Pharyngula

Attenborough disses Genesis

Ahh, listen to the sense as well as the pleasant accent…

(via 100 Days of Science)

Comments

  1. #1 PD
    January 30, 2009

    He’s great to watch and listen to.
    Now the poor fella’s gonna be bombarded with even more hate mail.

  2. #2 Alyson Miers
    January 30, 2009

    Blast it, I didn’t hear him diss Genesis. I’m disappointed, I tell you.

  3. #3 Eric the half-bee
    January 30, 2009

    Was there ever another man with such love for the natural world so utterly lacking in sentimentality? His brilliance is that he can lay it all out for us without needing to provide us with an emotional narrative, whether theistic (“It’s all part of a plan that led to us!”) or pseudo-atheistic (Nature as mother, Nature is wise, etc.).

    When I finish a book or documentary by Attenborough I feel elevated, informed, and clean. Some documentarians leave me feeling like I’ve been wading through treacle.

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    January 30, 2009

    How odd it seems to hear a television personality who makes eminent sense about science.

    He addresses evolution and its critics in the only really sensible manner as well, by showing how we have answers through evolution, as well as through other gains in knowledge. Going down the path of trying to answer each stupid objection of the IDiots is a fool’s errand, since they’ll always find a new problem if their earlier problems are properly answered.

    The one trouble with his newest series coming to America, as it must, is that like many Brits he calls evolutionary theory “Darwinism.” Here, it really isn’t.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  5. #5 H.H.
    January 30, 2009

    Attenborough was great, but why did the interviewer feel the need to preface his remarks by stating “Here Attenborough shares his view of Darwin’s brilliant but controversial theory.”

    There. Is. No. Controversy. As Attenborough takes pains to point out, evolution is a fact.

  6. #6 rumleech
    January 30, 2009

    He’s still got it. If it’s possible to be blessed then I feel blessed that I live in at time that has David Attenborough’s influence on my national TV. I wonder if it is at all possible to put him in charge of the internet?

  7. #7 Roger Scott
    January 30, 2009

    He’s one of my heroes. A former colleague was somewhat besotted and would have loved to have been Mrs David A. And she was and is quite a catch herself. (She has one of those lovely Julie Andrews accents that makes me weak at the knees.)

  8. #8 rumleech
    January 30, 2009

    He’s still got it. If it’s possible to be blessed then I feel blessed that I live in at time that has David Attenborough’s influence on my national TV. I wonder if it is at all possible to put him in charge of the internet?

  9. #9 Tom Gray
    January 30, 2009

    Attenborough confuses scientific “theory” with “truth” and does a great disservice to science.

    Darwin was a great scientist and created the basis of one of the most important of scientific theories. However, he did not discover the “truth” even if Attenborough says he did. Evolutionary theory is a theory like any other and is advancing and increasing in usefulness year by year. It makes predictions some of which can be falsified and a) is therefor scientific and b) can thereby be improved

  10. #10 tms
    January 30, 2009

    Interesting, but I found his juxtaposition of a picture of a clear-cut, with his discourse on “wide spread devastation”, to be unfortunate.

    But, perhaps the clear-cut wasn’t the object after all, but rather the monoculture tree farm that used to be a forest. Now that would make sense.

  11. #11 Tom Gray
    January 30, 2009

    Attenborough confuses scientific “theory” with “truth” and does a great disservice to science.

    Darwin was a great scientist and created the basis of one of the most important of scientific theories. However, he did not discover the “truth” even if Attenborough says he did. Evolutionary theory is a theory like any other and is advancing and increasing in usefulness year by year. It makes predictions some of which can be falsified and a) is therefor scientific and b) can thereby be improved

  12. #12 Carl Troein
    January 30, 2009

    In all fairness, Darwin’s ideas were controversial when first introduced. So I suppose you may even call them controversial today, if you consider only those areas of the world where a pre-20th century mindset still prevails.

