The Master Designer

The Master Designer - The Backstory Part I:

Something Old, Something NewThe Music Theme

I’ve always felt that music in documentaries is absolutely critical. It moves the viewer and conveys emotion, and I’ve gained a bit of a reputation for being very picky about our music choices.

Our new series required a new music theme for the title sequence and I knew I wanted something that reflected the majesty, power and beauty of the creation around us. So I reached out to Emmy award-winning film score composer Charles Denler.

Charles had worked with me previously on our film “The Gentle Bear Man of Emo" and during the process we had become great friends. While most of his work is in Hollywood Charles lives in Denver and is like a brother from another mother, our life journeys have had so many parallels. We had been already meeting for several months as Charles had been commissioned by the Colorado Orchestra to write a modern work called "Portrait of the Rockies" and I had committed to create a documentary on the project.  So, Charles, along with respected conductor Scott O’Neil and I had been plotting the project together.

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The most difficult part of creating an original theme is the process of adequately conveying what is in my mind for the music, but Charlie seemed to be a mind reader and what he created was spectacular. One day he called me up and said, “I think we need to record this in Prague, I’m doing a another film score there and we can add this session on to it.  I’ve asked Scott O’Neil to come along and conduct.”

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The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is the most requested orchestra in Europe. They are widely used for film scores. John Williams used them for Star Wars and since dozens of other films have been recorded there like “The Duchess,” “Shogun,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “District 9,” and hundreds more.

So the three of us boarded a plane and headed for Prague.

Prague, or “Praha” as the locals call it, sits right in the middle of The Czech Republic and is the most romantic city in Europe. Rich with old world culture it was sparred many of the horrific carpet bombings that many cites during World War II endured and as a result is houses an astonishing display of historic architecture. As I walked around the city I couldn’t help but think, “What a beautiful place to create beautiful music.”

The recording was upstairs in a building that had no signs and if you didn’t know where you were going you would have missed it completely. The only tell-tale sign that we were at the right building were two muscled ex-military security guys downstairs playing on their computer, apparently there to keep the riff raff out.

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The lobby was covered in posters of movies that had been scored here. Once inside the modest wood floor studio I gazed around me. If only these walls could talk! The podium was the same one used by famed conductor Leonard Bernstein and where Albert Einstein would give his talks, and the lobby was filled with poster of movies that had been scored there. This place reeked of rich history and now we would leave our tiny mark.

When the orchestra arrived Scott and Charlie began to communicate with the musicians through a translator. While they had earned their reputation as one of the worlds great orchestras, they still leaved in a poor post-communist country. Many of them had taken the subway to get there. In fact our harpist showed up 40 minutes late because the subway workers had gone on strike and the subway cars were stopped en route!

But all of that faded when they began to play. The music was beautiful, they played with real emotion.  From the first pass, where they had just lay their eyes on the music for the first time… they were almost perfect! True professionals that earn their keep every day.

Of course, because it is Prague, every 30 minutes the musicians would lay their violins or cellos on their chairs or the piano and head off for a coffee break.

"That would never happen in Denver," Scott O’Neil commented, pointed to a violin that had been plopped down on top of the piano. "Our top players routinely play instruments that are worth over a hundred thousand dollars, so they are always carefully cased when not in use.  But they can’t afford instruments like that here."  I realized that while a great instrument is wonderful, a great player is more even more wonderful.

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When we finished up the session Charles got up and gave a short word of thanks to the group and in response they began tapping their bows on the top of the music stand - their way of applauding the quality of Charles’ compositions.

"That doesn’t happen very often!" James Fitzpatrick, the orchestra leader, told us later. A real honor indeed.

As we made the long flight back to Colorado I thankfully thought to myself, “I love my job!”

Once back in the States we wanted to add some latin vocals.  They were sung by Nelly Greisen (formerly with the legendary 2nd Chapter of Acts) and Canadian singer extraordinaire Connie Scott.  Their vocals gave the piece an angelic and human quality, and they came out beautifully.

The latin lines the girls are singing can be translated, “All creatures of our God and King.”  Fitting indeed!

Watch the trailer here!

The Master Designer - The Song Trailer #1 from Reel Productions, LLC on Vimeo.


You can purchase and enjoy the beautiful score created by Charles Denler for The Master Designer by visiting our website HERE




The Master Designer - The Backstory Part II:

The Cricket Chorus

Having grown up in Asia I was aware of the Chinese interest in the cricket’s song dating back before the Tang Dynasty. Before the invention of clocks and calendars the cricket song told them when to plant crops, and later the song would inform then when to weave warm clothes because winter was approaching. But there was more to the cricket song than the Chinese could ever know.

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So when I found this unusual and chilling recording of the cricket chorus I approached it with a healthy dose of skepticism. I had to learn more about its origins, so I had our production assistant Amanda track down the engineer who had made the recording. He lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I decided to give him a visit. Jim lived in a typical adobe house surround by cactus a few minutes outside the city. When we rang the doorbell we were greeted with children playing and his wife welcomed us with a charming french accent. During our visit he described the recording process in some detail.

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Jim was an audio engineer and had recorded crickets one night in his back yard.  He revealed this amazing phenomena by slowing the cricket’s chirp down using an old German Studer reel-to-reel machine. The result was music! It contained incredible four-part harmony and the choral movements were so beautiful they could have been sung by the Vienna Boys Choir!

Cut to an incredible scene in the book of Revelation which so gripped composer Fredrick Handel that it was the inspiration for the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.

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Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
 be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

I think the hymn writer Maltbie Davenport Babcock had it right in this 1901 hymn text:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
 all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.
 This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

It’s fascinating to realize that the tiny cricket has been singing all along. Only now can we hear the chorus of creation for the first time. Once in a while you stumble across a story that touches and inspires everyone. I think the lowly cricket may do just that.

           Listen to “This is My Father’s World” Here

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The Master Designer - The Backstory Part III:

A Grizzly Encounter

It seemed natural that if we were going to tell the bison story we just couldn’t ignore their link to the native peoples of North America. Early American history is marked with these giant beast and as many as 90 million roamed freely in days gone by. But they came to the very brink of extinction with their numbers plummeting to around 500 animals!  Many bison were hunted and killed but many more died from brucellosis, an infectious disease that devastated the herd.

Yellowstone seemed to be the best location to film lots of bison. They inhabit this beautiful park by the thousands and in 1902 Yellowstone’s conservation efforts were key is restoring the bison herd to North America — and cruising around Yellowstone National Park was a treat all its own.

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One day while filming we pulled over and notice just about ten feet away was a dark coated wolf looking right at us. He watched us for about ten seconds and then trotted away into a small grove of trees nearby. “Grab the cameras, lets follow him!” I yelled to my crew.

