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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

'The Ascent of Man' by J. Bronowski

This epic BBC documentary series was first broadcasted in 1973, and, after nearly 40 years, it hasn't lost its significance as one of the best TV documentaries ever made.

After watching all 13 episodes on DVDs, I was amazed how refreshing they still are.
Of course, there're no spectacular computer graphics, but, more than anything else, what makes this documentary great is, I think, the presenter's passion for science, and, humanity.

It traces the history of science, from the beginning of Homo Sapiens to the discovery of modern genetics.
It's a fascinating journey brilliantly presented by Bronowski.

It's a wonderful experience to get to know how humans, as a species, move forward, by discovering new science, using new technology, throughout its history on this planet.

The author passed away just a year after the first showing.
It must have been an arduous and exhausting experience, travelling so many countries.

According to his daughter, he regarded this series as the culmination of his life's work.
Yes, it's a triumph of one man's intellectual dedication to mankind.

Here is my favourite quote from episode 11, 'Knowledge or Certainty'.
He is shown standing in a muddy water in a ground at Auschwitz, scooping up mud in his hand....

"Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people.
And that was not done by gas.
It was done by arrogance.
It was done by dogma.
It was done by ignorance.
When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave.
This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods "

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