  13. #13 Jason
    January 30, 2009

    Even though none of the words in the title of this post were actually German, something about it reminds me of the titles of posts in the inexplicable sidebar “Top 5 / Most German”

  14. #14 E.V.
    January 30, 2009

    From Boing Boing:
    A comment from Modusoperandi
    Posted by Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Community Manager, January 30, 2009 12:08 PM | permalink
    Modusoperandi, responding to Markmarkmark in the Attenborough’s response to creationists’ hate mail thread, said:

    One Night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the Lord.
    When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

    This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it: “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you you’d walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

    The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. Also, you’re being intermittently stalked by the Invisible Man.”

  15. #15 Duncan
    January 30, 2009

    Blinkered? I am going to start using that here at work. There are a lot of people that are blind to the obvious.

  16. #16 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2009

    Evolutionary theory is a theory like any other and is advancing and increasing in usefulness year by year. It makes predictions some of which can be falsified and a) is therefor scientific and b) can thereby be improved.

    Sure, for the all-encompassing behemoth of “Evolutionary Theory” writ large. But Darwin’s theory, of evolution by natural selection is demonstrably true. It’s not the whole truth, but it’s nothing but the truth.

  17. #17 Daemonax
    January 30, 2009

    Carl Toein, this is unfortunately probably in every country, whether America, England, Germany or here in New Zealand, there are still stupid people that don’t know what evolution is, and say that it’s a lie among other things.

    Schools need some decent evolution education, and critical thinking being taught to students.

  18. #18 Jimminy Christmas
    January 30, 2009

    How dare Attenborough diss Genesis! They had a number of excellent songs in the 1980s. Invisible Touch and Duke are both great albums.

  19. #19 bigjohn756
    January 30, 2009

    David Attenborough is only 12 years older than I. I feel so absolutely, unequivocally inadequate. I have no excuse.

  20. #20 Peter McGrath
    January 30, 2009

    Alyson, he gave Genesis some urbane beans on BBC Radio 5 Live today. The podcast of the interview is here.

  21. #21 Tom L
    January 30, 2009

    +1 on the dismay over casual talk of “theory vs fact.” I hate to see the IDiots getting any opportunity to chew holes in the good reputation of “theory,” making it some beggar’s relative of truth rather than being the best available explanation.

  22. #22 Tulse
    January 30, 2009

    E.V., that wins my week. Hi-larious!

  23. #23 Janine, Supercilious Asshole
    January 30, 2009

    Jimminy Christmas, we are going to have to disagree. Stick with Peter Gabriel era Genesis.

  24. #24 dahduh
    January 30, 2009

    What accent?

  25. #25 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2009

    Lamb Lies Down, baby.

  26. #26 Synchronium
    January 30, 2009

    If I were David Attenborough, I’d deliberately get savaged by some kind of wildebeest/sea creature when I’d had enough of it all.

    Euthanasia with a bit of a kick – his place in history would be assured.

  27. #27 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 30, 2009

    Even though none of the words in the title of this post were actually German, something about it reminds me of the titles of posts in the inexplicable sidebar “Top 5 / Most German”

    Please explain.

  28. #28 Felicia Gilljam
    January 30, 2009

    Re #27 – No way. That’s way too Irwin. Attenborough needs a more dignified end.

    Re the whole fact vs theory thing – Evolution is both a theory and a fact so it’d be nice if A. stopped claiming it’s not the former. But really – when it comes to someone who has done such an extraordinary job for the public understanding of science, I just can’t find it in me to be that picky. He’s one of the good guys. He’s not a scientist so he’s not gonna get the science lingo perfectly correct, but that’s not his job. His job is to get people interested without being misled and that, he does better than pretty much anyone.

  29. #29 BigBob
    January 30, 2009

    I used to sit with my Dad and watch Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries when I was a kid decades ago, and Sir David has always been around inspiring us and sharing his experiences of the natural world. In my view, he can do no wrong. BTW click on my name to see Sir David’s encounter with the family of a Silverback Gorilla. A classic from BBC Worldwide.