It was late in the afternoon so the light was low. We walked atop this small hill hoping to see the wolf pop out of the other side of the trees that bordered a large meadow and gently sloped upwards 1000 yards directly in front of us.

Suddenly, Kevin our cinematographer shouted, “There he is, at the very top of the meadow!”

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Sure enough something was crossing the field above us. Kevin strapped on our 1200 millimeter lens, a powerful and expensive lens with a price tag of over $25,000. He scanned above us suddenly declaring, “That’s no wolf, that’s a grizzly!”

I realized this was a once in a life opportunity.  “Let’s stalk up through the trees along the meadow and get closer to him so we can film,” I said. So quietly and stealthily we moved through the woods until we got close to where we thought the bear was. But now he was no where to be seen.  We stepped out in the open and looked around… still no where to be seen!

We began to cross the meadow, an open field with just the occasional scrub oak or shrub in it. Suddenly, our production assistant, Dawn stopped and whispered, “There he is!”  He was laying down eating a mere 50 yards in front on us.

"Get down!" I whispered with a sense of urgency! I have had quite a bit of experience around wild animals but with Dawn and Kevin I wasn’t sure what they knew, although they were avid hikers.

"Okay, the first rule is we have to be quite. We don’t want to spook him. The next rule, and you MUST remember this: no matter what happens - nobody runs!" When confronted with a grizzly bear that worst thing you can do is to run. And I was packing a little backup - a .40 caliber handgun, but I had no intention of using it unless it was a last resort to keep my crew safe. 

Kevin set up the tripod and began to film. We were all crouched down behind a small little field bush and the bear had not seen us, the wind was also in our favor. Within a few minutes the bear stood up and started to meander slowly across the field. “Amazing! Oh my gosh!” Kevin whispered. The footage he was capturing was spectacular! “Just keep rolling,” I said to Kevin, “We’ve got your back!”

Grizzly Bear filmed in the wild from Reel Productions, LLC on Vimeo.

Dawn was by now was getting as low to the ground as possible. She was a tiny 5’ tall girl with blond hair and very little separated us from this 1000 pound grizzly. “Oh no! Oh god!” she breathed.

"Remember, nobody runs!" I reiterated. "Dawn, you’d be just a tiny snack to that massive bear!" I said humorously as the bear moved along the edge of the trees. "This is incredible!" Kevin whispered as he kept rolling. Suddenly the bear stopped. He had caught our scent and was looking right at us. We had been spotted. Curiously, he began to slowly walk in our direction. Straight toward us! "Oh my God!" Dawn whispered. "Keep filming" I urged Kevin, "but at some point, if he gets too close, I’m going to end this."

The bear continued walking toward us, finally getting within 60 feet! I reached for my .40 cal automatic and with a firm grip in one hand I stood up with both hands raised and yelled “Hey!” The bear startled, spun around and began to flee back up the meadow and into the trees. Kevin never stopped filming and Dawn held her composure. We got amazing footage that day and I couldn’t have been more proud of my crew.

To find out more about this exciting story, and see the award winning documentary follow this link!
http://www.explorationfilms.com/The_Master_Designer_The_Song.html





The Master Designer
- The Backstory Part IV:

The Rocky Mountain Elk

The elk segment holds a special place in my heart because I live in Colorado and hunt every year with Scott Rennick and other friends. This respect for the animals and the appreciation of their beauty is my story, too.

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I really wanted to tell this story from the perspective of a hunting camp because all to often hunters are misunderstood or characterized. Scott grew up with John Wayne, and his father Avery Rennick was one of John Wayne’s best friends. John and Avery were camping and hunting friends, and now Scott and I do the same.

The first time at elk camp I’ll never forget Scott pulling out the camping pot and pans that used to belong to his dad. As I looked at them we noticed that John Wayne, Scott’s dad Avery and Curly Howard (The Three Stooges) had all scratched their names in the bottom of one of the pans! “Do you have any idea what this would be worth on eBay?” I exclaimed. 

“What’s eBay?” was Scott’s response, in true mountain man style.

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Scott is such a great guy to spend time with in hunting camp because he is so knowledgeable about the animals, has a degree in biology, and has had such a diverse life. The stories shared around the wood stove in the old style canvas hunting tent are priceless and worthy of a documentary someday all their own.  Scott was the perfect expert interview for this segment. His beautiful sprawling ranch in Gunnison, Colorado was already very much ‘home’ to me and seemed a fitting place to tell the Rocky Mountain Elk story.






The Master Designer - The Backstory Part V:

The Bees That Saved America

I had found this intriguing story from history on how bees had saved American.

To do a re-creation of this part of history required a grand scale. So, production went to Kentucky and the first day’s location was at the ‘Red River Meeting House’ in Logan County. A special location because it was the site of what was called “The Second Great Awakening” back in 1800. One of the great spiritual movements in the U.S. that lit the fuse that would end slavery. With its beautiful log construction it made a great headquarters for General George Washington; and Rick Revel, our actor, played him perfectly.

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Kentucky had been suggested by a boyhood friend of mine, Harold Maxwell, who lived there. Harold and I both grew up in Hong Kong but had lost touch until the advent of Facebook.

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As kids together in Hong Kong, Harold had given me my first pet monkey so it was no surprise to me that he had remained an animal guy. We arrived at this home in Bowling Green only to be greeted by a male lion in his backyard. At one time Max had tigers, puma, and even had a full grown mountain lion roaming his house as a house pet.

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Max is one of a kind. He is the head of a Messianic congregation, an expert fly fisherman, an avid motorcyclist, has learned the ancient ways of making paper and binding books, and with his long white beard every year plays the best Father Christmas you’ll ever see!

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For the large battle scene we went up near Louisville to the historic ranch of Locust Grove and worked with a group of professional re-creators to do the British and American war footage. The costumes were perfect and the cannon’s were loud; all providing a perfect flashback in time. This footage gave us a scene on a grand scale and told the unique piece of history of the bees that saved America.

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There’s nothing like the beauty of rural Kentucky in the fall, and a chance to visit with my old friend Max was icing on the cake.

To see this amazing battle scene where The Bee’s Save America check out our website: http://www.explorationfilms.com/The_Master_Designer_The_Song.html

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The Master Designer - The Backstory Part VI:

The Madison Buffalo Jump

Creating the Native American scene was particularly challenging. The danger for me was that I needed it to feel authentic and not some cheesy Cowboys and Indians film. I wanted to honor the proud history of the America’s Indians.

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Our scene focused on The Madison Buffalo Jump - a spectacular and dangerous hunting technique used by natives to drive stampeding herds of Bison off a cliff to their deaths thus creating a huge harvest. This period of history takes place before the horse was brought to American by the Spaniards in the 15th century so the hunting was done on foot with warriors disguised in wolf and coyote skins and carrying only a simple bow or spear.

