Movie Review: The Privileged Planet

I have had this hour-long video for far too many months from a friend of mine who has occasionally loaned me books to read and review [1], and I finally set aside some time to watch it so that I can give it back to him. The video was sufficiently straightforward and interesting that it makes me want to read the companion book of the same title even more. At its heart, this video is based on a very simple premise: explore the implications of fine-tuning of conditions within the solar system, within our galaxy, and of cosmological constants and fundamental laws of the universe to counteract the misguided principles of mediocrity and the so-called Copernican principle by advocating a contrary view that the presenters call the Goldilocks principle. The video makes its point and does so well, although I would have liked to have seen more precision about the narrowness of the range of these various factors that would allow for the development of complex life, which would prove the point of the fine-tuning of the universe very nicely. Added bonus features include further details on the search for earth-like planets, views from earth and space, and a copious reference library for future reading.

This video is very clearly designed for a popular audience as opposed to a scientific audience. This is not a bad thing, but at the same time it spends a great deal of time discussing history as well as a summarizing of research conducted in astronomy and related fields concerning the importance of our particular location not only for our survival, but our also being placed precisely where we would be able to best understand the universe around us. This documentary, in its understated way, demonstrates that science is not value-neutral, and that it is not necessarily the facts on the ground, or up in space, as it were, that is most heatedly debated, but the implications and ramifications of those facts and the way that the prescientific philosophical worldview is built. The people discussing these scientific matters of fine-tuning and the probabalistic demands of intelligent life alongside the probabalistic resources of the galaxy, which demonstrate the rarity of earth and, consequently, of intelligent life, make their case well but avoid delving too deeply into the elephant in the room, and that is the way that scientific practice and belief are shaped by a marked unwillingness to admit the sovereignty of God.

And, as excellent as this video is, it provides the reasoning and evidence that is the handmaiden of faith and not its master. This video, without explicitly acknowledging it, demonstrates that aspects of the nature of God are clearly manifest from the creation so that those who reject God are without excuse [2]. Among those attributes that this video discusses includes the fact that God is a being whose intelligence is vastly above ours, but at the same time that He wishes to be understood, and so He expresses Himself simply through elegant laws and practices, something that can be difficult for immensely well-educated people to do sometimes here on our privileged planet. Yet it is not scientific evidence regarding the inability of unguided natural processes to lead to the sorts of elegant specified complexity that we find in our own lives and in the creation that we investigate around us, but rather the undesirable implication that this complexity must have a designer who therefore has the authority to tell us how to live, that leads scientists and other self-professed ‘brights’ to reject God and His authority and seek to view themselves as their own deities. This video, and likely even more so the books that are discussed in it, are useful in dealing with the factual matters at hand, but the larger issues are philosophical and theological. And while this video can comfort and encourage those who believe on the sound rational basis for that belief, it is unlikely to address the real root causes of pseudoscientific opposition to a correct understanding of the cosmos and creation.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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12 Responses to Movie Review: The Privileged Planet

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