Monday, 3 October 2011

Darwin's Dangerous Idea - the documentary

This is the "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" documentary - from the BBC.

Part 1 is Darwin's struggle to publish, part 2 covers social darwinism and eugenics and part 3 is the "green" part - featuring Silent Spring, coral reefs and Gaia.

Unlike in Dennett's treatment, Dawkins' Dangerous Idea doesn't get mentioned. There is some discussion of social evolution in part 2 - but this is portrayed as a perversion of Darwinism, and is linked to the holocaust.

The overall effect is rather like a documentary from the 1960s - before the second wave of evolutionary theory and the Darwinian embrace of human culture. The documentary does show the current primitive state of popular understanding of evolutionary theory in 2011 though.

Part one misguidedly says (54:00 minutes in):

Until recently George Price's equation was largely ignored or forgotten - but it's become very important in the study of evolution.

It is still the best mathematical explanation any scientist has come up with to show why altruism or goodness survives and thrives.
Price's equation is about kin selection - and we have much more satisfying and comprehensive explanations of altruism these days - involving reciprocal altruism, signalling and memes.

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