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In this era there were no fabrics, to create props and clothing for the scene required everything be made from animal skins. So we purchased raw deer skins and custom sewed and beaded the Squaw dresses, children’s clothes and the men’s loincloths. Care was taken with the little details like the moccasins and the family teepee all had to fit the time period.

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History records a remarkable relationship between Native American and the American Bison. For American natives, the Bison was a gift from heaven, each animal a four-legged treasure trove providing a wealth of raw materials. A typical Bison provided around 800 pounds of meat.  But that’s only the beginning. 

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Every part of the animal was used. The horns became spoons or scoops.  The bones were used for knives, awls and needles. The sinews were used to make bowstrings and thread. The hide on the top of the head became a bowl.  The heart was used as a sack to carry dried meat.  The Bison hide was tanned and used for shelter and teepees.  Hides were valuable—and helped create a thriving trade.  Even the stomach could be used as a cooking vessel.

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Clint Chartier, one of our warrior actors, had a fantastic collection of ancient Native American artifacts he made available for the scene; and his idyllic ranch in Rye Colorado became the perfect setting to shoot the scene.

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Colorado had been experiencing massive wildfires that were devastating the state and a state wide burning ban made a camp fire out of the question; but Clint and Ron Pearson, our warriors, did a magnificent job creating the hunt.  Julie Hill, Raelene Whiteshield, Joslyn, Josieraye and Wades in The Water Runny Wolf rounded out the small camp tribe.

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In one scene Clint and Ron rushed the edge of the cliff to look down on their successful hunt when a circling bald eagle directly above us  began calling. To Native Americans an Eagle represents honesty, truth, power and freedom. The Creator made all of the birds of the sky when the world was new. Of all the birds, the Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader…the “Master of the skies.”

I looked at my two native American actors and smiled. It was a special moment indeed.

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When the film was finally released it warmed my heart to see how proud our Native friends were of the work. They loved the fact that we got it right — and that we honored and respected their rich heritage.

Having traveled the world extensively (over 72 countries) Native Americans hold special interest, maybe more than any other in the world. Their love of the land, rivers, mountains and animals, and the God who provided them is a lesson for us all.

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The Master Designer
-
The Backstory Part VI:

Finding a Host - Brian Corsetti

Finding the right host is critically important. So the word was put in Los Angeles that Master Designer was looking for an actor for the role. An amazing 1700 actors applied! I was so overwhelmed with this that I hired Jennifer Fredrick to go through the applicants. “Just narrow it down to the top 50 and I will fly to LA to do a casting call,” I said. This was a monumental job and I’ll forever be grateful to Jennifer for the great work she did here.

I arrived in LA and we held the auditions at CAZT Studios in Hollywood. A simple place with a circular lobby filled with nervous actors and small rooms webbing out where directors auditioned them. I felt like Simon Cowell from American Idol seeing 50 actors in two days. I knew that each came hoping to get the part and our short meeting ended with a hand-shake and smile from me saying, “Thanks for coming, we will be in touch!”

When Brian came into the audition room he had a big smile on his face and said, “I know that you guys are Christians, I can tell by the script. I gotta say its refreshing you’re here! Nobody like ‘you guys’ ever come to Hollywood! I’m a Christian too and I’d love to work on a program where I can express my faith.” Telling indeed. Well, we ended up with Brian as our host and loved working with him.

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Brian is a really funny guy, has a great work ethic and is a wonderful Christian man. I felt like with Brian I had found a great new friend. We look forward to working on more programs together.


The Master Designer - The Backstory Part VIII:

Science vs God

One of the questions we pose in the program is: is there a conflict between modern science and a belief in a creator God?

Or: has science won the war and buried the idea of God?

This is a new idea.  Many of the  towering figures of science held a belief in a Creator. Men like Galileo (who is the father of science, physics and observation astronomy), Francis Bacon (who is considered to be the creator of the ‘scientific method’), Johannes Kepler (the German mathematician and astronomer), Sir Isaac Newton (widely considered to be the greatest scientist who ever lived), and the list goes on and on.

As scientists continues to make inroads into areas like DNA, particle theory, string theory and quantum physics; all of it continues to reveal The Master Designer.  So getting the facts and science right was really important to me. In order to do this I reached out to several PhD science friends to help us. Each of these have impeccable unassailable scientific credentials.

Edmond W. Holroyd, III, Ph.D.

Edmond holds a B.S. in astrophysics and Ph.D in atmospheric science, specializing in cloud physics and weather modification and is involved in continuing education at Colorado School of The Mines in geology. He has been an atmospheric research scientist for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Division of Cloud Physics in Epping NSW, Australia.

Additionally, he was a research scientist and physical scientist for U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Weather research at Miles City, Montana, weather research at Montrose, Colorado, and remote sensing and weather research at Denver, Colorado. Edmond is an avid bird watcher and has observed over 1117 species in the wild.

Michael G. Windheuser, Ph.D.
Michael holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and has done post-doctoral work in molecular biology and virology. Dr. Windheuser has taught at both the high school and university level and now works in drug development in private industry. He also writes a regular column in UPLOOK magazine called “Science and You” (www.Uplook.org).

Dr. Vernon L. Grose, BS, MS, DSc

Vernon holds a BS in Physics, MS in Systems Management and an honorary DSc. Described in Business Week as a “founding father” of the application of systems methodology to managing risk, Vernon Grose enjoys worldwide recognition as the creator of a patented methodology that empowers organizations to identify, rank and manage all their risks — systematically.

Dr. Wernher von Braun appointed him to the NASA Safety Advisory Group for Space Flight in 1969. Three appointments by the National Academy of Sciences have involved his systems management background.


President Reagan appointed him to the National Transportation Safety Board in 1983 and the National Highway Safety Advisory Commission in 1986. 


The Master Designer - The Song Trailer #2 from Reel Productions, LLC on Vimeo.

The Master Designer - The Song
The End

04.11.13
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Cortez’s Bee Key

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When the famous explorer Cortez first landed on Mexico’s Veracruz Beach and planted his flag this began Spain’s discovery of the New World, and of all of his incredible new discoveries a few really captivated his imagination… coffee, cocoa, and a unique bean-like fruit that only grew in Mexico: vanilla. Each of these treasures Cortez would take back like trophies of gold to Spain.

We were doing a feature on the remarkable 6TkkIx_tnYTa_-T5T_164A1DRUmv2DFyaHSjZh0dlDwrelationship between the Melipona Bee – a tiny stingless bee - and the vanilla flower. The challenge we faced however, was that the yellow vanilla flower which has a secret compartment that only the Melipona Bee knows how to open only blooms a single day out of the entire year and grows in a region that we had no clue how to get to.

