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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Packs

The BBC's Darwin Season: marking the life and work of Charles Darwin – BBC Two

Darwin season

Jimmy Doherty In Darwin's Garden – due to air early March, 3 x 60minutes

Jimmy Doherty, scientist, farmer and presenter of Jimmy’s Farm, recreates some of Darwin's most groundbreaking experiments to reveal the untold story of Darwin – the creative experimentalist.

Filmed largely in Darwin's garden at Down House in Kent, Jimmy uses his hero's secret notebooks to carry out the experiments that Darwin created after his expedition on The Beagle.

Darwin's experimental ideas ranged from playing a bassoon to earth worms to prove that they have some level of intelligence; putting a poisonous-looking snake in an enclosure of monkeys to investigate their curiosity; and feeding his own urine to insect-eating plants. On the surface, they might seem bizarre but all of them help underpin some of Darwin's most profound ideas about evolutionary theory.

Many of these experiments have never been done since Darwin first designed them 150 years ago and they help Jimmy gain a truly original insight into the theory of evolution.

In the first programme, Jimmy recreates one of Darwin's early experiments – a simple test to see if plant seeds can survive 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 first step in showing how plants could cross oceans and therefore explain the distribution of plants around the world.

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 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. The three-part series explores many other experiments – from the remarkable to the ingenious.

Jimmy also investigates some of the questions Darwin raised – including why do peacocks have such splendid tails and how do orchids have sex?

The series culminates in the investigation and experiments that Darwin conducted to try to show that humans were descended from apes and had evolved just like the rest of the natural world.

Jimmy Doherty In Darwin's Garden has been co-produced with the Open University.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea – written and presented by Andrew Marr – due to air early March 2009, 3 x 60 minutes

Andrew Marr traces the widespread impact of Charles Darwin's work from its inception to the modern day in a new series for BBC Two.

He shows how so much of the way we see the world is fundamentally shaped by Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection is one of the most powerful and influential scientific theories ever proposed.

Its impact has reached far beyond the world of science. It has been used to challenge the place of religion in society and it has been appropriated – and often misappropriated – for political ends.

It has profoundly shaped society, economics and the arts. In Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Andrew Marr explores the impact of Darwin's ideas on religion, politics and our understanding of the natural world.

He traces Darwin's idea across Europe, the United States and to South America where he discovers some of the experiences which shaped Darwin's thinking during his five-year voyage on The Beagle.

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. Most contemporary political cultures subscribe to the idea of human equality.

In the second programme, Marr explores how Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection came to be used and abused throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries to justify notions of racial superiority, imperialist expansion and genocide.

Marr also discovers recent cases where Darwin's theory of natural selection has been combined with genetics and used to eradicate debilitating conditions by screening populations for genetically-based illnesses.

The final episode explores the importance of Darwin's ideas to our understanding of the natural world and the future of the planet.

Marr argues that Charles Darwin is the father of ecology and that the modern environmental movement was built upon his insights. Darwin introduced the idea that extinction was an integral part of evolution and also revealed the interconnectedness of all life on earth. Often, in the past, the combination of Darwin’s ideas with politics has had disastrous social consequences.

In this programme Marr argues that Darwin's revelations about evolution give key insights into the future of humankind and the planet. Marr argues it is the failure to combine these insights with politics that could be leading us to environmental disaster and humanity's own extinction.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea shows how 150 years after the publication of On The Origin Of Species, Charles Darwin's idea remains challenging and disturbing.

Co-produced with the Open University, the series will also be available in high definition on the BBC HD.

Did Darwin Kill God? – due to air April 2009

Did Darwin Kill God? on BBC Two explores whether the theory of evolution undermines belief in God. In the programme, Conor Cunningham, philosopher and theologian at Nottingham University, will argue that it is possible both to accept Darwin's theory of evolution and believe in God.

And coming up on BBC Two later this year...

The Incredible Human Journey – due to air Spring 2009, 5 x 60 minutes

Dr Alice Roberts (Coast, Don't Die Young), travels to the ends of the earth to trace the extraordinary beginnings of the human story in a landmark series for BBC Two – The Incredible Human Journey.

Using the latest genetic, climatic and archaeological evidence, she'll discover the five epic routes our ancestors took across the globe, revealing the obstacles and brutal challenges they encountered along the way.

She will discover where we came from, how our ancestors colonised the world, and how their journeys resulted in the diverse peoples we have come to be today.

Please note: Schedules are subject to change, please keep an eye on weekly TV/Radio listings details for further information

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