Skip to Main Content

Filmography - Human Evolution: Home

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of October 2013


Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of  October 2013

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentications by AUID#.

This is a selective list of video holdings in the American University Library. Filmographies are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the ALADIN catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible.  All DVDs listed below are located in Media Services on the Lower Level of Bender Library. To search the library’s complete videos holdings on prison topics (including VHS tapes) search the library catalog at:

For comprehensive holdings including streaming resources, do a keyword search on “human evolution”

Airborne Life Takes to the Sky. (2006) 1 streaming video file (51 min.). This program analyzes how flight evolved not once but four times, in very different ways. Presenting a number of theories, the program examines how insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats each took to the sky. Bug wings that may have evolved from larval gills into pond-crossing sails; flight feathers that could have begun as soft down on small dinosaurs; and bat wings that probably developed from the webbed paws of gliding rodents are considered. Convergent evolution and echolocation are also discussed. Streaming video.


Allan Wilson Evolutionary. (2008) 1 streaming video file (41 min.). Allan Wilson, a groundbreaking researcher and a lightning rod for controversy, revolutionized science and galvanized the scientific community through his quantitative biochemical approach to the history of evolution. Drawing upon the insights and recollections of those who knew Wilson best, this program-narrated by paleoanthropologist Tim White, co-discoverer of the hominid "Lucy"-correlates milestones of his remarkable career with his enduring contributions that range from molecular phylogenies of multiple species to an understanding of mechanisms underlying the mode and tempo of organismal evolution. Commentary by David Wake, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and many others is featured. Streaming video.


The Ape that Took Over the World. (2005) 1 streaming video file (50 min.). Is the key theory about how we evolved from apes based on mistaken evidence? Since 1974, the 3.2-million-year-old fossil dubbed "Lucy" has been considered humankind's prime ancestor. Now, a fossil recently unearthed in Kenya by distinguished paleontologist Dr. Meave Leakey is rewriting the theories. This program examines the implications of Flat-Faced Man, a bipedal hominid just as old as Lucy but with a much larger brain size. With Leakey's find, the question for paleoanthropologists is one of adaptive radiation: from which line of early ape did Homo sapiens evolve? Streaming video.


Are We Still Evolving? (2011) 1 streaming video file (50 min.). Assume, for the sake of argument, that our species has created everything it needs-all the comfort and protection that technology can provide. Does that mean our biological evolution has come to an end? Not necessarily, says anatomist and anthropologist Alice Roberts. In fact, technology may be driving human evolution, and at breakneck speed. Dr. Roberts meets scientists who are detecting and analyzing recent changes in the human genome and visits other researchers who have been able to, in effect, alter the development of some plant and animal species. In addition, the program examines the highly significant role of disease in evolution and the possibility that humanity could evolve into two distinct species. Streaming video.


The Book of Life Genetics and Evolution. The Gene Code. (2011) 1 streaming video file (60 min.). Likening the beauty and complexity of DNA to an epic poem, this program revolves around the idea that we all carry the story of life on Earth in our genes, and that the similarities between species may play a more significant role in that story than previously thought. A visit to Iceland's hot springs reveals heat-, acid-, and salt-resistant organisms called Archaea-primordial versions of which may have set the stage for multi-cellular life. Moving to more advanced species, the film looks at bone-development genes in boa constrictors that are comparable to those of humans. Such parallels, the program says, indicate not only shared genetic origins but also the notion that particular clusters of genes are focal points of evolutionary importance. Streaming video.

Bonobos Making Love, Not War. (2007) 1 streaming video file (8 min.). This video clip takes a provocatively close up look at one of our lesser-known human relatives, the bonobo. They may look a lot like chimpanzees, but bonobos live differently than their aggressive, male dominated cousins. This video asks if chimpanzees are the wrong model for human evolution. The females run the show in their culture, and if there's any hint of conflict, they round everybody up for a sexual encounter. Is our evolutionary history one of peace and love instead of competition and aggression? Streaming video.


Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life. (2009) 1 streaming video file (52 min.) and 1 videodisc (60 min.).. Marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, this program shows how Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution and explores its ramifications in today's scientific community. Renowned natural history interpreter David Attenborough travels the globe, examining fresh evidence for Darwinian thought and illustrating why it is more relevant than ever. Viewers encounter findings from a wide range of disciplines, including paleontology, biogeography, anatomy, and embryology, as well as early controversies surrounding the study of plate tectonics. Spectacular wildlife footage reveals fascinating animal behavior and helps depict the theory that changed the world's thinking. DVD 7171 and Streaming video.


Cosmos. (1989) 7 videodiscs (420 min.). In a 13 part series Carl Sagan discusses the relationship between man and the universe. AU CAMPUS USE DVD 4271-4277

Darwin's Dangerous Idea. (2001) 1 videodisc (120 min.). This episode interweaves the drama in key moments of Darwin's life with documentary sequences of current research, linking past to present and introducing major concepts of evolutionary theory. It explores why Darwin's "dangerous idea" might matter even more today than it did in his own time, and reveals how science might be used to explain the past and predict the future of life on earth. AU CAMPUS USE DVD 5721

Darwin's Evolution. (2011) 1 streaming video file (20 min.). As a naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, a Royal Navy survey ship charting the coast of South America, Charles Darwin encountered evidence on the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere that encouraged him to question the biblical story of creation. This program explores the intellectual journey he undertook as a result. Presented by British scientist Adam Hart-Davis, the film invokes specimens in Great Britain's Natural History Museum, especially "Darwin's Finches," that were of fundamental importance to the naturalist's ideas; the two major components of his theory, common ancestry and natural selection; Darwin's sudden urgency regarding the publication of On the Origin of Species after Alfred Russel Wallace presented similar breakthroughs; Darwin's gradual confidence that evidence supporting The Descent of Man would one day surface in the fossil record; and the genetic discoveries... Streaming video.


Darwin's Theory Today. (2010) 1 streaming video file (26 min.). Since Darwin's day, explanations for the causation of evolution have come and gone, Lamarckism, mutationism, and the existence of a built-in mechanism driving to perfection all dismissed for lack of evidence and the proofs of molecular biology. Ernst Mayr examines and evaluates the modifications and adaptations to Darwin's theory of natural selection, to determine whether the resulting synthesis is indeed still Darwin's theory. Streaming video.


The Day the Universe Changed. (2009) 1 videodisc (110 min.). This series traces the major advances in knowledge in Western civilization since the Greeks, and demonstrates how our view of the world changes as our knowledge develops. What the doctor ordered. This program looks at the rise of modern medicine and its surprising relationship with the invention of statistics, which doctors used to validate the efficacy of diagnoses and treatments. It examines how bacteriology put the patient on a microscope slide and brought about a world in which even healthy human beings were reduced to statistics. Fit to rule. This program examines the mid-nineteenth century emergence of the theory of evolution and its affects. It reveals how Darwin's writings undermined the concept of an orderly, unchanging universe and the belief in the biblical theory of creation. AU CAMPUS USE DVD 8611 - 8615

The Demonic Ape. (2006) 1 streaming video file (50 min.). By turns charming, alarming, and poignant, this program questions the accuracy of the human evolution theory. Chimpanzees show signs of sophisticated language, advanced social behavior, and other traits thought reserved only for humans-even empathy. No one knows this better than the legendary Jane Goodall: her pride and joy, Frodo, grew up in front of film cameras in Gombe in Tanzania for over 30 years. But Frodo's killing of a child in May 2002 prompted huge debate amongst scholars about whether the origins of aggressive male human behavior can be traced back to our shared evolutionary ancestry with chimps. Streaming video.


