3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Richard Dawkins always has something new and interesting to say about evolution, and this book is no exception. I'm certainly glad I read it. Nevertheless . . . this is far from his best work. The book seems like it has no core, no basic message or goal. Given the title, I expected an organized, point by point case for evolution, something like a lawyer going through a closing argument. But Dawkins is no lover of lawyers, so perhaps he avoided that approach on purpose.
Here's the bottom line: No matter what you are looking for in a book about evolution, Dawkins has done better elsewhere. The Ancestor's Tale provides a magnificent look at how we actually evolved, without a formal discussion of what evolution is. If you want a more direct discussion of how evolution works and why it is true, The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene are perhaps the two best books ever written on the subject. Try one of those three instead. If you still want more, Dawkin's latest offering is not bad.
on March 12, 2015
Great book, great author and came ultra fast!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2010
While I came into the book with some trepidation, having found some of the criticisms and attacks in 'The God Delusion' to be missing the point, I left 'The Greatest Show on Earth' excited, amazed, and with a renewed sense of wonder at one of my favourite 'theories'. Dawkins takes his trademark wit, thoroughness, and passion and returns to his area of expertise - that of biology. Evolution is not an empty theory that can be chosen like an opinion or religion; it is a natural, observable, provable, and disprovable system. In this book, Dawkins clearly outlines each of the streams of evidence that, rather than creating a deluge of talking points and meaningless data, provide beautiful explanations for observable facts that each independently point towards the same inevitable outcome - Darwin was right, and evolution is here to stay.
We may not yet (or ever) have answers to some of life's greatest questions, but it is good to know that some care about those that we do.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2009
Dawkins makes no mistakes regarding his excellent description for the clear evidence of evolutionary processes. His 'flaw' is in treating 'History Deniers' like the ENEMY, as opposed to misguided people who need our help. Anyone starting this book as a creationist will leave feeling that Richard thinks they are total idiots. Creating this sort of antipathy makes people unwilling to listen to you, even if you're right. There is no point in being 'right' if the people you are trying to convince hate you, and won't listen to you. Being a person that already knows evolution is true, I enjoyed the various descriptions of evolutionary processes a great deal; in that department...WELL DONE. I will use some of the material to try and convince my Jehovah's Witness friend of the error of his ways. Sadly, I won't be able to lend him the book on CD, because Richard's caustic attitude will surely turn off the logic centre in his brain:-)
19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2009
By definition evolution does not explain how life began. There is a separate study called Abiogenesis. I ordered this book but not received it yet. So, this is not a book review just a correction to Grumpy Old Man's review.
21 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2009
Dawkins is a 1st class researcher and wrote a great scientific proof for evolution. For those that don't dispute evolutionary evidence I would suggest that reading this is like killing an ant with a bulldozer. This is not the larger concept thinking of his previous novel the God Delusion but rather a detailed factual look at Evolution. If you like reading about tooth decay in rat populations and comparing forest trees this is the book for you. However, I think most people will be skipping through large sections as we accept the basic concept. Absent writing a research paper this was too much detail for me. If his audience are the so-called history deniers, I hope this book offers some answers but I don't think it was a lack of evidence that was holding that group back before his novel.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2010
In the United States, polls show that 44% of people believe God created human beings pretty much in their present form sometime in the last 10,000 years. 28% of the People in Britain believe that the earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs!
Richard Dawkins finds such survey information quite frustrating especially in view of all the discoveries made by evolutionary science over the past 150 years, and he has written this absorbing and fascinating book in another attempt to prove to people that life on earth really began at least 3.6 billion years ago and developed into the millions of present life forms through the process of evolution, a theory first described with scientific evidence to support it by Charles Darwin.
I must admit here that I believe in evolution, and have read several of Dawkins previous works, but unfortunately I do think it is unlikely that a nonbeliever that might be considering reading this book will be convinced by the exhaustive proofs that Dawkins presents. Dawkins is in effect preaching to the choir, but thankfully this in no way diminishes the wonders of his message.
