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Unlocking the Mystery of Illustra Media


In the "Wedge" document setting forth the twenty-year plan of the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now called the Center for Science and Culture), an early objective is a "PBS show such as NOVA treating design theory fairly." Supporters may have achieved a simulacrum of this part of their agenda. The intelligent design video Unlocking the Mystery of Life is receiving PBS distribution: on April 27, 2003, the video was made available to public television stations via satellite feed from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

Although it is being aired on some PBS stations, Unlocking decidedly was not made by NOVA, or any other PBS producer. Who did make this video, then? It turns out that the company identified with Unlocking traces back to the Moody Institute of Science, a well-known producer of fundamentalist Christian videos. The connections require some detective work to uncover, however.

Unlocking was produced by Illustra Media. Its executive producer is James W. Adams and it was produced and directed by Lad Allen and Timothy Eaton. The script was written by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and W. Peter Allen. Unlocking is the only production listed on the web site of Illustra Media, and no video production staff -- or any Illustra Media employees -- are listed on the site. Most film production companies' web sites have links to an "About Us" section detailing who is on the staff; the site for Illustra Media does not.

Illustra Media is linked with another production company, Discovery Media, which in turn is the successor to the Moody Institute of Science. When one conducts a "whois" search at the Network Solutions web site on two URLs, illustramedia.com and discoverymedia.org, the following information is provided:

illustramedia.com

Registrant:
Discovery Media Productions (ILLUSTRAMEDIA-DOM)
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
US

Domain Name: ILLUSTRAMEDIA.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Discovery Media Productions (20335406O) j.harned@GTE.NET
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
US
562-943-0914 fax: 562-943-0914



discoverymedia.org

Registrant:
Discovery Media Productions (DISCOVERYMEDIA3-DOM)
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
US

Domain Name: DISCOVERYMEDIA.ORG

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Discovery Media Productions (20335406O) j.harned@GTE.NET
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
US
562-943-0914 fax: 562-943-0914



There are other links between Discovery Media and Illustra Media. Discovery Media lists its current president as James W. Adams, the executive producer of Unlocking. Jerry Harned, who is credited with editing the video, is Discovery Media's Post Production Supervisor. The Discovery Media team is rounded out by Lad Allen and Timothy Eaton, credited for producing and directing Unlocking. These links strongly suggest that Illustra Media was created as a shell company by Discovery Media for the purpose of marketing Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

Why might Discovery Media want to separate out this video from its other offerings? Unlocking is being marketed to PBS and to public schools as a "straight science" program. But Discovery Media is clearly in the fundamentalist film business. Their mission statement reads, "We believe that God reveals Himself, today, through His creation and the Biblical record. Our mission is to utilize every form of available media to present the reality of His existence through compelling scientific evidence and academic research."

Discovery Media's current video release is The Exodus Revealed, a documentary-style hunt for evidence to demonstrate that the Israelites' journey across the Red Sea was a true historical event. The video takes the viewer along the route the Israelites may have taken to the Red Sea, and also promises to show "coral encrusted remains possibly from the chariots of Pharaoh's 18th dynasty army," and "archaeological treasures [that] have been concealed for more than 3000 years." Its other productions include The End Times, "a compelling presentation of the major events that will immediately precede and unfold during the Tribulation including The Rapture of the Church, a time when Jesus Christ will appear and take the faithful to heaven instantly," and Heaven and Hell, which is intended to "strengthen the faith of those who believe and challenge the skepticism of those who doubt the existence of either place."

The fundamentalist flavor of Discovery Media's productions is understandable since, according to the "Wonders of Science" web site, Discovery Media is the successor of the earlier Moody Institute of Science, a well-known producer of fundamentalist science videos beginning in the 1940s. A further tie is that Unlocking's executive producer Adams is also listed as a former Executive Producer for Moody Institute of Science from 1972 to 1988.

In his glowing review of two "intelligent design" videotapes, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and Icons of Evolution in Christianity Today, Thomas E. Woodward writes "The stories they tell challenge the myth that Intelligent Design is a movement driven by religious bias." But if it is a "myth that Intelligent Design is a movement driven by religious bias," why do its proponents have to work so hard to hide their fundamentalist roots?

by Skip Evans, NCSE Network Project Director