  30. #30 Thunderbird5
    January 30, 2009

    #7

    Possibly :) but Sir David WAS the man in charge of BBC2 when it launched in 1969 (I think) – he was a career TV executive who happened also to be a natural history expert.

    BBC2 was the UK’s 3rd TV station and designed to offer an alternative to the more mainstream BBC1 with more specialist and less populist programmes, especially for the arts and sciences. He was responsible for giving the Monty Pythons their break with their series as being worthy of a BBC2 slot for their challenging originality.

    His own first big series was the 1978 Life on Earth. A milestone in natural history programming, it was a dozen hour-long shows filmed all over the world with astonishing, breath-taking skill by the BBC wildlife unit based at Bristol. It was the story of the evolution of life on earth.

    Attenborough was a proponent of giving people ‘what they didn’t know they wanted.’ For the first programme, millions of households tuned in that October night to watch the the first programme on the origins and building blocks of life – DNA and ‘an hour on green slime’ as one high-up BBC2 executive had dismissively described it. That these millions (a 12 year me and my family included) sat entranced – even as many of them may have struggled a little at first but were rewarded with his gentle clarity and authority and wistful enthusiasm – and came back next week and the week after in ever higher numbers is just testament to this brilliant and beloved man.

  31. #31 Mena
    January 30, 2009

    Well, they were better in the 80′s and 90′s, right after Peter Gabriel left.
    ;^D

  32. #32 Clare
    January 30, 2009

    #22 and others

    If David Attenborough were on board with the notion of speaking insanely precisely about science so as not to give religious people an excuse to overreact.. well, he would be boring and tedious to listen to. There is a time and place for precise speaking, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be once you have someone tuned in and listening honestly, not when you’re going to bore all the armchair science fans to tears with unnecessarily specific language and the loons are still going to write you an angry letter.

    Interest first, technical understanding later – surely how every scholar should begin?

  33. #33 Luke
    January 30, 2009

    @ E.V. (#15):

    I like David Cross’s version of that story:

    The man asks “Jesus, sometimes there was only one set of footprints in the sand. Where where you then?”
    Jesus replies “That was when I was taking care of one of the other SIX BILLION PEOPLE, you selfish asshole.”

  34. #34 E.V.
    January 30, 2009

    Peter Gabriel?!! Oh hell, I got confused and thought he was dissin’ Journey.

  35. #35 Carlie
    January 30, 2009

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one who sees the “Most German” posts in the sidebar! I still can’t figure out if Seed thinks my IP is European half the time or what.

  36. #36 Roger Williams
    January 30, 2009

    Very disappointing. Attenborough hints that there are many facts that support Darwin’s theory, but the only one he actually describes is changes in ammonite fossils. His only critique of Genesis is its “Man has dominion over the natural world” arrogance–a stance that surely was accepted by almost all scientists until quite recently.
    This is a mostly contentless blurb (for a series that presumably will be much more cogent).

  37. #37 John Morales
    January 30, 2009

    Carlie, I too get the “TOP FIVE / MOST GERMAN” stuff* – it happens when I follow a link from this blog to another Pharyngula entry in the English top five. It doesn’t happen when I follow a link for one of the recent comments, though. I think it’s a bug.

    * Lotto als ein “Geschicklichkeitsspiel”? [Geograffitico] is the top one ATM.

  38. #38 the Rev Jerry Gloryhole
    January 30, 2009

    Hmm…Genesis 1, where man is created last, or Genesis 2, where he’s created first? Which is the literal Word of God?

    Actually, the OT makes excellent toilet paper.
    Don’t use the New Testament, because it burns.

    And another vote for Gabriel.

  39. #39 Horrabin
    January 30, 2009

    Hey, there was a promo on that video for “Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life”. Didn’t they see that magazine cover that said DARWIN WAS WRONG about the tree of life?

    As for that footprints in the sand thing, my favorite version is still Bullshit, Jesus, Those Are Obviously My Footprints

  40. #40 black wolf
    January 30, 2009

    you know what’s funny?
    I’m actually in Germany and don’t get the infamous ‘Most German’ thing at all. I’ve never seen it. I have an active script-blocker though. But it can’t be the IP.

