25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I wasn't going to write a review until this DVD set was officially released, but seeing how the trolls are starting to bash it, I've decided to post this brief review having watched all three episodes with my honors high school biology students.
I admit I was apprehensive about the series, as I really enjoyed and appreciated the book. A flowing narrative of real science, Your Inner Fish (the book) contains a wealth of detail regarding evolution, modern genetics, anatomy and physiology. The book has been a favorite of mine - as well as my students - for its balance of content and accessibility. How would a video adaptation of the book successfully convey the scope and detail of the book, without possibility over-diluting it for the general public?
Quite simply stated: superbly. Shubin is a terrific guide; extremely telegenic and animated. I first saw Shubin in PBS previous series on Evolution. His boyish enthusiasm, articulate yet succinct explanations, and passion for his subject are well conveyed (interestingly, some of my students viewed his enthusiasm as being egotistical and somewhat arrogant - perhaps this is true, but they all agreed that if that's the case, it's well-deserved. Heck - has anyone had the opportunity to hear James Watson speak?)
The episodes, Your Inner Fish, Your Inner Reptile, and Your Inner Monkey are arranged to convey the evolutionary scope and sequence of human evolution. The digital illustrations, that bring to life extinct species - at times literally in the palm of Shubin's hand - are extraordinary, and help enormously with students' visualizations of reconstructions. The animated sequences appear to have been created by the same, excellent, artists who created the sepia-toned, "pop-up-book" style graphics for Tyson's Cosmos series.
While I found the first episode to be the most compelling, students each had their favorite. The final episode allowed them to meet the famous australopithecine "Lucy" for the first time which generated much subsequent discussion. In fact, that was the joy of watching this show with my class - the discussions the material generated following each screening. Students were obviously engaged and fascinated - the material generated questions clearly related to our course content, and allowed students to think of the material in a new way. Even those students who are faith based - something I respect and do not attempt to "change" in class - were moved to see evolution as a process of God's miracle, similar to the personal ethos of Francis Collins. That is no small feat in itself.
I cannot recommend Your Inner Fish highly enough. Superb content, flowing interesting narrative, and state-of-the-art graphics that literally engaged a class ranging in age from 16 to 60 (guess who?). Shubin's Your Inner Fish provides compelling information and further reasons why IFLS
How good is Your Inner Fish? Having just completed watching it online, I am purchasing a copy for my DVD library. Not merely for future classes, but for my own personal enjoyment as well. Five stars!
Update: Now that the DVD has been released, I simply want to verify the product description: that this is a single, dual-layer DVD with 180+ min of content. Frankly, I would have expected a two-disc set at this price point.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2014
Neil Shubin and PBS have teamed up to make a fascinating series about the evolutionary history of the human body. Shubin helped discover the Tiktaalik, a transitional fossil with features of both fish and amphibians. He uses this organism to make comparisons between fish anatomy and human anatomy, eventually expanding into other subjects of comparison like reptiles and primates. The series has 3 parts: Your Inner Fish, Your Inner Reptile, and Your Inner Monkey. All three are worth watching and sharing.
1) Your Inner Fish covers topics such as hand/wrist bones, hernias, formation of limbs, and the paleontology behind the discovery of Tiktaalik.
2) Your Inner Reptile covers topics including amniotic eggs, skin, teeth, hair, and small mammal-like reptiles.
3) Your Inner Monkey reviews topics like posture, color vision, skulls, brain size, and transitional hominids.
All parts are about an hour in length and transition into many different areas that I didn't mention. Shubin shows examples of the process of science through controlled experiments. He emphasizes the predictive power of evolution, leading scientists to correctly guess the location of Tiktaalik fossils. Human anatomy is a major theme. This covers a broad range of scientific fields, keeping your interest throughout. Shubin never seems like he is talking down to the audience. I would strongly recommend buying the series and showing it to anyone who has an interest in the natural world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2014
Your Inner Fish from PBS and Shubin is to evolution what The Elegant Universe was to quantum physics and string theory. It's that fascinating, exciting, absorbing, and mind-blowing about life on earth and our origins and ancestors among much simpler organisms hundreds of millions of years old. Keep in mind that this is popular science for the masses. This has its pros and cons, but for the most part, it's all good.
I have not read Shubin's book yet, but after seeing all three episodes of Your Inner Fish, I am definitely going to read it. But while the title suggests that it's about the commonalities we have with fish, reptiles and monkeys, it only delves into certain commonalities in order to explain the resulting evolutionary divergences.
