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.
©2009 Richard Dawkins; (P)2009 Simon & Schuster
"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)
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.
While I found the information in this book quite interesting, the writing style does not spark imagination as well as some other science writers, such as Hawking. In fact, the first part of the book was not great. The second half, however was really interesting. I mean, really interesting. I won't leak what each section is about, so as not to spoil this book for those who purchase. But for me, I give the first half 3 stars and the second half 5 stars. Overall, a good purchase.
The more I see of science, the more facinated I become. Dawkins has produced fantasict philosphical writing. This scientific writing is even more so.
This one is a winner! I have read several of Dawkins' books before, but listening to his voice (and the other reader, too) really helped me understand the ideas and examples he presented. We have done a poor job educating our student population on Evolution. This book explains everything in such simple and understandable detail! A must read for an educated person!
Dawkins always impressed me with his logic, clarity of thought, and simple, understandable presentation. This book is par for the course. Excellent introduction to evolution for those who don't have much background in biology but genuinely want to learn.
Dawkins lays out clearly and concisely the science behind evolution. Not only is the book interesting, Dawkins and his wife are also great readers as well. Excellent all-round.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The more I learn about the development of life and humans on earth the more spiritual I become because the more special it makes me feel. For all the events to have happened to have put us here after a 100 million centuries and to have awoken up in this special time and place it makes me feel blessed. Dawkins explains these probable events and processes better than anyone. Understanding the path that life had to take to bring us here makes me feel special. Usually, I don't like it when an author reads his own works but I like it when Dawkins does. I listen to all of Dawkins' books and he doesn't repeat his analogies in his explanations and manages to come up with new and better analogies and explanations. (I would recommend listening to "The Selfish Gene" before this one only because both books are so good that you'll end up listening to both and you might as well read them in that more logical order).
Dawkins is unmatched as a narrator of the amazing world we inhabit. Although he suffers no fools, and is a bit single minded about religion, that is a tiny part of an otherwise excellent journey through the building blocks of our species, and life in general.
Hung's review, below, is not factual. Dawkins goes to considerable length to discus how fast evolution can occur, even including an entire chapter called "Before our very eyes," dedicated to examples of evolution in real time.
That Hung seems not to know this makes me suspect him of being a troll trying to sabotage sales of this book, which is, of course, the very best possible reason for you to buy it immediately.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
It's hard to imagine that many books out there present a clearer, more logical, and more eloquent explanation of why scientists consider evolution a fact than this one does. As Dawkins explains from the beginning, the public often misunderstands the implications of the word "theory". In turn, he examines each component of evolutionary science, showing in straightforward language how each is logical, sound, supported by an enormous array of facts, and reinforced by other areas of understanding. If like me, you accepted Darwin's theory, but were fuzzy on some of its specifics, Dawkins provides a satisfying overview of natural selection, genetics, mutation, the fossil record, geology, and even some physics and math. The reader learns how evolution has been demonstrated in a laboratory (with bacteria), why the fossil record isn't even necessary to convince scientists of evolution's reality, and how the ideas have been tested with mathematical models.
Dawkins' other goal is to debunk popular Creationist beliefs, and this he does with a certain amount of glee, pointing out the many factual inaccuracies and logical flaws they contain. He also corrects common misconceptions about the theory of evolution, that make Creationist arguments easier to swallow. By the time he's finished, he's made it very difficult for any Creationist to logically refute his framework of reasoning. That said, I think he sometimes strays too far from science into theological territory, attacking conceptions of God that are a little more simplistic than those many religious people actually hold. After all, many theists accept the reality of evolution, but believe that the will of God is still present in natural events.
This is a very informative, well-argued, and substantial book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys science and wants to understand how evolutionary science has gotten to where it is today.
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