A personal insight, from the world's favourite naturalist, into Darwin's theory of evolution, exploring why it is more important now than ever before.
Passionate Darwinian Sir David Attenborough shares his deeply personal views on the genius of evolution in this one-hour documentary. Exploring the origin of Darwin's great idea, he makes a powerful case for the importance of the science of evolution. Sir David reflects on this globally important idea, asking three key questions: How and why did Darwin come up with his theory? Why do we think he was right? And why is it more important now than ever before?
To find the answers, he goes on a journey through his own lifetime and back to Darwin's to track the changes in our understanding of the natural world. Since Darwin's time, major scientific discoveries have helped to underpin and strengthen the evidence for his revolutionary and controversial idea. Sir David helps viewers appreciate the understanding of the natural world before the idea of evolution had been accepted in the 19th century. He traces Darwin's Beagle voyage and visits the home, Down House, where Darwin worried and puzzled over the origins of life.
Sir David also looks at a series of objections thrown at Darwin's great book, "On The Origin Of Species". He answers them by revisiting his alma mater, Cambridge University, where the DNA double helix was discovered, and by going back to his roots in Leicestershire, where a schoolboy unearthed a significant fossil - the earliest life form then known - in the 1950s. Charles Darwin & The Tree of Life, marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth (12th February, 1809) and 150th anniversary of the publication of "On The Origin Of Species" (24th November, 1859), which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Beautifully shot, and featuring sequences from several of Attenborough's earlier series, Charles Darwin & The Tree Of Life is a labour of love for a man who has been at the forefront of natural history programming for decades. Included as a Special feature is the 50 minute documentary Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species.
Charles Darwin was quite the amazing man. The ideas that he managed to come up with because birds had different styles of beak were revolutionary, he was like an ancient-era Sherlock Holmes. Even ancient isn't an accurate term. It is still a relatively new train of thought. 2009 celebrated the year that Darwin would have turned 200, and the 150 year anniversary of the Origin of the Species.
I love Science, and I love David Attenborough documentaries. His narration has a similar effect to Morgan Freeman on the Silver Screen. Everything they make turns to gold. I'm more interested in the animal world, than looking at the people, but I still found it fascinating. The way that David Attenborough speaks, is near enough like reading out a fact book. He talks slow and pauses often, giving you the time to fully comprehend the life lesson that he has provided.
Every sentence is a new fact that you most likely didn't know, and even if you know a lot on the subject, you are guaranteed to find at least a handful of facts that will surprise you. That is the magic of Attenborough. After watching the 'Life Of...' documentaries, this provides a great prequel to explain how the animals came to be, and the life of the man who figured it all out.
Always a fan of Sir David, even at his most lecturous, I was quick to jump on this one as it also ties in with my avid fascination for science history and the grand figures behind our greatest leaps of knowledge.
Darwin, though hardly a radical or revolutionist, basically slapped a great big 'WARNING: You may be wrong' sticker on the face of the Creationist churches, when he published The Origin of Species. Even though religious tolerance was well in place, it was still hard for the devout to accept, that maybe God didn'r create everything in all it's wonderous diversity.
The thing is, even Darwin, and other like him researching heredity and genetics around that time, didn't say "God doesn't exist" - they simply suggested that the diversity was more to do with mortal matters of survival and adaptation, than a divine design of humongous proportions. This has more recently been butchered into something akin to "Intelligent Design" - wherein God created the base models, and engineered in a manner of change that allowed the critters to adjust to best suit their environments.
Whatever the religious ideals prevailing around you, this is one DVD well worth watching, if only to see how it matches up with what you know, vs what you believe. Organisms changing to better suit their environments is a fact. Proven in the world of theory and in the world of mortals. If there is a supreme entity out there that created us, be it a all-loving deity watching over it's favoured children, a facet of a sentient universe trying to understand itself, or just a pan-dimensional kid playing SimUniverse, then it sure bears thinking about, how evolution has been written in to the genetic script of each and every living thing on this dirtball.
Overall, personally, being a science buff, I found it highly illuminating and educational, and I loved the snippets of Sir David's past series that made quick cameos throughout, illustrating key points raised. I was also glad of the 50-min extra doco that delved a bit deeper into the lead-up to the publication of Darwin's Magnum Opus, and his theories on common ancestry. Well worth considering. Not sure about it? Check your local library and see if they have a copy in the reference or Audio/Visual section for hire.
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