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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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  •  
    Nathan Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-10-12
    Nathan Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-10-12
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    "Should be mandatory reading in science class"

    Before listening to this I had a very limited understanding of how natural selection works. I found this book fascinating and enlightening from start to end and now have a much better understanding of the basics of evolution and the evidence for it.

    After listening to this I can't help thinking about what a miserable job my high school did of teaching evolution. The fact that I didn't even believe in it until I was an adult should give you an idea. Like with any creationist, my doubt in evolution was purely out of ignorance of what evolution actually is. If all the doubters of evolution read this book there wouldn't be many left over still clinging to the nonsense of creationism.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellery BIRMINGHAM, AL, United States 01-17-12
    Ellery BIRMINGHAM, AL, United States 01-17-12 Member Since 2011
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    "evolution first timer"
    What did you love best about The Greatest Show on Earth?

    It was (as dawkins likes to put it) an


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Cookeville, TN, United States 01-06-12
    Joseph Cookeville, TN, United States 01-06-12
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    "Just as the Title Said..."
    If you could sum up The Greatest Show on Earth in three words, what would they be?

    Logical, Rational, and Researched


    Any additional comments?

    Thoughtfully written, Dawkins presents in his usual form the evidence for evolution. It is filled with explanations and analogies, bringing light to evolution from almost every possible angle while maintaining a dialogue which can be followed by most intelligent readers / listeners.
    He does come on a bit strong in attacking the idea of a creator- beyond what he really should in a book presenting itself in an otherwise scientific manner. Though very in keeping with Dawkins as a writer, in this book, it gets in the way of his thesis, and removes some of his motivation to petty quibbling. I am sure some like it; I don't. Just give me the science, and let me read The Blind Watchmaker or The God Delusion.
    Overall, though, I was satisfied with The Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins presentation, when topic, is strong and satisfying intellectually. I highly recommend this to everyone, believers in Evolution or ID alike, to help on becoming informed about what evolution is and what the evidence is which supports it as a scientific theory.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kakumani Rochester, IL, United States 09-22-10
    Kakumani Rochester, IL, United States 09-22-10
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    "Great book, interesting read"

    I have read this book when it was released and now I am listening to it. I am enjoying listening to it, just as much as I've enjoyed reading it. It could've been a classic and my all time favorite easily, but for the fact that he resorted to refuting ID/creationism. I guess in the current climate of rampant ignorance and he was compelled to do that. He didn't really need to dedicate any effort refuting the "evidence-deniers", simply for the fact that no amount of evidence could convince them. By excluding that <1% time he spent in the book refuting ID/ Creationism, this book could've been just as great as the "Selfish Gene". Prof. Dawkins is my all time favorite author. Ever since I discovered his writings a few years ago, I have been trying to read them all and so far not one of them disappointed me. This book is no exception. Great book. A must read for all students of science and for anyone interested in understanding the nature.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Pflugerville, TX, United States 09-03-10
    Jason Pflugerville, TX, United States 09-03-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Not for casual listening..."

    Very interesting read, and keeps your attention by switching between Dawkins and Ward. You do really have to focus on the subject matter, which is a bit in depth, or you will find yourself hitting the back button often. Now only if he would do "The Selfish Gene" on tape...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 01-07-12
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 01-07-12 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

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    "It's only the messenger I'd like to kill."

    Back in the 60‘s, the Modern Library edition of the Origin of Species and Descent of Man was probably the single greatest inspiration for me to study biology and eventually get a degree in that major. I was not an atheist back in those days. I’m not sure I am totally one today? I have many, many problems with organized religion. I cannot nor will I ever believe that I could be a member of such a community. However, I have not given up on the idea that there might not be some intelligent design to things. It’s just not the intelligence of Richard Dawkins.Think about it, Richard. I’ll bet that you believe their is a high probability that there is life and possibly even intelligence somewhere else in the universe. Would it be intelligence as we know it do you suppose?

    Publishers Weekly commented, "If Charles Darwin walked into a 21st-century bookstore and wanted to know how his theory had fared, this is the book [GSoE] he should pick up.” The review then goes on to say that “Dawkins remains a superb translator of complex scientific concepts....he has a way of making the drollest details feel like a revelation." I support the first part of that review but not the second. I think that Charles Darwin was that person who could so superbly articulate and make clear complex, scientific concepts. Richard Dawkins has a problem.

    The author of The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins, is a self-described militant atheist. For me, therein lies the “greatest” problem with this book and others he has written. I have no problem with Dawkins’ atheism. I understand his militancy. But all of that, particularly rapped up in vehement emotion seems incongruent with a book on science. Unless perhaps in the study of behaviorism, science loses its authenticity in the presence of emotion. It ceases to be legitimate science and begins to sound more like the “circus” he is trying to debunk.

    In most of his books, Dawkins makes a passionate argument against the influence of religion around the teaching of evolution. Or maybe one should say the influence of religion on Not teaching evolution. I understand that and I completely support his thesis. However, for the same reason, I just do not believe that his anti-religious rants belong in a book that purports to teach science any more than speculation on creationism belongs in the classroom. Both seem to cheapen the discipline of science itself. As hard as Dawkins tries to separate Church, State and secular education, it is in this trying that his books lose their scientific punch.

