In this three-part series, Andrew Marr explores the legacy and contemporary influence of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. In each film he combines incisive and witty story-telling with archive and stills to bring the unfolding of Darwin’s idea and its legacy to life. He explores key moments in Darwin’s life-changing voyage on HMS Beagle in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, as well as visiting locations in the United States, Turkey, Belgium and Berlin that are central to the epic story of the development and impact of Darwin’s "dangerous idea". Each programme explores the ways in which Darwin’s idea broke out from the world of science and took on a life of its own. The series shows that it still has the power to inspire, challenge and disturb us.
The first programme of Darwin's Dangerous Idea explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on religion and morality. Andrew Marr discovers that an important part of the Beagle’s mission was to return three natives to their homeland, Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of Argentina. Years before he reached the Galapagos, they raised questions in his mind about the fragility of civilisation and what it really means to be human. Marr explores how Darwin developed his ideas when he returned to Britain and finally unleashed his theory of evolution by natural selection on the world. Darwin’s ideas are taken up by many of the major thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. We discover that his ideas helped motivate the Kaiser’s army in the First World War and would also help convince the United States government to drop its isolationist policy and enter the conflict. In the 20th century, we discover a growing backlash against Darwin’s ideas among fundamentalists from the world’s major religions. At the same time science has been showing that Darwin’s theory of natural selection holds sway over our behaviour - including our morality - as much as it does over the evolution of our bodies. There is significant scientific evidence that suggests that Darwin has returned humanity to nature, in all its wonder, its glory and its danger.
1/3 • 2009 • Nature