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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 January 2016
There are three one-hour long episodes in this joint 2009 BBC/Open University series, written and presented by Andrew Marr.

The first, titled ‘Body & Soul’, covers a lot of ground. The first twenty minutes are devoted to Darwin himself. There is no mention of Alfred Russel Wallace, but TH Huxley does get a mention. Then we are onto the effects of Darwin’s theories – on religion, on Marx, on Nietzsche, and then we’re into World War One. As one may glean, the programme is more character than theory-led. Come the end of the episode we’re looking at equations to explain the existence of altruism, with Marr proclaiming, “This is not just science. It drives down into why we do what we do.”

The second episode asks if we are all ‘Born Equal?’ Again Marr starts his explorations with Darwin before looking at the eugenic theories of Francis Galton, and the work of economist Herbert Spencer, “whose ‘survival of the fittest’ became ‘murder of the weakest’ for the Nazis.” Marr looks also at modern genetic testing and its potential for moving into dangerous territory.

‘Life & Death’ is the title of the third episode. Again, starting with Darwin the man and his theories, the dangers explored here are of mass extinction and environmental change. Here we do cover the work of Alfred Russel Wallace, and also the warning texts of Rachel Carson and James Lovelock.

There are no talking heads in this series; just Marr. He visits not only London, Oxford, and Cambridge, but also Brazil, Turkey, the Caribbean, and follows in Darwin’s footsteps to Tierra del Fuego. In Dayton, Tennessee, he revisits the site of the famous Monkey Trial of 1925.

Marr, of course, is no scientist, but is instead a journalist, and largely a political journalist at that. Nevertheless, his training means he knows how to tell a story, and tell it well, focussing on the main issues and aware of different interpretations and opinions on theories and events. He never bores, but maintains the viewer’s interest and engagement throughout.

There are no extras on my DVD.
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on 1 February 2018
Andrew Marr is an excellent presenter, cuts to exactly what you need to know, leaves out the bias and thoroughly engages with his subject. Well done Mr Marr...one of the world's very believable journalists.
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on 17 January 2018
First program was fine but the second program was completely faulty. I was eventually replaced but with Christmas I haven't had chance to look at it. Lost interest a bit really.
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on 9 July 2015
Good
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on 3 October 2014
Must Watch. Prompt delivery.
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on 8 November 2015
"Facts" not always neutral.
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on 1 October 2010
This is an easy 5 star for anyone interested in evolution, social history or the environment, Andrew Marr does an excellent job. There are 3 episodes.

1. This is the introduction; it covers parts of Darwin's voyage on the Beagle. It gives the reaction to his book by the public and especially religious people. It covers the Scopes trial in America. It also has an equation to show how altruism can be compatible with evolution.

2. This covers how "survival of the fittest" led to eugenics in the UK (first formulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1883, drawing on the recent work of his half-cousin Charles Darwin), USA and Germany, eventually leading to the holocaust; this lead to the universal declaration of human rights in 1948. It goes on to show how DNA testing can be use to prevent genetic defects proliferating (Tay-Sachs disease).

3. There have been five mass extinctions, we are now in the sixth and it is caused by man. The science of ecology was based on Darwin's theory, and Wallace was the first to realise it. He describes the peppered moth and natural section. It shows how the use of DDT and Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" lead to the rise of the modern environmental movement. He goes on to talk about how we are destroying the planet, global warming causing coral bleaching; the destruction of the rainforest and extinction. Darwin's last book was about worms and massively outsold Origin of Species. He ends with a call to preserve our environment.

There is much more detail in the DVD itself.
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on 24 April 2010
When speaking from a 20/21'st Century viewpoint it is easy to ridicule the Bible based world of our Victorian forefathers; but we should remember that Biblical morality had underpinned their well ordered and highly successful World Order for centuries, and was far deeper rooted and more firmly believed by the bulk of Victoria's people than are the egalitarian liberal/socialist ideals of today's world. Thus it was fear of the longer term consequences which 'Natural Selection' would unleash rather than superstitous bigotry; which caused large numbers of those decent God fearing folk to loath both Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. These were radical ideas which ironically, our modernday Establishment now regards as incontestable orthodox truth.