So we boarded a plan to Veracruz, Mexico to capture the story. We would be flying blind on this one.

Arriving in Veracruz I rented a car, hired a translator, and headed for the growing region. My strategy was to walk though the early morning fruit and vegetable market in the town square, find a vanilla grower and talk my way onto his farm to film.

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Well, the plan worked. The farmer who welcomed us onto his ranch looked like “Juan Valdez” of the Columbian Coffee commercial fame with his giant mustache and huge grin. But better yet, to our amazement, hBbYs5C1kk9aPEFqrCKV4N4No5dVzs8U9IbBqXtDNiAthis would be the one day most of the vanilla flowers would bloom. And the Melipona Bee was spotted everywhere doing what no other creature on earth could do - unlocking the entrance to the stem of the flower and pollinating it so in the coming season it would bear fruit… a trick, by the way, that took Cortez’s men another 300 years to figure out!

So, next time you enjoy a little vanilla ice cream thank the tiny Melipona Bee!


To learn more about these Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution, visit our website:

http://www.explorationfilms.com/exploration-films-scientific-discoveries.php

10.09.13
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One of the Strongest Creatures on Earth!

He’s one of the strongest creatures on earth with the ability to lift 10beetle-324x205-1times his body weight and, as if that’s not enough, he’s also a modern day dragon…the only creature with the ability to produce fire to defend himself. The creature?  The unlikely bombardier beetle — and this tiny bug has really been bugging evolutionary theory.


David Hames, the host of our show, grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia and Photobucketwas no stranger to the bombardier. One day while wearing shorts and out fishing a bombardier landed on his thigh and decided that David was a threat. The result was a blast of fire that left a scar that looked like someone had extinguished a cigarette on David’s leg! So when it came time to introduce this tiny creature David had first hand knowledge of it’s power.


What has been bugging evolutionists about this beetle is its remarkable abilities and the problems they pose for slow process evolution.

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The bomber has three unique chambers in it body. Two contain explosive chemicals and when mixed in its third chamber that holds a catalyst - they explode!  Twin tail tubes at the back of the insect can rotate 360 degrees to direct this ‘blow torch’ toward any encroaching threat. Now this begs the question: How did such a complex system evolve?  Can evolution explain this? It simply can’t. The tiny bombardier beetle burns down their theories and is a giant illustration of God’s planned design.

The Bombarder Beetle is features in “Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution I”.
To learn more:
http://www.explorationfilms.com/INCREDIBLE_CREATURES_I.php


14.11.12
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Downloadable Exploration Films Catalog

                        

Click to Download

http://db.tt/0DgTZeM
 

14.07.11
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Our Recent Telly Awards

   “The Gentle Bear Man of Emo” Documentary Award (Left)

   “The Gentle Bear Man of Emo” Wildlife/Nature Award (Right)

                       

While the story isn’t set to release until 2012 it’s been making the rounds at film festival and production award competitions.  We are happy that it is being warmly received.

We’ve also been surveying our audience and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Be looking for this incredible story next year!

11.07.11
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The Gentle Bear Man of Emo

"The Gentle Bear Man of Emo" - Trailer from Reel Productions, LLC on Vimeo.

The Gentle Bear Man of Emo - The Back Story Part I:

One Of Those Calls

It all started with a intriguing call from Canada.

On the other line was a man named Michael who had a bizarre and interesting story to tell.

“I’ve called the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and the National Geographic Channel, but no one will come and take a look at what has been happening up here!”

Curious now, I answered with the obvious, “So what is happening up there?”

“Well,” Michael said, “I’ve been hand feeding over 60 wild bears a day that come out of the bush.”

I paused. This wasn’t the first time I’d received one of these kind of calls. After all there was:

  • The Ornithologist who called from Pueblo, CO who was convinced that he had discovered the location of a living pterodactyl in a volcanic crater in New Guinea.
  • Then there was the call from Mike Harris who salvaged the Titanic and brought 7,000 items up from the cold sea floor over 12,000 feet down, bringing them to the surface. They would eventually be placed on tour in museums around the world.
  • And the guy who called me claiming that he had found the location of The Ark of The Covenant famously featured in the Indiana Jones movies.
  • Or the call from an older gentleman in Santa Barbara who called to say how impressed he was with one of our programs, and as the conversation continued he revealed that his father was Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures.

And there have been many more!

I never get used to these kind of calls. I’d have to be dead if a little excitement and imagination didn’t kick in.  After all, this is why I fell in love with documentaries years ago. Reality, from my point of view, beats Hollywood’s best scripts every time!

Well, back to Michael. 

“You know Michael,” I said cautiously, “you sound like that nutty guy in Alaska that got eaten by Grizzly Bears!” Michael laughed in his gentle way at my directness. This would be the beginning of a year of phone conversations as he began to unfold his amazing story.

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me. Me and my crew would make the trek north to the little town of Emo that sits along the Rainy River in Ontario and see first hand what few have ever seen.



The Gentle Bear Man of Emo - The Back Story Part II: 

Passport Please!

 So, I get this most unusual call from Michael Scheibler in Emo, Ontario, and he tells me the shocking story that he’s been hand feeding up to sixty wild bears a day! Well, after being initially stunned by this we continued to chat. Our office was abuzz with comments like: “This guy is nuts and reminds me of the guy in Alaska that became bear lunch.” “Does this guy have some kind of death wish?”  And the most important question, “Why?”

I’ve met my share of people. After traveling to over 70 countries of the world I’ve been exposed to the amazing, the unusual, and sadly the loony. I was just trying to figure out where to put Mr. Scheibler, who’s nickname in our office was now simply “The Bear Man.”

                             

Convinced that we needed to witness this first hand, I assembled a small crew. Our cameraman Dalton, Dawn our production assistant, and yours truly. We made our way north flying into Duluth, MN, then drove three hours to the International Falls Border. 

As we pulled into the bright lights at the border crossing a young shaved-headed steroid-using bodybuilder with a uniform and a badge greeted us. “Why are you coming into Canada?” he asked.

“Ummm… we are going to visit a wildlife sanctuary in Emo and check out some bears,” I said with a smile, suddenly realizing how weird that sounded.

“Passports please,” he quipped.  After looking them over he looked at the car again and asked, “Could you put the rear window down?” Dalton, who was sitting in the back rolled it down.

“Where do you reside?” the officer asked me.

“We all live in Colorado,” I responded. 

“How do you know each other?” he probed. There was a clear attitude coming from him now.

“All friends,” I said. After staring at our passport for a few minutes he handed them back. “Well, pull your vehicle over and go inside the office,” he commanded. 

