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  • Once, people thought God had created the world and every living thing,

  • each with a purpose in an ordered universe over which our creator presided,

  • rewarding good deeds and punishing sin.

  • Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection

  • blew a hole in this comfortable explanation of life

  • and faced us with a blindingly obvious yet disturbing truth -

  • humans don't have dominion over animals.

  • We are animals.

  • We are the fifth ape.

  • But even Darwin hesitated to say this out loud.

  • It throws into question our trust in our fellow human beings.

  • Are our morals and manners just a veneer?

  • Since a struggle for existence drives evolution,

  • why don't we humans run an entirely dog-eat-dog world?

  • How about genocide and ethnic cleansing?

  • Are they some kind of survival strategy?

  • In this programme, I want to confront

  • the issue that Darwin skirted around in The Origin Of Species,

  • the evolution of human beings.

  • I want to ask what it means for us to be evolved.

  • The question is more urgent than ever.

  • Increasingly, religious people and others attack Darwinism for, in their view,

  • excusing selfishness and barbarism.

  • Throughout my career, I've wrestled with how to reconcile my liberal values

  • with what Darwin revealed to be the pitiless war of nature.

  • So now I'm going to take you into the Darwinian heart of darkness

  • and look for answers...

  • and for hope.

  • Natural selection is the driving force of our evolution,

  • but that doesn't mean that society ought to be run on Darwinian lines.

  • As a scientist, I'm thrilled by natural selection,

  • but as a human being, I abhor it as a principle for organising society.

  • Evolution by natural selection is a very simple idea.

  • Over thousands of generations, in a struggle for existence,

  • successful variations have survived to reproduce,

  • the process that gradually carves life into more and more specialised forms.

  • Life forms that include the apes -

  • gibbons, orang-utans, gorillas, chimps...and us.

  • Here, at London Zoo, back in the 1830s,

  • the arrival of the first apes outraged polite society.

  • Queen Victoria, for one, found them painfully and disagreeably human.

  • But another visitor was spellbound.

  • The young Charles Darwin saw the unmistakable truth

  • staring back at him from the other side of the cage.

  • The uncanny familiarity of ape hands

  • and the humanity we seem to glimpse in their eyes

  • was, for Darwin, further evidence to support the idea of evolution,

  • that all life was related.

  • The African apes, he realised, were our closest evolutionary cousins.

  • East Africa - my birthplace and, rather more importantly,

  • the birthplace of the human species itself.

  • Between five and six million years ago,

  • there lived in Africa an ape who had two children.

  • One of those children was destined to give rise to us,

  • the other was destined to give rise to the chimpanzees.

  • If I stood here and held my mother's hand,

  • and she held her mother's hand,

  • and she held her mother's hand, and so on,

  • back to the grand ancestor of all humans and all chimpanzees,

  • how far would the line stretch?

  • The answer is about 300 miles.

  • Over that surprisingly short distance,

  • the fossil record shows evidence of extraordinary changes.

  • The palaeontologist Richard Leakey and his family

  • have uncovered the hard evidence in Kenya's Rift Valley,

  • evidence that charts the evolution of our ancient human ancestors.

  • About 1.9 million years ago,

  • you have skulls like this turning up.

  • This is what they were calling Homo habilis.

  • Largish brains, still got a flat, big face,

  • and probably ancestral to Homo erectus, which turns up in Africa

  • at about 1.8 million years.

  • This, then, is the ancestor to Homo sapiens.

  • This persists for almost a million years, this condition,

  • and then it gives way to something with an even larger brain -

  • things that are much more like ourselves.

  • These whopping great vaults.

  • The brain has really expanded.

  • It's much more like a modern human brain in terms of size

  • and in terms of shape,

  • and by the time you get to this,

  • all of these others have disappeared from the fossil record.

  • So all the major steps in the human story are, in fact, told in Africa.

  • I often meet people who say to me, "Nobody's going to tell me I'm an ape."

  • Is there a kind of visceral revulsion? Do you meet that, as well?

  • Yes, I do, but it seems to be so misplaced

  • because, as you know, we are the fifth ape.

  • We never separated from the apes, we just do things differently.

  • I've often found it fun to go to an ape exhibit in one of the big zoos

  • and you can watch people looking at a group of chimpanzees,

  • and what is very clear, if you watch their facial expression,

  • you can see that they're not so sure that that ape's like them

  • but they can look around and say, "There's a similarity

  • "between the person on the other side of the cage."

  • We're closer to chimps, African chimps,

  • than a horse is to an ass.

  • Horses and asses put together produce offspring.

  • "Wow!" says everybody. "Are you...?"

  • "Yeah, I am."

  • It's an unsettling thought.

  • In evolutionary terms, we're so closely related to chimps

  • that it's not ridiculous to ask

  • whether we might still be able to breed with them.

  • We're the human animal,

  • upright, big-brained ape cousins who evolved to out-think the competition.

  • As a biologist, I've wondered at the challenging implications of this,

  • what it tells us about human society now.

  • But over half the people on Earth

  • are so horrified by what Darwinism reveals about our origins,

  • they just refuse to believe it.

  • I'm an ape. Are you an ape?

  • No, I'm not, I'm a human being.

  • I'm on a journey exploring the dark side of Darwinism.

  • I want to confront what it means for us

  • to have evolved in nature's brutal struggle.

  • Why should the fifth ape love thy neighbour?

  • The thought of our animal origins can upset people.

  • Read The Origin Of Species, Darwin's masterpiece

  • that set out his theory of evolution,

  • and you will find only a handful of passing references to human origins.

