The Greatest Show on Earth
The Evidence for Evolution
|Format:||Paperback, 480 pages|
|Other Information: ||32-pages colour picture sections, plus 100 B&Wur picture sections, plus B&W line drawings line drawings, graphs and charts throughout text|
|Published In: ||United Kingdom, 10 September 2009|
'It is no accident that we see green almost wherever we look. It is no accident that we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life; no accident that we are surrounded by millions of other species, eating, growing, rotting, swimming, walking, flying, burrowing, stalking, chasing, fleeing, outpacing, outwitting . We are surrounded by endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random natural selection - the only game in town, the greatest show on Earth.' Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species shook society to its core on publication in 1859. Darwin was only too aware of the storm his theory of evolution would provoke. But he would surely 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. In The Greatest Show on Earth Richard Dawkins takes on creationists, including followers of 'Intelligent Design' and all those who question the fact of evolution through natural selection. In this brilliant tour de force he pulls together the incontrovertible evidence that underpins it. Like a detective arriving on the scene of a crime, he sifts through fascinating layers of scientific facts and disciplines to build a cast-iron case: from the living examples of natural selection around us in birds and insects; the 'time clocks' of trees and radioactive dating that calibrate a timescale for evolution; the fossil record and the traces of our earliest ancestors; to confirmation from molecular biology and genetics. All of this, and much more, bears witness to the truth of evolution. The Greatest Show on Earth comes at a critical time: systematic opposition to the truth of evolution is now flourishing as never before, especially in America. In Britain and elsewhere in the world teachers witness insidious attempts to undermine the status of science in their classrooms. Richard Dawkins provides unequivocal evidence that boldly and comprehensively rebuts such nonsense. At the same time he shares with us his palpable love of the natural world and the essential role that science plays in its interpretation. Written with elegance, wit and passion, it is hard-hitting, absorbing and totally convincing.
About the Author
Richard Dawkins' recent phenomenal bestseller The God Delusion has become an iconic book for our time. He was first catapulted to fame with The Selfish Gene which he followed with a string of bestselling books: The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Ancestor's Tale and a collection of his shorter writings, A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Royal Society of Literature Award (1987), the Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society (1990), the International Cosmos Prize for Achievement in Human Science (1997), the Kistler Prize (2001), the Shakespeare Prize (2005), the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science (2006) and the Galaxy British Book Awards Author of the Year Award (2007).
Britain's greatest science writer comprehensively rebuts the creationists by pulling together the incontrovertible evidence for evolution
Richard Dawkins begins The Greatest Show on Earth with a short history of his writing career. He explains that all of his previous books have naOvely assumed "the fact of evolution," which meant that he never got around to laying "out the evidence that it [evolution] is true." This shouldn't be too surprising: science is an edifice of tested assumptions, and just as physicists must assume the truth of gravity before moving on to quantum mechanics, so do biologists depend on the reality of evolution. It's the theory that makes every other theory possible. Yet Dawkins also came to realize that a disturbingly large percentage of the American and British public didn't share his enthusiasm for evolution. In fact, they actively abhorred the idea, since it seemed to contradict the Bible and diminish the role of God. So Dawkins decided to write a book for these "history-deniers," in which he would dispassionately demonstrate the truth of evolution "beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt." After only a few pages of The Greatest Show on Earth, however, it becomes clear that Dawkins doesn't do dispassionate, and that he's not particularly interested in convincing believers to believe in evolution. He repeatedly compares creationists and Holocaust deniers, which is a peculiar way of reaching out to the other side. Elsewhere, Dawkins calls those who don't subscribe to evolution "ignorant," "fatuously ignorant" and "ridiculous." All of which raises the point: who, exactly, is supposed to read this book? Is Dawkins preaching to the choir or trying to convert the uninformed? While The Greatest Show on Earth might fail as a work of persuasive rhetoric-Dawkins is too angry and acerbic to convince his opponents-it succeeds as an encyclopedic summary of evolutionary biology. 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. It doesn't matter if he's spinning metaphors for the fossil record ("like a spy camera" in a murder trial) or deftly explaining the method by which scientists measure the genetic difference between distinct species: he has a way of making the drollest details feel like a revelation. Even if one already believes in the survival of the fittest, there is something thrilling about learning that the hoof of a horse is homologous to the fingernail of the human middle finger, or that some dinosaurs had a "second brain" of ganglion cells in their pelvis, which helped compensate for the tiny brain in their head. As Darwin famously noted, "There is grandeur in this view of life." What Dawkins demonstrates is that this view of life isn't just grand: it's also undeniably true. Color illus. (Sept. 29) Jonah Lehrer is the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
In books such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and Climbing Mount Improbable, Dawkins has contributed significantly to the public understanding of evolutionary theory. Here, he backtracks, offering not a discussion of the magnificence of the evolutionary view of life but several basic proofs of its validity. He argues that this is necessary because of recent assaults from creationists upon the very concept of evolution by natural selection. There are many books that address the need of better informing the public about why the theory is essential, e.g., David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone and Jerry A Coyne's Why Evolution Is True. Dawkins has an influential voice in the debate, so the broadsides that he launches against creationists in this book will certainly cheer his many fans. However, he seems to be primarily preaching to the choir and probably won't win converts (a metaphor that Dawkins, an atheist and author of The God Delusion, might find objectionable). Verdict The author's name will guarantee a readership, but the sincerely curious and undecided would benefit more from other recent titles.-Gregg Sapp, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, WA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"This is a magnificent book of wonderstanding: Richard Dawkins combines an artist's wonder at the virtuosity of nature with a scientist's understanding of how it comes to be." Matt Ridley, author of Nature via Nurture. "This is the book Richard Dawkins needed to write and many need to read - a comprehensive account of evolution which faces the difficulties and questions his critics have raised. In it he draws on his great ability to write about science in a way that is clear, absorbing and vivid." Lord Harries of Pentregarth (formerly Bishop Richard Harries) "With characteristic flair and passion, Dawkins has put on a stunning exhibition of the evidence for evolution. In his own words, 'Evolution is a fact ... and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it'." Dr Alice Roberts, Biological anthropologist, author & broadcaster "Richard Dawkins writes about evolution science with unflagging enthusiasm, wit and lucidity. This book is a wonderful addition to his already distinguished ouevre." Brian Eno "Whether it's Lenski's bacteria or our own ancestors, Richard Dawkins discusses the evidence for evolution with his usual charm, style, clarity and brilliance." Simon Singh, author of 'Fermat's Last Theorem'
|Publisher: ||Bantam Press|
|Dimensions: ||23.0 x 15.0 x 3.0 centimeters (0.70 kg)|