The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution Info

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Richard Dawkins transformed our view of God in his blockbuster,
The God Delusion, which sold more than 2 million copies in
English alone. He revolutionized the way we see natural selection in the
seminal bestseller The Selfish Gene. Now, he launches a fierce
counterattack against proponents of "Intelligent Design" in his New
York Times
bestseller, The Greatest Show on
Earth
.

"Intelligent Design" is being taught in our schools;
educators are being asked to "teach the controversy" behind evolutionary
theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of
scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to
clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast
epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing
embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the
airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the
midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no
accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random
selection." His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might
have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the
creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing
less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor.

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Reviews for The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution:

4

Oct 09, 2013

To any Young Earth Creationist who happens to be reading this review

First, thank you for getting this far. It's to your credit: you're willing to find out something about what the other side has to say. You're probably expecting I'll tell you to read Dawkins's latest book. In fact, I'm not going to do that.

Don't read this book. Dawkins is disrespectful and arrogant about Young Earth Creationism, and he will only annoy you. Instead, I suggest that you might want to look at Charles Darwin's On To any Young Earth Creationist who happens to be reading this review

First, thank you for getting this far. It's to your credit: you're willing to find out something about what the other side has to say. You're probably expecting I'll tell you to read Dawkins's latest book. In fact, I'm not going to do that.

Don't read this book. Dawkins is disrespectful and arrogant about Young Earth Creationism, and he will only annoy you. Instead, I suggest that you might want to look at Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. When Darwin wrote it, pretty much everyone in the world was a Young Earth Creationist. Darwin had a great deal of sympathy for the Creationist position, and one of his own favorite books, which influenced him deeply, was the Creationist classic Natural Theology, by William Paley. Despite all this, Darwin found arguments which soon convinced a large part of his audience that their ideas about Young Earth Creationism were wrong.

Dawkins continually quotes Darwin. He shows that even though Darwin didn't understand how evolution works - no one knew about DNA yet, or even the basics of genetic theory - the evidence at his disposal produced an overwhelming case that evolution must be the the root cause of the huge diversity of observed species. The clearest and most unanswerable part of the argument is the geographical distribution of the different kinds of animals. Just stop and think for a moment about the single fact that sloths are only to be found in South America. If the story of the Biblical Flood were true, then those slow-moving, tree-dwelling sloths would somehow have had to migrate from Mount Ararat to Brazil in a few thousand years, leaving no colonies anywhere en route. Darwin's Victorian audience thought carefully about the sloths, and could not find a sensible answer. It was even more impossible for them to explain, not just that kangaroos only exist in Australia, but that many similar species - wallabies, koalas, wombats and other marsupials - also only exist in Australia. There were a thousand more pieces of evidence, and they gave up. Darwin did not try to humiliate them, and he honestly admitted that there were important parts of the story he did not yet understand. Even with those provisos, the case was unanswerable. Since Darwin's time, nearly all of the missing parts of his argument have been filled in, as Dawkins explains here. But that's less important.

As I said, start with Darwin. He's writing politely and respectfully for people like you, who are skeptical about evolution and want to be shown good reasons to believe it, and he is remarkably convincing. ...more
4

Apr 06, 2010

There's a general feeling out there about Richard Dawkins that he's a little too shrill, a little too hard on people, and perhaps a tad too full of himself. I've had a couple of these thoughts from time to time, though not the last one, and would almost catch myself nodding in agreement until I put myself in the man's shoes. Professor Dawkins is brilliant with a capital B. He is fanatically devoted to science and his particular subject, evolutionary biology. He has spent his life researching and There's a general feeling out there about Richard Dawkins that he's a little too shrill, a little too hard on people, and perhaps a tad too full of himself. I've had a couple of these thoughts from time to time, though not the last one, and would almost catch myself nodding in agreement until I put myself in the man's shoes. Professor Dawkins is brilliant with a capital B. He is fanatically devoted to science and his particular subject, evolutionary biology. He has spent his life researching and exploring the elegant mysteries and pathways of life on our lonely blue world. And what does he get in return? 44% of Americans––granted he's British––think that the earth and everything in it was specially created about ten thousand years ago, that man roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that the whole of biology and evolutionary history are to be supplanted by a fairy tale about a couple of teenagers who were convinced by a talking snake to eat an enchanted apple. This state of affairs would be repugnant enough if it was a privately held fantasy; instead what Dawkins gets is constant bombardment from imbeciles who want creation 'science' 'theory' taught alongside evolution in schools, as if there was some competition between the two. By air, land, sea, or Trojan Horse (Intelligent Design, so called), biologists are incessantly having to deal with misrepresentation and ignorance on a profound and disturbing scale.

I personally, however, can't be too harsh. Not only was I once a creationist; I was the worst kind of creationist, a young earth creationist. Not only was I a young earth creationist; I was the worst sort of young earth creationist, a Kent Hovindiite. I was to science was the Philistines were to the Hebrews, what the Empire was to the Rebellion, what that kid with down syndrome is to Einstein. What I can do, though, is say with complete certainty is that education, not argument, is the antidote to creationism. Ignorance isn't a crime, and usually people aren't ignorant on purpose. For your average layman, it's not his fault that science education standards are so poor, or that lying snake oil salesmen like Ken Ham successfully peddle bullshit for a living.

Having considered all that, I'm fairly convinced that your typical creationist response to this book will be a glassy stare and a trickle of drool. Part of this will be the enormous amount of nonsense, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, outdated arguments, falsehoods, and outright lies that have until now occupied the six inches of space between their ears. Trying to explain the complexities of biology to someone who thinks that Big Bang Cosmology is 'darwinism' is a higher mountain than Dawkins book is likely able to climb. A lot of bad wiring had to be completely redone even for me to follow the major themes of this book, and I've put a lot of effort into it.

