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Bring On The Free Documentaries! April 24, 2007

Posted by Johan in Links.

I recently discovered this website, which indexes documentaries available on Google Video and Youtube. So far there is about 520 of them, with quite a few good choices from sources like BBC and HBO. Unfortunately, the documentaries are only indexed by title, so it can be hard to know what you’re getting. In this post I’ll list a few of the favourites I found.

Watching documentaries in your browser is hardly ideal, so it’s worth downloading the Google Video Player application. For Youtube, this page allows you to download the flash videos, which can then be played in most media players (try VLC).

A Century of the Self: a documentary series on how Freudian theory was used to control people in the past century. Regardless of how the empirical evidence has faulted Psychoanalysis, it’s undeniable that the theoretical concepts have become part of our society, and in particular our attributions. It’s quite striking how much of our “common sense psychology” is made up of Freudian terms like denial and regression.

Journey of Man: Geneticist Spencer Wells tells the fascinating tale of how the early history of Homo Sapiens can be traced with the help of DNA.

Why Are We Here
: If you can stomach Dawkins, this Discovery documentary aims to provide a scientific answer to the purpose of human existence. Perhaps best taken with a grain of salt.

Nice Guys Finish First: Another Dawkins documentary that views much like a prolonged speech of defense in response to the massive criticism that the genetic determinism of The Selfish Gene provoked. Essentially, Dawkins explains concepts like reciprocal altruism and peer selection to clarify the point that gene-level selection does not mean that natural selection always favours the most selfish individuals.

Morphic Fields: A strikingly uncritical BBC documentary on Rupert Sheldrake, a renowned biologist who fell from grace somewhat when he started to espouse bizarre theories of morphogenetic fields, which supposedly shape the structure of the organism like an invisible mould. Sheldrake views these fields as explaining morphogenesis (the development of form and structure) in ways that DNA cannot. While eloquent, he is obviously off his rocker. For guaranteed entertainment, show this to a biologist friend and watch their reaction.

Building Gods: A visually appealing documentary on the arrival of the computer age and the possibility of true artificial intelligence. Slightly heavy on tired cliches and wildly speculative, but nevertheless entertaining.

If you’ve found any other interesting documentaries online, do share a link in the comments!


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