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Evolution Boxed Set
Evolution Boxed Set
Actor: Liam Neeson (narrator)
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2001     8hr 0min

Evolution offers a groundbreaking and definitive view of the extraordinary impact the evolutionary process has had on our understanding of the world around us. Beginning with Darwin s revolutionary theory, this seven-part ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Liam Neeson (narrator)
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, Science & Technology
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 11/20/2001
Original Release Date: 01/01/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2001
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 8hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The PBS 7-part primer on the theory of Evolution
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Everybody knows that when it comes down to the final question in a game of Trivial Pursuit that they should make me try and answer a science question because I know pretty much nothing about science and nature. This is because the one thing I knew about high school biology was that you dissected animals and being sick in front of the smartest girls in school did not appeal to me at all. So I took Life Through the Microscope (it involved drawing) and Ecology (it was the only class that fit my schedule) and missed out on Biology, Chemistry and Physics. However, since I did my dissertation on the infamous Scopes "Monkey" Trial I do have something of an interest in the controversy over evolution if not the concept itself. This seven-part series exploring various facets of evolution was perfect so someone like me who insists on having theory of any sort mixed with a heavy dose of practice. "Evolution" is as much about the profound impact the evolutionary process has had on our understanding of the world around us as it is on the various versions of the theory that have been expounded in scientific textbooks for the past century. The series basically focuses on five key concepts regarding evolution, sandwiched between episodes that constitute a dramatic introduction and a controversial coda:"Darwin's Dangerous Idea" offers dramatizations of key moments in Darwin's life along with contemporary talking heads explaining the profound implications of the evolutionary theory and the place it holds in the scientific community today as a pivotal concept. It takes a while to adjust to the episodic approach of the dramatizations, which come and go without a real sense of regularity, but since they dramatized the famous retort of Huxley to Bishop Wilberforce and other key moments in the popularization of evolution there is a certain effectiveness to it all. What you get from this episode is a better idea of what the initial complaints were to evolutionary theory and who was making them."Great Transformations" explores the evolutionary changes that caused the incredible diversity of animal life that exists on earth. The focus is on the development of the four-limbed body plan, which is explained in the context of how animal life moved from water to land and eventually to human beings, thereby answering the key question of why are human connected to all life."Extinction!" represents the flip side of evolutionary transformations, explaining the how and why behind the fact that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct. This leads to the provocative question as to whether human beings are going to cause the next mass extinction on the planet."The Evolutionary Arms Race" puts the entire concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest in the context of humanity's battles with microorganisms, looking at a case study regarding the reemergence of tuberculosis in Russian prisons. With the alarming spread of resistance among pathogens that cause disease, the episode explains how this particular "race" offers the major threat to human existence. The scary question here is whether we are fighting a battle we cannot win."Why Sex?" makes the contention that in evolutionary terms sex is more important than life itself. But on a more pragmatic level is addresses the question of whether males are necessary to perpetuate the species, looking at a wide variety of case studies drawn from nature. This episode also explains the principle of monogamy in evolutionary terms."The Mind's Big Bang" addresses the question of why humans are the dominant species on earth. The answer is found in the past, when something happened to primitive humans to trigger a creative, technological, and social explosion, which ultimately allowed humans to dominate the planet. The episode tries to uncover (literally) the primitive forces that contributed to the emergence of the mind of the modern human being."What About God?" is the coda to the series in that it returns to the initial question of Darwin's day regarding the conflict between evolution and religion. The debate is presented within the context of a college student whose family is not happy with what he is learning about evolution at Wesleyan College, a group of high school students trying to get their local school board to allow the teaching of creationism, and the activities by adults on both sides of the question to win this pivotal battle. I consider the episode to be remarkably even-handed, but then I do not think there is an inherent conflict between the two, which invalidates my opinion for true believers on both sides.Overall I like the fact that "Evolution" goes for depth rather than breadth. The case studies, at least to my uneducated mind, come across as being representative of the issue under discussion. The DVD series also features access to the Evolution Web site with its interactive games, activities, and biographies, so those who would like to get additional information and insight on any one of these topics can easily do so. There are also student lessons for teachers who want to work these episodes into their science classes and a printable teacher's guide (remember, "Evolution" was produced by WGBH Boston, which means we are talking--surprise--public television)."