  41. #41 valdemar squelch
    January 30, 2009

    Now I can stop apologising for bloody Bryan Appleyard. Sir David Attenborough is a true national treasure, and as a Brit I am proud that we can still punch above our weight in science. Unfortunately, our government’s imbecilic education policies mean this won’t be true for much longer.

  42. #42 Kimpatsu
    January 30, 2009

    The interviewer was Adam Rutherford, another sound thinker who writes a regular science column for the Guardian. I recommend checking him out as well.

  43. #43 black wolf
    January 30, 2009

    correction, now I get Most German too.

  44. #44 Mal Adapted
    January 30, 2009

    Yeah, Phil Collins is a clever composer of catchy tunes, but Peter Gabriel is by far the deeper thinker.

    Was it really more than 30 years ago that Life on Earth was first aired? Dang, time flies when you’re getting old 8^(!

  45. #45 RedGreenInBlue
    January 30, 2009

    Felicia Gilljam,

    Re #27 – No way. That’s way too Irwin. Attenborough needs a more dignified end.

    I think a deathbed recantation would be the way to go…

    <run direction=”away” speed=”fast”>

    …if not, at least he’ll be good company when we all end up in Hell with him :-)

  46. #46 rubberband
    January 30, 2009

    Moving a continent is easier than changing the opinion of the willfully ignorant.

  47. #47 Jeeves
    January 30, 2009

    Some of these comments remind me of the Jimmy Carr joke.

    “Some people take the word of Genesis literally. I don’t even think Phil Collins is a very good drummer.”

  48. #48 Tom Morris
    January 30, 2009

    For those who’ve never seen any David Attenborough programmes, you’ve missed out. The man is a hero and is probably responsible for a lot of biologists. I was given a paperback copy of “Life on Earth”, a beautifully illustrated accompanying book to the TV series, at a young age. Must dig it out sometime.

    Here’s a YouTube clip of David Attenborough describing penguin mating and offspring raising habits – http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=B71T_GpA2AM

  49. #49 AnthonyK
    January 30, 2009

    Yes, a national treasure, all right.
    But Hey, there was a most interesting programme the other night, and I’d love to know what biologists thought of it, What Darwin Didn’t Know presented by Armand Leroi:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00h6sbt/What_Darwin_Didnt_Know/
    Lots of evo/devo ,and stuff like that. Anyone here seen it, and could comment?

  50. #50 Gordy
    January 30, 2009

    One of my earliest TV memories is of the whole family sitting down to watch Life On Earth together every week when it first aired. Three decades later the Blue Planet and Planet Earth DVD box sets are on their way to me courtesy of Amazon. David Attenborough certainly is a national treasure, a thoroughly nice bloke and he’s not afraid to upset one or two people by telling it like it is. Glad you like the accent, too :)

  51. #51 rubberband
    January 30, 2009

    It’s easier to shift a continent than to change the opinion of a willfully ignorant person.

    I suppose Attenborough is aware of this, but sometimes I guess we have to make the effort.

    By the way, am I the only one who nearly got a tear in my eye from this geezer’s enthusiasm over a blue whale?

  52. #52 rubberband
    January 30, 2009

    It’s easier to shift a continent than to change the opinion of a willfully ignorant person.

    I suppose Attenborough is aware of this, but sometimes I guess we have to make the effort.

    By the way, am I the only one who nearly got a tear in my eye from this geezer’s enthusiasm over a blue whale?

  53. #53 rubberband
    January 30, 2009

    apologies for double, er triple post.

  54. #54 JohnnieCanuck
    January 30, 2009

    AnthonyK,

    Your link to the iPlayer site is not useful outside the UK. Copyright lawyers strike again.

  55. #55 Quidam
    January 30, 2009

    I am proud to have appeared on BBC with David Attenborough in 1978. He presented the film we made of our Speleological Expedition to Turkey.