    There was a lot to like about GSoE. Reading about evolution again, I relived with much of the same excitement I had had back in those days when, as that teenager, I was introduced to evolution. But all of Dawkins’ bashing and defensiveness diminishes the sheer enjoyment of reading and reveling in the beauty that is Charles Darwin all by himself. What Dawkins has to say about separating Church and State and education needs desperately to be said and needs to be listened to. A book all about that and without all the biology would be fine. It would make more sense and probably be more widely read. One book, Richard, maybe one book of the ilk of GSoE would make sense, but an entire library devoted to this? Come on..... Sounds almost like a crusade that you would argue against so ardently.

    Discover magazine called Richard Dawkins "Darwin's Rottweiler" for his “fierce and effective defense of evolution.” I believe that speaks a disservice to the genus canids. In today’s world, anyone with half a brain knows that evolution requires no more of defense than that of the heliocentric solar system. But yes, our schools and curricula do need defense from religious zealots. Let’s just keep the fact of evolution separate from the theory that it’s not. The socio-political and religious arguments for teaching creationism to the exclusion or at least the demeaning of evolution are strong, large and looming enough targets to go after on their own. The breath and depth of science in this book only muddys up that water.

    Do I care that a recent Gallup poll concluded that 44 percent of Americans believed a god created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years and that beliefs in Europe are not much different? You bet I care. I just do not think folks like Dawkins are going to change that thinking with books like this.

    You want to know about evolution? Read Charles Darwin first. Go to the master himself. He is totally approachable and his science reads like beautiful prose. You want religious influences out of public schools, join the PTA or vote for the right candidate. In its totality, I subscribe to all that Dawkins posits. It's only the messenger that I'd like to kill.

    6 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Franklinton, NC, USA 10-09-09
    James Franklinton, NC, USA 10-09-09
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    "Content - Brilliant! Presentation - Hated it!"

    I was, as a biologist, generally pleased with the book However, since I have been through a Ph.D. program in Evolutionary Biology from a major university, I was familiar with the material so there was not much new that Dawkins presented. The organization was logical and the writing crisp.

    But I have to object to Dawkins and Lalla Ward reading the book. Dawkins, maybe, but Ward, NO! The team reading approach is disconcerting is this kind of presentation as the switch from one to another displaces attention from the material to the speaker. Lalla's voice isn't the best, either. I found the same arrangement to be a problem with "The God Delusion." Lalla Ward was nice as an actress in "Dr. Who" but not as a reader of science or polemics.

    My bottom line is get the book to read with your eyes OR, with luck, another narrator will do a new version. George Guidall, maybe? It's a real tragedy that we don't have Frank Muller anymore.

    6 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hung Maywood, NJ, USA 11-18-09
    Hung Maywood, NJ, USA 11-18-09 Member Since 2002
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    "Unconvinced"

    Dawkins does a wonderful job of describing the beauty and intricacies of the evolutionary process. However, he fails to provide any convincing evidence that proves natural selection is responsible for the diversity of species. This is a nice retrospective study, but in order to scientifically prove a theory, we need prospective, double blinded, randomized studies. He does not provide any examples of these kind of studies. He also contradicts one of the crucial points of modern evolutionary theory. The late Stephen Jay Gould would attest to the fact the evolution occurs in spurts. Dawkins proposes that evolution is a slow tedious almost imperceptible process like the movement of a clock. The fossil evidence supports Gould's observation. Also, he completely ignores the new discovery of epigenomes which are genetic code sequences in the DNA which get turned on and off in response to certain environmental conditions resulting in expression of certain phenotypes. Dawkins' agenda seems to be more towards taking jabs at the creationists rather than trying to give a truly scientific argument to support evolution theory.

    20 of 128 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mahmood ANN ARBOR , MI, USA 10-02-09
    Mahmood ANN ARBOR , MI, USA 10-02-09
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    "waste of time"

    I am not anti evolution nor trying to prove creationism but I rather listen to solid scientific debates not a political speech!some of these authors talk about evolution in the way you hear a priest talks about bible,by the way your reasoning is poor,I have heared much better speeches about evolution or read about it,they say the best you can defeat something is bad defense,by that example about dogs you actually are proving creationism because first nobody has taken cat out of dogs they breed new types of dogs but they are always dogs they dont evolve into new species and behind the scene of interbreeding dogs and making them fluffy or short or fat is human inteligence .dogs themselves dont interbreed like that in nature perhaps the main reason is the geographical distances and beside to get results like human does blind dog interbreeds doesnt seem sufficient . it is human that brings them to each other,in this exmaple a smart director which is human is directing the show so if you want to use getting new types of dogs by interbreeding among them as a proof for evolution then you have to have a director for it in nature which is ....god!see?you are a bad author and have even worse reasoning!i recommend author of this book learns more about scientific reasoning,scinece my friend not sentimental speeches!

    7 of 108 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 11-05-09
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 11-05-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Not very engaging"

    The story was just not believable. Our hero is weak and I really didn't care for any of the characters. Boring.

    2 of 103 people found this review helpful
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