The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins, 2009, 470 pages, amazon

I never doubted evolution so you might ask why would I read a book like this. For the same reason why I read Darwin’s Origin of Species or plan to read Schrodinger’s What is Life? Life, it’s origin and development, consciousness, these all fascinate me. And plus, I like the way Dawkins writes (the other book I read by him is The Selfish Gene – highly recommended, too). Yes, he is sarcastic, especially towards those who do not accept evolution, but that’s the frustration of someone who’ve spent a lot of time trying to reason and give arguments only to be met with a brick wall of ignorance of people not willing to look at them.

That’s actually the big problem of this book. For people like me, who don’t need to be persuaded, it’s simply a fascinating reading with a lot of humor and “tentacles” to follow (Dawkins is know for his numerous tangent stories). But I venture a guess that not many people who don’t believe in evolution would open this book. Though they should, because as Dawkins says:

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired…It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.

And he gives plenty of arguments, not limited to fossils. He goes though geology, domestification, breeding, experiment’s that have been done (e.g. the 20-year E. Coli evolution experiment – go look at it, it’s worth it. Really. I’ll wait.), DNA, “messy” design and lot of other things. Great reading.

PS If you want to do your own evolution experiment, try Dawkins’ blind watchmaker applet.
PS2 20-year old but still good lecture for kids Ultraviolet Garden by Richard Dawkins, which includes such gems as Douglas Adams reading from his book and an orchid pounding up on a bee (little after minute 10).

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