The second drawback is a personal weakness of Dawkins' writing. It's unfocussed, not particularly well organized, and it lacks the ferocious punch of amateur youtubers like Thunderf00t and Aronra (whose video series 'The Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism' is balls-out awesome). Granted, the history of life on our planet and all the myriad means that we have of understanding it is not a topic suited to one book. I still maintain that the chapters could have been better ordered and more centered around a particular point, as opposed to the more conversational sprawl that is Dawkins' style. I find him a better speaker-communicator than writer-communicator, but a better writer than orator, if that makes any sense.

Despite that, I appreciate the effort, passion, and the expertise that Professor Dawkins brings to this book. It is in its way a powerful examination of this subject, and riddled with amazing discoveries and evidences that while they only manage to show a fragment of the deluge that is the evidence for evolution, still enriches the mind and helps non-scientists to explore the wonders of the natural world.

"Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact...That didn't have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn't. It didn't have to be true, but it is....Evolution is the only game in town, the greatest show on earth."

...more
2

Nov 04, 2009

Two disclaimers before I begin my review:

1. I am an atheist.
2. I am a molecular biologist.

So, I am clearly not the target audience. That being said, I really wanted to like this book. I am so happy that there are people out there who are speaking out in defense of evolution and (although not in this book) atheism, and as such I want to support Richard Dawkins. However, the best way I can sum up my feelings about the book is to say that it resembles a very long version of an undergraduate's final Two disclaimers before I begin my review:

1. I am an atheist.
2. I am a molecular biologist.

So, I am clearly not the target audience. That being said, I really wanted to like this book. I am so happy that there are people out there who are speaking out in defense of evolution and (although not in this book) atheism, and as such I want to support Richard Dawkins. However, the best way I can sum up my feelings about the book is to say that it resembles a very long version of an undergraduate's final paper on evolution. Many arguments are not at all clear or well made, the diagram labeling is irregular or completely non-existent, and he does not seem to grasp how to effectively use figures to add to the text. He contradicts himself at least once (but pretty majorly), but it seems that this is due more to a faulty simplification of the scientific explanation that to a lack of knowledge.

Ultimately, that's what it comes down to for me: all of the faults I found in the book should not have been there, because I KNOW that HE KNOWS BETTER. Not to mention that his goal would have been better served had he saved all of his half-assed, baseless speculations for beers with the fellas and used the space in the book to include more evidence for evolution. For example, one thing he did not address at all is morality/altruism, which would have been very relevant for creationists (who ARE his target audience) and for which there are some really interesting theories. Finally, while I understand the frustration, condescending anger is not generally a great tool for convincing people, regardless of how wrong they are. ...more
5

Jul 09, 2011

With the help of drawings, photos, cartoons, tables, diagrams & notes, an emphasis on extremely lucid step-by-step explanations, examples, iteration & reiteration & plenty of humor, R Dawkins shows that we are indeed so lucky to be witness to the Greatest Show on Earth -- this wonderful book is addressed not only to those interested in our natural world (and who'll maybe wish they'd majored in biology) but more particularly to the creationists and proponents of "intelligent design" With the help of drawings, photos, cartoons, tables, diagrams & notes, an emphasis on extremely lucid step-by-step explanations, examples, iteration & reiteration & plenty of humor, R Dawkins shows that we are indeed so lucky to be witness to the Greatest Show on Earth -- this wonderful book is addressed not only to those interested in our natural world (and who'll maybe wish they'd majored in biology) but more particularly to the creationists and proponents of "intelligent design" -- as evidence for evolution it's one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. It's a beautifully detailed and concisely written effort (albeit a bit repetitious at times) that's full of extraordinary facts both serious and silly, a real experience. It's TERRIBLY witty. It filled me with joy. It should be read by everyone everywhere. ...more
5

Sep 14, 2013

What a stunning read. I have read several books by Dawkins, mostly concerning evolution, and I think this was the easiest to understand. This is partly because I skipped the most difficult bits! For instance I am never going to know how carbon dating is done - but I can live with that. For the most part the book was hugely readable and deeply fascinating. The one thing that marred my pleasure slightly was the stress throughout on proving the theory of evolution to creationists, but then he would What a stunning read. I have read several books by Dawkins, mostly concerning evolution, and I think this was the easiest to understand. This is partly because I skipped the most difficult bits! For instance I am never going to know how carbon dating is done - but I can live with that. For the most part the book was hugely readable and deeply fascinating. The one thing that marred my pleasure slightly was the stress throughout on proving the theory of evolution to creationists, but then he would give us the statistics about how many creationists there are in the world......and his preoccupation became understandable.

I will end with some notes of the delights I found in the book - most of them taken verbatim from the book. (view spoiler)[

*GENES

These don't mix like paint (which would create a middling average half way between our two parents....and if it did, all variation would rapidly disappear.) Instead genes passing on is like the shuffling and re-shuffling of a card pack. Genes don't blend, they shuffle. You could say they are shuffled badly, with groups of cards sticking together for several generations of shuffling, before chance happens to split them.

Any one of your eggs (or sperms if you are male) contains either your father's version of a particular gene or your mother's version, not a blend of the two. And that particular gene came from one (& only one) of your four grandparents, and from one (& only one) of your eight grandparents.

* GENE POOLS

These are created in environments of all different shapes, sizes and outlook. Islands, valleys surrounded by mountains which animals can't cross, areas of a certain climate etc. Gene pools are sculpted when humans interfere, eg when dog breeders breed bulldogs to encourage certain attributes.

* HYBRIDS

This involves a deliberate violation of the gene pool....eg the Labradoodle is a hybrid between a standard poodle and a Labrador retriever.

Some people are trying to breed labradoodles directly with other labradoodles, and to get them to breed true. At present second generation labradoodles recombine to produce more variety than pre-bred dogs are supposed to show. This is how many 'pure' breeds started - they went through an intermediate stage of high variation, subsequently trimmed down through generations of careful breeding, so that a proper purebreed began to regularly appear.

*A SINGLE MAJOR MUTATION

Sometimes new breeds of dogs get their start with the adoption of a single major mutation. In nature large mutations seldom survive eg basset hounds and dachshunds with very short legs acquired them in a singe step with the genetic mutation called achondroplasia, a classic example of a large mutation unlikely to survive in the wild.

*BREEDING FOR SPECIFIC ATTRIBUTES AND TALENTS

For instance dogs that can herd sheep, race, or pull sledges, or even 'point'. We could do the same for human beings too - though ethically this could pose a problem.

..........................................................................


WAYS OF MEASURING TIME........

*DENDROCHRONOLOGY - THE STUDY OF TREE RINGS.

Tree rings show whether it was a good lush year or a year of drought. These form into recognisable patterns eg a bunch of trees living between 1950 - 1970 will share the same patterns of drought and plenty for that period.

You can overlap tree rings this way, and create a library of tree rings going back through history eg.

Tree 1 1950 - 2016

Tree 2 1930 - 1990

With tree 2, you have as a reference the patterns laid down with tree 1, from 1950 - 1990, so you can work out that the earlier rings in tree 2 make a pattern for 1930-1950.

You can do the same thing with trees 3 and 4.....steadily going further back through history with each tree. This way dendrochronoligists can date trees back over thousands of years, (theoretically it should work back over millions of years.

You don't have to cut a tree down to measure its rings, you can just take a plug from the tree.

*THE SEDIMENT IN GLACIAL LAKES (VARVES)

This lays down strata from season to season, and year to year.

*CORAL REEFS

This has annual growth rings, like trees.

*RADIOACTIVE CLOCKS

1) There are a lot of them to choose from

2) They cover time from centuries to thousands of millions of years.

3) They have a margin of error of 1%

4) Layers or strata of rock get their names from the fossils we find in them.


Cumbrian
Ordovician
Silurian
Devonian
Carboniferous
Permian
Triassic
Jurassic
Cretaceous
Etc.

and you get sub-categories eg Upper Jurassic, Middle Jurassic and Lower Jurassic.

5) You can use radioactive dating of rocks to place a date on them.

Carbon is the element most indispensable to life - it enters the food web via photosynthesis in plants and from then on to living creatures.

Carbon dating is the most common form of dating. It was invented in the 1940s. It tells us that the earth is 4.6 billions years old.

....................................................................


*CONSERVAPEDIA

The notoriously misleading imitation of Wikipedia, It has a creationist editor - a lawyer called Andrew Schlafly.

*SPEED OF EVOLUTION

This can be slow or fast. The former is illustrated by Limulus (the horseshoe crab), which is sometimes called a living fossil. The latter is illustrated by bacterial strains, which have with great speed evolved a resistance to antibiotics.

*THE MISSING LINK
This has several meanings.

1) Gaps in the fossil record - eras shown in rock strata where there were no fossils. This is because the animals around then were not good fossil material, for instance they didn't have hard, mineralized skeletons.

2) The Piltdown Hoax

Many people were seeking a link between man and other primates. Eventually someone 'found' Piltdown Man - but it was a hoax. In the intervening time since the hoax we have found numerous fossils that link modern humans to the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees.

Interestingly there are as yet no fossils - as yet - linking that ancestor (which was neither chimpanzee nor human) to modern chimpanzees....but there are other ways of proving our connection to chimps.

* OUT OF THE SEA

All animals originated in the sea, and some, like whales, manatees and dugongs went back into the water. They never developed gills, and still breathe air. Others like seals and sea lions went part way back to the sea.

Hippos are quite closely related to whales, or at least to the ancestor of whales who walked on the land. Pigs are related to them too.

The most recent ancestor of all fish is shared by many non-fish too. Humans and other land vertebrates are descended from lobe-finned fish. We share an ancestor with coelacanthus and lungfish.

*THE WAY WE BUILD OUR BODIES FROM EMBRYOS

We do not do this from a blueprint or some sort of instructions from an architectural design. We do it more organically, like the dance of a flock of starlings, swooping beautifully together, but without a leader. There are thousands of birds but they never collide. They behave as a single individual - wheeling and turning as one. The edges of the flocks are sharply defined. The density is the same throughout the flick, but the starlings have no choreographer and no leader. This is how embryology works.

It is all done by local rules.
It is done at various levels, but especially the level of a single cell.

Influences that go on within the developing cells.....

Genes on proteins

Genes on genes

Proteins on the expression of genes

Proteins on proteins

Membranes

Chemical gradients

Physical and chemical guide rails in embryos.

Hormones (& other mediators of action at a distance.)

Labelled cells seeking other with identical or complementary labels.

(Nobody understand the whole picture, and nobody needs to....)

* HOMOLOGY

The study of how bones in mammals correspond across the species - however different they are eg comparing a human hand with a bat wing, or horse's hoof.

* SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE

The vertebrate skeleton is invariant across all vertebrates - while individual bones differ.

The crustaceans exoskeleton is invariant across all crustaceans while the individual 'tubes' vary.

The DNA code is invariant across all living creatures, while the individual genes themselves vary. Not just the genetic code itself, but the whole gene/protein system for running life is the same in animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, archaea and viruses. What varies is what is written in the code....not the code itself.

