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4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Description

"Dynamic look at the life, work, and legacy of Charles Darwin" --The Sunday Times (U.K.)

Published 150 years ago, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species changed everything--science, religion, and even humanity’s image of itself. Join Professor Richard Dawkins as he explains exactly how Darwin developed his revolutionary theory of evolution and why it’s still relevant today.

How do species evolve? What does "natural selection" mean in biology, politics, sociology, and philosophy? With passionate certainty, Dawkins provides answers, positing evolution as a matter of fact, not faith. In addition to interviewing scientific experts such as geneticist Craig Venter and paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, Dawkins speaks with Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and other religious leaders about the existence of a Creator. Provocative, informative, and irresistibly watchable, this award-winning documentary offers lively new insights on an idea that still meets stubborn resistance.

Evolutionary biologist and fellow of the Royal Society, Richard Dawkins has served as professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University. He has written dozens of scholarly and popular works, including the controversial best seller The God Delusion.

Winner, Best Documentary Series (British Broadcast Awards, 2009)

We are not even 20 seconds into The Genius of Charles Darwin before the English biologist Richard Dawkins proclaims that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is "perhaps the most powerful idea ever to occur to a human mind." Dawkins obviously believes that evolution is no longer just a theory but a fact. Yet even as what he calls "undeniable evidence" to bolster that argument keeps mounting, so does the opposition to it, especially among Christian conservatives. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and an avowed atheist, finds that paradox confounding and more than a little annoying, and while the three episodes (each about 45 minutes long) in this program offer plenty of history, information, and science, ultimately it is this battle between fact and faith that leaves the most lasting impression. In the first episode, "Life, Darwin & Everything," Dawkins offers biographical details about Darwin. The naturalist was himself deeply conflicted; extensive research during his long voyage aboard the Beagle convinced him that the creationist teachings of his youth were inaccurate, yet he delayed publication of his masterwork, On the Origin of Species, for fear of alienating the British establishment. In episode 2, Dawkins discusses the human element, concluding that it is our morality (leading to emotions like sympathy and gratitude) and sense of altruism that set us apart from the "mindless brutality" that defines survival of the fittest in the rest of the natural world. Finally, in episode 3, "God Strikes Back," he takes on the doubters, claiming that there is as much hard evidence (like extensive fossil records and DNA research) to support Darwin as there is to uphold the facts that the Earth is round or that Napoleon existed. Dawkins is hardly objective, calling those who deny evolution "pathetic," but he does give them their say, including the president of a group called "Concerned Women for America" (whose condescension even outdoes Dawkins's) and another "expert" who says simply, "You can't see [evolution], so it's not science."

Special Features

Bonus disc containing four hours of interviews with experts featured in the program:
  • Three Tales from the Galápagos Islands bonus specials (26 min.)
  • 16-page viewer’s guide includes highlights, questions to consider, avenues for further learning, Evolution’s Biggest Losers, Milestones in the Evolution-Creationism Controversy, Evolution’s Dark Side, and more.
  • The Evolution of an Idea, contributors to Darwin’s theory
  • Biography of Charles Darwin
  • SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 2009
  • Run Time: 139 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001VB8U90
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,028 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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This is an excellent BBC documentary by one of our best scholars on evolution. Richard Dawkins gives an excellent defense of Darwin and evolution. His interview with Wendy Wright shows the shallowness of the Intelligent Design proponents, who want to throw the best supported theory in science into the trash can because it conflicts with the views of ignorant prophets who wandered around in the desert thousands of years ago.
Dawkins is an atheist, which I believe is the correct position, but an atheist is in a difficult situation. It is often argued that atheists believe in nothing. I believe a good balance to this position is to argue with Joseph Campbell the value of religion as myth, not as revealed truth as the Intelligent Design people do. This is an improper use of religion. A study of comparative religions shows that they all have similar myths which give spiritual support to their believers. I don't feel this sense of awe in church, but I do feel it when I'm hiking in the mountains.
I'm sending a copy of Campbell's Mythos I DVD to my grandchildren along with this one. It shouldn't be Science Vs. Spirituality. We need both.
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I purchased this title from Richard Dawkins' website some time ago and have enjoyed watching it many times. The Athena programs are great educational experiences, and some are dated. This particular series aired in 2008, and is an excellent addition to the Athena catalogue. The extensive supplements may not quite equal those seen on RDF's separately available unedited interviews 3-disc set, but I am sure will feature the best material.

