Evolution Episode 1: Darwin's Dangerous Idea

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Evolution Episode 1: Darwin's Dangerous Idea
PBS Documentary

Series Overview

Evolution determines who lives, who dies, and who passes traits on to the next generation. The process plays a critical role in our daily lives, yet it is one of the most overlooked -- and misunderstood -- concepts ever described.

The Evolution project's eight-hour television miniseries travels the world to examine evolutionary science and the profound effect it has had on society and culture. From the genius and torment of Charles Darwin to the scientific revolution that spawned the tree of life, from the power of sex to drive evolutionary change to the importance of mass extinctions in the birth of new species, the Evolution series brings this fascinating process to life. The series also explores the emergence of consciousness, the origin and success of humans, and the perceived conflict between science and religion in understanding life on Earth.

The Evolution series' goals are to heighten public understanding of evolution and how it works, to dispel common misunderstandings about the process, and to illuminate why it is relevant to all of us.


Evolution Episode 1: Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Why does Charles Darwin's ''dangerous idea'' matter more today than ever, and how does it explain the past and predict the future of life on Earth? The first show interweaves the drama of Darwin's life with current documentary sequences, introducing key concepts of evolution.

Chapter 1. Prologue (5:11)

Introduction to the show and to Darwin

Darwin's voyage on the Beagle
Natural selection: a revolutionary and dangerous idea


Chapter 2. Common Ancestry (14:47)

Darwin's return to England

The puzzle of the Galapagos finches
Darwin's initial ideas about adaptation and the development of new species
Darwin's relationships with his brother and with fellow naturalists


Chapter 3. Ecuador and the Tree of Life (12:55)

Darwin's theory of a single tree of life and current biological research

In Ecuador, biologists explore how adaptations to new environments can create new species
Comparisons of rainforest and mountain hummingbirds
What Darwin learned from the Galapagos finches
Using DNA to determine when species diverged


Chapter 4. Natural Selection (9:04)

Darwin's marriage and the development of his thinking

Darwin's relationships with his brother, scientific peers, and future wife
Darwin considers MalthusХ theories of human growth and struggle
Does survival of the fittest apply to all species? Even humans?


Chapter 5. Mutation and HIV (12:59)

A modern definition of natural selection, and HIV as an example of evolution in action

Natural selection explained in detail
How traits are passed along to offspring
Two personal stories about HIV explore how natural selection produces drug-resistant viruses
How scientists use their understanding of natural selection to combat HIV


Chapter 6. Complexity (6:34)

Darwin's personal and professional life

Darwin with his family
Darwin's reluctance to publish his theory of natural selection


Chapter 7. How the Eye Evolved (10:48)

The eye's flaws and evolution

Darwin's separation of nature and religion
The human eye as an example of evolutionХs imperfections
Models of eye development over time and across species


Chapter 8. God (11:31)

Tragedy in Darwin's life

Darwin's work to produce evidence for his theory, and his continued unwillingness to publish
Darwin's poor health
The death of Darwin's daughter and his split from Christianity


Chapter 9. A Scientist Discusses Religion (4:53)

The religious beliefs of scientists today

Biologist Kenneth Miller, a self-described "orthodox Catholic" and "orthodox Darwinist"
Natural selection's compatibility and conflict with religion


Chapter 10. The Human Question (14:31)

Darwin publishes On the Origins of Species and faces resistance to his ideas

Darwin's theory as a threat to Victorian religion and science


Chapter 11. Humans and the Tree of Life (8:38)

Humans and Darwin's theory

Are humans "just" animals?
Creationist attacks on evolution
Fossils supporting the link between humans and apes
DNA evidence of a common ancestor
Comparisons of human and chimpanzee mental development


Chapter 12. Epilogue (4:34)

Darwin's death

A prestigious burial in Westminster Abbey; England's recognition of Darwin's powerful idea

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