Through a combination of live action interviews; sped up video (e.g. assemblage of fossil skeletons or clearing of fossils in situ); CGI superimposed on the skeletons of living animals humans and fossils; close-ups through video monitors and microscopes; and animation reminiscent of that used in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos flashbacks (which looks like a more elegant version of Adobe Shockwave, to me), Your Inner Fish tells the story of our evolution from primitive life forms over three episodes: Your Inner Fish, Your Inner Reptile, and Your Inner Monkey.
This series will please science geeks (there is a little simplification for lay people, but not as much as you'd think) as well as the interested general public, including older children and teens.
I would call this Evolutionary Biology 101 For Everyone. It does a great job explaining the evolutionary tree. While it does not ever directly address creationism/intelligent design, it lays out the facts of evolution in plain language and in an understandable narrative. You could say that the common ancestry and evolution of larger multicelled organisms on earth -- including us -- is given an overview in a very entertaining and yet thought-provoking way. Shubin's excitement is infectious and enthusiastic and that carries over to the viewer.
Animated fossil animals added to the live action, though may confuse smaller children. They probably won't understand that it is a rendering of what we think the ancient animal looked like; they may think it is a real animal in the scene.
Unless you majored in evolutionary biology and have an advanced degree in it, I think almost anyone can learn something new from the three episodes in this series. And, like The Elegant Universe series on Nova, this is not just a showcase for the original author of the book Neil Shubin. Yes, he hosts the episodes and he interviews the other scientists. But many other renowned anthropologists and paleontologists are also presented -- even the grad students and fellows are credited!
The first episode reminded me how strangely happy, absorbed, and respectful I felt of the former humans/cadavers I dissected during my introductory anatomy classes when I took my nursing school prereqs. The second and third episodes reminded me how exciting it was to go rock and fossil hunting as a kid, and why I loved going to the museum so much, looking at skeletons and fossils. I'm nothing but a rank amateur at all of that, but I have enough knowledge and background to know that everything presented by Rubin is true, i.e. I knew about Lucy. However, I did not know about Ardipithecus, the other bipedal "missing link" fossil.
In addition to really enjoying this on an intellectual level, a few things have resulted in my great affection for this series.
First is the showcasing of Chicago. Since Shubin's home is at the University of Chicago, the cutaway exterior shots are often to Chicago's downtown urban landscape via the skyline or overhead helicopter shots, mostly at night when it looks most gorgeous (reminiscent of the overhead shots from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy). These shots make Chicago look like a glittering citadel of giant skyscrapers and imposing steel and glass architecture; their inclusion feels almost like a love song to Chicago hidden in these episodes.
Of course, the presentation of such a modern urban hub illustrates what the evolution of the human brain and ingenuity can accomplish and contrasts with what we started out as (little fish), which is probably the point. And other recognizable cities are included when Shubin travels to them to meet with other scientists (London, for example). But Chicago's beauty is referenced again and again in all three episodes, more than any other city. I liked that very much.
Second, I really like that the work of post-docs and grad students is credited, including the discovery of Ardipithecus's hand bone by Ethiopian grad student Yohannes Haile-Salassie while working with Tim White. It helps illustrate that this kind of work is highly collaborative and sometimes large teams are involved.
Third, I really like that the very long periods of time required to find these incredible fossils is portrayed. Shubin's work is portrayed as returning to the same area of arctic Canada to find the first fish that crawled onto land over a period of more than a decade. Many other paleontologists interviewed also explain -- and Shubin emphasizes -- that they and/or other paleontologists have worked and searched in the same particular area of the world (the Rift Valley, the Karoo, Bay of Fundy) for literally years and sometimes *decades* -- often for years and years, finding nothing, or finding only tantalizing fragments that keep them coming back, knowing there is probably something bigger there.
The length of time it takes, the diligence and perseverance required, to find these amazing "missing link" fossils is not often explained in the more exciting dramatizations of fossil hunters and their professional lives. This is something children and teens interested in these fields need to see and understand, so that they get a more realistic portrayal of how the professions really work.
Fourth, the incredibly collaborative nature of this work is also portrayed, as anatomists, embryologists, geneticists, anthropologists, geologists, sedimentologists and many other scientists are included in the discussions. As you see how their research and data supports each other's work, the viewer realizes that though today's scientists may "stand on the shoulders of giants," the nature of their research today requires collaboration and cooperation for great advances.
