Human by Chance?
By Polly Conway,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Docu examines evolution, genetics, and what makes us human.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A fascinating and enlightening look at evolution and human nature.
Violence & Scariness
A marmoset brain is cut into slices for research.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Human by Chance? is a documentary that explores the idea that instead of evolving steadily over many centuries, humans surpassed primates thanks to a coincidence: a single gene mutation that caused our brains to become larger. German scientists in Dresden lead the charge in researching this gene, called ARHGAP11B, and trying to figure out what makes humans, well, human. The scientific concepts addressed here are complex and require some attention, but teens interested in human behavior and the scientific process should be able to handle it. Research must be done on living animals, including marmosets, which may be disturbing to some viewers. Monkey brains being experimented on are visible.
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Human by Chance?
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What's the Story?
Human by Chance? is a documentary that explores the idea that instead of evolving steadily over many centuries, humans surpassed primates thanks to a coincidence: a single gene mutation that caused our brains to become larger. German scientists in Dresden lead the charge in researching this gene, and trying to figure out what makes humans, well, human. They ask questions like "How did evolution caused the brain to grow? Which changes in our genome led to this growth?" and begin experiments that will help them get some answers. The mutated gene is called ARHGAP11B, which causes folds in the brain (more folds = more smarts). What makes us human? These scientists attempt to find out.
Is It Any Good?
It's fascinating to realize that revolutionary research like this is happening every day, and it's capable of changing the way we think about evolution and humanity. Equally interesting is rolling around the idea that our evolution was a total coincidence, based on a random mutation. Related, this documentary requires a pretty big brain to understand, but its ideas are generally simplified enough for the layperson to process. It's a good reminder that science is always in motion, and it's our human curiosity that brings discoveries like this into the cultural consciousness.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about curiosity. How do people continue to come up with new ideas? How do they prove a hypothesis?
It takes work to become a scientist like those shown in this film. What would you like to spend time working towards in your life?
- On DVD or streaming: June 22, 2020
- Studio: HBO Max
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: STEM
- Run time: 51 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: May 31, 2023
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