nothing and governed by laws of physics and chemistry, finely calibrated to ensure complex life. “Life is so extraordinary,” he continued, “especially advanced life, intelligent life. Conscious beings are such an extraordinary phenomenon. But, again, I just qualitatively find it difficult to believe they happened by chance… so I try to fit into my concept of the world the conclusion that there is a larger force of some kind, which you can call God, or you can call whatever. But I can’t accept that… I’ve been a scientist all my life, but I find it unsatisfactory. In fact, it makes me uneasy. I feel I’m missing something, but I will not find out what I’m missing within my lifetime.”

Robert Jastrow died in 2008, at the age of 82. In his bestselling book, God and the Astronomers, he described the philosophical conflict between scientific materialism and evidence for a universe that had a beginning: “Far from disproving the existence of God, astronomers may be finding more circumstantial evidence that God exists… that the universe began abruptly in an act of creation. For a scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

The Call of the Cosmos is Illustra’s celebration of twenty-first century science and the Biblical picture of God, a remarkable film that will challenge your mind and inspire your heart. As all Illustra Media documentaries, the graphics are excellent, a very nice production, with a music score to induce awe and wonder, whatever one’s beliefs may be.

DVD – 58 Min. • $24.95 • 1-800-228-8381

 

The Planets

A&E with BBC

From the blurb on the DVD cover: Prepare for a breathtaking journey to the far frontiers of scientific knowledge about our cosmic neighborhood. Produced by A&E in association with the BBC, The Planets invites you to join this definitive grand tour through the unearthly wonders of our solar system. In this spectacular, comprehensive presentation, The Planets draws on consultations with over a thousand leading astronomers, engineers, scientists, and astronauts. Featuring seldom-seen NASA archival footage, awe-inspiring imagery from instruments like the Hubble space telescope, and stunning computer graphics and special effects, this unprecedented series explores both the alien beauty of our local space environment and the extraordinary technology that enables us to unlock its secrets. Tracing our exploration of the heavens from its earliest days to the present, The Planets reveals a story of personal achievement and technological triumph. It’s a story seen through the eyes of dozens of leading authorities on the leading edge of planetary exploration—and on both sides of the high-stakes Cold War race into space. From our first glimpse of the dark side of the moon to the first high-risk dash through the rings of Saturn; from the search for extraterrestrial life to humanity’s possible future on alien worlds, it’s an epic journey of cosmic discovery, amazement, and adventure—like nothing on Earth!

And, yes, this is an interesting presentation, in places; but it is definitely outdated. However, in its time, this miniseries was groundbreaking. Produced in 1999, some of this information has been superseded by recent discoveries; and there are now many exciting documentaries with the latest graphics, along with the new information. Still, this DVD is worth a look-see because it provides an overview of the pioneering space flights and footage of the original viewers as the information of the outer planets came in for the first time in history; the excitement is contagious and their back-stories are invaluable. The interviews with those who discuss the challenges and breakthroughs provide a better understanding of what an achievement it truly was. For instance, the discussion of the underestimation of the radiation from Jupiter that could have destroyed the Voyager spacecraft; or the discussion of flying between the “few” rings of Saturn and the planet itself, because they didn’t realize the extent of those rings, which could have been another place for its destruction. And how they were within one second from losing an all-important opportunity to continue the journey.

It’s fascinating to hear the interview with Carolyn Porco. The imaging team could barely cope with all the new detail revealed by Voyager II. They saw delicate rings that were intertwined, and rings that were held in place by tiny moons called “shepherds.” There were strange features called “spokes”—patches of dust particles slightly raised above the rings. These caught the eye of one, young, graduate student, Carolyn Porco, who got involved in the study of the spokes, the ghostly features that were seen to come and go. She decided to categorize the pictures and did an analysis on the computer and found that they weren’t sporadic, that they followed Saturn’s magnetic field as it rotated with the planet. “I made my very first scientific discovery, and just knowing that I had found something that nobody else on the face of the planet knew, at that time, was such an exhilarating experience!”

