Ten Questions

EVO is a portal into the wondrous story of life on Earth. The exploration is divided into ten questions, which are best viewed one at a time followed by discussion, reflection, and debate. Of course, you can watch EVO in one sitting, but to give your brain a break, the DVD divides EVO into two parts of about one hour each.

Q1 What is Evolution?

Q1-We start with a brief introduction to the World Summit on Evolution, which was the genesis for this film, and then pop the question “What is evolution?” How long does it all take? EVO’s signature arm graphic helps us visualize the enormous amount of time involved in the evolution of life. (Running time: 11:44)

Q2 Who was Charles Darwin? 

Q2-And how does he fit into the picture? In this brief portrait of Charles Darwin, Frank Sulloway helps us trace both the physical and mental journey that led Darwin to the idea that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor through natural selection. (11:15) Watch Question 2 NOW

Q3 What is natural selection?

Q3-A joke from philosopher Daniel Dennett starts off this investigation into examples of natural selection – some in the Amazon forest, some on the Galápagos Islands themselves, but most in the filmmaker’s own backyard in the mountains and forests of New York. Animation, EVO style, is used to illustrate the process, while Douglas Futuyma and some squawking Cock-of-the-Rocks help us unravel the puzzle of sexual selection. (15:11)

Q4 How do species come about?

Q4-Indeed, what is a species? Douglas Futuyma and Kevin de Queiroz tackle the “origin of species” question, and then EVO-character animation shows us how scientists use phylogenetic trees to visualize species splitting over time. Laura Katz clears up two common misconceptions by making it plain why humans are NOT descended from chimps and why humans are not the “pinnacle of evolution.” (11:01)

Q5 Where do variations come from?

Q5-If the differences – the variations – between two individuals of the same species are the raw material for natural selection, where do these variations come from? Douglas Futuyma and William Calvin give brief introductions into genetics, DNA mutation, and sexual recombination. Then Lynn Margulis introduces the concept of symbiogenesis. (9:40)

Q6 What role does cooperation play?

Q6-“If we form alliances with others we can do more than going it alone,” so says Richard Michod as he explains that cooperation is just as important a driver of evolutionary change as competition, which usually gets all the credit. EVO looks at examples of cooperation in everything from human cells to ants, hyenas and human society. Lynn Margulis introduces the Gaia idea and helps us see that we are all connected and part of a complex and robust system. (9:43) Watch Question 6 NOW


Q7 What’s a brief history of life?

Q7-The Earth is thought to have formed 4.5 billion years ago. Life began about 3.6 billion years ago. In exactly 4.5 minutes this EVO-animated film takes us along our arm time line from the beginning of the Earth to the present. Niles Eldredge then reminds us what a young species we are and describes “punctuated equilibria,” a hypothesis first proposed by him and Stephen J. Gould in 1972. (8:45)


Q8 What is the controversy?

Q8-A public controversy is raging in some parts of the United States over whether “creationism” can be taught in public school science classes along with or in place of the study of biological evolution. Scientist Michod and philosopher Dennett look at the philosophical roots of the controversy, and we trace the history of the controversy with the help of Hollywood and Susan Epperson, the biology teacher who made the first Supreme Court challenge in support of teaching evolution in the schools. (9:59)

Q 9 Is evolution random?

Q9-So if genetic mutations occur at random, isn’t evolution random? First Douglas Futuyma helps us define the word “random” and see that natural selection – the driving force of evolution – is not at all random. Daniel Dennett then describes natural selection as a sorting algorithm that is – like a computer – totally mindless. EVO-animated snails, along with a careless cow, return to illustrate Futuyma’s explanation of genetic drift. (8:04)

Q10 Why should anyone care about evolution?

Q10-Evolution just happens, so why is it relevant to me? In answer to this, our final question, the scientists are quick to point out that we must understand evolution if we care about fighting disease and if we want to learn to live in a sustainable balance with our environment instead of degrading it. After looking at the biotechnology industry and introducing the idea of cultural evolution, filmmaker John Feldman concludes EVO by reflecting on the importance of cooperation within the history of life and the responsibility each of us has for respecting and caring for the ecosystem of which we are a part. (11:36