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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.

©2009 Richard Dawkins (P)2009 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"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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  • Overall
  • Shan
  • Durango, CO, USA
  • 12-22-09


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.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 05-08-10

Powerfully convincing (the science part)

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.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Tyler
  • Red Deer, AB, Canada
  • 04-02-12

This is it!!

This book is the modern work of our time concerning evolutionary biology. Richard Dawkins does an amazingly thorough job describing the processes of Evolution via Natural Selection. Dawkins leaves no part, no matter how simple out of the book; leaving absolutely no loopholes in which intelligent design theorists can criticize its accuracy.

There are dry points in this book, but the transfer between readers provides a balance for that. It is appropriately lengthened and is extremely well informative. I loved the book, and learned a lot in the progress!

I have listened to it only once, but it definitely won't be the last; nor will it be the last I will be reading of Dawkins work.

It is important to set aside your personal biases, and have an open mind, while not using the word belief, but looking only at the facts.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 11-09-11

Crisp delivery and great insight

It is a wonderful book for those new to - or familiar with - the history and workings of evolution. It offers great detail on experiments that shed light on how evolution can be witnessed in a short space of time, as well as over centuries.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Couldn't "put it down"

I really loved this book and I'm certain I will listen to it again, perhaps more than once over time. The subject matter has always been fascinating to me and Dawkins is such an expert at making the science accessible for the non-scientist. In this book he is masterful. He lays out the case for the fact of evolution of species in an organized and reasonable way, but it's not at all "dry". He carefully debunks with evidence and facts all the myths, lies and sheer nonsense offered by those who deny evolution happened. He clearly loves his subject and is enthusiastic about the wonders of the process of evolution by natural selection and the amazing and sometimes bizarre results. The narration is outstanding. The technique of sharing the reading the way he and Lalla Ward did also helps keep the content well organized in the reader's head (helpful with a somewhat complicated topic that you can't look at; just listen to.) I don't often award 5 stars, but this one is a winner.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Josh
  • RED BLUFF, CA, United States
  • 10-27-10

Simple, Elegant and Brilliant.

The true masterpiece of this book is the elegant weaving of many different scientific fields into a simple explanation of the "miracle" of evolution. While I began book knowing a good deal about the evolution of the genus homo, I know how truly related all life is. Dawkins demonstrates a good intellect and wit throughout the book, weaving a truly magnificent story, the story of evolution.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Gains momentum throughout

As with some previous Dawkins material, I found the first few chapters a bit simplistic. However, once through that stage, it was very interesting and informative. The two readers worked well to provide emphasis and to identify quotations from other works.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lucas
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 10-17-09

Could be the book the tips the balance?

I enjoyed this book a lot. I have a degree in zoology and already know that evolution is true. This book is really intended to give the "already converted" with an arsenal of studies, arguments, and evidence when we find ourselves in a debate with someone who believes in creation or "intelligent design."

There's some really great stuff here; some things I was already familiar with and and some things that were new. I think it would be pretty challenging material for someone who didn't get much past high school biology but rewarding. Not having the visual aids with the audiobook was a bummer and would make it more challenging for a non-scientist. I'm hoping that this book's popularity indicates that the public is embracing evolution at last.

There were so many wonderful bits I could detail but I will let you discover for yourself. I do encourage this book to anyone who's even considering this book and obviously you are if you're reading this. I found the "tag-team" reading with his wife a bit distracting at times. Dawkins reads most of it (probably 65%) and did an excellent job. His wife's reading worked sometimes and not at others. Not ruinous, in my opinion.


5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 10-09-09

Informative and inspiring

This books lays out all the best evidence for evolution in a way that is accessible to the layperson. Dawkins makes the point many times that the scientific consensus that evolution enjoys is a result of MANY separate lines of investigation all pointing to the same conclusion. The book even has some of the anti-religious vitriol that I loved in the God Delusion.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Who Better?!

Who better to write a book about evolution then a reknown biologist? This was incredibly helpful in my own understanding of how trivia that I learned from different branches of science all fit together like a puzzle to form an undeniable picture of natural selection and evolution. I truly wish everyone would read this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful