The Lost World (4 parts)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, wrote The Lost World, on which this movie is based, in 1912. This science fiction adventure, though not scientifically accurate, creates opportunities to learn about the extinction of dinosaurs and to explore evolution.
The Lost World features a pair of bickering science professors, Challenger and Summerlee; an explorer, Lord John Ruxton; and a journalist, Edward Malone, who take off on an expedition to the mysterious Lost World, a plateau in the Amazon rainforest. This mythical hidden habitat, where the laws of nature have been miraculously suspended, escaped the effects of the K-T mass extinction that eliminated all dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In addition to several dinosaur species that somehow escaped extinction, a tribe of native Indians and a population of savage ape-men inhabit the plateau and compete for survival.
The quest of the expedition—to bring back living proof of dinosaur existence—is narrowly achieved after numerous adventures. A romantic subplot develops between the journalist and the adopted niece of a missionary who leads the expedition to the Lost World. The missionary, Theo Kerr, a strong believer in creationism, finds himself conflicted about letting his adopted niece take the group to find proof of evolution. After a series of struggles with the ape-men and the dinosaurs, the ultimately return with the proof they were after, a living pterosaur.
The Lost World is suitable for middle and high school students in science, social studies, media literacy, and literature classes.
This teacher’s guide for The Lost World fulfills the following National Science Education Standards for grades 5–12: Life Science (Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms, Science as Human Endeavor, Biological Evolution, Behavior of Organisms, and Historical Perspectives).
What caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs? Would it have been possible for inhabitants of the fictional plateau described in the movie to escape extinction? Why or why not?
Why didnt Theo Kerr, the missionary, want the existence of the ape-men to become known to the outside world?
What effect did the K-T mass extinction have on the evolution of mammals?
Is this story believable? Using specific examples from the movie, defend your position as to whether or not the Lost World could actually exist.
If you were to consider the Lost World without the dinosaurs, do you think it could have existed and sustained the population of Indians and ape-men?
How does the introduction of modern-day men and women, affect the ecological balance in the Lost World?
How would you define science fiction? How do the real and the imaginary interact in science fiction?
There are a number of scientific reasons why the dinosaurs probably would not have survived for any extended period of time, even if they were able to escape the K-T mass extinction. Ask students to research and think about the basic needs of dinosaurs, the physical environment, the competition for survival, and the other challenges that they would have faced not only to survive but also to remain virtually unchanged for more than 65 million years.
Have students research the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read The Lost World. As students learn about his life and work, ask them to think about why he might have written a book so different from his Sherlock Holmes stories. What do they think inspired him to write about dinosaurs? Ask students to write an interview with Sir Conan Doyle about the scientific ideas explored in his book.
If creationism is a topic you would like to explore in your class the following activity may be suitable. Help students find out about the conflict between the creationism and evolution. Students can consider the following questions: What are the basic principles that contribute to the current theory of evolution? What kinds of evidence do we have that suggest evolution takes place? Is it possible to support creationism with scientific evidence? Why or why not? Hold a class debate.