Another interview of quite some interest was with Gary Flandro. In 1964, the first spacecraft, Mariner IV, flew by Mars; the spacecraft barely made it there. So, the concept of going to Jupiter, which was almost half-a-billion miles away, Saturn almost a billion, Uranus almost two billion, and Neptune almost three billion miles away, in all of twelve years, was almost unimaginable. A solution came from an unlikely source; a young student at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Gary Flandro, was asked to calculate trajectories for a flight to Jupiter. “I was a summer student working on my degree at the time; so, when I was given the job of looking at the outer planets, I thought that was kind of a make-work project. I was being kept out of the way while the really important business of getting to Mars was underway.” But he discovered something that made the dream of a flight to the giants a real possibility.

He had to first determine when the planets would be in positions where they could reach them. One of his most important drawings was one in which he drew the positions of the planets versus the date; and the thing that caught his attention immediately was, that the lines for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all crossed in about the 1975–1976 time period. Those four, major planets were on the same side of the sun and in the same general position in time. “So,” he states, “it gave me the idea immediately that we could do all of those planets in one flight.” This discovery turned out to be more than a convenient planetary line-up. Rocket power alone could propel a spacecraft no further than Jupiter; but scientists knew that if a probe approached a planet at the right angle, it would be caught by the planet’s momentum, then pitched in a new direction at a greater speed—the slingshot effect—if each planet is in the right place at the right time, as it was on launch date in 1977, something which happens only once every 175 years.

Since this series ends with the Cassini-Huygens launch, you know you’ll have to do more research yourself for all that came after. That won’t be difficult, though, as there are many productions now available. But this one is worth your while, I believe, for its originality, knowing that future productions focus mostly on characteristics of planets. Moreover, input from the Soviet Union adds to the overall balance; the BBC had greater access to Soviet-era footage. Of course, if it were possible, it would be nice to add an additional episode or two to bring it up to date, but the information is out there, starting with NASA’s website and, then, the newer documentaries, so—happy searching!

6 Hrs. 40 Min., 4 Discs + Extras • $39.95 • 1-800-228-8381

 

Last Days of the Nazis

An Inside Look at the Minds and Motivations
of One of the Most Evil Regimes in History

History Channel

Rarely broadcast on television, this dark history of Nazism is told from a different perspective—the Nazis themselves. In 1945, the Allies rounded up and interrogated thousands of party officials, war criminals, advocates, and Nazis. These interrogations are a fascinating, largely forgotten part of the historical record. The subjects include Julius Streicher, leading propagandist; Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and minister of Armaments; Rudolf Hess, the commandant of Auschwitz; Melita Maschmann, BDM leader; and Nazi doctor Karl Gebhardt. Through chilling testimony, this inside look into the minds and motivations of eyewitness participants presents a horrifying portrait of the most evil regime in history.

There were still millions of Nazis in Germany after the war ended. The U.S. and other countries had a huge problem of tracking them down (many who had been taught the Nazi way of life from childhood, who could not see the world beyond the co-called “glory” taught by Hitler) with the intention of doing away with the Nazi belief system. It took years, and certainly was not easy, but it was finally accomplished to a great extent, though not completely. To hear their justifications (‘simply pawns in the bureaucracy’—the ‘just-doing-my-job’ mentality) and getting a feel for their mindset is disturbing, especially coming from those who were initiated as adults. It seems that this subject is still not being correctly taught in schools and universities, and we have too many “educated” types demonstrating their lack of character, therefore, and being self-righteous in the process—if they can’t have it their way, they justify chaos—there it is again—justification for creating a disturbing mindset. We’re still being bombarded by the mainstream media (indoctrinated by such educations) with much erroneous (yes—fake) coverage, largely supporting the politics of their favored politicians.

We need to arm ourselves with the truth, especially now when the freedoms we have cherished are so threatened. Even for those of us who haven’t been politically inclined in the past, it is now too obvious to ignore, especially when one views a DVD like this, and learns just how “good” people can succumb to evil!

DVD – 255 Min. – 2-Disc Set • $24.95 • 1-800-228-8381

By Marsha Oaks