  • That man was made in God's image,

  • having dominion over the animals,

  • defined what it meant to be human,

  • so discussing human evolution was just too risky.

  • Darwin shied away from it

  • and simply wrote near the end,

  • "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."

  • But when the book came to be published in 1859,

  • the buzz was all about the extraordinary implications for mankind.

  • Were we just beasts in fancy dress?

  • Evolution become known as "the monkey theory".

  • The row has not gone away.

  • In Kenya, the cradle of mankind,

  • religious groups are trying to block the opening

  • of the National Museum's exhibit of human fossils.

  • The fossil record of human ancestry has a particular fascination.

  • To me, these are far more precious than the Crown Jewels.

  • This is the Turkana Boy.

  • Homo erectus, 1.5 million years old.

  • The most complete ancient human skeleton ever found.

  • It's one of the most precious relics in any museum

  • anywhere in the world.

  • It would be an enormous pity if there were any pressure

  • not to allow it to be seen.

  • CHOIR SINGS A PRAISE SONG

  • The ten-million-strong Evangelical movement in Kenya

  • has run a hide-the-bones campaign.

  • By coincidence, I was born right next door to the church

  • where the protest is being led by Bishop Bonifes Adoyo.

  • Bishop, how do you do? Very nice of you to agree to this meeting.

  • Same here to meet the great professor.

  • Let's go in, shall we?

  • I was born just over the road, there.

  • No, I'm told over the other side.

  • Well, we'll have to work that out.

  • Yeah, yeah.

  • 'It was clear that we weren't going to see eye-to-eye from the beginning.'

  • I'm an ape. Are you, Bishop?

  • I'm not. I definitely am not.

  • (LAUGHS)

  • I'm special.

  • Made in the image of God, in the creative mind of God,

  • creative as God is, who made me.

  • That's the difference between the ape and me.

  • Well, I'm an ape. I'm an African ape.

  • I'm very proud to be an African ape, and so should you be.

  • Don't you think the evidence should be displayed

  • for all to see and make up their own minds?

  • Sure.

  • You are against displaying it.

  • Everybody should make up their own mind.

  • No, I am not against the display,

  • I am against the attachment of the evolution theory to the display.

  • See, that's all we're talking about.

  • You'd be happy for them to be displayed but not the evolutionary messages?

  • They are complete human being skulls.

  • Well, not really.

  • They're very much smaller than ours and they've got very much less brain.

  • The three-million-year-old one had the same-sized brain as chimpanzees.

  • They were kind of chimpanzees on their hind legs,

  • so it was a first step towards becoming human.

  • The next step was then, in the Turkana Boy,

  • to have a bigger brain,

  • and the final step was to have an even bigger brain, like us.

  • If that's where we originated

  • and evolved into this stage,

  • why aren't those chimpanzees also evolving...into man?

  • Why aren't they extinct?

  • Because by the time they developed to this level, they should have been extinct.

  • No, that's not the way evolution works.

  • We're not descended from them.

  • We are cousins of them.

  • So we and they go back to a common ancestor.

  • There are the chimpanzees, there's us.

  • We go back to a common ancestor.

  • Now, that common ancestor was not a chimpanzee and it was not a human,

  • it was something else.

  • And it evolved towards being a chimpanzee and in a different direction,

  • it evolved towards being a human.

  • So chimpanzees have been evolving all that time,

  • and humans have been evolving all that time,

  • and they'll probably both go on evolving but we can't predict where that will go.

  • 'Our discussion now threw up an important point about evolution.'

  • So what is the goal of evolution? What is the ultimate goal?

  • Is it for us to have big heads?

  • There is no goal.

  • No goal?

  • It just happens.

  • That doesn't answer my question.

  • Where are we heading to?

  • I mean, up to where shall we say that this is the limit?

  • It doesn't have goals.

  • It's a misunderstanding to say evolution has goals. It never had. It just changes.

  • This is crucial. To understand evolution by natural selection,

  • you have to grasp that it is not a grand scheme with goals.

  • It's a harsh, unguided process

  • which simply favours those that are most successful

  • at passing on their genes.

  • It has no morality or purpose.

  • And we humans are just one of its products.

  • Darwin took man off his pedestal and made him an animal, like all others.

  • We evolved in the ruthless competition of nature.

  • So what does that mean for us and our society?

  • To begin to grapple with this problem,

  • we have to understand what nature is in all its brutal glory.

  • It looks like nature in harmony.

  • Actually, as Darwin realised,

  • there's a struggle out there.

  • All the players are working for their own benefit

  • and because they are surrounded by others working for their own benefit,

  • they tend to exploit each other.

  • In the shady forest,

  • all the plants are struggling to get to the light.

  • Big trees pay the price legitimately

  • by growing up to the sun.

  • But this strangler fig does a very strange and cruel thing.

  • It started life high up in the tree from a seed,

  • perhaps dropped by a fruit-eating monkey.

  • It then sent roots down towards the ground

  • in order to get nourishment from the ground.

  • And then these roots proliferate all around the original tree

  • and strangle it to death.

  • Eventually, the original tree will die

  • and the fig will be left standing on its own,

  • having usurped its position in the sun.

  • The bitter struggle for survival in nature

  • has been the dynamic force that has driven the evolution of life.

  • And this is where my own struggle with the consequences of Darwinism begins.

  • Attacks on Darwin have claimed that his goalless, soulless theory

  • has unleashed the worst of human nature.

  • If nature is ruthless competition,