The Genius of Charles Darwin, part 1

A brief review and highlights from the first episode of the three part TV documentary “The Genius of Charles Darwin” by Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins goes to a science class of 15 – 16 year olds. The first question he gets asked is “Why do we need to find out about Evolution?” The questioner then goes on to say that he can’t believe evolution because his holy book has stronger evidence. (It’s about this stage that I start banging my head on the keyboard thinking “there is no hope for the future of the human species”.) Richards response “So the reason you believe it (your holy book) is because that’s the one you were taught first?”. From there it descends into madness, I can’t comprehend how deluded these kids are!

Part of the problem is that these students don’t seem to comprehend that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution. As Dawkins says, “no one’s actually seen evolution take place over a long period” and then compares that to evidence in a court of law. No one can say they actually saw the murder happen but the overwhelming evidence is enough that no one would dispute the facts. I thought that was a great analogy.

The show then goes on to provide a brief history of Darwin’s early life and how he came to start thinking about evolution.

… a theory of life on earth far more wonderful, and more moving, than any religious story of creation.

What a great quote!

Dawkins then goes onto discuss how fossils and geology made Darwin think further about evolution. Then takes the school children on a field trip to a beach to search for fossils and explain how they got there.

He discusses how Darwin studied for twenty years and gathered vast amounts of information to develop his theory of the ‘tree of life’. Darwin was also one of the first to grasp the immense age of the earth and thus how life was able to evolve, change and develop.

The next section of the show discusses how humans have changed many species of plants and animals by breeding for the trait they want, and how this is similar to natural selection. The following section of the show which discusses the description of natural selection is very succinct and somewhat graphic. Some quotes:

If an animal survives it’s more likely to reproduce, and crucially, pass those variations (the ones that helped it survive) on to it’s offspring.

The race is survival, the finishing line is reproduction.

This is what Darwin defined as natural selection.

Dawkins then  discusses Darwin’s reluctance to publish his findings due to his concern how upsetting this would be to the religious. He finally published when he found out a rival was going to publish a similar theory, and after being convinced to by other academics.

The documentary then discusses genes and how their mutations are part of the whole evolution and natural selection framework. Dawkins then discusses the work in one gene lab (Craig Venter’s) and how it provides enough evidence to state that “Evolution is a Fact”. As he says:

… the evidence from this lab alone would be absolutely not just enough but overwhelmingly, staggeringly enough

Dawkins then goes back to the school children and we see if he has managed to convince any of them that evolution is a fact. What do you think the results were? If two hours with one of the greatest minds can’t convince you that evolution is a fact and that the bible is wrong, what hope is there for future societies?

Overall another great documentary from Richard Dawkins, go check it out at Richard DawkinsPharyngula or elsewhere.

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1 Comment

Filed under evolution

One response to “The Genius of Charles Darwin, part 1

  1. Looking forward to watching this. 😉

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