    Back then if anyone had told me that large numbers of educated people would seriously doubt evolution or thought the world was a few thousand years old, I wouldn’t have believed it. I can’t believe how far backwards we’ve gone in thirty years.

  56. #56 JCfromNC
    January 31, 2009

    I, too, am getting the “Most German” sidebar.

    OK, “most germane” I could understand. But “most German”? What, are these only the posts that are 51% or higher in German content or something?

    Personally, I think some webmaster out there got a memo that said something to the effect of “we need a most german (sic) sidebar to point traffic to related posts”, knew they meant “germane”, and decided to tweak someone’s nose.

  57. #57 uncle frogy
    January 31, 2009

    the facts of evolution and the all the facts that support it are overwhelming and it is just not creditable that everyone does not understand it but they don’t!
    I think that he put his finger on the biggest obstacle for the fundamentalists from ever accepting it.
    It is the “statement” the man was given by god dominion over nature. which Darwin in describing evolution completely displaces from the “purpose” of life and the universe. We just are one of many things, just one of many events in time.
    I was listening to a discussion on the radio about global warming while I was working the other day and the “religious” guy was insistent that what ever solution we came up with it should have man as the most important.
    I had forgotten about that kind of thinking as it is clearly wrong the universe has no vested interest in us what so ever that is clear!!
    great post
    (http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp090129is_the_fight_against/media_player_archives?action=listen)

  58. #58 Chris Hughes
    January 31, 2009

    Sir David has the language — YOU have the accents….

  59. #59 Samphire
    January 31, 2009

    Tom Gray | January 30, 2009 4:42 PM

    Attenborough confuses scientific “theory” with “truth” and does a great disservice to science.

    No he doesn’t. Attenborough elsewhere makes the distinction between the fact of evolution and the theory, the mechanisms by which all living things evolve.

  60. #60 GS
    January 31, 2009

    Sir David Attenborough on God:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVtHODi93FE

  61. #61 Peter Mc
    January 31, 2009

    Valdemar Squalch: “Unfortunately, our government’s imbecilic education policies mean this won’t be true for much longer.”

    And the BBC’s imbecilic commissioning policies mean that post-Attenborough the natural history output is going downhill like a fat bloke in a shopping trolley. If you want to provoke a bout of self-harming, watch The Blue Planet (Attenborough, the Natural History UNit in its pomp), then find a clip (do NOT spend any money on it) of their most recent gob of broadcast vomit Oceans. They do co-productions with the Open University and they are are teachy, preachy and politically correct at a T. And shit.

  62. #62 Tarvu
    January 31, 2009

    Attenborough is obviously a tarvuist.

  63. #63 Svetogorsk
    January 31, 2009

    There’s a lovely interview with Attenborough in today’s Guardian – the twist being that the interviewer is a five-year-old girl.

    And what’s great about it is that Attenborough answers her questions entirely appropriately, in language that she’d understand, without once talking down to her.

  64. #64 Brian Macker
    January 31, 2009

    As much as I like Attenborough the notion that Genesis is the cause of human expansion into animal habitat, or as he puts it “devastation of vast areas of the lands surface” is ludicrous. He even admits it in the next sentence “of course it’s a gross oversimplification”.

    So I listened and thought, “That’s it? That’s his criticism of Genesis? Weak. Very weak. Heck, science bears more blame for enabling the technologies it does. Eco nuts who want to do away with technology have a better case.”

  65. #65 Marc Abian
    January 31, 2009

    If I was interested in getting an Attenborough series, which one should I get?

  66. #66 Svetogorsk
    January 31, 2009

    To be honest, at this quality level, it’s hard to pick a favourite, as it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with any of them.

    If you want to start from the beginning, Life on Earth.

    If you have a Blu-ray player, Planet Earth.

    If you have any specific interests, The Life of Birds, The Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood (reptiles), Life in the Undergrowth (insects), Life in the Freezer (polar), Blue Planet (underwater).

    But in all seriousness, just pick the one you first stumble upon – they’re all amazing.

  67. #67 Bootlegger
    January 31, 2009

    I checked BBC America’s website and found no info on when this show might air in the US. I’d love to show it to my son.