..........................................................

WAYS OF TESTING RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MAMMALS......

*TESTING THE CLOSENESS/DISTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MAMMALS BY INJECTING RABBITS WITH PROTEINS AND INSPECTING THE STRENGTH OF THE ANTIBODIES PRODUCED IN RESPONSE.

The idea of this upsets me so I am not going to describe it more than this, but I feel it must be mentioned as it is of importance...not least because it showed how closely humans are related to chimpanzees.

DNA HYBRIDIZATION

Another bit of the book I skipped. It is how scientists worked out there there is 98% genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees. The technique involves heat and melting points.

READING THE SEQUENCE OF LETTERS IN THE GENES THEMSELVES

This is a more recent method, and more expensive. You measure the similarity between a pair of matching genes from difference species.

................................................................


*THE HUMAN BODY IS A SERIES OF MODIFIED IMPERFECTIONS

This is a clear sign of the fact that we evolved. Improvements could only come about by making ad hoc modifications to what is already there. We are burdened with all sorts of historical relics, anomalies and inperfections.

Interestingly, an improvement is quite likely to evolve not from the old organ which previously did a job, but from something completely different, which performed a completely different function....eg when our fish ancestors took to breathing air they didn't modify their gills to make a lung - instead they modified a pouch in the gut.

*MANKIND HAS ONLY RECENTLY BECOME UPRIGHT.

We have been land animals for about 400 million years. We have walked on our hind legs for only about 1% of that time.

Habitually walking on two legs as we do, had far-reaching ramifications all over the body, which entailed lots of compensatory adjustments. the reason that so many of us get back pain is because we weren't originally designed to walk upright.

*WHEN WE SEE THE OUTSIDE OF ANIMALS WE SEE ELEGANT DESIGN, WHEN WE SEE THEM DISSECTED WE SEE A MESS.

This is because of the history of how our bodies have adapted to our changing shapes, lifestyles and postures.


*THE ARMS RACE

The fastest animals in the world are cheetahs, lions and several species of antelope ie predators and their prey. They have both evolved to run very fast in relations to one another, one to pursue, one to escape. But nature knows when to stop. Increased speed creates thin, vulnerable legs....so there has been a cut off point, where further speed has been penalised. (Faster animals have not survived/bred.) Antelopes would not run as fast as they do were they not chased by fast predators, instead they would shunt more energy into making babies, or laying down more fat for the winter.

*NATURAL SELECTION

(To me this seems to contradict the paragraph above...)

This will favour the most competitive individuals, right up to the moment when the last one dies. It can drive a population to extinction, whilst constantly favouring, to the bitter end, those competitive genes that are destined to be the last to go extinct.

*NATURAL SELECTION AND GENE SURVIVAL

This is all about the survival of self-replicating DNA, be it in an elephant, or in the virus that is making you sneeze with the common cold. The ultimate message is "duplicate me". (hide spoiler)]

Like the many other thousands who have read this, I enjoyed it enormously. ...more
5

Aug 11, 2009

Richard Dawkins has taken his seat along with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan as a great populist of science. In all of his science books and especially in The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence For Evolution, He has taken a complex subject and presented it with clarity to a population that usually gets lost in the seemingly foreign language of most scientists. Yet he does not "dumb down" neither. He has a gift for beautifully explaining difficult topics in a way a layman can understand. He Richard Dawkins has taken his seat along with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan as a great populist of science. In all of his science books and especially in The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence For Evolution, He has taken a complex subject and presented it with clarity to a population that usually gets lost in the seemingly foreign language of most scientists. Yet he does not "dumb down" neither. He has a gift for beautifully explaining difficult topics in a way a layman can understand. He saves his famous disdain, which was in abundant display in The God Delusion, for only when it is deserved. Much is made of Dawkins' supposed arrogance yet when he writes something that can be seen as arrogance, it is more of a sense of amazement that his fellow man can totally dismiss the evidence of evolution. There is a hilarious transcript of this in the book where Dawkins patiently sets out the evidence of intermediate fossils, and where this evidence can be seen, to a Creationist and the Creationist totally ignores it saying "Show me the evidence" like a mantra. Dawkins states he is aiming this book at the people who believe in creationism, which according to recent polls is 40 percent of the American population. I doubt that those people will give this book the time of day. Yet I also think that the 40 percent number includes a good number of people who on "on the fence" so to speak, those who simply haven't seen the evidence for evolution presented in such a clear and understandable manner. I think that is a reasonable audience for this book along with the ones, like me, who have a reasonable knowledge of evolution but wish to learn more. ...more
4

Jun 07, 2018

3.75 stars.
Felt a bit too technical for an un-science-y person like I. Nevertheless, 'twas bloody brilliant.
Have a few unresolved queries, guess I have to find answers, somewhere else...
5

Jan 05, 2010

Wow! This is definitely one of those books that makes you look at the world a little differently after reading. Richard Dawkins writes so well on the subject. He is extremely thorough in his description of the fact of evolution, but he doesn't dumb down his explanations either. If you are interested in a particular subject, he often references places you can go to continue the story. He paints a beautiful picture of how evolution really works and why that helps you appreciate this amazing world

Wow! This is definitely one of those books that makes you look at the world a little differently after reading. Richard Dawkins writes so well on the subject. He is extremely thorough in his description of the fact of evolution, but he doesn't dumb down his explanations either. If you are interested in a particular subject, he often references places you can go to continue the story. He paints a beautiful picture of how evolution really works and why that helps you appreciate this amazing world we live in just a little more.


