Molecular Animations

News Release: Harvard’s XVIVO Video

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News Release: Harvard’s XVIVO Video
By William A. Dembski | originally posted November 26, 2007 | updated November 27, 2007

Back in September of 2006 I announced at my blog UncommonDescent that a “breathtaking video” titled “The Inner Life of Cell” had just come out (see…/the-inner-life-of-a-cell). The video was so good that I wanted to use it in some of my public presentations, but when I tried to purchase a DVD of it (I sent several emails to relevant parties), I was informed it wasn’t ready (to my knowledge the video is still not available for sale in DVD or any other format — if it were, I would gladly purchase it and encourage others to do so). Moreover, at the time, the video did not have a voiceover explaining the biology of what was being shown.

Although the video was at the time and remains to this day widely available on the web (YouTube has many copies — go, for instance, here), most simply have some background music that do not explain the relevant biology. A few months after announcing the video at UncommonDescent, I found on the Internet a version of the video that did add a voiceover, giving the relevant biology, and was in a format that allowed me to incorporate it into my PowerPoint presentations. I used the video a handful of times, including at a talk in Oklahoma this September. In consequence, some biologist(s) in the audience contacted the makers of the video, falsely suggesting to them and on the web:

(1) That I myself had modified the video and given it a new soundtrack.
(2) That I had stripped it of its copyright information.
(3) That I had retitled it “The Cell as an Automated City.”

Each of these allegations is false. Regarding (1), I downloaded from the Internet a version of the video with a voiceover describing the relevant biology. It seemed to me accurate and to have the best educational value for my listeners. The version I used took the original soundtrack, which simply had music, and added a voice. I had nothing to do with modifying or recrafting or authorizing the production of the video (in particular, that is not my voice on the video). The video I showed is the one I downloaded.

Regarding (2), the version I used omitted the opening credits (a fact about which I became aware only in the last few days), beginning instead with the actual animation; however, at the end of the video that I showed, there is the following copyright notice:

Conception and Scientific Content
by Alain Viel and Robert A. Lue
Animations by John Liebler / XVIVO
Supported by the Howard Hughest Medical Institute
Copyright (c) 2006. The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Here is the screen capture of the final thing people saw when I presented the video (note that it is dim, so it might be difficult to make out without a suitable projector and lighting):

XVIVO copyright information

Finally, regarding (3), the phrase “The Cell as an Automated City” was simply a caption for the video as it appeared in my PowerPoint presentation (a caption I used in context with the preceding slide). It was never meant to be a retitling of the video. Indeed, that caption never bled into the actual video but was always separate from it in my PowerPoint presentation.

I continue to this day to think that “The Inner Life of the Cell” is the best animation illustrating cellular activity. But there are other videos that make the same point. From now on, I will no longer use it and instead go back to using a clip from “Unlocking the Mystery of Life.”