    He came home from school the other day (2nd grade) with the revelation that their were “big holes” in the fossil record. They were studying fossils that week. Later in the week a substitute told them all about the cool animatronic dinosaurs at the Creation Museum. She didn’t explain that humans would be in the display, just lots of “really cool dinosaur stuff”. The kid loves nature shows and listens intently to my explanations so any help is welcomed.

  68. #68 Roxanne
    January 31, 2009

    “Attenborough” was the first multi-syllable name I could correctly pronounce as a child. really. I remember watching “The Secret Life of Plants”… mesmerized…and promptly digging up my mother’s garden to examine the roots, leaves, and flowers that abounded there. I also remember getting spanked.

    imagine my disappointment when Planet Earth was shown on Discovery HD… and it was a monotonous Sygourney Weaver, and not the thought provoking David Attenborough, I heard. WTF??? I simply cannot understand why the American release of Planet earth had her as the narrator… can someone please please please explain?

    I half expected to see Alien in the rainforest during her narration…

  69. #69 Carlie
    January 31, 2009

    Don’t forget Trials of Life. Although it’s a bit more sensationalistic than many of the others, it also addresses evolution a little more directly.

  70. #70 Quidam
    January 31, 2009

    #64 Today’s Guardian

    Joe: Mummy, when are we going to go in David Attenborough’s bedroom?
    Mum: [Laughs] We’re not, Joe, we’re not. Right, what was your next question, Katie? It was about zebras.

    Awwwwwwww! They say the cutest things

  71. #71 mh
    January 31, 2009

    I too am finding that interview in The Guardian adorable. Especially the bit where he wonders when it is children learn to read. I’m sure I could read at the age of five… when do kids learn to read these days? I’m only 25, has it changed that much?

  72. #72 piratebrido
    January 31, 2009

    Sir David Attenborough is the best thing that has ever happened to UK television. Everytime he does a show he captivates three generations of Britons. He has to be our greatest treasure. If I had a cap I would doff it!

  73. #73 Svetogorsk
    January 31, 2009

    I’m sure I could read at the age of five… when do kids learn to read these days?

    My son’s five, and he can read quite well – he’s known his way around the alphabet for at least the past year. My daughter’s three, and she gets the idea of reading, but I don’t think she’s progressed beyond numbers.

    Sir David Attenborough is the best thing that has ever happened to UK television.

    In all seriousness, I think David Attenborough is a major reason why Britain isn’t anything like as hung up about the whole evolution/creationism thing. Everyone under 50 will have grown up with his work being screened on a regular basis (broadcast in peak hours to massive ratings). I don’t think it’s exaggerating too much to say that more people in Britain genuinely worship David Attenborough than worship an imaginary deity – he really is that popular, as demonstrated by the fact that the news about him getting hate mail became a major story in the ultra-populist Sun newspaper.

  74. #74 DebinOz
    January 31, 2009

    Not a big fan of Genesis, but ‘Shock the Monkey’ by Peter Gabriel was the bomb!

  75. #75 Sondra
    January 31, 2009

    Speaking of Genesis; about the plague of locusts…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/science/03obswarm.html?_r=1
    Serotonin May Be Key to Controlling Locusts

