The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

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 inde...

Title:The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution Reviews

  • Marvin

    Richard Dawkins has taken his seat along with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan as a great populist of science. In all of his science books and especially in

    , He has taken a complex subject and presented it with clarity to a population that usually gets lost in the seemingly foreign language of most scientists. Yet he does not "dumb down" neither. He has a gift for beautifully explaining difficult topics in a way a layman can understand. He sav

    Richard Dawkins has taken his seat along with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan as a great populist of science. In all of his science books and especially in

    , He has taken a complex subject and presented it with clarity to a population that usually gets lost in the seemingly foreign language of most scientists. Yet he does not "dumb down" neither. He has a gift for beautifully explaining difficult topics in a way a layman can understand. He saves his famous disdain, which was in abundant display in

    , for only when it is deserved. Much is made of Dawkins' supposed arrogance yet when he writes something that can be seen as arrogance, it is more of a sense of amazement that his fellow man can totally dismiss the evidence of evolution. There is a hilarious transcript of this in the book where Dawkins patiently sets out the evidence of intermediate fossils, and where this evidence can be seen, to a Creationist and the Creationist totally ignores it saying "Show me the evidence" like a mantra. Dawkins states he is aiming this book at the people who believe in creationism, which according to recent polls is 40 percent of the American population. I doubt that those people will give this book the time of day. Yet I also think that the 40 percent number includes a good number of people who on "on the fence" so to speak, those who simply haven't seen the evidence for evolution presented in such a clear and understandable manner. I think that is a reasonable audience for this book along with the ones, like me, who have a reasonable knowledge of evolution but wish to learn more.

  • diana

    Two disclaimers before I begin my review:

    1. I am an atheist.

    2. I am a molecular biologist.

    So, I am clearly not the target audience. That being said, I really wanted to like this book. I am so happy that there are people out there who are speaking out in defense of evolution and (although not in this book) atheism, and as such I want to support Richard Dawkins. However, the best way I can sum up my feelings about the book is to say that it resembles a very long version of an undergraduate's final

    Two disclaimers before I begin my review:

    1. I am an atheist.

    2. I am a molecular biologist.

    So, I am clearly not the target audience. That being said, I really wanted to like this book. I am so happy that there are people out there who are speaking out in defense of evolution and (although not in this book) atheism, and as such I want to support Richard Dawkins. However, the best way I can sum up my feelings about the book is to say that it resembles a very long version of an undergraduate's final paper on evolution. Many arguments are not at all clear or well made, the diagram labeling is irregular or completely non-existent, and he does not seem to grasp how to effectively use figures to add to the text. He contradicts himself at least once (but pretty majorly), but it seems that this is due more to a faulty simplification of the scientific explanation that to a lack of knowledge.

    Ultimately, that's what it comes down to for me: all of the faults I found in the book should not have been there, because I KNOW that HE KNOWS BETTER. Not to mention that his goal would have been better served had he saved all of his half-assed, baseless speculations for beers with the fellas and used the space in the book to include more evidence for evolution. For example, one thing he did not address at all is morality/altruism, which would have been very relevant for creationists (who ARE his target audience) and for which there are some really interesting theories. Finally, while I understand the frustration, condescending anger is not generally a great tool for convincing people, regardless of how wrong they are.

  • Kris Madaus
  • Catie

    Dawkins arguments for evolution are elegant and, in some cases, simply breath-taking. As a psychology professor myself, and as one who has had to contend with "history deniers" for years, I especially liked his description of Lenski's research on the evolution of bacteria. Although facts have always been denied by those who claim Intelligent Design as a valid explanation for all nature, Dawkins painstakingly and elegantly lays out unassailable facts in support of the theory of evolution. He stak

    Dawkins arguments for evolution are elegant and, in some cases, simply breath-taking. As a psychology professor myself, and as one who has had to contend with "history deniers" for years, I especially liked his description of Lenski's research on the evolution of bacteria. Although facts have always been denied by those who claim Intelligent Design as a valid explanation for all nature, Dawkins painstakingly and elegantly lays out unassailable facts in support of the theory of evolution. He stakes his claim early in the book ("...evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt....

    That said, I doubt seriouly that his book will challenge those who view evolution as only a theory, precisely because they would never open their minds to such a text as this!

  • A.J.

    There's a general feeling out there about Richard Dawkins that he's a little too shrill, a little too hard on people, and perhaps a tad too full of himself. I've had a couple of these thoughts from time to time, though not the last one, and would almost catch myself nodding in agreement until I put myself in the man's shoes. Professor Dawkins is brilliant with a capital B. He is fanatically devoted to science and his particular subject, evolutionary biology. He has spent his life researching and

    There's a general feeling out there about Richard Dawkins that he's a little too shrill, a little too hard on people, and perhaps a tad too full of himself. I've had a couple of these thoughts from time to time, though not the last one, and would almost catch myself nodding in agreement until I put myself in the man's shoes. Professor Dawkins is brilliant with a capital B. He is fanatically devoted to science and his particular subject, evolutionary biology. He has spent his life researching and exploring the elegant mysteries and pathways of life on our lonely blue world. And what does he get in return? 44% of Americans––granted he's British––think that the earth and everything in it was specially created about ten thousand years ago, that man roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that the whole of biology and evolutionary history are to be supplanted by a fairy tale about a couple of teenagers who were convinced by a talking snake to eat an enchanted apple. This state of affairs would be repugnant enough if it was a privately held fantasy; instead what Dawkins gets is constant bombardment from imbeciles who want creation 'science' 'theory' taught alongside evolution in schools, as if there was some competition between the two. By air, land, sea, or Trojan Horse (Intelligent Design, so called), biologists are incessantly having to deal with misrepresentation and ignorance on a profound and disturbing scale.

