Tonight on BBC 2 are the first episodes of two new Darwin series:
Jimmy Doherty, scientist, farmer and presenter of Jimmy’s Farm, recreates some of Darwin’s groundbreaking experiments to reveal the untold story of Darwin – the ingenious experimentalist. Jimmy recreates one of Darwin’s first experiments – a simple test to see if plant seeds can survive in salt water. Darwin aimed to solve the puzzle of how the same plants were found on opposite sides of the oceans. These experiments were a crucial step in showing how plants could cross oceans and therefore explain the distribution of plants around the world. At Down House Jimmy also recreates Darwin’s experiment to demonstrate the struggle for existence between plant seedlings and their natural predators – using nothing more than a patch of turf and a handful of sticks. It was these and other experiments that helped give Darwin the confidence to first publish his seminal work On the Origin of Species in 1859 – which set out his controversial theory of evolution by natural selection.
In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Andrew Marr explores the impact of Darwin’s ideas on religion, politics and our understanding of the natural world. The opening programme looks at Darwin’s impact on religion and morality, and how the great debate about his ideas is still raging. For many Muslims, Jews and fundamentalist Christians his work is still regarded as dangerous heresy. Marr explores this debate about what it really means to be human. He also examines Darwin’s influence on atheism and existentialism. It becomes clear that Darwin’s ideas are as explosive today as they were 150 years ago.