I won't get into some of the details he shares, but based on the facts that Dawkins reveals in his appendix about the exceedingly high percentage of people that believe in a creationist view, I thing every high school student should have to read this book. But it doesn't matter what you believe. The evidence shared in this book is fascinating. Long term lab experiments that shows us evolution before our very eyes, sea turtles that evolved from the sea to land to sea to land to sea again, our distant ancestor named the lungfish, how DNA and mitochondria are used to trace ancestors, the evidence for evolution across all branches of science - it is all simply intriguing.


I appreciate people like Dawkins that can share such amazing things. I especially appreciate how he is more than willing to face creationists head on. If you don't believe in evolution, look at the evidence and then see if you feel the same way afterward - that is, if you are truly interested in answers to the big questions of life. You can say that Dawkins seems a bit aggressive in his books at times, but think about it this way. If you had a group of people constantly questioning questioning that the earth revolves around the sun, and you collected layers and layers of evidence to answer the question beyond reasonable doubt, but they still believe the sun revolved around the earth after all of the years of research, wouldn't you be a bit frustrated too? Dawkins is not only confronting creationists. He is confronting irrationality. Irrationality affects our quality of life. I commend Dawkins for saying enough is enough. He doesn't sugar coat the issue. He says is like it is.


Excellent book!

...more
0

Dec 29, 2017

*sharp inhale*

i'm religious. i'm a Catholic. and i'm not a creationist and i believe in evolution and i want to read this book because evolution is really interesting to me and i, too, want to take on Young Earth Creationists.

however, dawkins has a Most terrible habit of dissing not only creationists, but anyone who believes in God, and tarring us all with the same brush and just generally being that One Specific Sort of Atheist who is very arrogant and thinks that all religious people are *sharp inhale*

i'm religious. i'm a Catholic. and i'm not a creationist and i believe in evolution and i want to read this book because evolution is really interesting to me and i, too, want to take on Young Earth Creationists.

however, dawkins has a Most terrible habit of dissing not only creationists, but anyone who believes in God, and tarring us all with the same brush and just generally being that One Specific Sort of Atheist who is very arrogant and thinks that all religious people are stupid.

also, i'm not entirely sure why you would write a book that claims to want to convince creationists that they're wrong with such a strident tone, but i suppose dawkins just can't resist being annoying, can he.

i'm going to read it, though, because evolution. and also, because even though dawkins can be terribly obnoxious, he is definitely a genius and very good at his field.

oh, sweet Knowledge, look what i put up with in search of you.

anyways to lighten the mood here's my favourite cover+article combo ever:
...more
5

Jan 13, 2010

Dawkins arguments for evolution are elegant and, in some cases, simply breath-taking. As a psychology professor myself, and as one who has had to contend with "history deniers" for years, I especially liked his description of Lenski's research on the evolution of bacteria. Although facts have always been denied by those who claim Intelligent Design as a valid explanation for all nature, Dawkins painstakingly and elegantly lays out unassailable facts in support of the theory of evolution. He Dawkins arguments for evolution are elegant and, in some cases, simply breath-taking. As a psychology professor myself, and as one who has had to contend with "history deniers" for years, I especially liked his description of Lenski's research on the evolution of bacteria. Although facts have always been denied by those who claim Intelligent Design as a valid explanation for all nature, Dawkins painstakingly and elegantly lays out unassailable facts in support of the theory of evolution. He stakes his claim early in the book ("...evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt....

That said, I doubt seriouly that his book will challenge those who view evolution as only a theory, precisely because they would never open their minds to such a text as this! ...more
2

Feb 18, 2011

After reading this book, I quickly realized that it was targeted for a particular audience--the choir complete with holy robes and clapping hands shouting, "...Preach it brother Dawkins, preach it my brother, Evolution AMEN!, Hallelujah!" I honestly think that it is required that you be a Dawkinite and part of the Dawkins Tabernacle Choir in order for you to take this book seriously.

I was fully expecting some kind of scientific treatise yet it ended up being like a bunch of guys on the dock After reading this book, I quickly realized that it was targeted for a particular audience--the choir complete with holy robes and clapping hands shouting, "...Preach it brother Dawkins, preach it my brother, Evolution AMEN!, Hallelujah!" I honestly think that it is required that you be a Dawkinite and part of the Dawkins Tabernacle Choir in order for you to take this book seriously.

I was fully expecting some kind of scientific treatise yet it ended up being like a bunch of guys on the dock laughing and drinking beer talking about how the big one got away. It is amazing how he comes forth in every chapter in bold declarative sentences without justifications or support (support other than being anomalous tautologies) to conclude in mealy mouthed suppositions and suggestions.

I have done a chapter by chapter review on my Facebook page so if interested, you may look for my opinions over there.

For a guy who claimed many books on evolution under his belt yet forgot to give evidence to all his previous ones until TGSOE (He even admits this), I am amazed at what people are willing to believe simply because someone says it to be thus. Dumbing down has reached a new low on this one. I cannot see how anyone who approaches the subject from a scholarly viewpoint can take this book seriously.

...more
5

Sep 29, 2014

A really well written, interesting, logical discussion on evolution. I quite enjoyed this book.
5

Dec 21, 2016

Oh, Dawkins. Tell me more of evolution, please. Speak to me of genes and their ways. Teach me things about the world. I could read this stuff for hours. I am endlessly fascinated and the more I understand of evolution, the more I am aware of how unbelievably lucky I am that I exist, that anything exists, that I can learn about it.
5

Oct 06, 2009

Most of what Dawkins explains in this book was not yet known when I went to school.
My jaw was dropping several times during this most pleasurable trip through the physical evidence of evolution.
In 4 billion years we went from a single cell to a fully developed human, and now each of us has repreated it in the 9 months we are in the womb of our mother. The wonder of epigenisis without a blueprint!