If ony this series wasn' t limited to 4 DVDs.
Kevin Currie-Knight | Newark, Delaware | 03/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wow!!! This series is as amazing as any laypersons textbook I've ever read on evolution. Each episode is not only a discourse (in the most envigorating way possible) about a different aspect of evolution, and not only does each explain the theories within that aspect but each does a great job of making them relevant to life today. What does 'cultural evolution' of transportation have to do with the cycle of extinctions. How can is the success of the AIDS virus to be attributed to what can only be called a flaw in its copying apparatus? How can we use that knowledge to our advantage in the struggle against its effects? Honestly, there are only slight criticisms I have about each. The first - and how relatively trivial it is - is that for every episode, I was able to think of 4 more episodes that I would have liked to see, or at least 4 more topics that each could've covered. Evolutionary psychology was, to a large degree, left unexplored but for a 10 minute passage. The punctuated equilibrium vs. Dawkinian incremental evolution debate - for as specialized as it seems it is still a HUGE debate within biology - was ignored and most of all, sociobiology was not touched on. So many facets so little DVD space! Still, I couldn't take away a star just for these trifles. Here's a brief overview of each episode and its highlights.Darwins Dangerous Idea - Probably the dullest episode of all. Alternates between Darwins relevance today and BBC style reenactment of his lifeGreat Transformations - The origin (or suspected origin) of life and from it, the quadropods - that is, four leggeed spined creatures. Interesting discussion of our similarities to other quadropods in past and present.Extinctions - If 99% of animals are extinct, will we be and why are we not yet? Good discussion of interconnectedness of eco-system - one thing propping up others. Evolutionary Arms RAce - Fascinating episode about the head-to-head competition for survival. Why are adaptations handy and what really is human beings helpul adaptation? Is it language, tool making, conceptual thinking...what?Why Sex? - Why males are on the surface superfluous (gulp) but really a good thing evolutionarily (see, I always tell women we're good for something). Different male/female connections in different species and how species attract opposite sex. Good but short lead into evolutionary biology, especially ideas of Geoffrey Miller. The Minds Big Bang - Another great episode dealing with how, why and when the mind may have developed. Why did such a strange mutation prove successful? Was it all at once or in small improvements? The episode is a bit one-sided as it speculates that by in large, language was the brains function rather than conceptual thought. What about God? - One of the best episodes and the most philosophical in nature. Why do creationists dislike evolution and why do evolutionists go out of their way to block creationism from schools. Meet high school and college (Christian college) students who are striving to find a connection between evolution and God. As one of the few atheists I've met who DOES NOT take evolution as given, I found this episode, chock full of Christians who believed in evolution, too, a good closer of the series.Overall, the only other comment/complaint I had (again, no subracted star) was that contrary to the last reviewer, I think that any science that calls itself a science needs to be able to welcome criticism. It would've been good for this series to focus a bit more on, not only outside criticisms like creationism, but criticisms from the inside, like Steven Gould's 'spandrel' concept. Still, if the intersted viewer wants to digest those, there is a surfeit of literature. This DVD set will get you more interested in evolution than you thought possible. Check it out!"
Review the DVD, not the theory
Brian J. Moore | Riverdale, GA United States | 02/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I read through the reviews of this set and I am disappointed to see that several of the reviewers...took this opportunity to preach their hatred (or fear?) of evolution rather than just reviewing the DVD. Here is what I think of the DVD: It is beautifully filmed at times. It covers the subject of evolution better than any TV series I have ever seen, though it doesn't go into the depth that you might find in a college course or even a lot of popular books on evolution--like Daniel Dennet's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". But the DVD doesn't put me to sleep like the books do. It is entertaining enough to keep you awake through a subject most of us slept through in school. I would have liked to see at least a passing mention of differing scientific opinions, such as the Aquatic Ape Theory or perhaps something about Punctuated Equilibrium, but I suppose that is too much for a PBS series. Nevertheless, I rate this series a step below "Cosmos" and "Life Beyond Earth" but higher than almost anything else that I have seen on PBS. This is a very good series, well worth owning.
