Saturday, January 5, 2019

Neo-Darwinism gets its comeuppance in John Feldman's terrific documentary, SYMBIOTIC EARTH: HOW LYNN MARGULIS ROCKED THE BOAT & STARTED A SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION

When TrustMovies saw the running time -- two hours and 27 minutes -- of this new documentary, he has to admit it gave him pause. Upon finishing it, however, he could easily have spent another couple of hours in the company of the late scientist, biologist, professor and evolutionary theorist, Lynn Margulis, and her friends, relatives and scientific peers, so deeply and endlessly fascinating and important is all she had/has to show and tell.

The documentary is the product of filmmaker John Feldman (shown above) and his time spent with Ms Margulies, as the pair began work back in 2011 on a film about her ideas, shortly after which Ms Margulis (shown below and further below) died of a hemorrhagic stroke, was far too little. Feldman, who already had been a follower of her work and was by then more deeply committed to it, began to submerge himself ever more fully in that work, while trotting the globe, interviewing her colleagues, friends, relatives and co-workers, even including in the mix some dissenting scientists.

The film Feldman has made, to be released this coming week to home video via Bullfrog Films and Icarus Home Video, is a revelation. For someone like me, who was not even aware of Margulis' work and career until now, the documentary is not simply eye-opening and mind-expanding, but also a wonderful entryway into Ms Margulis' character, her personality, ideas, and even the manner in which she went about explaining and disseminating those ideas into a scientific community that was, as ever, far too resistant to change.

The woman's delightful sense of humor comes through consistently here, as she uses everything from popular songs to Emily Dickinson to underscore her message. What a treat she must have been for her students! And please don't worry that the documentary will be too advanced or difficult to follow or understand. Feldman has done a yeoman job of avoiding exactly these. What we learn here has not been dumbed down but it is understandable. While I might have occasionally preferred to be shown a few more concrete examples regarding the information being put forth, generally speaking there is enough of that to easily back up the ideas in play.

Turns out that Margulies, while being an admirer of and believer in the work of Charles Darwin, had little regard for the neo-Darwinists. Instead she proposed that symbiosis was the key driver of evolution, and though this idea was initially pooh-poohed by most of our male-centered/-oriented scientific community, evidence for this theory continues to amass. How neo-Darwinism connects to Capitalism is also shown here, and the connection proves every bit as sleazy as you might expect. (Do try to view the great French-Canadian TV series Capitalism for more on this connection.)

As a bonus feature, for me at least, was the opportunity to learn of Margulis' connection to and co-development (with British chemist James Lovelock, shown above and below) of the Gaia theory/hypothesis. Up until the present, whenever I heard anything about this Gaia idea, I imagined it to be -- thanks, I now realize, to the constanting negative drumming into my head via neo-Darwinist/Capitalists -- some feel-good, new-age bullshit. Hardly.

By the time you finish Symbiotic Earth, I daresay you'll be convinced -- due to the groundwork of Margulis -- of Gaia's possibilities and worth. If you're a layperson like me, you will also be convinced of the great worth of the contributions made by Lynn Margulis to our increasingly fragile planet. So, yes, if you haven't gathered the idea by now: This documentary is an absolute must-see.

From Bullfrog Films and Icarus Home Video, Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis Rocked The Boat and Started a Scientific Revolution hits the street on DVD this coming Tuesday, January 8 -- for purchase and/or (I dearly hope) rental. A film this important should be given every opportunity to be seen, mulled over and appreciated.

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