But the funniest part in it was his quote of Monty Pythons 'All things dull and ugly':
All things Most of what Dawkins explains in this book was not yet known when I went to school.
My jaw was dropping several times during this most pleasurable trip through the physical evidence of evolution.
In 4 billion years we went from a single cell to a fully developed human, and now each of us has repreated it in the 9 months we are in the womb of our mother. The wonder of epigenisis without a blueprint!

But the funniest part in it was his quote of Monty Pythons 'All things dull and ugly':
All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot

Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings

All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small
All things foul and dangerous
The Lord God made them all

Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did
All things scabbed and cancerous
All pox great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all.

And if you ever want to marvel at nature, look at this virus, that looks like a lunar lander.
http://www.armageddononline.org/image...

And this is just a single cell?
https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/im...

I did not know that the skeleton of all mammals is identical in the structure and sequence of bones. Just the size and shape differs.

What an eye-opening book.

...more
5

Jun 03, 2013

Richard Dawkins has crafted a masterpiece dedicated to explaining evolution in a way that the layman can understand, providing excellent examples of evidence from fossil evidence to observable evidence, genetic evidence, and so on. My personal favorite chapter was on the geographic distribution of animals and speciation. It is really like an extraordinary puzzle that fits together so beautifully. Richard Dawkins uses the detective analogy to describe the study of evolution. And I can't think of Richard Dawkins has crafted a masterpiece dedicated to explaining evolution in a way that the layman can understand, providing excellent examples of evidence from fossil evidence to observable evidence, genetic evidence, and so on. My personal favorite chapter was on the geographic distribution of animals and speciation. It is really like an extraordinary puzzle that fits together so beautifully. Richard Dawkins uses the detective analogy to describe the study of evolution. And I can't think of anything more fitting. Because of course we weren't there and we can't see macro evolution in action, but we can see the clues (evidence) left behind and see that evolution is indeed a fact of nature.

I thought it was excellently paced. Richard Dawkins takes it slow at first, leading up from artificial and sexual selection to get the reader accustomed to the idea of natural selection. Then before he talks about fossil evidence he first makes sure the reader understands how dating methods work and how accurate they are. It's just fantastic, I learned so much and it was very interesting. Richard Dawkins writes with a passion and devotion that is difficult to understand for creationists. They ask how an atheist can be filled with awe and wonder with life if they believe it was all an accident. The answer is because nature in its entirety is chaotic and unusual... It's cruel and harsh, and very uncaring... But it's also beautiful and magnificent and completely fascinating. To say it all was created by a god is a mockery of the complexity that is shown in life.

This should honestly be required reading. So many people lack a basic understanding of evolution or even a respect of science in general. I have already recommended this book to several friends and some creationists that I've debated, but I encourage everybody to read this at some point in their life. ...more
5

Sep 15, 2009

I wish I'd had engaging and interesting texts like this to read when I had to take science classes in high school. I always wanted to like science so much, but I always got bogged down in minutae, in questions the text or teachers didn't address, and in the boredom of rote memorization. This book really made me like biology. Not only does it explain concepts in an intelligent and cohesive way, it has pictures! Color pictures, even. Much like the ones I stared at in biology or earth science I wish I'd had engaging and interesting texts like this to read when I had to take science classes in high school. I always wanted to like science so much, but I always got bogged down in minutae, in questions the text or teachers didn't address, and in the boredom of rote memorization. This book really made me like biology. Not only does it explain concepts in an intelligent and cohesive way, it has pictures! Color pictures, even. Much like the ones I stared at in biology or earth science instead of paragraphs of text. It absolutely engaged my visual approach to learning.

I really enjoyed the way various bits of evidence for evolution were put forth, and weaved into other parts. This book has so much information beyond just the fossil record, it's awesome. Many disciplines of science, from paleontology to astronomy to genetics, are pulled in to all establish evidence for the evolutionary theory. And Richard Dawkins writes in such an engaging manner. I really enjoyed this one.
...more
5

December 26, 2014

I have the hardback version, but this book was amazing. It was very well put together by Professor Dawkins. It is very informative and easy to understand, but you won't be bored by it if you have some previous knowledge. I can't recommend this book highly enough, honestly couldn't put it down.
2

May 08, 2019

I have to see both sides. I’m really not content to only read what reconfirms what I already believe. Even if I doubt that anything could change my mind on a subject (sometimes facts are facts) I want to be able to see what the other person sees and understand how they think.

I was in this objective sportsmanly mood when I picked this book up. By the end of chapter one I was struggling to maintain that attitude. Why? Because Dawkins has absolutely no interest in playing fair. I like to think I have to see both sides. I’m really not content to only read what reconfirms what I already believe. Even if I doubt that anything could change my mind on a subject (sometimes facts are facts) I want to be able to see what the other person sees and understand how they think.

I was in this objective sportsmanly mood when I picked this book up. By the end of chapter one I was struggling to maintain that attitude. Why? Because Dawkins has absolutely no interest in playing fair. I like to think that even people who disagree with me can still be intelligent intellectually honest people. Dawkins clearly doesn’t.

I took issue with a lot more than just the science in this book. Overall, it was well constructed—I think he went over the subjects that he needed to cover. But…I don’t know. Maybe I’m out-growing pop science, but for me, he wasted so much time on prose explaining obvious things, and trying to keep us poor non-scientists interested.

I didn’t notice his writing voice in The Selfish Gene. I vastly prefer that book. The Selfish Gene had something that actually took some page-time to explain. In this book his style felt like somebody desperately trying to write a lot of words. A lot of chains of adjectives and repeated ideas. I found myself skimming large sections because he had made his point and it was time to start connecting it to the next one, but he was in no hurry.

