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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution | [Richard Dawkins]

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

The Greatest Show on Earth is a stunning counterattack on advocates of "Intelligent Design," explaining the evidence for evolution while exposing the absurdities of the creationist "argument". 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.
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Publisher's Summary

In 2008, a Gallup poll showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created man in his present form within the last 10,000 years. In a Pew Forum poll in the same year, 42 percent believed that all life on earth has existed in its present form since the beginning of time.

In 1859 Charles Darwin's masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, shook society to its core. Darwin was only too aware of the storm his theory of evolution would provoke. But he surely would have raised an incredulous eyebrow at the controversy still raging a century and a half later.

Evolution is accepted as scientific fact by all reputable scientists and indeed theologians, yet millions of people continue to question its veracity. Now the author of the iconic work The God Delusion takes them to task.

The Greatest Show on Earth is a stunning counterattack on advocates of "Intelligent Design", explaining the evidence for evolution while exposing the absurdities of the creationist "argument". Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence: from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics. Combining these elements and many more, he makes 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."

The Greatest Show on Earth comes at a critical time: systematic opposition to the fact of evolution is menacing as never before. In American schools, and in schools around the world, insidious attempts are made to undermine the status of science in the classroom. Dawkins wields a devastating argument against this ignorance, but his unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master's vision of life, in all its splendor.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2009 Richard Dawkins; (P)2009 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"If Charles Darwin walked into a 21st-century bookstore and wanted to know how his theory had fared, this is the book he should pick up. Dawkins remains a superb translator of complex scientific concepts....he has a way of making the drollest details feel like a revelation." (Publishers Weekly)

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  •  
    Joseph Austin, TX, United States 10-28-09
    Joseph Austin, TX, United States 10-28-09 Member Since 2011
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    "Well read, well explained, scientific."

    This book does three things. It does two brilliantly, and it does one a little less so.

    First, the book lays out the scientific evidence for evolution, and it does so in a way that any curious-minded reader regardless of scientific background can follow. The details build point by point to demonstrate what scientists ask and how they find their answers. This is the strongest feature of the book--demonstrating the precise evidence and the predictive and provable conclusions of evolution theory. Dawkins never reaches for a grand explanation until he has shown the precise scientific evidence used to prove that explanation.

    Second, Dawkins answers criticisms of evolution theory as he goes along, showing for instance that it can be proven and tested by predictable experiments, and that ideas like irreducible complexity are invalid.

    Third, he holds a running argument with believers of religions, and at times is almost taunting. While I understand that he has been attacked by some believers often enough to be defensive, I think this makes an otherwise scientific text personal, and is likely to repel rather than convince doubters. He weakens his logic, for instance arguing points like "no creator would do X instead of Y, thus proving that creation is wrong." (not actual quote). Who could say what a creator would do? It's a minor objection, not enough to cost a star because the evidence as laid out stands firm despite this issue, but it weakens his presentation.

    Over all, this is a beautiful, intriguing, and engaging scientific summary that demonstrates the complexity of life and makes one see the universe differently. Evolution Theory does not try to understand the origins of life itself, only how species came to be differentiated, and for the life of me I can't understand how it can be so controversial. If doubters read this book, maybe they would feel less afraid of or threatened by the subject, and we could all put this debate behind us.

    36 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Greeley, CO, United States 10-01-10
    Michelle Greeley, CO, United States 10-01-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Wonderful Book"

    This book is amazing look into the world of evolution. Very easy to understand providing examples and studies after every scientific explanation and theory. Narration was wonderful, the dual narrators complement each other perfectly. How fascinating that evolution involves Geology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy. A full and enriching book, a must read.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marshall 05-31-10
    Marshall 05-31-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Extremely informative, a joy to listen to"

    Evolution has always captured my imagination, and this book may now be my favorite on the subject. Dawkins' passion is obvious in his narration, and he makes the case for natural selection and evolution gracefully. I sincerely hope he and his wife (Mrs. Ward) decides to go back and narrate some of his other books.. they're a joy to listen to.