    By HENRY FOUNTAIN
    Published: January 29, 2009
    Serotonin is at it again.
    The ubiquitous neurotransmitter, which moderates all kinds of behaviors in all kinds of animals (including humans), has now been shown to be responsible for turning desert locusts from stand-offish loners into super-gregarious pests.
    The discovery, published today in the journal Science, may lead to methods to block the formation of locust swarms. These infestations, which can cover hundreds of square miles and involve billions of vegetation-munching insects, can devastate agriculture and cost tens of millions of dollars to control.
    As dwindling supplies of food force locusts to crowd together, the insects shift in just a few hours from a mutual repulsion phase, in which they avoid other locusts, to a mutual attraction phase, in which they start banding together in ever-large groups. Earlier research discovered the sensory stimuli behind this shift: the sight and smell of other locusts, and movement of the hind legs as the insects jostle each other. (In addition to the behavioral shift, the locust?s appearance also changes.)
    The new research, by Michael L. Anstey of the University of Oxford, Stephen M. Rogers, now of the University of Cambridge, and colleagues, shows the chemical basis for the change in behavior.
    The researchers discovered that the time frame for the behavioral change correlated well with an increase in serotonin in the thoracic ganglia, part of the central nervous system. They then showed that if the production or action of serotonin was blocked in solitary locusts, those insects would never undergo a behavioral shift.
    ?To us this really was the Eureka! moment,? Dr. Anstey said in a telephone news conference announcing the finding. Scientists had struggled to understand swarming behavior for decades, he said, ?and now all of a sudden we understand the process enough to stop it from happening.?
    Dr. Rogers said the discovery opens a line of research into ways of blocking specific serotonin receptors, ?something that would allow us to break apart these swarms before they develop.?

  76. #76 Ragutis
    January 31, 2009

    Posted by: H.H. | January 30, 2009 4:37 PM

    Attenborough was great, but why did the interviewer feel the need to preface his remarks by stating “Here Attenborough shares his view of Darwin’s brilliant but controversial theory.”

    There. Is. No. Controversy. As Attenborough takes pains to point out, evolution is a fact.

    There is a controversy, so it’s controversial.

    Yes, the controversy is manufactured, baseless, and full of shit, but there is a controversy. That doesn’t make evolution any less of a fact though. Reality has a stubborn knack for persisting despite doubt and ignorance.

  77. #77 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 31, 2009

    Why does it matter who speaks? Does UVM withhold your degree if you don’t attend commencement? My university didn’t.

    It’s a ritual, no more or less meangingful than any of the rituals the old charlatans at the local church put you through. The real accomplishment was getting the 120 hours of study done – the rest is pomp and circumstance, empty of any real substance.

    Let Stein talk – spend your time doing something more important than listening to him. Like clipping your nose hair…

    manufactroversy.

    There isn’t a controversy among the people in the field about the fact of evolution. Only about the some of mechanisms.

  78. #78 Last Hussar
    January 31, 2009

    Johnny Cannuck- Its not copyright lawyers as such, its the BBC restricting viewing to those of us who actually pay to watch it.

  79. #79 marko
    February 1, 2009

    rubberband:

    “By the way, am I the only one who nearly got a tear in my eye from this geezer’s enthusiasm over a blue whale?”

    Raises hand ? but then, blue whales aren’t the biggest creatures in the world. I’ve read on one of those top-ten lists and heard in a science podcast that trees, in fact a whole forest of interconnected trees somewhere in the U.S. constitutes the biggest creature.

    But enough nitpicking. Sir Attenborough’s elation in that scene is really contagious.

  80. #80 Kel
    February 1, 2009

    Regarding evolution and controversy – of course the theory is controversial, just not among those who actually matter.

  81. #81 Si-ence
    February 1, 2009

    marko:

    If you’re going to nitpick you should really take the time to note that “creature” is a term used to describe a living organism characterised by voluntary movement. Trees move, but not voluntarily.

  82. #82 paperboy
    February 1, 2009

    Dear fellow Atheists,

    The time of our resurrection will come soon; in my home country of the Netherlands, some nitwits of religion have actually taken the trouble of starting an “anti-evolution theory” print campaign. Well, let me rephrase this: they will start distributing over 6.5 million copies in February of pamphlets stating that the Evolution theory is just another “belief”. A seizable amount of influential Christians have come up with the idea that pre-, middle- and high school children are entitled to or should be eligible for both ‘theories’: Creation and Evolution.
    And the beauty of it all, they will deliver the pamphlets to all households in the Netherlands, unless you’ve been able to acquire a sticker on your front door that unequivocally states you don’t want to receive the pro-Creation pamphlet.
    Like they will care!
    I personally find it’s just frustrating, because apart from the fact that the ‘stickers’ have long been sold out, the whole idea is just too much: another sign on the wall that Christians are being discriminated in favour of non-believers. What’s going on?
    But my fellow Atheists, our time will come when pro-creation actions like described above, will give us momentum in finding ways of letting the theists know we’re still here, and we’re the fuck not dodging!
    I say: Let’s start a worldwide initiative to distribute a counter campaign, and let the Spain atheist-buses guide us to resurrecting our scientifically correct attitude towards the origins of life.

