Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life

Synopsis: A documentary about evolution.
Genre: Documentary
Production: BBC
  1 nomination.
59 min


is the only known planet

that sustains life.

And it does so in abundance.

I have been fortunate enough

over the years

to travel to some of the most

extraordinary and remote places on Earth

to find and film animals.

This is the biggest flower in the world.

The blue whale!

It's the biggest creature

that exists on the planet!

The sheer number

and variety of animals and plants

is astonishing.

Estimates of the number

of different species

vary from six million

to a hundred million.

Nobody knows exactly how many different

kinds of animals there are here.

Wherever you look, there's life.

There are often a multitude

of variations on a single pattern.

Nearly 200 different kinds of monkeys,

for example.

And 315 humming birds,

nearly a thousand bats.

And beetles, at least 350 thousand

species of them.

Not to mention a quarter of a million

different kinds of flowering plants.

The variety is astounding.



Even in this one small English woodland,

you might see four or five

different kinds of finches.

Why should there be

such a dazzling variety?

And how can we make sense of

such a huge range of living organisms?

Two hundred years ago,

a man was born who was to explain

this astonishing diversity of life.

In doing so, he revolutionised the way

in which we see the world

and our place in it.

His name was Charles Darwin.

This book, The Holy Bible, explains how

this wonderful diversity came about.

On the third day, after the creation

of the world, God created plants.

On the fifth day, fish and birds,

and then, on the sixth day,

mammals and finally, man.

That explanation

was believed, literally,

by, pretty well, the whole of

Western Europe for the best part

of 2,000 years.

And generations of painters

pictured it for the faithful.

This version was painted in Italy

in the 16th century.

Here is God in the Garden of Eden,

which is now filled

with all kinds of animals.

Here he is pulling Adam

out of the Earth

and here creating the first woman

by putting Adam to sleep,

and then taking one of his ribs

and extracting Eve from his side.

And she comes out assisted

by two angels.

And when God had finished,

he said to Adam and Eve,

"Be fruitful and multiply

and replenish the Earth and subdue it,

"and have dominion over the fish of

the sea and over the fowl of the air,

"and over every living thing

that moveth upon the Earth".

That made it clear

that according to the Bible

humanity could exploit the natural world

as they wished.

This view of mankind's superiority

still stood when, in 1831,

a British surveying ship, the Beagle,

set off on a voyage around the world.

On board, as a companion to the captain,

was the 22-year-old Charles Darwin.

They crossed the Atlantic and

made landfall on the coast of Brazil.

There, the sheer abundance

of tropical nature

astonishes the newcomer,

as I discovered when I retraced

Darwin's steps, 30 years ago,

for a television series

about the diversity of nature.

Darwin, as a boy, had been

a fanatical collector of insects.

And here, he was enthralled

almost to the point of ecstasy.

In one day, in a small area,

he discovered

As he wrote in his journal,

"It's enough to disturb the composure

"of the entomologist's mind

to contemplate the future dimension

"of a complete catalogue".

They went south, rounded Cape Horn,

and so reached the Pacific.

And then, in September 1835,

after they had been away

for almost four years,

they landed on the little-known islands

of the Galapagos.

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David Attenborough

Sir David Frederick Attenborough (; born 8 May 1926) is an English broadcaster and naturalist. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series that form the Life collection, which form a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. He is a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K.Attenborough is widely considered a national treasure in Britain, although he himself does not like the term. In 2002 he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide poll for the BBC. He is the younger brother of the director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough, and older brother of the motor executive John Attenborough. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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