He did a lot of things I never would have done writing a similar book. He claimed in the beginning he was writing for both evolutionists who wanted to combat their stupid creationist relatives at family gatherings and for creationists themselves. I can confirm he was not writing this book with any thought for the possibility that the second group would read him at all. He doesn’t believe in creationists enough to think they would ever dare to read something that might shake their faith. Neither does he ever show any respect for his opposition. He constantly refers to evolution skeptics as “history-deniers” and stereotypes them as willfully scientifically illiterate and emotionally hysterical.

Never once in the course of the book does Dawkins acknowledge that there are fully-educated, fully-rational scientists that don’t read the evidence the way he does. He consistently juxtaposes “scientists” and “history-deniers” as mutually exclusive groups. Never once does he even mention a debate or exchange between himself and real ID scientists. His anecdotes are limited to face-offs with journalists and random people on the street.

The biggest downfall of the book stems from the fact that—unlike some of us—Dawkins makes no effort to understand his opposition. This manifests as the most glaring scientific mistake in the whole book: he wastes a huge amount of time proving microevolution. News flash: educated creationists believe in microevolution. Microevolution is simply variation that arises from shuffling genetic information. (Dawkins doesn’t think I, as a creationist, know what “information” is. He can be wrong.) Macroevolution requires significant amounts of new genetic information and is much more problematic. Macroevolution is the process that, over billions of years, turns worms to humans. This is what we need you to prove, Dawkins.

Anyway. I read this.
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3

Mar 06, 2012

Richard Dawkins is, from my point of view, a fairly unpleasant man even when I agree with him. He sets out to make this book an explanation of how evolution works (but for that, I would go with Coyne’s Why Evolution is True), and why it is the correct explanation for various phenomena we can observe around us. It’s not as bad as The God Delusion for anti-theist statements, though there are a few speckled in there, and he makes a fairly good line of argument.

Of course, since I think evolution is Richard Dawkins is, from my point of view, a fairly unpleasant man even when I agree with him. He sets out to make this book an explanation of how evolution works (but for that, I would go with Coyne’s Why Evolution is True), and why it is the correct explanation for various phenomena we can observe around us. It’s not as bad as The God Delusion for anti-theist statements, though there are a few speckled in there, and he makes a fairly good line of argument.

Of course, since I think evolution is an obvious conclusion, so I’m not exactly the audience he was hoping to convince — and it’s likely I didn’t notice instances of his usual arrogant attitude that would bother someone who doesn’t already believe in the same things. I think you’re probably safer with Coyne’s book.

Or this set of logical steps:

1. There are creatures who are better adapted to their environment than others of the same species.
Because they are better adapted, they will be more successful in survival and, consequently, breeding.
2. These traits, when heritable, can be passed on the creature’s offspring — and they can have many offspring.
3. These offspring will be better adapted, and will meet others who are also well adapted to breed with.
4. Good adaptations accumulate over the course of generations.
5. The environment is not stable and changes over time. Adaptation is necessary to allow a species to survive in the same area, and species do survive in the same area.
6. Over a long period of time, enough changes will accumulate that individuals of that species would not be able to breed with the original species, or with a branch of the species that adapted differently.
7. Evolution via natural selection has necessarily occurred.

Plus extra evidence like shared DNA, the fact that we can artificially (and in a very short space of time) cause a species to evolve by selecting traits we want (e.g. high milk yield in cows), and the fossil record which contains plenty of examples of transitional fossils… You don’t need Dawkins; go back to Darwin. Even without the evidence we have now, he saw the necessary chain of events, and he was much more sympathetic to other views, and meticulous about his evidence.

Nonetheless, Dawkins’ book is clear and pretty well-written; I just don’t like his attitude, and I don’t think he will reach the desired audience.

Originally posted here. ...more
5

Jan 02, 2015

For those looking for evidence supporting evolution, either because they themselves doubt it or want more evidences to argue for it, these two books can do the job extremely well.

I bet the vast majority if not all of those who read "The Greatest Show on Earth" & "Why Evolution is True" with an open mind and understand them, will regard evolution as true and be able to argue in its favor strongly.

Both authors maintain that evolution is compatible with #religion although they do not elaborate For those looking for evidence supporting evolution, either because they themselves doubt it or want more evidences to argue for it, these two books can do the job extremely well.

I bet the vast majority if not all of those who read "The Greatest Show on Earth" & "Why Evolution is True" with an open mind and understand them, will regard evolution as true and be able to argue in its favor strongly.

Both authors maintain that evolution is compatible with #religion although they do not elaborate on that. In fact, Dawkins -who is notorious for his criticism of religion- goes on and lists a number of British #bishops and public figures who call for teaching of evolution in publicly-funded schools.

I recommend reading Dawkins book first since he explains what is evolution and natural selection in detail before moving to the evidence while Coyne presents a lot of evidences and details.

For books that try to reconcile between religion and evolution, I hear that "Finding Darwin's God" & "The Language of God" are good, although I haven't read them yet. ...more
5

Dec 04, 2017

So, I admire Dawkins as both a scientist and a writer. His passion for science and the endless search for truth is infectious and his talent for writing magnificent prose is noteable.

I had the pleasure to go see him speak at the Center for Inquiry in D.C., and also got to mingle with him before the show (a fun story for sure). Needless to say, he was amazing.

I know some people think he is an angry atheist, but I think they are missing the point, and he does a great job of making his point at So, I admire Dawkins as both a scientist and a writer. His passion for science and the endless search for truth is infectious and his talent for writing magnificent prose is noteable.

I had the pleasure to go see him speak at the Center for Inquiry in D.C., and also got to mingle with him before the show (a fun story for sure). Needless to say, he was amazing.