Now, I also have some issues with Your Inner Fish.
First, I was really excited when they mentioned the human genome in the first episode. I was hoping that there would be an eventual discussion of the fact that huge portions of our genome are also shared with species as diverse as butterflies, plants, giraffes, etc. -- or at least that there would be some overview of how much of the genome of all living things is shared.
This is not done at all. Selected genes (such as "hedgehog" and "sonic hedgehog," responsible for development of digits on extremities) are discussed. But the commonality of large portions of the genomes of many widely different organisms, from insects to humans, is not mentioned
Second, the sense of smell and the olfactory system are almost entirely ignored. It is barely mentioned in passing when we are told that loss of our primate ancestors' great sense of smell occurred when, and was necessary for the development of, color vision evolved in our eyes. Shubin says that there was a trade-off when we developed increased color sensitivity in the opsins in our retinas, and most of the genes common with other mammals for the sense of smell are turned off in humans. That's it.
No mention is made that olfaction is the only human sense that directly interfaces with the environment -- that is, that molecules of air and odor directly bond with olfactory receptors (likely a remnant of ancient fish ancestors; the sense of smell originally evolved in water). It is not pointed out that olfactory connections to the amygdala and the limbic system of the brain are part of the oldest parts of the brain, commonly called "the reptile brain" -- also responsible for our ability to recognize facial expressions and for our instinctual fight/flight/freeze survival reactions. (This is also why odors can sometimes jog vivid memories.) No mention is made of pheromones, which affect us even though we can not consciously smell them -- remember the experiments that proved pheromones synchronized the menstrual cycles of women living together in all-female dorms?
Furthermore, dysfunctions in the amygdala and the limbic system, especially in the areas of recognizing facial expressions and knowing where or what to look at, are symptomatic of autism and autism spectrum disorders. Neurotransmitter dysfunctions in this area of the brain may also be responsible for anxiety/panic disorder, but the fight/flight/freeze reactions were once a survival mechanism. Considering how much of this area of the brain we have in common with other animals, how could the amygdala and the limbic system have been left out of this series? They are some of the oldest brain structures outside of the brain stem (which is also left out). I was kind of dumbfounded and really disappointed that they were never even mentioned. If this is reflective of Shubin's book, I'll have the same objection to the book, because this is a huge omission.
If this information is included in the book, and was left out of the series for purposes of brevity or simplicity, I understand... but I still think it's a terrible omission and that the series should simply have been expanded to include this information. This is a huge area of commonality with the brains of other animals and should be included in any discussion of our evolution.
The only thing I can figure is that there aren't many brains in the fossil record because soft tissues tend not to be preserved, so there might be relatively little to compare it to. But you can still compare our brains to those of modern animals descended from, and there are animals that have remained relatively unchanged for millennia down to the present day to compare to as well.
Now, to be fair, although the evolution of our senses of hearing and sight are covered, the sense of taste/gustation are also ignored, as are the brain stem and a whole host of other organ systems (cardiovascular, digestive, etc.). It is clear that certain senses, organs, and developmental periods were selected for comparative purposes, and many (most) others were left out.
This is not necessarily a good or bad thing; there are probably far too many areas of commonality to produce a concise, 3-episode series of specials on this topic (or for that matter, to cover in one book without it turning into a thousand-page tome).
I just found it curious that one of the senses we have in common with some of our oldest fish and reptile ancestors was left out except for a brief mention, and the oldest brain structure (other than the brain stem), which we also have in common with the same ancestors, isn't even mentioned.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2015
This DVD offers a great explanation of not only your inner fish, but your inner reptile and your inner monkey! Just waiting for your inner plant, and we'll be set! Love this video because the links to our evolutionary past are made clearly, with no reason to disagree on scientific evidence, but to improve with scientific evidence! Fossils, fossils, fossils say it all and it would be nice to have more dedicated paleontologists, geologists, biologists, geneticists- did I miss anyone? in the world. Genetics research, another proven ground for scientific evidence of our evolutionary past is presented fairly here. Lots of new information relative to the time of this post and works well with Shubin's Book, Your Inner Fish bringing some of the book "back" or to the surface while absorbing the video. Obviously, visual stimulation is a great way to teach about human evolution and the evolution of our ancient ancestors and why the DVD was purchased in addition to the book. There is a lot MORE to discover and uncover for all the future scientists out there, so badly needed in our aging world! Don't be shy, see Your Inner Fish for yourself if you want the proven facts that are presented.