    If you're reading this book with a genuine desire to understand, it will leave you without a shadow of a doubt in the fact of evolution. I especially delight in the fact that our evidence is so strong, that the fossil record is just icing on the cake! Definitely give this book a listen, and if you're looking for something more theologically oriented, also checkout the God Delusion.. both transformative in their own right.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Cincinnati, OH, United States 10-20-09
    Tim Cincinnati, OH, United States 10-20-09 Member Since 2006
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    "Killing ID softly with his words"

    This should be required reading for every biology 101 class. Or make that Chemistry. And geology. It comes at evolution from so many angles, makes it understandable and very interesting. Want to understand carbon dating? Embryology? I just wish it was longer. I kept thinking, "I wish Darwin could hear what we know now." Verification everywhere. So many ways evolution could be disproven, yet it keeps on winning. If you have a friend who is somehow stuck against evolution, insist that he read this book. If not the best audiobook I ever heard, it is in the top 3. Bravo!

    25 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandi pittsburgh, PA, United States 10-14-10
    Brandi pittsburgh, PA, United States 10-14-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Brilliant, accessible, and well worth your time!"

    Richard Dawkins has gone above and beyond the clever writing in books past. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH is a book driven by logical, evidence-based ideas/laws/theorum/commentary, delivered in Dawkin's signature combination of wit and exquisitely turned phrases. I'm an MSW *masters in social work/psychoanalysis*, and this book was accessible, and a joy to listen to it unfold, gracefully. The book's pace and depth of topic are perfectly graded such that anyone with a sincere thirst for knowledge, and access to the net, could thoroughly enjoy themselves. I thought I understood the nuts and bolts of evolution, but I was wrong. My "up North" Michigan educators had not bothered to illuminate the subject of evolution, and consequently, I now realize the depth/breadth and degree of ignorance I'd been suffering all my 32 years, until completing this book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dalton 09-23-09
    Dalton 09-23-09
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    "Back to His Strong Suit"

    This book is not the same arguments you've heard before. Usually a book about evolution gives all of the old arguments and then adds the new data at the end. Dawkins gives a unique and thoroughly modern argument for evolution. I felt as if I was hearing the story for the first time. This book reminded me why evolution isn't just true but beautiful.

    57 of 69 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan A Lyons 11-02-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Very compelling"

    Dawkins does a great job of laying out the case for evolution. He cites, in detail, experiment after compelling experiment to prove his points. This book is going to rub creationists the wrong way, as Dawkins rarely hesitates to take shots at them. But, if you can keep an open mind throughout the book, I don't know how you can come away still believing in creationism (at least as taught in the Bible).

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vigen 02-27-10
    Vigen 02-27-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Excellent book"

    An excellent book describing the facts of evolution. The narration was excellent. I will listen to this one more time to let it sync better. All religious fanatics should read this book and learn about facts of life and reality of nature.

    Being an astrophysics and theoretical physics fan, this book answered my questions of where we come from and for what purpose we are here, it's an answer that an individual has to find it for him/herself. I found mine.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Houston, TX, USA 01-15-10
    S Houston, TX, USA 01-15-10
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    "Not what I expected, but good, very good."

    Evolution and Darwin have always made sense to me, but this book goes into exquisite detail (and some way too much to listen to for about half and hour) about things I had no idea about.

    Although I had hoped this book would follow the lines of the God Delusion, whereby he would bring up the arguments for Creationism, which he would then shoot down (and he does from time to time), it is mainly a book about evolution, period.

    He goes into detail about all of the types of dating techniques, and tells you how it's done. I knew you could chart time by counting tree rings, but I didn't know that they have been dated back over 10,000 years. So the Earth IS over 6,000 years old!? How about that. And he does get riled up that 40+% of the US population still believes God created US in his image, as we are now, without evolution, less than 10,000 years ago.
    Good stuff- get it.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel Dewald Surrey, UK 10-19-09
    Rachel Dewald Surrey, UK 10-19-09 Listener Since 2009

    rage2o

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    "Read and written with passion"

    Richard Dawkins never disappoints in the pure readability (or in this case, listenability) of his works. Through that readability, you're able to learn immense amounts because he's so good at presenting science and facts. Additionally, he will always point out when a particular theory or idea is not part of the current consensus (even his own ideas) or has not been otherwise proven in some way.

    As will probably be pointed out in other reviews, it's doubtful that this book will really "convert" anyone to evolution. But in the same way that God Delusion was able to give the final nudge to those on the fence about religion, I suspect this book will have that same effect for those that perhaps still see Intelligent Design as somehow viable. Die-hard Creationists aren't going to read this and certainly won't accept the evidence he presents.

    All in all, very very enjoyable and read wonderfully by Dawkins himself and his wife.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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