Made in three parts which I have listed below, this highly informative 172 minute series is written/presented by Andrew Marr and co-produced by the Open University. It illustrates when, where, why and how Charles Darwin developed his theory as he did; the world changing effects that theory had, from it's publication down to our own day; and also how different political ideologies have interpreted Darwin's words very differently.

Episode 1: Body and Soul.
Largely an introductory prelude, this episode covers Charles Darwin's life and times, his famous voyage, the theory itself and much more.

Episode 2: Born Equal?
Andrew Marr is a TV 'insider' whose egalitarian liberal/socialist credentials are impeccable; but in this episode he challenges modernday orthodoxy just as Charles Darwin himself did two centuries earlier. Beginning with a 15/20min denounciation of Nazi eugenics; the programme moves on to introduce a Nazi concentration camp survivor, Rabbi Joseph Eckstein who, having fled Europe for America later established Dor Yeshorim, a "charity dedicated to the erradication of genetic diseases within the Jewish community". In less than thirty years, this sensitively run but highly efficent organisation has all but erradicated Tay Sachs, a ghastly genetic disease which had previously been the curse of Brooklin's Jewish community for generations.

Following this splendid example of genetic medicine at it's best, Andrew Marr then introduces Dr Bruce Lahn; a young genetics student who fled his Chinese homeland for America following the Tiananman Square massacre. On Friday 9'th September 2005 Dr Lahn of Chicago University shocked the world when he announced the discovery of gene varient's ASPM & MCPH 1, which bless their bearers with 'bigger and smarter brains'. A horrified commentator said of this momemtous discovery that it's:- "the moment the anti-racists and egalitarians have been dreading!" Why? Because the MCPH 1 gene originated amongst Europeans 'only' 225 generations (approx 6,000yrs) ago, and although widespread amongst those of European descent, is far rarer in non-Europeans, being almost totally absent from the sub-Saharan African gene pool. Thus modern scientific research now incontrovertibly links intelligence levels to racial inheritance. You can obviously verify the scientific detail on numerous websites such as Wikipedia, which contains a long article by Bruce Lahn himself. In the face of such indisputable genetic facts however, Andrew Marr is asking society a simple question. Do we follow the examples given by the Spanish Inquisition, the Victorian Establishment, the Nazi Gestapo and/or the Bolshevik KGB, and ignore/suppress such politically volatile knowledge, or follow the guidance of Rabbi Eckstein; accept the truth of racial difference but use it to aid those afflicted/disadvantaged?

I should also like to point out an incredible 'coincidence' in the timing of this genetic development. The traditional Biblical date of Adam's 'creation' is 6,000yrs ago; Bruce Lahn says this gene first appeared within European humanity 6,000yrs ago; while the original Sumerian legends on which the Bible was based say the God's created thinking Man (Homo Sapiens) at that time, by implanting 'free-will/reason' within a more primitive but related species. Is Dr Lahn's discovery strengthening the new 'Intelligent Design' theory?

Episode 3: Life and Death.
Centred around Global Warming, James Lovelock's Gia theories and the harm mankind is doing the planet, I felt this programme had been undermined by the recent revelations on falsified research etc.....

To conclude this review, I consider Episode 2: Born Equal? to be a classic example of once in a generation television journalism and recommend it unconditionally; the subject it covers is of crucial importance to us all.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 November 2009
Fascinating, highly informative, and extremely thought provoking! Well written and powerfully presented by Andrew Marr, this is an exceptional mini-series. Thorough research and beautiful filming add to its magic and great archive material and tight editing complete the package.
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on 22 April 2013
Andrew Marr let see not only the good, but also the ugly thoughts about Darwin and his theory. I use this in school for biology lessons and it is widely accepted by my students. An alternate for the boring theoretical lessons.
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