Did Cooking Make Us Human? (2010) 1 streaming video file (52 min.). The use of heat and utensils to process food may be more than a by-product of human evolution. According to theories presented in this program, cooking began much earlier than previously thought and ignited a series of changes that shaped our physical and mental abilities. Viewers visit South African caves containing evidence, including tools and charred bone material, that pushes back the timescale during which proto-humans began to hunt and tame fire. Meanwhile, several noted anthropologists share other ideas concerning the evolution of the human jaw, stomach, and cranium-asserting that the digestion of cooked meat instead of raw helped our ancestors build bigger brains. Streaming video.


Did Darwin Kill God? (2010) 1 streaming video file (52 min.). In this program, philosopher and theologian Conor Cunningham argues that only extremist viewpoints-Creationism and ultra-Darwinism-make evolution and religion mutually exclusive. Experts from across the gamut of opinions frame the debate and trace its origins, including Father Gregory Tatum of the Ecole Biblique; University of Oxford historian Pietro Corsi; Darwin scholar Nick Spencer, author of Darwin and God; "Answers in Genesis" lecturer Terry Mortenson; Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project; philosophers Daniel Dennett and Michael Ruse; Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine; and University of Cambridge paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris. Streaming video.


The Disappearing Male: Environmental Threats to Human Reproduction. (2009) 1 streaming video file (43 min.). The last few decades have seen a dramatic increase in cases of low sperm count, sperm abnormalities, and testicular cancer - while, in more than 20 industrialized nations, the male birth rate has steadily declined. This program examines the phenomenon and its likely cause: synthetic chemicals found in everything from common plastics to meat and dairy products. Investigating these so-called "hormone mimicking" or "endocrine disrupting" chemicals, the film shows how they may be starting to damage the most basic building blocks of human development. Expert commentary comes from Dr. Shanna Swan, director of the University of Rochester's Center for Reproductive Epidemiology, and many other respected researchers. Streaming video.


DNA and the Evidence for Evolution. (1988) 1 streaming video file (23 min.). This program shows the structure and replicating processes of DNA and the effect of genetic mutation; demonstrates the Lederberg Experiment; and recapitulates the evidence provided by fossils and structural and biological homologies that the process of adaptation and the selection of adaptors rests on a wide range of genetic variability. After viewing the program, students should have a general understanding of the general structure and functioning of DNA and of the Lederberg Experiment and its significance, and should be familiar with the range and types of evidence for evolution presented in the review section. Streaming video.


DNA Mysteries the Search for Adam. (2005) 1 streaming video file (52 min.). Could we all be descendants of an Adam-like ancestor? And if he existed, who was he, where did he live, and what did he look like? This program uses sophisticated DNA testing methods to, in effect, trace humanity's family tree. Guided by renowned geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells, viewers learn about the primary tool that propels this quest for a common ancestor-the Y chromosome, which is transmitted through family lines from father to son. Focusing on Africa, the program posits the existence of a patriarchal figure who lived around 60,000 years ago and whose chromosomal characteristics may be shared, at least in part, by every man alive today. Intriguing conclusions about famous historical figures are also featured. Streaming video.


The DNA Obsession. Cracking the Code: The Continuing Saga of Genetics (2006) 1 streaming video file (30 min.). One of the most important stories in genetics is the race to understand DNA. This intro-level program guides viewers through that story, focusing on the biological and chemical processes central to the transfer of genetic material. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the program describes how competing scientists in Europe and America zeroed in on the DNA molecule and determined its structure. Friedrich Miescher's identification of "nuclein," Frederick Griffith's pneumococcus studies, Joshua Lederberg's analysis of bacteria reproduction, and James Watson and Francis Crick's double-helix configuration highlight the obsession, rivalry, and collaboration that drive scientific discovery. Streaming video.


