Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life

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David Attenborough is a reality-based person. For example, he sees evolution as the cornerstone of all the programs he has ever made. In this upcoming one-hour special that airs tonight at 9pm on BBCOne in the UK, David shares his personal view on Darwin's controversial idea. If you are one of the lucky ones to see this program (it airs in a few minutes, so turn on that TV!), please share your thoughts about it here, as I am sure us Americans would love to know a little more about what we've missed. [2:01]

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I was lucky enough this evening to have have watched this extraordinary one-hour special on BBC1. Is there any way to purchase a copy (copies)of it on DVD?

By Tom Ganiatsos (not verified) on 01 Feb 2009 #permalink

I did not see the show, but isn't "tree of life" a bit outmoded since any number of creatures, especially unicellular ones, have shared around their DNA. would you agree that "web of life" is better usage?

By biosparite (not verified) on 01 Feb 2009 #permalink

I just tried to order the DVD on the BBC webstore. It says it is to be released 3 Feb, but they will not ship to US.

Sir David Attenborough believes that the tree of life started when "complex molecules clumped together to form cells". This is surely the most inane statement ever made in the name of Science, and is not worthy of a great naturalist. Just how do "complex molecules clump together to form cells" ? I recommend any open minded individual to consider the inanity of this statement. Pick up a good biology textbook and study the complexity of even the simplest cell. This, we are led to believe, spontaneously evolved from a pre-biotic soup. And yet, it must:

1) Allow only certain chemicals to enter and leave the outer membrane
2) Metabolise
3) Reproduce
4) Pass on genetic information

When one considers the staggering molecular complexity of even one of these tasks, the mind boggles. What is even more astounding is that all of the above processes and structures must have been created at once, or not at all. Any rational individual can only conclude that a cell cannot be formed by the random "clumping together of complex molecules" - not even during an infinite timespan because the equilibrium condition is always chaos.

Sir Fred Hoyle calculated that the odds of a single celled organism spontaneously developing from a pre-biotic soup were one in ten to the forty thousandth power. The same probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a jumbo 747. (Evolution from Space 1981). Harold Morowitz put the odds of life evolving into an equilibrium phenomenon even higher â ten to the one hundred billionth power.

Examine the T4 phage virus. The minimum energy configurations of 12 electrons on a sphere produce an icosahedron. Study the whiskers tails and legs and consider the injection method by which it delivers its genetic material. Accident? It looks like the nano-technology of a master hand at work, to me.

Darwin only presents a simplistic theory that is not proven. And science is beginning to question the very notion of his Tree of Life. Perhaps one day we will come to realise that Darwin was only fifty percent right. And the creationists were fifty percent wrong. You are naive to assume, as many have, that this is a simplistic battle with atheists on the one side and creationists on the other. It is not about beliefs. It s about good science. And good science is often heretical. Even to secularists. As a human race, we can no longer allow institutions with vested interests â whether they be academic or political, to pick and chose which parts of the evidence get promoted. It is time we all gave up our preconceived notions about who we are and where we come from. Because only then will we discover what we truly are, and comprehend our true birthright as a fledgling race, about to reach out across the cosmos to those who made us.

By Nicholas Shea (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

I really must complement David Atenenbough on his 1 hour program it was outstanding, at last we now can stand up and say this is were we all come from, he must be so proud to do this for Charles Darwin. I am personally a reluctant atheist with no real belief in a god and indeed belief in god has no place in the Scientific Darwin world. And why should it. The fact that mankind is hear today as a result of evolution should be celebrated and we should also celebrate that Jesus Christ was a man part as we are, of this evolution and that he had evolved to such an extent that he gave the world a message to pass down the generations that followed him we can live our lives with care and understanding for others.

By George Humphrey (not verified) on 08 Feb 2009 #permalink