OU on the BBC: Darwin's Dangerous Idea - Life and death

Updated Tuesday 24th February 2009

How do Darwin’s ideas help us understand extinction and the interconnectedness of life and death?

Andrew Marr meets some gorillas Copyrighted image Icon Copyrighted image Copyright: Production team

Life and Death explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on our understanding of the meaning of extinction and the interconnections between all life on earth and the environment.

Darwin learned many lessons from the giant fossils of extinct animals he found in Argentina and Chile. He eventually revealed to us the unpalatable truth that the logical conclusion to evolution is not perfection but extinction. The extinction of one species creates an environmental niche for new species to fill.

Darwin’s theory also gives us vital knowledge we can use to help prolong the existence of our species by respecting the interconnections between all elements of the natural world and the environment. It’s a story in which Darwin’s ideas are taken up with great enthusiasm by his followers throughout the 20th century.

But humanity misses one opportunity after another to acknowledge and reduce its destructive impact on the planet. As a result we have set in motion the sixth mass extinction of life on earth.

And we are running out of time to do something about it by preserving ecological "hotspots" like certain rainforests which are some of the most productive cradles of evolution.

This programme is a warning, but also a celebration, of the knowledge Charles Darwin gave us in his theory of evolution. It confirms that Darwin’s theory continues to inform our understanding of ourselves, our planet and the intricate interconnections between all life on earth.


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