Earth Time. Evolution and Human Memory. (2006) 1 streaming video file (50 min.). In the 17th century, an Irish bishop judged the year of Earth's creation to be 4004 BC. Although laughable by modern scientific standards, James Ussher's calculation was among the first rigorous attempts to comprehend the vastness of geological history. This program opens a window into time frames that dwarf human life spans-evoking the insignificance of civilization in comparison to the age of the planet itself. Host Michio Kaku illustrates life's evolution by driving the distance between America's coasts-with the final millimeter representing the human epoch. He also looks at the importance of DNA as a tool for studying human evolution. Streaming video.


The End of Evolution: Breaking the Link. In the Blood. (2006) 1 streaming video file (50 min.). In this program, genetic teams in England and Finland study how defective genes can be altered to halt transmission of disease through the generations. In England, geneticist John Burn discovers a woman's lethal cancer gene, inherited from her father. She undergoes early treatment that saves her life. Thirty genetic diseases exist in Finland. Steve Jones traces a defective gene in one family, which has caused brain damage in their child, to the couple's paternal ancestors. In an insular Pakistani immigrant group, another gene is identified that causes a life-threatening blood disorder. Both the Finns and the Pakistanis are beginning to marry outside of their own groups in order to weaken the offending genes. Streaming video.


Epigenetics The Hidden Life of Our Genes (2009) 1 streaming video file (52 min.). How is it that the genetically identical clone of a tortoiseshell cat turned out to be a gray-striped tabby? The answer lies in epigenetics. This program presents evidence that DNA is not necessarily destiny, and that diet, stress, and environmental exposures can all modify gene expression. With commentary from experts, detailed animations of cell mechanics, and examples from everyday life, Epigenetics succeeds in delivering an informative and entertaining explanation of how cell memory, methylation, and RNA interference cause these changes to occur. The video also examines the role of epigenetics in stem cell function, and the promising developments the field holds for treating cancer and neurological disease. Streaming video.


The Evidence for Evolution. The Evolution of Darwin. (2010) 1 streaming video file (26 min.). Distinguished evolutionary biologists among the auditors of the foregoing lectures take on not only Luther Sutherland. Streaming video.


Evolution. (1991) 1 streaming video file (23 min.). Since Charles Darwin formulated his theory of natural selection, our view of the world has changed. Although Darwin's theory itself has "evolved," scientists agree that living species slowly but surely diverged from common ancestors. This program begins with a segment on fossils, one of the most convincing proofs of evolution. It then retraces the major steps of evolution as they were uncovered by science. It also presents the major theories of evolution. Streaming video.


Evolution. (2001) 4 videodiscs (480 min.). "Evolution" offers a groundbreaking and definitive view of the extraordinary impact the evolutionary process has had on our understanding of the world around us. Beginning with Darwin's revolutionary theory, this seven-part series explores all facets of evolution--the changes that spawned the tree of life, the power of sex, how evolution continues to affect us every day, and the perceived conflict between science and religion. AU CAMPUS USE DVD 5721-5724

The Evolution of Human Purpose. The Evolution of Darwin. (2010) 1 streaming video file (26 min.). All other life forms except humans exist to propagate themselves and pass on their genes; humans alone work to other ends. In this lecture, Richard Dawkins distinguishes between the result of eons of natural selection which has resulted in, say, a bird's tail, whose purpose is to enable the bird to fly-purpose with a survival value-and deliberate design, like an airplane's tail. Dawkins shows the relationship between the two in explaining the evolution of human purpose. Streaming video.


Fossils Reptiles and Mammals. (1988) 1 streaming video file (20 min.). This program presents fossil evidence for the evolution of reptiles and amphibians; explains the reasoning processes scientists must use when no direct evidence is available for examination; illustrates field techniques for collecting fragile fossils for transportation to the laboratory, where examination can take place under controlled conditions; and traces the evolution of some modern mammals back through time. After viewing the program, students should know which major features distinguish amphibians from reptiles, when and for how long reptiles were the dominant land animals and by whom they were replaced, and recognize the feature in the fossil remains of land reptiles that may indicate that they gave rise to mammals . Streaming video.