I know some people think he is an angry atheist, but I think they are missing the point, and he does a great job of making his point at the beginning of this book.

A very worthwhile read for anyone curious about evolution. So much information yet very readable. ...more
5

Dec 06, 2009

What a wonderful book! I've enjoyed several other books by Richard Dawkins, and this is his best. The chapter named "History Written All Over Us" could have been called, "Unintelligent Design". It is just one of many arguments, why evolution is a proven theory.

Dawkins makes a point that a good scientific theory must be falsibiable. That means, that if certain evidence were ever collected, or observations made, then one must conclude that the theory is false. He describes how if fossils were What a wonderful book! I've enjoyed several other books by Richard Dawkins, and this is his best. The chapter named "History Written All Over Us" could have been called, "Unintelligent Design". It is just one of many arguments, why evolution is a proven theory.

Dawkins makes a point that a good scientific theory must be falsibiable. That means, that if certain evidence were ever collected, or observations made, then one must conclude that the theory is false. He describes how if fossils were ever found in the wrong geological strata, one would immediately have to conclude that evolution is false. But although tons of fossils have been discovered all over the world, not a single one has ever been found in the wrong geological layer. ...more
4

Apr 14, 2011

This isn't the best introductory book I've read on evolution, Dawkins loves to insult the people who don't hold his views, goes way to far sometimes to get his point across and has a tendency to ramble on and mention interesting but irrelevant stuff. Once you get past the flaws this actually is a pretty good book, oddly by the end some of those qualities I hated about the book in the beginning, I started to appreciate more in the end (I kind of enjoy the almost pointless side stories and facts). This isn't the best introductory book I've read on evolution, Dawkins loves to insult the people who don't hold his views, goes way to far sometimes to get his point across and has a tendency to ramble on and mention interesting but irrelevant stuff. Once you get past the flaws this actually is a pretty good book, oddly by the end some of those qualities I hated about the book in the beginning, I started to appreciate more in the end (I kind of enjoy the almost pointless side stories and facts).

When I started reading this book, I put it down for a while because I got tired of the creationist rants, which apparently the high number of people who deny evolution is why this book is written. Dawkins even goes as far as comparing an evolution denier as the equivalent of someone denying the existence of the roman civilization or even worse a holocaust denier. I'm sorry but lacking the understanding or denying evolution is nothing like denying the holocaust. For one thing we've never really witnessed one animal evolving into another completely different species, meaning one "kind" into another "kind", in our lifetime (which is far too short of a time scale) or even more a bacteria evolving into a mammal, this doesn't mean evolution is false (its not), but it is far different than denying the holocaust. Anyways eventually I picked the book back up and it was far better as I got further into it. Also expect to hear the word “history-deniers” every few pages, I guess he wants us to remember just how terrible the evolution deniers are. Since this book is written to convince the 40% of American who deny evolution, Dawkins should realize by now that insulting your target audience isn't the best way to get them to listen to you. If anything his books do more help to the young earth creationist movement and intelligent design.

The subtitle of this book is “The Evidence for Evolution”, which is kind of an unfitting title, I found that Coyne's Why Evolution is True contains far more evidence in far fewer pages and is overall a better introduction to evolution. You see Dawkins often goes off on rants which do not to move the evidence along. For example in a chapter he discusses the age of the earth, he spends several pages discussing getting the age from tree rings. You see you can match the width of tree rings with others and go back to earlier dates, but then he says that the chain of tree rings goes back 11,000 years only, well the pages he spent on this argument do nothing to convince a young earth creationist of the age of the earth, in fact the argument works in their favor. The book is full of these little side notes and stories which causes the page numbers to go up, but the relevant information doesn't follow. Also expect tons of foot notes with mostly rants about TV shows he wants to be on, his childhood, or why we should call the Beijing Man, the Peking fossil, ect.

I know I've complained some but don't get me wrong, this book, once you look past the flaws, is still very interesting and worth reading (assuming that you're not a creationist). Many of the side stories which I complained about are actually interesting if you don’t mind frequent diversions and he goes into DNA a little more than the other non DNA specific evolution books I've read. So in the end I do think its pretty good, just not as a first book on evolution. ...more
5

Jul 31, 2018

I can not emphasize enough how much I admire and respect Richard Dawkins. His books are veritable university courses on biology, anthropology and natural history, this one is no exception. If there's a knock on The Greatest Show On Earth, it's that you cannot read it when you're tired or sleepy. Richard is so passionate about his vocation that he sometimes forgets that some of us don't have his stamina, much less his vocabulary.

Dawson excels at anticipating counter arguments, probably because he I can not emphasize enough how much I admire and respect Richard Dawkins. His books are veritable university courses on biology, anthropology and natural history, this one is no exception. If there's a knock on The Greatest Show On Earth, it's that you cannot read it when you're tired or sleepy. Richard is so passionate about his vocation that he sometimes forgets that some of us don't have his stamina, much less his vocabulary.

Dawson excels at anticipating counter arguments, probably because he hears them frequently, and he is quick to offer rock solid scientific evidence to bolster his bullet points. He also has a knack for coming at issues from various angles. Just when you think two pages of zoology has sufficiently put a topic to rest: BAM! here comes a paragraph of chemistry for good measure.

This is what I love about Dawkins. He is adamantly opposed to ignorance. This is not a tome for the obtuse or faint of heart. This is a study in academic truth. ...more
5

Mar 28, 2018

Another great book by Richard Dawkins. This is a wonderful book that richly describes, in immense details, the wonder that is evolution. Here is a book that really shows the awe of science, and nature and how the world has become the great cornucopia of life that it has become.

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