September 28th, 2009 · 6 comments or link to (permalink)
The BBC iPlayer link is here.
[Note this is not the creationist nonsense of the same name]
What Darwin didn’t know was exactly how right about natural selection he was.
This is a great documentary, not so much in terms of production, but solid content. It looks at the evolution of the concept of natural selection, from Darwin to evolutionary developmental biology, where the correspondence between the fossil and DNA records are exactly what prove the theory beyond all doubt.
The history of natural selection is the opposite of its popular perception, it is a story of slow acceptance in the scientific community culminating in total validation and proof rather than an antique concept which has raised recent doubts. Vapid but noisy objections emanating from the current rise of religious extremism are an irrelevance in terms of the time-line of evolution by natural selection as an idea and reasonable debate about it.
Who knew that without knowledge of genetics, Darwin’s humility in absence of absolute proof of his ideas, would allow him to insert in his last edition of the Origin of Species a nod to the possibility of Lamarckian evolution; that de Vries’ (false) idea of the origin of species as coming out of nowhere through single mutations almost replaced Darwin’s gradual selection after he died; or that for the 50th anniversary of his death, the Natural History Museum in London put on a show of Darwinian evolution that ignored the very idea of natural selection that makes it Darwinian in the first place?
Exotically named and unplaceable accented Dutch-Kiwi-Canadian-South-African biologist, Armand Marie Leroi, leads us through this history with the eventual triumph of natural selection. This culminates in the Neo Darwinian synthesis of evolution and genetics and the ‘evo-devo’ combination of evolutionary and developmental biology, which create an accurate view of the tree of life and realize the full grandeur of the mechanism that describes its growth – natural selection.