Darwin and Evolution

Season 1 Episode 6

Science and Fiction

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Aired Unknown Mar 19, 2009 on ESPN
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Science and Fiction
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Many people accept none of this. They believe human beings were created by God. In the 19th Century, when ideas of evolution began and fossils were discovered, it was impossible to exaggerate the revolutionary character of the notion that we were descended from animals rather than created by God. The history of attempts to trace human lineage is the history of attempts by humans to understand and explain themselves. Many of the mistaken ideas which have dogged science can be traced back to perhaps unconscious desires to emphasize how special humans are--whereas, as this series shows, humans have evolved in ordinary ways, albeit with an extraordinary outcome. The program looks at the controversy over the relationship between modern humans and the Neandertals, making the point that perhaps many people find the idea of being related to Neandertals uncomfortable. It goes on to look at the Piltdown fraud: a "fossil" skull deliberately manufactured to look as though humans' highly-developed brains have a longer lineage than is in fact the case. And it explores the desire some people have felt to place human origins in Asia rather than Africa. Most of the really important discoveries about human origins and characteristics have emerged only in the last 20 years. The science is much more secure than in the past. Information no longer hinges on interpretation of individual fossil bones. So what do the scientists at the cutting edge of human evolution think about our future? The program, and the series, end with certainity about who humans are and where we come from--but uncertainty about our future.moreless
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