Understanding Evolution

Understanding Evolution (49:00)
Item# 29794

"Where do we come from? Why are we human? Why do we wonder why?" Since the proposal of Darwin’s theory, speculation on these questions has become as much a matter of scientific inquiry as it has been an article of faith. Beginning with The Origin of Species and ending with the Human Genome Project, this program takes an in-depth look at the theory of evolution and its impact. The sexual selection process, the nature versus nurture debate, Christian fundamentalism, and genetic testing are only some of the topics covered in this wide-ranging study of evolution. A Discovery Channel Production. (49 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (15)

1. What is Evolution? (01:07)
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It is hard to define evolution because it is not goal-directed. Evolution describes change over time in the modification of species. Darwin thought changes came about through sexual selection.

2. Evolution: A Long, Slow Process (02:45)

We do not witness evolution; we only see the most recent result. A change in species can result from a mutation of genes. DNA structures in the human brain are similar to those in ancient bacteria.

3. Protein Sequences and DNA (03:18)

Subtle changes in genes make each species unique. Protein sequences in all mammals are identical. DNA codes consist of endless combinations of four amino acids.

4. Darwin Discovers the Galapagos (03:07)

Charles Darwin felt the Galapagos Islands' rugged lava landscape brought him the closest to the origin of species.

5. Darwin Studies Farm Animal Breeding (03:11)

Darwin notices breeders in the English countryside can create new species of birds. He hypothesized that if mutations were beneficial to the breed, they would pass those characteristics to their offspring.

6. Darwin's Origin of Species (02:05)

Darwin's origin of species and natural selection theory outrages the church but gains the respect of zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley. Religion and lack of imagination thwarts man's ability to learn.

7. Rapid Evolution in Modern Species (03:16)

Rapid evolution can create deadly organisms like the AIDS virus and the wheat beetle. They mutate so quickly they build up defenses against the immune system or pesticides.

8. Religious Fundamentalism (04:11)

Religious fundamentalists still argue Darwin's theory, claiming we were all created by God. They fight to keep schools from teaching evolution, the one theory backed by scientific proof.

9. Creationists vs. Evolutionists (03:28)

Creationists agree that simple organisms evolve but claim large animals have only been on earth since biblical times. Evolutionists argue that is not enough time for complex species to have evolved.

10. Many Branches of Evolution (03:13)

Evolution does not follow one particular path but has several branches. Apes are thought to be on a separate tree from man. Scientists try to find a link between the ape tree and the human tree.

11. Man's Artistry and Sexuality (02:31)

Man's propensity for art, poetry, and music could increase the chance for a mate. Human intellectual expression serves as sexual ornamentation--our version of a peacock's tail.

12. Human Language and Gossip (02:54)

Scientists are perplexed at the exact reason for man's extensive vocabulary. Gossip is universal in humans and may be a way to exchange vital information about a person's character.

13. Genes and Human Behavior (04:00)

Scientists argue over the exact role of genes and behavior. Are some men pre-wired to rape? Will man ever be able to "cut and paste" bad traits for good traits?

14. Technology and Gene Selection (02:21)

Humans have been subconsciously choosing their gene pools for centuries by mate selection. Pregnant women can now test their fetuses for certain diseases like Down Syndrome.

15. Genetic Mutation Still a Mystery (05:13)

A gene known to mutate red-eyed fruit flies into white eyes surprisingly elicits hyper homosexual behavior in the males. Science has only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of gene mutation.

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