Here's hoping that Athena will pick up other Dawkins series, such as "The Root Of All Evil," and "The Enemies Of Reason," although I suspect that they'd be considered too controversial. Still, they are widely available elsewhere.
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"This series is about perhaps the most powerful idea ever to occur to the human mind. The idea is evolution by natural selection and the genius who thought of it was Charles Darwin [1809 to 1882]. I'm a biologist and Darwin has been an inspiration to me throughout my whole career.

His masterpiece, "On the Origin of Species" was published 150 years ago [in 1859] and it changed forever our view of the world and our place in it. What Darwin achieved was nothing less than a complete explanation of the complexity and diversity of all life. And yet it's one of the simplest ideas that anyone ever had.

In this series, I'm going to set out Darwin's big idea, I'll explain how the human species has struggled with the story of its own origins, and take you into the storm that is today's backlash against Darwin."

The above is what the narrator, Richard Dawkins, says in the introduction to this three-episode series. Dawkins is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist, popular science author, and formerly professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

It is important to remember that this is a science presentation. It is NOT a documentary that presents the science VS religion debate.

This is a good primer on the man and the big idea that changed the way we think of the natural world and ourselves. The program goes further by looking at the implications of Darwin's work in the contemporary world.

It also addresses the continuing controversy surrounding Darwin's ideas and while it may seem to be a one-sided presentation, it's grounded in science rather than politics. (For me, after I saw this documentary, I wanted to read Darwin's 1859 masterpiece again!
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It's quite unfortunate that RD gave little or no reference to two other greats in this arena: Alfred Russel Wallace and, no less than the father of genetics, Gregor Mendel. It could be because the former was a co-competitor to Darwin while the latter just happened to be an Augustinian monk. Not that this lends credence to a "divine" creation, a very murky concept. It's seems a wonder of sorts that this "grand view" of life sprouted from a mind nurtured in a Judeo-Christian culture; didn't happen in an Islam, atheist, Hindu, or any other social setting. Darwin, Wallace and Mendel are the progenitors of this young discipline of evolution and genetics. One only needs to walk inside some of the hallways of leading biotech companies, or maybe academia, to see that labs and conference rooms are named after these giants.
The interviews in Part II were exasperating: Prof. Dennett merely waxed poetic about Darwin with nary a doubt from RD; whereas the two doubters Wright and Mackay were from another time zone altogether; however, the interview with the physician, R. Neese, was enjoyable and informative.
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Richard Dawkin's passion about evolution is contagious and he does have an ability to teach. I would urge everyone to watch this; it is well worth watching. Informative and personal -- one feels very close to Dawkins and appreciates his excitement. But be it certainly known: his main point in this series and elsewhere is to attack religion -- any belief in God or nonmaterial reality whatsoever that hints of something more....

His attacks are not fatal as he would wish but he presents believers in the worse light simply because he finds them so unbelievable!. He attacks and scorns liberal, more intellectual believers equally with conservative believers. Dr. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, is probably eager to embrace and integrate evolutionary awareness into a larger faith picture. But that would be intolerable to Dawkins.

Dawkins not only chooses unbelief for himself, he wants to force unbelief on EVERYONE. I am not exaggerating. Christianity is not acceptable and must fall. The Bible in the face of science cannot be believed ---as Dawkins sees it. It's time for liberals to choose science or religion, and to join him in mocking common religious folk out of the public sphere.

The truth of such a grand idea will not win out on it's own. This is really the message underlying the "The Genius of Charles Darwin." Right is right and wrong is wrong. The grand fact of evolution has not been grand enough to kill off faith in God and so Dawkins is pouring his life into forcing the dreadful (yet exciting) reality of it on us all. You have to give him credit and appreciate all his commitment and effort: it is not easy for most of us to see what he sees. He's kind of a driven prophet of unbelief crying out in the streets here.
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