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Such a casual phrase, so easily said: “It’s a miracle!”

And by “miracle” we mean a set of circumstances so unlikely as to be thought impossible, yet so fortuitously done we’re tempted to believe a supernatural power bent the laws of probability to do it for us.

  • A man “miraculously” recovers from terminal brain cancer and the doctors are stumped – we call it a “miracle.”
  • A child survives a car accident that claimed the lives of everyone else in the collision – we wonder if “someone upstairs” wasn’t looking out for that little one.
  • An expansion baseball team that had never finished better than 9th place in any previous season, sitting at a typically dismal 18-23 after 41 games, trailing by 9 1/2 games in mid-August, strikes out 19 times in a 27-out game … but then wins that game and follows it by ripping off 39 wins in their last 50 games to complete a 17 1/2 game turnaround and somehow goes from laughingstock to World Series champions … and they’re forever memorialized as the ’69 “Miracle Mets.”

And it’s with the ’69 New York Mets that the new hit movie “MIB3″ – the long-delayed third film in the “Men in Black” series – picks up the “miracle” thread and gives an illustration of the very concept creationist scientists use to suggest divine design behind life on earth.

In the latest sequel – Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agents J and K, respectively, of the super-secret government agency that monitors and keeps quiet the alien infestation of Earth.

But when a vengeful alien uses time travel to eliminate K’s younger self over 40 years ago, J must go back to 1969 to save his partner.

J and the younger version of K (played well by Josh Brolin – unfortunately one of the few praiseworthy performances in the film), in turn, must rely for help upon an alien named Griffin who can peer into all the possible futures that branch out from any moment in time. Some of those futures are likely, others are so seemingly impossible – like the ’69 New York Mets’ World Series victory – that Griffin says the agents will need “a miracle” to defeat their foe.

“A miracle is what seems impossible,” Griffin says, “but happens anyway.”

Griffin’s favorite moment in time, he explains, is when an incredibly improbable string of events brings a World Series victory to the ’69 Mets: A woman in a baseball factory has an affair, which means she’s not overseeing an imperfect horsehide that is made into a ball that floats a few microns too high, causing a player to pop up a fly that is caught for the final out by a player who only became a baseball player because his father couldn’t find a football for a childhood Christmas gift, and so on and so on.

I mean, what are the odds? So small, even some of the most ardent spiritual skeptics still refer to that team as the “Miracle Mets.”

But calling such things “miracles” – and pointing to circumstances even astronomically less likely – is exactly the argument many creationists and advocates of intelligent design are making to describe the origins of life.

Astronomers like Guillermo Gonzalez, author of “The Privileged Planet,” and NASA’s John A. O’Keefe (now deceased), for example, have examined the dozens of unique factors required for a planet to sustain intelligent life – not just water and oxygen, but gravity, distance from the sun, tilt of the planet on its axis, its orbit, its moons, neighboring planets, and so forth – and come to the conclusion that the odds of any planet, even in the vast, seemingly limitless universe, meeting all these necessary conditions are so unlikely, the fact that Earth meets them all is … well … a miracle.

Intelligent Design advocate and Cambridge-educated scientist Dr. Stephen A. Meyers actually worked to uncover the mathematical odds of even one protein evolving without an intelligent instigator, a relevant idea when considering the “origin of species.”

“The odds of getting even one functional protein of modest length (150 amino acids) by chance from a prebiotic soup is no better than 1 chance in 10164,” Meyers writes in “Signature in the Cell.” “Another way to say that is the probability finding a functional protein by chance alone is a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion times smaller than the odds of finding a single specified particle among all the particles in the [whole] universe.”

In other words, creationists and ID advocates say, the odds of life beginning on Earth, indeed of life beginning anywhere in the universe by mere chance, are well beyond what mathematicians consider the threshold of impossibility.

Those kinds of odds are what Griffin and these scientists say classifies as “a miracle.”

This film itself, unfortunately, is far from a miracle.

It’s funny at times, yes, but the first “MIB” was funny, original and thoughtful. It had fantastic music, and Will Smith oozed charisma and life.

None of that can be said for “MIB3.” This sequel is like Smith sleepwalking. The soundtrack is horrible. The beginning is awful, cheesy, juvenile and sleazy. Its middle is utterly lifeless, and Tommy Lee Jones is so bored in his role it looks like he suffered a stroke before agreeing to reprise Agent K.

Still, it’s better than the second movie in the series.

Some great 3D effects and a fantastic, surprise ending try really, really hard to redeem the film, and almost succeed, but … but … but you’re going to have to be a big fan of the franchise – or the message – to feel that you got your money’s worth.

For the millions who will nonetheless plunk down the price of admission, however, “Men in Black 3″ plants a seed of an idea that apologists for creation could use – if they so choose – to point to the Creator.

Content advisory:

  • “Men in Black 3″ contains roughly 40 obscenities and profanities, though the vast majority are minor.
  • The film’s sexuality consists of a few innuendo-laden jokes, a scene at a 1969 Andy Warhol party with several scantily clad guests and the opening scene. That opening scene portrays a woman in revealing clothing jiggling all over the place, some heavy innuendo and a scene of sexually-laden, alien French kissing.
  • The film’s violence centers around a battle between agents and rogue aliens, including a fairly heavy amount of extraterrestrial slime and goo getting blasted all over the place for intentionally gory and typically comic effect. There are, however, some human casualties, too, as a deadly alien shoots people with some sort of spike. There’s some fist fighting and car chases as well.
  • The film’s only significant religious or spiritual element is some aliens singing “Amazing Grace” during a memorial service for a dead agent.

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