A Little Lower than the Animals (part 1)

This past Christmas, my wife and I received the DVD edition of the Discovery Channel series, Planet Earth. To my surprise, after seeing only a couple episodes, we were hooked. The cinematography in the series is absolutely phenomenal and many of the shots and scenes are unprecedented. The biggest surprise, however, was that comments about evolution from a naturalistic worldview were, for the most part, few and far between.

The filming and the efforts to present such a massive project in such a presentable medium are very much commendable. That kind of glimpse at nature is priceless. Plants, birds and animals that one would otherwise never know existed are seen in their natural habitat. But, of all the creatures that are included in this series, there is one “creature” that is for the most part left unnoticed.

Of all the birds that were filmed, the one that soared the highest just to get a better view of it all was never discussed. Of all the marine life that was caught on tape, that same creature dove to the most unnatural depths and still was never the focus of attention. Of all the hunters, none went to such great lengths to leave their surroundings undisturbed, and yet it was never examined. Of all the hunted, none risked its own life so much as this one, and yet this one was never the object of investigation.

It should be clear by now that the creature which was left out of the documentary is the one responsible for the documentary itself – humans.

Now, before this thought is dismissed as just a tongue-in-cheek criticism, it must be recognized that this series, as well as any documentary that is produced from a naturalistic point of view is the very first to proclaim humans to be “just another animal.” So, my question is, if those who have a naturalistic view of the Universe are enamored by the intricacy of our planet and are devoted to researching the cutting edge of evolutionary development, then why not study the most advanced product of the developmental process?

For example, in one episode of the series, a pack of wild African hunting dogs are filmed chasing down a herd of impala. It is absolutely amazing to see the dogs’ intricate pursuit as the impala gives chase. As amazing as that is, however, there is a more intricate chase with an even craftier plot. Yet, you would have to go to the “behind the scenes” part of the DVD to find it. The men who filmed the chase had to plot the filming down the most intricate detail.

Again, to compare the two is a little hard to consider, but if man is to be thought of as “just another animal” then the comparison should be made. Shots of animals doing remarkable things are seen all the time, but how often is the accomplishment of having the technology to get such a shot seen as remarkable? An orangutan can scoop up a hand full of ants with a stick that it found in the jungle and it will be studied as a marvel of evolutionary achievement. On the other hand, the photographer with the high tech camera is seen as all too common. Why?

An obvious answer is that it is not necessary to show human achievement to humans, especially in a nature documentary. But, is man an animal or not? If he is, then how could he be left out of a documentary about the planet in which he lives?

Well, the answer to that is simply this: humans are not left out of the series at all. One might say that an entire episode directs all its attention to the smartest, most advanced “animal” on the planet. Only, this look at the human’s place in nature is not in admiration of its accomplishments. Quite the opposite, it is an assessment of the destruction for which the human is said to be responsible and a discussion of how the multitude of problems the human has caused can be fixed.

During the episode titled “The Future”, all human advancement is reduced down to nothing more than a boil on what would otherwise be a peaceful and harmonious planet. In essence, humans are depicted as planet killing animals solely responsible for the potential demise of Earth. In the end, the solution, which is portrayed as a completely plausible suggestion, is that the human population be reduced to at least one third its current number!

(It should be noted here that none of the commentators on the film volunteer for this “solution,” despite their undying love and dedication to the future of our planet.)

I would like to suggest a few reasons for this austere view of humanity in the second part of this post.

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4 comments so far

  1. croixian1 on

    I read an article last year after the series came out. (And yes, it was an amazing series!) The creators of the series deliberately left out overly mentioning evolution for fear of the series being shunned by religious people, churches and communities.
    Hollywood is also stepping into this ring, deliberately toning down the content of their movies so they can be rated PG instead of R. A good example is the drowning out of Bruce Willis’s ‘Yippie Kiyay Mother F***r’ in the movie Live Free or Die Hard. This was done to make the movie PG
    We live in a country that is enormously hyper sensitive. It is annoying.

    As far as your last full paragraph, about humans destroying the planet. I take it you do not agree? (I can’t tell from your post) I absolutely agree. Look at what Japan and China are doing to their oceans. Look at the millions of tons of poisons China dumps in its waterways every year. Not only that, but when was the last time you saw an aardvark get drunk, wreck an oil tanker and spill millions of gallons of oil in the ocean? When did you last see a giraffe trying to hunt humans to the brink of extinction?

    I have little respect for the human race. This planet did just fine without us for 4.4 billion years, now its a p***-pool laden with poisoned air, rivers and land.

  2. TJ on

    I have not heard that the creators of the series deliberately left out reference to evolution for that reason. That’s interesting.
    I do agree that certain issues cannot simply be brushed off as propaganda from left-wing radicals, even though a lot of it is. I understand that huge piles of often-toxic wastes are accumulating as 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of its resources.
    Some Christians reject any environmental concerns like this, saying that since God is in control overall, we should just let Him look after it. That’s not me. In Scripture, the sovereignty of God never allows us to evade our responsibility to be good stewards of the world He has created for us.
    However, there is an extreme. It goes farther than global concern. The fact is the fringe of the environmentalist movements regard man as lower than the animals. For example, after the Valdez oil spill in Alaska which killed 30,000 birds (about 0.1% of the area’s population), some called it a worse tragedy than the 1984 chemical leak in Bhopal, India, during which more than 3,000 people died and some 200,000 others were injured.
    I understand that men are sinful and have done horrendous things with the world and free choice that God has given them. Nevertheless, we being made in the image of God have intrinsic rights not shared by animals.
    I understand that I am coming from a worldview distinctly different than yours. It is for that reason that I will post my reasons behind what is said above. Stay tuned!
    By the way, feel free to comment as you wish, but try to avoid any more profanity. Thanks.

  3. DT on

    “we live in a country that is enormously hyper sensitive. It is annoying”

    It seems you proved your point by being annoyed.

    What we live in is a country of contrasting worldviews, and that’s really nothing to be ungrateful for. America is full of people with different religions, philosophies, wordlviews, and morals. When those things are taken into the public sqaure, someobody is bound to get offended. When PBS and major publishing companies seem sympathetic toward promoting the New Atheism, we Christians get pretty well upset. But when a major network sympathizes with Christianity, atheists get upset. Since we know this is going to happen, why not just do our best to defend our personal worldviews rather than get so fussy about it? I know that here in Christianity, what we need is for more Christians to become better acquainted with our faith. If we go beyond that, we end up trying to use government or media to do it for us – and that is where things go wrong.

  4. Grace and Truth on

    I have a question. What good is the earth if there are no humans on it?

    If I remember correctly God did not stop the creation until He had made man and when He did God looked at the whole of creation, including man, and said it was good. Are we to assume that God did not know that we would spill oil or burn wood or exhale carbon dioxide?

    It is really insane to save the planet at the expense of humanity for there would be no one here to enjoy it.


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