In the book he gives accounts of how science can tell time from atomic clocks that cover billions of years and how the molecular clocks in our DNA can be used to trace the ancestry of living things. He shows how continental drift has contributed to species diversity and how the physical rules in the chemistry of our DNA and proteins combined with mutations and environmental factors have led to the many changes in life forms over thousands of years. Using hundreds of examples drawn from the natural world, he shows how all life forms are related but at the same time surprisingly different. I found his stories of insect evolution particularly fascinating. One example is of how most flying insects have four wings but evolution has caused the second pair of wings in flies to become reduced to a pair of `halters'. These swing about like high-speed Indian clubs which they resemble, functioning as tiny gyroscopes, and acting as stabilizers to keep flies property oriented in-flight. Our modern aviation technology just duplicates what nature produced millions of years ago!
Dawkins is a "true believer" in evolution and this unfortunately causes him to spend quite a bit of time attacking nonbelievers; infidels, such as the creationists of the religious right. In doing this Dawkins is on a quixotic quest, ignoring a fact of human nature that most people are "followers" and want to be told what to think and that the simple answers inherent in creationist beliefs are much easier to understand.
Late in the book Dawkins makes a statement that gets to the heart of why evolutionists like him have so much difficulty in getting their message across. "Natural selection is all futile." This lack of purpose in evolution makes it a hard sell; it means there is no hope! Hope is an essential requirement for human motivation. Science itself is driven by hope, the hope of discovery and succeeds spectacularly in explaining how, but can never explain why. Attempting to do this is "pointless", the word Dawkins himself uses for the futility we experience when we try to understand the evolutionary rationale of parasites. Unlike science, the message of the creationists does offer an explanation for why, and this is what helps to keep the flame of hope and purpose alive for so many people.
As Gustave Le Bonn (1841 - 1931) observes in his book The Psychology of Revolution, "intolerance arises from the indignation experienced by a mind which is convinced that it possesses the most dazzling verities against the man who denies these truths and surely are not acting in good faith." Hopefully Dawkins will soon come to realize the intolerance that has been created in him by his faith in science.
The stories Dawkins tells in this book about the findings of evolutionary science create a sense of wonder and dazzle us with the mystery of the natural world and I sincerely hope that Dawkins will continue to write books such as this one; but perhaps he should recognize that DNA has created in we humans, a life form in which not everyone can believe in his message.
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2009
Those who believe in jehovah, allah, may as well believe in creationism, etc. Why get them to reject swallowing a fly while they swallow an elephant?
8 of 24 people found the following review helpful
If I were to grade this publication simply on the facts that it generated, it would rate a "5". From the early beginnings of Darwin and his implausible theory, through Miller's electrifying of the 'primodal soup', to archelogical findings of common ancestry, and through the recent artificial selection process of domesticated animals; all these subjects are well researched and presented in a logical manner. While I failed to find Dawkins literary diversions and 'humor' terribly interesting or in line with the topic at hand, I would, overall, rate the factual evidence presented as being quite commendable for both the experts and the novices of this field.
The author, however, seems to have a dual agenda. One, as stated, is to present the facts of evolution. The other, unfortunately, is to berate and ridicule all those who disagree with his conclusions about the evolutionary process. For no other reason than to place himself intellectually above the religionists, he inserts his ridicule at very inopportune and inappropriate times. It is only those who feel insecure with their own intellectual stance that are driven to such an adolescent end. Could it be that Dawkins himself is haunted by his own insecurities about evolution that he is driven to debasing others? It is not for me to say. My only wish is that if he continues with his research and writings is to stay with the topic instead of belittling those who disagree.
5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2010
I used to be a very big fan of Dawkins. His earlier books on evolution were immaculate and I am a proud owner of all of them. But since "Delusion" he style has changed for the worst and his intellectual power and vigor seem to be on the wane. Where in the past his arguments were air tight and lean, and his prose spartan and effective, now his explanations are long, rambling and often veer off topic. His previous non-nonsense scientific focus has devolved into a self-indulgent writing style that is not as entertaining as he must think it is. When I pick up such a work I hope to learn science and reasoning, not read footnotes about what he would say on a crappy old men's show, or listen to him take cheap shots at lawyers and others. I am hopeful that Mr. Dawkins will get his ego and style in check and return to his impeccable educational style of the past.