The Genius of Charles Darwin Revealed in Three-Part Series by Richard Dawkins

Evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist Richard Dawkins has, over the past decade or so, grown close­ly asso­ci­at­ed in the pub­lic mind with athe­ism, and specif­i­cal­ly with the cause of tak­ing down cre­ation­ism. While he has no doubt court­ed this fame by writ­ing books like The God Delu­sion (wher­aeas thir­ty years ago he wrote books like The Self­ish Gene), we for­get at our own per­il that Dawkins can argue for things as well or bet­ter than he can argue against them. If Dawkins’ intel­lec­tu­al bête noire, the notion that an intel­li­gent design­er delib­er­ate­ly cre­at­ed life on Earth, already holds no appeal for you, you’ll enjoy The Genius of Charles Dar­win, his cel­e­bra­tion of the father of evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry, all the more. Even hard­core cre­ation­ists, in refer­ring to the accep­tance of evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry as “Dar­win­ism,” acknowl­edge the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry nat­u­ral­ist’s exten­sive influ­ence. Dawkins, an even more ardent Dar­win admir­er than he is a cre­ation­ism detrac­tor, lays it unam­bigu­ous­ly out at the begin­ning: “This series is about per­haps the most pow­er­ful idea ever to occur to a human mind. The idea is evo­lu­tion by nat­ur­al selec­tion, and the genius who thought of it was Charles Dar­win.”

This British Broad­cast Award-win­ning Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary series comes in three parts: “Life, Dar­win & Every­thing” (the title a nod to Dawkins’ late friend, Hitch­hik­ers’ Guide to the Galaxy author and biol­o­gy fan Dou­glas Adams), “The Fifth Ape,” and “God Strikes Back.” Begin­ning with the basics, it has Dawkins explain how, exact­ly, species evolve by way of nat­ur­al selec­tion, at one point to a dubi­ous high school class­room. After tak­ing the stu­dents on a field trip to check out the fos­sil record for them­selves, he returns to his colo­nial birth­place of Nairo­bi, Kenya — coin­ci­den­tal­ly, the geo­graph­i­cal ori­gin of homo sapi­ens itself. He explores the reli­gious impli­ca­tions of of evo­lu­tion, the wrong­head­ed nature of what’s called “social Dar­win­ism,” and the even wronger-head­ed nature of eugen­ics. He inter­views fig­ures like evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gist Steven Pinker, Cre­ation Research pres­i­dent John Mack­ay, and Con­cerned Women for Amer­i­ca pres­i­dent Wendy Wright. All have some­thing to say about Dar­win’s obser­va­tion, whether for or against, and if against, Dawkins has a response. Call him over­con­fi­dent if you must, but in a show like this, he cer­tain­ly does take pains to approach his sub­ject from every pos­si­ble angle.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dar­win: A 1993 Film by Peter Green­away

Grow­ing Up in the Uni­verse: Richard Dawkins Presents Cap­ti­vat­ing Sci­ence Lec­tures for Kids (1991)

Richard Dawkins & John Lennox Debate Sci­ence & Athe­ism

Richard Dawkins Explains Why There Was Nev­er a First Human Being

Darwin’s Lega­cy, a Stan­ford course in our col­lec­tion of 650 Free Online Cours­es

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Hanoch says:

    It is a very low bar for Mr. Dawkins to argue “for things as well or bet­ter than he can argue against them”. His anti-reli­gious rants, which he attempts to cloak in the cool ratio­nal­i­ty of sci­en­tif­ic rhetoric, are a sham.

  • Louis Goldworm says:

    What if it is one in the same? If God made man that way, by form­ing him from the dust of the earth into His own Image…

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