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)
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
I love learning about the universe and our place in it by listening to Audible.
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 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.
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.
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.
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