on September 26, 2009
This book is not about God or faith or religion at all. Dawkins is not attacking elements of faith. This book is written for believers and secularists alike. It's a scientific look at the concepts and elements of evolution - all of which are well established and proven. He redraws Darwin's grand vision and offers it to us in a well written and readable form that appeals to the lay-person as readily as the biologist.
Dawkins uses this book to exhibit how the arguments against evolution (not arguments against God or the divine in general - that was dealt with in The God Delusion) fall short and fail to address the evedence that is readily available.
Evolutionary science requires no belief - only understanding. I whole heartedly invite people of faith to read this book and really try understand what is being said in its pages. Knowledge and understanding are the keys to the universe.
on September 30, 2009
If anyone had any doubt about evolution after reading this book, then they probably started reading it with a closed mind to evolution in the first place. I admit, I was not sure how evolution was possible (before reading this book), but this book answered all of my questions and took a fair look at the subject from both sides of the issue. He shows, without a doubt, living evidence of evolution and the fact that humans have been on this earth for a lot longer than a few millennia, like some people think.
I notice that some of the reviews of this book are low saying that he didn't explain how the universe started, so this book isn't worth reading. This makes me chuckle. Actually, he goes into detail on how the universe could have started, but mentions several times that he cannot prove them because they are only theories, and that we do not have the technology right now to answer this question.
If you would like the understand more about the world around you and how it came to be, then this book is perfect for you. If you want to know exactly how the universe was created, which is impossible right now, then you should probably go back to reading the bible and live your sheltered life. Overall, Dawkins gives an optimistic look at the past, present, and future, and he showed me that the evidence for the fact of evolution is all around us, you just have to be willing to look.
Whether or not you believe that there is a god (God) guiding evolution, there is no rational argument against its existence and importance. Nor does an understanding of evolution diminish the wonders of the world- in fact, it augments them. Those are Dawkins' main themes in this book, and they are laid out clearly and forcefully.
The first main theme, the evidence for evolution, is the dominant theme of this book. Given his previous work on atheism, this certainly is a topic he believes passionately about. Dawkins is an authority on evolution, and has been ever since his first books on the topic (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, and to a lesser extent, The Blind Watchmaker, are classics in evolutionary theory). What Dawkins does in this book is recite the mountains of evidence that support evolution. Fossils, development, cross-species similarities, and genetics all add up to make evolution one of the most solid and proven theories in science (perhaps more so than gravity!). He even goes the same route as Darwin in using domesticated animals as an example of evolution (guided by humans, not natural selection) in action. People who believe that the word "theory" means unproven, unsupported guessing really need to read this book to understand just how much evidence there truly is for this "theory". Dawkins even left out some of the more dramatic genetic evidence that has begun to surface recently, and the case is still rock-solid. Dawkins does avoid making direct attacks and comparisons to other "theories" such as Intelligent Design, but his case for evolution is so overwhelming it's hard to imagine a competitive theory that could knock evolution off. As a defense of evolution, this book is a hard to argue against.
The second theme, that evolution doesn't take away mystery, but rather adds to it, is less forcefully presented, but it is omnipresent throughout the book. I suppose a lot of that has to do with one's personal preference. If you like mysteries and not understanding things, then understanding evolution might not be wonderful to you. But if you are curious, then evolution's explanation of life on Earth makes all life that much more fantastic. And certainly, there are still far more questions than answers when it comes to our understanding of all life on Earth. Evolution is the best tool we have for answering those questions, and the many, many, many examples in this book are bound to fill a curious reader with wonder about how and why life has turned out the way it has.
Overall then, I find this to be Dawkins' best book since his first three. I would quibble that at times he is distracted with an antagonistic tone, but I suppose it must be frustrating constantly defending one of the most proven scientific theories ever. Ignoring that, his writing is clear and easy to read. What's more, the subject matter is so fascinating that even those familiar with biology and evolution will enjoy reading it. Dawkins is right on two things- Darwin's theory of evolution is 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999% likely to be true and the story of the evolution of life on Earth is truly The Greatest [Story] on Earth!
on September 30, 2009
Richard Dawkins, author of the excellent 'God Delusion' begins his new book on evolution with a bang "Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it." (pp. 8-9). Close-minded people will say 'why write a book on it in the first place'? Well guess what, if there are ignorant vapid and fatuous comments on here from people who haven't read the book and haven't been challenged critically in their life - this book really is necessary. It doesn't matter if you're not familiar with evolution or if you've read Darwin's 'Origin of Species'; 'Greatest Show on Earth' is a phenomenal read and is written layman enough that anyone can appreciate. Dawkins is right - evolution is a fact and it is true; if you deny then you are a history-denier. This book should be mandatory reading for any school kid in America. Can't wait to see what Dawkins does next.
on November 19, 2009
I finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest book a few weeks ago and it was a great experience. I am a follower of Dawkins' writings. Yet, I still didn't get accustomed with his ways of surprising (in all the best senses), teaching, informing me, even there where I thought I had a sound foundation myself.
Before taking up this book, I pondered if I needed to read it, as it seemed to be targetted at those not knowing about evolution and those needing more proof. Thinking of myself as convinced that evolution is a fact, I didn't believe I would find new, interesting things in a book presented as a fundamental introduction. I thought I already knew those basics.
