Friday, December 23, 2011

PBS Nova: "What Darwin Never Knew"

On Dec. 21, PBS NOVA  re-aired the 2009 documentary “What Darwin Never Knew”, a good companion piece to “Darwin’s Darkest Hour” (Oct. 7, 2009). The link is here.
One of the most interesting segments is the re-examination of what gives human beings their intellectual advantages.  It’s more turning on of certain genes than their presence, and the fact that smaller skeletal muscles allowed more room for brain development, and more energy to go to it.   But in many ways, carnivores, cetaceans and other primates are like human beings. They are self-aware and have egos.  That is one reason we fascinated with them (especially big cats, it seems). 
The film tackles the incredible diversity of life, and how it could have developed in a relatively short time – much of it in only millions or even hundreds of thousands of years.  What would this say aboutthe likely development of life on other worlds?
One question: Why is there such a stunning diversity of life? One answer: evolution.   
Why did consciousness and self-awareness develop?  To give a reproductive advantage? Or did consciousness come first, drive the universe, and does it recreate itself?

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