We parked and respectfully walked inside. Again our passports were taken and reviewed while we all sat in the lobby. After about 15 minutes of waiting we hear our cinematographer’s named called, “Dalton Walker?” (This is not his real name because I don’t want to embarrass him.)

“Who is Dalton?” the voice rang out. 

“Here!” Dalton responded as he sauntered over to the window.

           

Dalton is a real cowboy. Raised in Texas, his dad has a PhD in law enforcement and was the Head of Drug Interdiction for Tarrant County (Dallas) for years. He has always been a cowboy at heart. His young dreams came true when, in his late teens, he landed the dangerous job of a professional rodeo clown. You know, the guy that runs out in front of the bucking bull when the cowboy riding him falls off in order to distract the bull so the cowboy can run to safety? Touring the country while make huge money with bull-riding events wasn’t bad but his body couldn’t take that life forever, and when I met him Dalton had made the unlikely switch to video production. 

I’m not good at doing nothing, so waiting around was taking its toll on me. Dawn and I tried to look unfazed by all of this and continued chatting, but the 30 minutes of waiting felt more like an hour and I began to wonder if something was wrong.                  ;

                                           

Dalton was over at the glass window but we couldn’t tell what was going on. The plump woman officer with the shiny badge on the other side of that window was holding up a print out of some kind, and all I could see was the back of Dalton’s red hed bouncing animatedly as they conversed.                             

“We really need to move on to keep on schedule,” Dawn reminded me. It was August, and we had come specifically at this time of year because this was the best time to see the maximum numbers of bears. Michael and the bears were waiting, after all, and we had only given ourselves a few short days. There was a lot of work to do. 

           

Looking back over to Dalton talking to the officer, something was obviously wrong. Dalton was clearly passionate as he and the agent conversed. 

Then I heard these fateful words coming from the officer behind the window.

“Mr. Walker, our system shows that you’ve had three felony convictions in the U.S.  They are only 9 years old, and according to Canadian law you cannot enter into Canada unless they are 10 years or older! Sir, you cannot enter Canada!”

What now? My mind scrambled for ideas but came up empty. That was it! There was no way that we were getting across the border.

This trip was officially scrapped… for now. We would have to return next year. Dalton was a red headed ‘big ol’ boy’ as the Texans say, but at that moment he was crushed. Of us all Dalton was the most excited about this trip, he had talked about it for months. Suddenly everything had changed.

As we made the long drive back to Duluth Dawn worked the phones planning our retreat while Dalton sat in the dark backseat of the SUV and wept quietly. This one really hurt. 

Dalton has worked for me as a cameraman and editor, and is a fine man. Like many people along life’s way he had made some terrible mistakes in his youth. I knew of them and he had paid for them.  He had turned his life around, had become a family man and had carved out a new path for himself. 

I believe in redemption so I believe in Dalton, even though at that moment Canada clearly did not. The whole “The Gentle Bear Man of Emo” project would become about redemption… I just didn’t know that it would start here.

I phoned Michael Scheibler in Emo and told him the bad news. He broke down crying. He had spent almost a year on the phone convincing me to come. We were just a short 30 minute drive away from him and had been stopped. I promised him that I would not forget him and that somehow I would return.  

I kept that promise. But that’s another story….

                                   




The Gentle Bear Man of Emo – The Back Story Part III:

Music To My Ears

Well, after one failed attempt to enter Canada I would now have to wait another full year to return, as late summer is the time to see maximum bears and cubs prior to hibernation. This was clearly frustrating and getting expensive but I had to believe that God was somehow in this journey… I just wasn’t sure how yet.

The following summer, as August approached, I began to think about “The Bear Man” again and called Simon Scionka, a freelance cinematographer. Simon is a Greek Orthodox believer and he is clearly inspired by the tradition of his faith, with his bushy beard and long hair his look and style could best be described as ‘Greek Orthodox Monastic Cleric’. Simon had a good reputation as a shooter and had worked on some really quality projects, but he and I had never worked together.

“I’ve got a project for you,” I said with a grin over the phone. I knew how this was going to sound. “Wanna go to Canada and film a guy who’s been hand feeding 60 wild bears a day?”

                              

There was a pause from Simon… “My wife’s 8 months pregnant,” he responded. Simon’s wife is Russian and they had their second child on the way. “This is not a good time for me to die,” he mused, “but this is too interesting to turn down! I’ll go!” he said.

I described the project to Simon and filled him in on the history of the story so far. “I don’t know if there is much of a story here”, I said, “but if nothing else this will be interesting and we’ll have the opportunity to capture some beautiful bear footage that I can use for other things.”

                                        

Over a year earlier I’d had another serendipitous encounter after I had a cell phone conversation as I was walking in the Park Meadows Mall in south Denver that would have a significant impact on the “The Gentle Man of Emo” project.

After I’d hung up from my phone call a man chased me down and asked, “Excuse me. Are you a filmmaker? I overheard a conversation you were having a few minutes ago,” he said, standing catching his breath. He was with his beautiful, young daughter and explained, “I’m Charles Denler and I do music for films.” He then handed me his card, which I took and put it in my pocket not expecting much.

                                          

A full year after this mall introduction we arranged a meeting over coffee. I showed Charles a program clips we were working on and as we chatted it was apparent he had some real talent.

     

“Man I don’t know what you think about this kind of stuff, and I’m not quite sure who you are and what you do, but I’ve had three dreams about our meeting today!” Charles blurted.

“Really?” I said, not sure what to make of the comment.

“You see I’m a Christian, in fact I was a worship pastor for 14 years and really stumbled into music for film”.

Well, apparently it was working - he had won 3 Emmy Awards! He had just returned from Europe conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and had done a ton of work for the Discovery Channel, PBS and National Geographic.

                                                       

“I do music for a lot of Hollywood feature films but I’ve been looking to work with a smaller company like yours that has a larger mission. I love your stuff and would love it if we could work together!” he went on. We had a lot of common musical interests, had a great conversation and I ended with, “Tomorrow I’m heading off to Canada to do this unusual story about bears. Why don’t you do the music for the project?” “Great!” Charles responded, “I look forward to it! I know that God brought us together for a reason”.

                            

3:30 am on a pitch-black morning we loaded our gear into my shiny new Nissan Titan truck to make the 1-hour drive to the Denver airport. Driving in the dark cab of the truck I realized that I had never yet met Simon face-to-face but had only talked to him on the phone. I still wasn’t even sure what he looked like.

                       

“You know we’ve met before.” A voice rang out of the stillness. “Really where?” I asked. “About 10 years I showed you a project that I had done.” “You were pretty rough on me,” Simon said.

