Monday, July 16, 2012

Paleolibrarian TV Review: Evolve

When Carl Sagan’s 13-part series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, first appeared on PBS in 1980, the program set a standard because of Sagan’s narration and vision for sharing science with the masses through the “magic” of television.  Fast forward 33 years, and we greatly look forward to the 2013 launch of the Cosmos reboot to be narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  The new Cosmos series, which is produced by Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” fame, basically updates the Cosmos series with new information and will serve as an excellent teaching tool for today’s generation of students and folks who just really love science programming and science research. This is a great way to learn about and understand the natural world and universe from the comfort of your living room.

Much has changed since Sagan’s series was launched. And while Cosmos filled a needed void, today we seem to be swimming is science programming for the masses.  In fact, because cable television is so into slicing and dicing its audience, there are at least two channels dedicated just to science and science investigation.  They have produced some wonderful shows. These include, Walking with Dinosaurs; Through the Worm Hole with Morgan Freeman; Stephen Hawking’s Universe; How the Earth was Made; The Story of Human Evolution; Nature; The Elegant Universe…really, the list goes on much longer than I should write and that you’ll probably want to read.

However, there is one program which I found to be extraordinary since it confronts the core and for some the most controversial issue facing our understanding the natural world. That issue is evolution or natural selection, the biological process where all animals change over time, go through speciation or become extinct. 

The name of the program is EVOLVE.  Originally produced in 2008, the 11 episodes go into great detail about how organs, whole species, and their associated antecedence adapt and changed over time. This is excellent program which examines how all species evolved without the need for a “Watchmaker” or any divine providence.  In essence, every episode shows how the process of natural selection produces mutations and how those mutations, depending on the environment, have helped all species survive, change and propagate within their niche.

Each episode of EVOLVE is a refutation of the theology-based concept of Intelligent Design or as it is commonly referred to, Creationism. The individual episodes, which are about an hour, focus on just one aspect of evolution.  The episodes themselves cover the morphological evolution of organs and their associated processes, including, eyes; guts; jaws; sex; skin; flight; communication; size; speed; venom and shape. Many of the episodes relate to our own branch on the taxonomic tree, but some do not. However, what makes this intelligent show so intriguing is the depth of knowledge shared and the scholars and researchers who are featured in each episode who discuss their work and the natural processes of evolution.

Here are some links to partial episodes which you may find enjoyable:

The episodes highlight the work of the large (and growing) number of unsung professional scientists, scholars, researchers, and academics who work every day to help humanity learn about the natural world.  These are serious people who are asking serious questions about the nature and mechanics of evolution and how species adapt, change or become extinct over time.

They test their ideas and while there may be dissent between individual scientists or groups regarding the timeline or an aspect of an evolutionary process, none ever conclude that a supernatural deity must be the cause or a solution to a question posed by evolution. Finding “god” to be the cause or answer is the default and rather arrogant answer of those who peddle Intelligent Design. ID is a form of pseudo-science which doesn’t look for inquiry or answers outside of the researcher’s already biased religious beliefs. In fact, ID is a theistic belief looking for a presumed example to prove a presupposed conclusion. 

This is the opposite of science. Science poses questions or hypothesis and tests them by looking for evidence in the operation of the natural world. Science is descriptive, looking for answers by examining and testing using the tools of the scientific method to investigate nature. While ID is prescriptive, it assumes a final answer and then goes looking for examples to prove a particular point of view rather than attempting to understand the natural mechanics of the universe.

Depending on where you live or if you have a cable subscription, you may not be able to find the episodes of EVOLVE available for viewing.  However, you can catch many of them online in whole or in part.  The DVD boxed set is available via Amazon, but if you’re not in the United States, the regional coding may present itself as an issue.

I highly really recommend the series and even if you can catch just parts, you’ll come away either with more information than you had prior to viewing the episodes or the information will certainly verify what you already accept as scientific knowledge. Either way it’s a fun ride and an enjoyable series.  


  1. This is the first I've heard of the series. Thanks for posting and I can't wait to see them!

  2. Hi Paul,

    My pleasure. This is what I love about writing my blog and reading other sites as well. We gain so much by sharing with each other.

    I know you won't be disappointed by the program and I do hope you enjoy it.