Yet Professor Dawkins managed to surprise me, proving that indeed evolution is the greatest show on Earth and no amount of learning about it would cease my sense of wonder and awe.
There is a way of presenting matters in this book that just pushes me to reflect at evolution as a cosmic phenomenon. In my reflections, the proof for evolution is the basis for the natural consequence of humans spreading to the stars. Reverie ensues...
I particularly liked the way Dawkins writes off the "gap in the fossil record" pseudo-arguments against evolution. It is a classic exercise in scientific logic and analysis. This chapter of the book in itself is worth the whole price of admission.
Not all is rosy. There are arguments that aren't as well developed, some others that might be helped with a sound debate, to counter the "weighing in from high off" effects that sometimes the academic language provokes. But these are perhaps understandable forgettable flaws in a book it such a high and perhaps frustrating goal: writing anew in support of a topic that should be self-demonstrating. But I think even this adds value to the book, as it pushes the reader to think for herself and reflect on the propositions.
There's also the constant mentioning of the young earth creationists that could easily become annoying to more sensible eyes. But I tend to not only understand the reasoning of Richard Dawkins behind this insistence, but also strongly approve of it. It is ridiculous that, 150 years after proof was made against, there still be as crazed a debate on this fairy tale topic of full on earth creation by supernatural hollow figures.
I loved this book and I strongly recommend it.
on October 23, 2009
The Greatest Show on Earth sets out the evidence for evolution, and shows how Darwin's exposition of the idea that all life on earth is intimately linked is massively supported by 150 years of detailed research in a wide swathe of scientific disciplines. Not only has nothing been found that controverts Darwin's insight, but whole areas of discovery and research have burgeoned from it. Dawkins is, as usual, passionate about his subject and a marvellous expositor of tricky scientific concepts; he is here also perhaps a little more relaxed than in his other books: the Greatest Show on Earth abounds with little jokes, personal digressions and amusing footnotes, in addition to some beautiful photographic illustrations and line drawings. And, boy, how the guy can write: it is a delightful and gripping read, even for a general reader who has only a vague concept of such things as radioactive dating, genetics and fossil sequencing. Pure brain-candy.
on November 23, 2009
My knowledge of evolution was limited to reading Darwin and to National Geographic. This book made me realize how widespread and important evolutionary based practice is in the scientific community. The book leads the reader carefully and understandably through the latest scientific findings in this field. The odd moment when Dawkins uses this as "evidence" in his personal crusade against religion are brief and do not detract from the book.Unlike Dawkins I cannot say that I am an atheist though I fully understand why he rails against the stupidity, perfidity and propaganda of organized religion. This book did not change my belief in a greater something. It actually served to affirm my belief that whatever the greater something is, scientists are closer to understanding than priests. Whatever your prejudices, put them aside and read this wonderful book.
on March 31, 2010
I feel compelled to agree with many of the reviews already posted - evolution truly is the greatest show on earth, and Richard Dawkins does it full justice in this book. Although it's basically certain that this book will never reach the eyes of those who most need to see it (i.e. the "history-deniers"), The Greatest Show on Earth is a delightful read for biology novices and experts alike. Dawkins presents his information at a level simple enough for a layperson to understand, yet the breadth and depth of his knowledge is sure to captivate even a professional biologist. Even though I was already familiar with many of the examples he presents, the book left me with a sense of wonder for the simplicity of the process that has shaped our complex world.
Some previous reviewers have felt that this book reads like a graduate thesis or academic paper - my only response is to wonder how many theses these people have read! I find Dawkins' style very entertaining and accessible, quite unlike any thesis I've ever seen!
on October 4, 2009
Richard Dawkins is a fantastic writer as well as researcher. Some reviewers point out that he cannot explain how life began, but only that evolution happened afterwards. No one can explain how life began (yet). Please, if everything has a first cause then someone please explain to me how God began. Believing in evolution, with mountains of evidence, takes much less faith than belief in an invisible man in the sky (obligatory "The Invention of Lying" reference, since I saw it today).
on December 20, 2010
Having effectively no background in the biological sciences, but being immensely interested in such topics, this book created for me a structure of thought for which I could recognize a larger perspective of the world regarding life and the biological sciences.
This book was aimed towards providing an excellent collection of evidence and arguments that support the theory (or theorem, as Dawkins would prefer,) of evolution. Although the book was written under the pretense that scientific denial is a serious problem in our modern society, the book was useful for me to establish an understanding of the scientific mechanisms by which life originated and continues to operate. However, extending the evidence that this book presents to further analyze the implications of evolution, I was able to recognize a larger philosophical beauty underlying the process of evolution. To me, evolution does nothing but further exemplify the immense beauty and complexity of life and the universe in general. After contemplating a mechanistic perspective of matter and life, I considered the difficulty in differentiating life from non-life. With this, I was left with the profound sense of feeling 'one' with everything. I apologize for how esoteric this all may sound.
In consideration of the difficulty in differentiating between that which "is" alive, and that which "isn't", I envisioned a landslide, or a waterfall, in presumption that these things are merely processes of matter and scientific laws; no different than a 'living' organism is. After realizing these incredible implications, I was suddenly reminded of Darwin's famous statement, "There is grandeur in this view of life." I now see this as an enormous understatement.
To sum up, I recommend this book to anyone who does not have a background in biological sciences, regardless of their religious or philosophical backgrounds.