Monday, 21 April 2008

Thank you, Sir David

I've just been watching episode 2 of "Life in Cold Blood", which is "Land Invaders". This is about the amphibians, and as usual, it was an hour in which I was transported in wonder to corners of our living world which I'd otherwise never see.

"Life in Cold Blood" is the final in his "Life" series. All told, the series has 79 episodes; beautifully filmed, fascinating and informative, and a window to evolutionary biology for countless of fans. For each series there is a book as well.

Thank you, Sir David Attenborough, and thank you also to the BBC and to all who have worked on these magnificent programs.

I was inspired to write this by the recent brouhaha over "Expelled". There is, at present, a massive debate going on through the blogsphere between fans and critics, and also within the reality-based community on how to respond. There's a lot of breast beating and angst on whether the IDists are better at PR than the evolutionists, and how we should frame the debate, and so on ad infinitum. For my part, I think we should engage Expelled loudly and often; and if it gives them more publicity then so be it. The nonsense is piled sufficiently high and deep that for those who care to look it's obvious, and we must not ignore that or fail to make it easy to find out. (Hat tip: Expelled exposed.)

True believers (on either side) will not be persuaded in the debate, but the middle ground who don't have a lot of exposure to ID will, to a large extent I hope, recognize the failings of Expelled -- even folks who have creationist sympathies. (This view is also expressed by Razib at Gene Expression.)

On the other hand, there's also a role for good old selling of evolutionary biology to the public. There have been questions about how to get the message across; how to sell it; how to frame the information.

All the while, Sir David is putting beauty and excitement and wonder into millions of households all over the world... and it is soaked in evolutionary biology. It's not there as some kind of artificial addition, nor does the series beat viewers over the head with the science. It's there, naturally and without artifice, as part of the whole framework that makes sense of the living world.

Here is one of the many highlights I enjoyed in this episode.

The film crew captured, for the first time, how the caecilian feeds her young. Caecilains are limbless amphibians, and there are are over 170 different species. Because most of these live underground, they are amongst the most poorly known or understood vertebrates. And during the filming of this episode, they discovered that the mother feeds her young by regularly shedding her fat enriched skin, which the babies rip from her body with their tiny especially adapted teeth. (See the footage here: 'Flesh-eating' amphibians filmed at the BBC.)

Thank you, Sir David!

1 comment:

  1. We recently made the leap to HDTV, and just used our Costco annual rebate to purchase a Sony BluRay player. First test will be "Planet Earth" next weekend.