    Or maybe it’s just me who’s frustrated….

  83. #83 AdamRutherford
    February 1, 2009

    H.H. and others, Hi, I was the interviewer, and it’s me doing the v/o at the beginning. Perhaps it isn’t clear the way I worded it, apologies. But you can’t deny that ToE has *caused* controversy. PZ’s blog would be mainly admin for undergrads otherwise.

    Hey! Joke!

  84. #84 Chris
    February 2, 2009

    Cool…

    Just a pity when it ended, up popped the additional 15 videos linked to it – and in with them is “The myth of evolution and the lies of David Attenborough” by revholland1… Calling DA ignorant or dishonest…

    /Am getting annoyed with Creationist spanners such as revholland1

  85. #85 AndyD
    February 2, 2009

    Regarding evolution and controversy – of course the theory is controversial, just not among those who actually matter.

    In a case like this, those that know there’s no controversy because evolution is a fact, don’t matter. Those who know there’s no controversy because evolution is a lie, don’t matter.

    The people “who actually matter” are those who don’t know much about the “evolution debate” but who are being told there is a controversy. Parents and teenagers are surely the target audience for something like this and if Attenborough can’t pull them to our side, no one can.

    I hope we get this in Oz soon. Anyone know if it’s due?

  86. #86 John Phillips, FCD
    February 2, 2009

    @Peter Mc. I have to agree with you to some extent. I watched the first episode of Oceans in disbelief at how bad it was, though to be fair, later episodes were better. Then again, they would have had to go some to be worse than the first. Though some of the OU collaborations, such as the Ring Of Fire geology series and the like have been quite good.

    At one time, I would, almost without thinking, automatically pre-order any BBC wildlife or science program DVDs, often before a series had even finished airing. Unfortunately, the program quality is so mixed nowadays that I wait to watch them on iPlayer first now rather than possibly waste my money.

    BTW, I actually watched live TV for the first time in a long time last night and David Attenborough’s Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life was excellent and well worth the hour.

  87. #87 BigBob
    February 2, 2009

    Bootlegger #68

    My kids and I sympathise. ‘Educator’ will remain a primary role in both our lives for the forseeable future. Visit youtube from time to time for good science material, you can always search on Attenborough there and of course any of his titles as discussed above. Never let a creationist ‘teacher’ get a shot past you. Not even one.

  88. #88 marko
    February 16, 2009

    Si-ence (#82): I accept the rebuke and stand partly corrected.

    I thought creature means living thing, and Wikipedia (mother of all internets truth, TM) agrees with me. But on Wiktionary, we read “3. A living being that moves of its own volition.” That would, for any sensible interpretation of “volition”, be true for whales, but less for groups of trees.

  89. #89 Zachary
    March 19, 2009

    Unfortunately for those hopeful of an increase in a scientific understanding of our origin, there has, if anything, been a recent religious resurgence in the world DESPITE the discovery of DNA, carbon-dating and continental drift.

    Why is it acceptable to teach faith to children before their minds are fully developed? At least let them reach rationality. At least give them a chance.

    Another great series aired on the BBC recently is ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’. Not a critique, as it sounds, but a history of both the ‘idea’ and the consequences (eg eugenics). Off the topic of Sir David, I’ve just realised, but it’s typed now and a good recommendation.

    And actually, Sir David only started dissing Genesis when Tony Banks sported a fake moustache for the ‘Illegal Alien’ video. He loved this, for example…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_L-S-0Gc4I

  90. #90 hery
    January 25, 2010

    I feel so absolutely, unequivocally inadequate. I have no excuse