Like many young production guys Simon had ‘borrowed’ some popular music and used it in a show he had done for a non-profit organization. He held to a common misconception that because the video wasn’t going to be sold, it would be ok to use this music. However, copyright law doesn’t see it that way. Using someone else’s music is without a license is a copyright violation. If a court finds you guilty of a violation like this it’s a mandatory $250,000 fine and worse yet it could come back on the ministry and make them liable. This is basic lesson every filmmaker will eventually learn.

                                                     

“Just tried to save your Canadian Bacon!” I chuckled. “You were right” Simon laughed back “I’ve learned that lesson now”. I knew Simon and I were going to get along just fine.

But that’s another story….




"The Gentle Bear Man of Emo" - The Back Story Part IV: 

This time when we approached the US / Canadian Border I couldn’t help but wonder if ‘Mr. Steroids’ would be there to greet us. But this time our border crossing was sublimely uneventful and we would have no problems getting into Canada. Now the little town of Emo lay just 30 minutes ahead.

               

Sitting along the shores of the Rainy River, Emo was settled in 1880 by homesteaders. It had ballooned to the current population of 1300. If you were cruising down Highway 11 like we were you could easily miss it if you blinked… and we did. Emo was hardly a town, maybe a village. It had a tiny grocery store, a tractor dealer, a liquor store, and a single motel called The Emo Inn, which was to be our new home. The Inn’s website oversold their facility with this marketing language, “Only minutes from amazing walleye, northern pike and bass fishing, we offer immaculate and spacious accommodations, sumptuous licensed dining, and a full-featured sports lounge to anglers and non-anglers alike!” We would take advantage over the next few days of their sumptuous licensed dining.

I called “The Bear Man” and let him know the good news: we had arrived at last! Minutes later, when we pulled up to his property, Michael was there to greet us with a big smile. After talking to him for the past year on the phone it was great to finally meet him. He was a tall, handsome man with a very short haircut and a friendly face.

                 

“Man, I never thought you guys would make it!” he said. “Come on in, I’ve got some dinner on for you guys, then we can go and meet the bears.”

Michael lived in a very simple home. So simple, in fact, that when we entered I thought we were in his barn.  But once inside it was warm and comfortable, with green plants everywhere… the only odd exception was the pigeon walking around his kitchen.

“That’s Buddy Coo,” Michael said with a laugh, “we rescued him when he was found injured and now this is his home too!” This, we found later, is typical Michael.

He had established a place for animals that had been injured, abandoned, and orphaned. Interestingly he called his place “The Isaiah 11 Wildlife Rescue and Rehab Sanctuary.” Isaiah 11 refers to an ancient prophecy from Scripture that says:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
The leopard will lie down with the goat,
The calf and the lion and the yearling together;
And a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,  
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.

              

“Something unusual is going on here, I can’t really explain it,” Michael said. “We have over 150 deer a day visit us, and are up to as many as sixty bears and 18 cubs! And then the raccoons, dogs, pigeon, they all get along with each other. Bears will even bring their cubs and will eat out of my hands which is completely unheard of. The animals all get along with each other. Its like a foreshadowing of what’s coming talked about in Isaiah 11 when all will be at peace.” Michael even has had a wolf that comes to visit during the winter snow.

“Do you feed them everyday?” I asked.

“Everyday for 8 years now,” Michael responded. “I’m so glad you’ve come to see all this!”

We wrapped up our first evening together and headed back to The Emo Inn for some much needed rest.

The next morning we arrived back at Isaiah 11 and immediately noticed the back yard was filled with bears.

“Come on! Let’s meet the bears,” Michael urged.

            

We went out back and Simon began to film from behind a fence.

“These are wild bears that come out of the bush. They come all day long. Oh look! That’s Blondie, our big alpha male bear. Wanna feed him?” Michael asked, looking me straight in the face.

I took a breath and heard myself say, “Sure,” and stepped out into the open yard.

Blondie was huge! I mean Volkswagen huge! He was a brown bear and looked like a blend of a Black and Grizzly bear. He must have weighed 600 pounds.

“Okay, you need to get down on your knees, ” Michael commanded.  “It’s important that you’re not above him so he doesn’t feel threatened.”

Blondie began to walk with a sway toward us. Michael handed me a pastry. Ironically, this pastry was a bear claw.

“Bears want eye contact!” Michael continued. “They don’t have great vision, so before he takes this out of your hand he will pause and look you directly in the eyes. Make sure you look him right in the eyes. If you’re okay, he’ll take the treat…. if you’re not… I can’t make any promises!” Reassuring, I thought.

Blondie’s huge mass lumbered up until his face and mine were not two feet apart. This now felt surreal. Right on cue he lifted his gaze and his steely blue eyes looked straight into mine. I held his gaze hoping that I had passed the test. Then as gently as my dog Hudson back home, he took the pastry out of my hand.

               

With Simon filming the whole event it didn’t take long for him to relax and soon the two of use waded out into the bear community and began to film. At one time we had four to five large bears within three feet of us, but sensed no aggression from any of them.

We spent several days doing interviews and filming bears.  Documentaries have a life of their own. Often the story unfolds on it’s own, and for control freaks like me that can be a little unnerving, but this story unfolded like few I’ve ever seen.

                   

Michael was a gregarious, talkative guy that communicated extremely well. He was so pleased that we had finally come to witness his story. At times it felt like he had been living on a deserted island and we were the first visitors in years to show up in his life.  He had so much to tell! He had such love for his animals and the people that came his way. A tenderhearted man, he would be reduced to tears as he described trying to save a wounded animal and failing.

              

The joy and passion for animals that he clearly expressed was the fruit of a long journey that started out very dark. Michael’s parents left Nazi Germany after Hitler’s defeat and immigrated to Canada.  Life was harsh and cruel, and sometimes so were they.

The breaking point came when his father took Michael’s most prized possession, his little dog, and killed it. Michael, only 7 years old, and his younger sister began a plot to kill their own parents. His spirit bruised and his soul wounded he would, over time, close his heart to people. Michael vowed he would never trust anyone again. In his early adult years his anger, arrogance, and rebellion would lead him down a path of self-destruction that would run him afoul of the law and send him to prison. As his soul dimmed he would see his own humanity slip away.

                        

The Gentle Bear Man of Emo would be as much about Michael’s story as the bears and wildlife. While he founded the sanctuary for the injured, abandoned, and orphaned we learned that Michael had also been severely injured, abandoned, and orphaned. God would use an unexpected connection with animals to restore his humanity and guide him out of darkness. This was a remarkable journey back, a story of healing and restoration.

              

We wrapped up filming, said our goodbyes and realized on the drive back to the border that what we experienced was a bigger story than we could have possibly imagined.

But there would be one more hurdle to overcome… this time at the American side of the border. After a US customs officer had reviewed our passports and asked the usual questions, we again were require to step inside.

