From Polar Bear Science
Just a heads-up that this week, PBS in North America will broadcast the “polar” episode of a new documentary called “Evolution Earth.” In my area, it’s scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 10:00 PM. It remains to be seen whether this is really about evolution or (given those involved in its production) simply more climate change propaganda similar to that promoted by Attenborough, but I intend to watch and report back.
About the Show: “Evolution Earth embarks on a global expedition to reveal the animals keeping pace with a planet changing at superspeed. Heading out across the globe to distant wilds and modern urban environments, five episodes track how animals are moving, using ingenuity to adapt their behavior, and even evolving in unexpected ways.
…We follow heart-warming tales of resilience that redefine our understanding of evolution, and hint at how nature can show us a path towards a sustainable future for Planet Earth. The series is narrated by Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton, who guides us through each episode in an intimate narrative style, drawing on his background as an evolutionary biologist.”
Episode 4 | Ice “At the planet’s frozen extremes, shifts in animal movement and behavior reveal vital information about our future world. Examine polar bears in the Arctic, penguins in Antarctica and other animals surviving in icy worlds.“
Find tips for watching outside the US here.
What to expect
Will evolutionary principles prevail? Hard to say but here are some hints. The film is produced by an outfit called “Passion Planet.” I have not seen anything else they have done in their 20 year history in the business but their name does not give me much confidence that the presentation of unadulterated science is their primary goal.
On top of that, the director of the “Ice” episode is Charlotte Lathane. Her name rings alarm bells for me because she was the director/producer of that cringe-worthy Attenborough-narrated BBC film aimed at scaring the pants off viewers, “Extinction: The Facts.“
I wrote about this film in Fallen Icon (Crockford 2022), edited a bit for brevity:
It featured the so-called Sixth Mass Extinction that had been a WWF hobbyhorse since 2016 and one Attenborough had eagerly climbed aboard from the beginning (Doyle 2021; Westcott 2016). However, this concept has few supporters and many critics: it is not something serious scientists espouse (Lomborg 2001; Steele 2013).
The film got well-deserved criticism as well as the usual, almost automatic, raves (Clark 2020; Jones 2020). However, Extinction: The Facts was different from the others in one important respect: it was the first time the Covid-19 pandemic entered Attenborough’s narrative.
Blaming the emergence of Covid-19 on declining biodiversity turned out to be the companion to a bizarre notion that climate change itself had been largely responsible for the Covid-19 epidemic, which Attenborough and the BBC now seemed to be actively promoting. This unsubstantiated claim provided the foundation for increasing pressure on nations and their citizens to ensure that a global agreement to deal with climate change was reached in 2020.
I’ve mentioned before that the story of polar bear evolution cannot be told with a thorough and rational discussion of natural climate change (Crockford 2023). I admit I don’t have high hopes but it will be interesting to see what approach this documentary takes on the critical issues of evolution and adaptation of polar bears.
Clark, R. 2020. ‘What David Attenborough’s ‘Extinction: The Facts’ didn’t tell you’. The Spectator Magazine (UK), 14 September. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/what-david-attenborough-s-extinction-the-facts-didn-t-tell-you
Crockford, S.J. 2022. Fallen Icon: Sir David Attenborough and the Walrus Deception. Amazon KDP, Victoria.
Crockford, S.J. 2023. Polar Bear Evolution: A Model for How New Species Arise. Amazon KDP, Victoria.
Doyle, J. 2021. ‘Earth is doomed, probably, says David Attenborough in Extinction: The Facts’. The Globe and Mail (Canada), 30 March. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-earth-is-doomed-probably-says-david-attenborough-in-extinction-the/
Jones, J.P.G. 2020. ‘‘Extinction: The Facts’: Attenborough’s new documentary is surprisingly radical’. The Conversation, 14 September. https://theconversation.com/extinction-the-facts-attenboroughs-new-documentary-is-surprisingly-radical-146127
Lomborg, B. 2001. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press, New York. pg 249-257.
Steele, J. 2013. Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Scepticism. CreateSpace Publishing.
Westcott, B. 2016. ‘Sixth mass extinction? Two-thirds of wildlife may be gone by 2020: WWF’. CNN, 28 October. https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/26/world/wild-animals-disappear-report-wwf/index.html