I must respond to a few misleading assertions of the reviewers I mentioned at the beginning of this review:EVOLUTION IS NOT A THEORY. Evolution is a fact. That the mechanism of evolution is a process known as Natural Selection--that is the theory. Evolution is observed in the fossil record; fact. Natural Selection explains the observation; theory. As for the "fossil record lacking transitional forms", you obviously didn't watch the part about transitional whales--whales with four legs, whales with only two legs, modern whales. There are hundreds of known transitional forms, and more being found all the time. And in defense of Daniel Dennet (who seems to be hated almost as much as Darwin), I have read his book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and I assure you he does not "seriously" propose putting Baptists in concentration camps. I'm surprised to learn that an adult could take his book that way.
One final thing, scientific people, like me, should not attack religious Christians. It was not by coincidence that modern science began in Christian Europe. Without a certain amount of freedom to question long-held beliefs, modern science could never have begun. And Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin and even Einstein would have made their marks in some field other than science, if at all. Christians are not backwards people. If they really practice the teachings of Jesus Christ, they are the kind of profound, incredibly enlightened people that this world needs more of--but they are still wrong about evolution."
Not Perfect, But The Best TV Introduction To Evolution
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 04/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I salute PBS and its Boston affiliate WGBH for producing this very good introduction to evolution; without question it is the finest television program on evolution yet produced. Unfortunately it isn't perfect since it doesn't quite describe much of the substance of evolution and of Darwin's (and Alfred Russel Wallace's) Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection. Nor does it go into much depth - aside from the fossil evidence - in noting the great diversity of evidence from all of biology which indicates that evolution is not only a fact, but is truly one of the fundamental principles of science, on par with either gravity or the speed of light. Actor Liam Neeson does a splendid job narrating all nine hours of this miniseries.The opening segment, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is both a splendid docudrama on Darwin's discovery of Natural Selection and general overview of contemporary scientific thought on evolution. I was quite impressed with the attention given to famous scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould, and especially to Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller, who notes how he sees no conflict between his devout Roman Catholic Christianity and his research in evolutionary biology (For the record I must admit my bias since I assisted Professor Miller in his very first debate against a scientific creationist while a Brown University undergraduate, yet I am quite pleased that he remains one of the most eloquent advocates of both evolution and sound scientific high school and college education in the United States.).The next two hours, "Great Transformations" and "Extinction!" are devoted to the fossil record's evidence for evolution. In the first hour there is an excellent segment covering paleontologist Philip Gingerich's important recent discoveries demonstrating the relatively rapid evolution of whales from land mammals distantly related to modern ungulates. The second hour discusses the role of extinction as an important agent of evolution, noting the significance of great mass extinctions in altering the earth's biota not once, but at least five times over the past half billion years of Earth's history.Episodes 5 and 6, "The Evolutionary Arms Race" and "Why Sex?" discuss two of the most important factors responsible for evolution; coevolution and sexual reproduction. Unfortunately the "Evolutionary Arms Race" episode may be the weakest in the series, since it spends more time exploring important - though still relevant - medical issues, and not explaining how coevolution has been an important factor responsible for evolution (For example, the Red Queen Hypothesis is mentioned without stating its relevance to understanding coevolution.). Still it makes the valid point that advancements in medical research may be more likely from understanding the evolutionary nature of those organisms and genes responsible for human diseases.The final two programs, "The Mind's Big Bang" and "What About God?" cover human evolution and the nature of science versus religion. In the latter episode I was quite impressed with the extended segment featuring part of a lecture given by evangelical Christian and professional paleontologist Keith Miller (no relation to Kenneth R. Miller) in which Miller states he sees no conflict between his religious beliefs and his acceptance of evolution as scientific fact. However, this episode could have spent more time dismissing "scientific" creationism, especially "Intelligent Design", as examples of outmoded, junk science. Instead, it tries too hard to accomodate the religious views of fundamentalist Christians who find evolution objectionable, without emphasizing evolution's scientific veracity."