This time it was Simon, our Orthodox cinematographer. You see in Simon’s passport photo he looks like a choirboy. Now his look is ‘early Rasputin’ (the mad Russian Monk)-significantly different. Customs went back and forth trying to figure out if the passport was truly his! (See his photo below.) Well, after a little convincing they let us back in the U.S., although I’m not sure what the other option could have been.

                         

After returning home it was apparent that Simon had connected to this story and I tapped him to do the show edit. Charles Denler, our Emmy Award winning music writer, would create an amazing and moving musical score, and we would finish “The Gentle Bear Man of Emo.”

                

When Michael Scheibler finally saw his story on film he cried. Having felt like an outcast most of his life he called me to say how touched he was by the story, and that by watching it he had begun to fall in love all over again with the person God had made him to be.

                                                

The show would win top honors and two International Telly Awards for Documentary and Wildlife & Nature and will be released on DVD late this summer.

And that’s my story.


                                
                                          click for video preview

01.07.11
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Production is underway on a new series called “Incredible Creatures That DEFINE DESIGN.”


Shooting was underway last week with Host Rossi Morealle (Discovery Channel “Junkyard Wars” , CMT’s “Can You Duet”, Military Channel “Heart of The Machine”) in Colorado Springs. 


Based on a concept called Biomimicry, a process of examining nature to take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. 
"This series will focus on products that have been invented  because someone paid attention to an idea they saw in nature" says series producer Steve Greisen.

The idea for the series started years ago when Greisen was doing a story on the Gecko foot. The design of this foot had long been a mystery dating back over 3000 years with Aristotle marveling at its ability to run upside down and not fall. While talking with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who had finished the last piece of research on the foot, Greisen asked “so what do you do with this information?”  
The researchers said that they would pass these discoveries on to industry and sometimes they are used in new products. 

"God is clearly the designer of our amazing world, and we only need to look a little deeper to find inspiration. Looks like we found it again!" Greisen says with a smile.

Here are some more pictures from our shoot:

23.03.11
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"We are excited about this new relationship" said Exploration Films president Steve Greisen. "We now have the opportunity to expose these stories to people who would otherwise never see them. We have been working with Video On Demand for over 3 years with companies like Amazon.com, iTunes and others.  VOD will continue to be a way to expose our films to a new audience”.  Exploration Films currently has over 200 films in the digital library.

You are now able to instantly watch some of Exploration Film’s most popular shows instantly through Netflix; shows like “Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution”!

The Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution Series enters the fascinating world of animals to reveal sophisticated and complex designs that shake the traditional foundations of evolutionary theory. Here we have also included a FREE audio special in this weeks blog! Click to play to listen in!

Start a free one month trial and watch today!

Netflix: http://bit.ly/fv6ikJ

Exploration films: http://explorationfilms.com/


 

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10.03.11
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Parson or Pagan?

Unwrapping Darwin’s Religious Roots

Somewhere in the last 200 years, it became popular thinking that Charles Darwin was an atheist. His entire life of research has been discarded by some groups who have labeled the scientist as being anti-God, while in actuality, his academic pursuits at Cambridge University began at Christ’s College, where he was studying for the clergy. When Capt. Robert FitzRoy invited Charles Darwin to join the second South American tour of the H.M.S. Beagle, Darwin’s father and sisters feared this would disrupt his career plans in the church. Reluctantly, Darwin’s father was persuaded to let him go on the voyage and the result would change the direction of his life.

Looking back at the culture of the times in the early 1800’s, the clergy was a respectable path for a gentleman with an interest in natural history. His father feared that Darwin’s broad fascination with geology and natural studies would lead him down the path of an idle gentleman, so he encouraged  Charles to align these interests with those of God and pursue a life as a country parson, where he could enjoy a quiet life of ministry, all while studying the flora and fauna. Darwin pursued the clergy path despite the influence of his grandfathers, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgewood, who were both free thinking rationalists and humanists, challenging popular thought on philosophy, politics, religion and science. Passages from Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia. ..or the Laws of Organic Life are recorded throughout the younger Darwin’s journals over the years. He entered into his studies as he had his whole life, asking questions.

His curious nature led him into the interest of two men at Cambridge who had the greatest impact on the course of his life. Darwin’s private tutor in math and theology, Rev. John D. Henslow encouraged Darwin as a man of great potential and strongly influenced his hire on the Beagle voyage, agreeing with Professor Adam Sedgwick, a renowned geologist who had tutored Darwin in geological exploration in an 1831 tour of North Wales. Darwin’s tutelage under these two experts had a profound influence upon his confidence as a scientist and the impact of his discoveries on the Beagle voyage. Two books further instilled in Darwin a thirst for science: Sir John Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy and Alexander von Humbolt’s Personal Narrative of the Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America During the Years 1799-1804. 

When he set out on the Beagle after his graduation from Cambridge at the age of 22, there was one additional book that became the rudder for every observation he made on the journey. Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, a gift from Beagle’s Capt. FitzRoy, proposed a uniformitarian point of view that sought, in Lyell’s language, “to free science from Moses.” In the church, Darwin was taught that God made the world exactly the way we see it now without taking adaptation into account; however, the changes in species over time that Darwin observed on his voyage proved the church’s point of view to be wrong. If the account of creation in Genesis ran counter to his theory, how could the rest of the Bible be true?

When the H.M.S. Beagle journey began, Darwin’s religious orientation was clearly from a biblical point of view. By the end of his journey, though, he viewed the events of the Bible as more allegory than history. No one can be certain what caused his beliefs to evolve over the course of his journey. Some thought his exposure to the cruelties of slavery on the voyage caused him to question how God could allow such suffering.  Others speculated that his observations about adaptation conflicted with the church’s view of the fixity of the human species as God’s perfect creation to a degree that he had to choose sides. His commitment to becoming a parson faded away. 

While it is true that his research caused him to question God’s role in the origin of life, at the time he wrote Origin of the Species his belief in the concept of God remained in an intelligent “first cause” of life. It was later in life, following the death of three of his children (he was especially close to his children for a father in his day), that he started calling himself an agnostic. Is it possible that a misguided view of absolute truth led him to discard his faith altogether? Or was his faith in science stronger than his faith in God. Are the two mutually exclusive? 

A new film called Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World examines Darwin’s noted discoveries on board The Beagle in the light of new research in the span of time since that voyage. One hundred and fifty years after The Origin of Species was published, scientists have made discoveries that would cause Darwin to once again stop and ask questions.

Punta Alta

In 1833, Darwin discovered the fossil remains of nine species that he believed to have died elsewhere, transported to the region by water. Giant fossil footprints discovered recently by South American geologist Dr. Emil Silvestru, suggest that animals already living in the region died trying to escape something happening in that flood plain. With this information, would Darwin still believe that the changes in the region took place over a period of centuries?

Puerto Santa Cruz

Darwin thought he found remains of an ancient sea channel in Argentina formed by the ocean rising and lowering over eons, cutting a wide river valley through the continent, from coast to coast. He convinced the ship’s team to travel upstream, only to be cut off 140 miles into their journey. If he had reached the river’s source, Darwin would have discovered the Perito Moreno Glacier. The 97-square mile ice formation was many times its current size during the great Patagonian glaciations and capable of releasing enough melted water to cut a valley like the Santa Cruz channel, 200 miles wide, in a single event. Darwin’s views of geology changing over time did not leave much room for such catastrophes. How would his theory respond to this possibility if he could fly over the Perito Moreno today?

Tiera Del Fuego

Professor Stuart Burges of Bristol University poses that any scientist interpreting empirical data looks at that data with preconceived ideas, assumptions and world views that impact the conclusion. In 1834, Europeans were growing suspicious that non-white races did not possess the moral or mental ability to be elevated to civilized status. Of course, today, this would be interpreted as racism, but in Darwin’s time it was serious science. On Darwin’s voyage, he befriended Jimmy Button, an indigenous Fuegian who traveled to England to become “civilized” and was transported back to Tiera Del Fuego to teach his people the benefits of civilization. When Darwin later visited his old friend, he found they had reverted to “savagery.” Nothing of the English gentleman remained. This observation caused Darwin to question the biblical view that all people descended from Adam and Eve. In his mind, these people had fallen back to a lower state of species. Today, this point of view would be easily refuted, but in Darwin’s day it was a serious scientific conclusion that certain people were “stuck” at an earlier state of evolution.

Coquimbo Region, Chile

By the time the Beagle reached Chile, Darwin’s devotion to Lyell’s theories was seriously challenged. He had started to compare Lyell’s conclusions with his own and rate them. Was he going to follow the idea or the evidence?  Lyell believed in the fixity of continents, which required a slow vertical movement. Geologists say that in order to explain the folds and buckling of high mountain regions, you need lateral movement. Today, according to plate tectonics there is a process known as underplating, where there is an injection of magma from the mantle lifting the continents quickly, like earthquakes, creating sudden jolts. Darwin’s firsthand experience of an earthquake in Chile revealed a marked difference between shifts on the islands and shifts on the mainland. That evidence ran counter to his model, so he decided not to use the idea that earthquakes could be the cause of regional uplift. Ocean floor fossils found 150 feet above sea level by current day explorers should be fossilized or decomposed according to Lyell’s theory. This evidence shows the land that was at the bottom of the sea had been uplifted. What would Darwin conclude if he could hold one of those seashells in his hand today?

Uspallata, Argentina

By the time the Beagle had reached Uspallata, Darwin had read three volumes of Lyell and the deep time theory affected his whole thinking. He found the cast of a fossilized tree that he believed to have grown there, buried as the land sank into the ocean. Recent expeditions in the same region unveiled one fossil showing the lower end of a tree. If the tree had grown in that region, there should have been a thick layer of soil and a sign of roots that have rotted over time. The rootless fossil suggests the tree was broken and carried by moving water and sunk rapidly, fossilized by a rapid, catastrophic event.

Galapagos

Darwin spent the last five weeks of his research on the Galapagos Islands, where he collected samples and species from the various islands.  Contrary to popular thought, Darwin’s theory of natural selection was not developed on the islands, but largely as a result of the evidence he collected on the islands and took home to England for examination. Because he was locked in the point of view that certain species were created in certain fixed places, he missed vital information. Darwin didn’t record which islands the specimens were collected from. It was on discussions arising from this evidence that Darwin was allowed his first theoretical viewpoint.

A belief in Noah’s ark requires the belief that species can disperse and adapt, which Darwin was seeing all over the Galapagos based on variations in mockingbirds. Yet in his mind, creation was proven wrong because of the church’s fixation at the time that all of creation was fixed and unchanging. The Bible teaching of the day was that God made the world exactly as it is with no variation. This, coupled with a popular intellectual disdain for miracles led Darwin to arrive at the conclusion that if a creator God did exist, a world of suffering and cruelty was proof that He must have abandoned His creation.

His attempt to join Lyell in freeing science from the Bible led to the study of hybridization. The definition of a new species is one that will not breed or mate with another species. Darwin had concluded that different types of ground finches have hybridized, but recent research has revealed the hybridization of a land iguana and a marine iguana, each with unique habitats and habits. Darwin’s theory calls for small changes that happen over time, but the population explosion of marine iguanas on the Galapagos suggest that the islands might be younger than estimated, in the realm of thousands of years.

Life Devoted to Research

At home in England while he was away, Darwin’s observations on the Beagle’s voyage were being published and widely distributed. He came home a hero, married, and settled into a life of writing and research in defense of this radical theory that man was not created in God’s image, but descendants of animals. His theory, built on his observations overseas and at home upon the death of three of his children, was built on the fact that the unfit would die and the strong would survive. His own grief and the stress of disputing opponents of his ideas held him back from publishing any conclusions, until an essay on natural selection by Charles Russell Wallace ignited a response. Fifteen months later, On the Origin of Species was published. A lot of his book phrases his discoveries as an invitation to view things another way, but despite much controversy, Darwin spent the rest of his life defending his theory.

What factors in his life – the influence of his freethinking grandfathers, his mother’s Unitarian faith, the Church of England and culture of the time, the personal trauma of losing three children – affected his view of God (and the biblical account of creation) as he was drawing the major conclusions of his theory? What factors of his human nature spurred Darwin to accelerate his conclusions prematurely because of Wallace’s competitive essay? If Charles Darwin held a microscope today, if he could see the structure and complexity if a cell, if he could examine a strand of DNA, how would that affect his belief in random events? These questions, what evolutionists today call “research problems,” are stacking up. Darwin’s defenders would say his evidence is stacking up quite well on its own. But there remains one question: What about the origin of life itself? In the end, Darwin’s efforts to free science from the bible have only proved that they are inseparably linked. Is Darwin’s life’s research really about the evolution of man or the existence of God?

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This article is drawn from the facts presented in the DVD: DARWIN – The Voyage That Shook The World released by Exploration Films. 

In this expansive documentary the HMS Beagle once again sets sail as it retraces Charles Darwin’s voyage in lavish detail, examining his findings and remarkable conclusions and their implications in the light of modern knowledge.

Filmed in South America, United Kingdom, North America, Australia and Europe, Darwin – The Voyage That Shoot The World features dramatic period recreations and stunning nature cinematography, all interwoven with scholars, scientists and Darwin experts who share differing perspectives on the man and the controversy he stirred.

24.02.11
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