    I personally, however, can't be too harsh. Not only was I once a creationist; I was the worst kind of creationist, a young earth creationist. Not only was I a young earth creationist; I was the worst sort of young earth creationist, a Kent Hovindiite. I was to science was the Philistines were to the Hebrews, what the Empire was to the Rebellion, what that kid with down syndrome is to Einstein. What I can do, though, is say with complete certainty is that education, not argument, is the antidote to creationism. Ignorance isn't a crime, and usually people aren't ignorant on purpose. For your average layman, it's not his fault that science education standards are so poor, or that lying snake oil salesmen like Ken Ham successfully peddle bullshit for a living.

    Having considered all that, I'm fairly convinced that your typical creationist response to this book will be a glassy stare and a trickle of drool. Part of this will be the enormous amount of nonsense, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, outdated arguments, falsehoods, and outright lies that have until now occupied the six inches of space between their ears. Trying to explain the complexities of biology to someone who thinks that Big Bang Cosmology is 'darwinism' is a higher mountain than Dawkins book is likely able to climb. A lot of bad wiring had to be completely redone even for me to follow the major themes of this book, and I've put a lot of effort into it.

    The second drawback is a personal weakness of Dawkins' writing. It's unfocussed, not particularly well organized, and it lacks the ferocious punch of amateur youtubers like Thunderf00t and Aronra (whose video series 'The Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism' is balls-out awesome). Granted, the history of life on our planet and all the myriad means that we have of understanding it is not a topic suited to one book. I still maintain that the chapters could have been better ordered and more centered around a particular point, as opposed to the more conversational sprawl that is Dawkins' style. I find him a better speaker-communicator than writer-communicator, but a better writer than orator, if that makes any sense.

    Despite that, I appreciate the effort, passion, and the expertise that Professor Dawkins brings to this book. It is in its way a powerful examination of this subject, and riddled with amazing discoveries and evidences that while they only manage to show a fragment of the deluge that is the evidence for evolution, still enriches the mind and helps non-scientists to explore the wonders of the natural world.

    "Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact...That didn't have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn't. It didn't have to be true, but it is....Evolution is the only game in town, the greatest show on earth."

  • Tag Riggs

    After reading this book, I quickly realized that it was targeted for a particular audience--the choir complete with holy robes and clapping hands shouting, "...Preach it brother Dawkins, preach it my brother, Evolution AMEN!, Hallelujah!" I honestly think that it is required that you be a Dawkinite and part of the Dawkins Tabernacle Choir in order for you to take this book seriously.

    I was fully expecting some kind of scientific treatise yet it ended up being like a bunch of guys on the dock lau

    After reading this book, I quickly realized that it was targeted for a particular audience--the choir complete with holy robes and clapping hands shouting, "...Preach it brother Dawkins, preach it my brother, Evolution AMEN!, Hallelujah!" I honestly think that it is required that you be a Dawkinite and part of the Dawkins Tabernacle Choir in order for you to take this book seriously.

    I was fully expecting some kind of scientific treatise yet it ended up being like a bunch of guys on the dock laughing and drinking beer talking about how the big one got away. It is amazing how he comes forth in every chapter in bold declarative sentences without justifications or support (support other than being anomalous tautologies) to conclude in mealy mouthed suppositions and suggestions.

    I have done a chapter by chapter review on my Facebook page so if interested, you may look for my opinions over there.

    For a guy who claimed many books on evolution under his belt yet forgot to give evidence to all his previous ones until TGSOE (He even admits this), I am amazed at what people are willing to believe simply because someone says it to be thus. Dumbing down has reached a new low on this one. I cannot see how anyone who approaches the subject from a scholarly viewpoint can take this book seriously.

  • Maria

    With the help of drawings, photos, cartoons, tables, diagrams & notes, an emphasis on extremely lucid step-by-step explanations, examples, iteration & reiteration & plenty of humor, R Dawkins shows that we are indeed so lucky to be witness to the Greatest Show on Earth -- this wonderful book is addressed not only to those interested in our natural world (and who'll maybe wish they'd majored in biology) but more particularly to the creationists and proponents of "intelligent design" -

    With the help of drawings, photos, cartoons, tables, diagrams & notes, an emphasis on extremely lucid step-by-step explanations, examples, iteration & reiteration & plenty of humor, R Dawkins shows that we are indeed so lucky to be witness to the Greatest Show on Earth -- this wonderful book is addressed not only to those interested in our natural world (and who'll maybe wish they'd majored in biology) but more particularly to the creationists and proponents of "intelligent design" -- as evidence for evolution it's one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. It's a beautifully detailed and concisely written effort (albeit a bit repetitious at times) that's full of extraordinary facts both serious and silly, a real experience. It's TERRIBLY witty. It filled me with joy. It should be read by everyone everywhere.

  • Caroline

    What a stunning read. I have read several books by Dawkins, mostly concerning evolution, and I think this was the easiest to understand. This is partly because I skipped the most difficult bits! For instance I am never going to know how carbon dating is done - but I can live with that. For the most part the book was hugely readable and deeply fascinating. The one thing that marred my pleasure slightly was the stress throughout on proving the theory of evolution to creationists, but then he would

    What a stunning read. I have read several books by Dawkins, mostly concerning evolution, and I think this was the easiest to understand. This is partly because I skipped the most difficult bits! For instance I am never going to know how carbon dating is done - but I can live with that. For the most part the book was hugely readable and deeply fascinating. The one thing that marred my pleasure slightly was the stress throughout on proving the theory of evolution to creationists, but then he would give us the statistics about how many creationists there are in the world......and his preoccupation became understandable.

    I will end with some notes of the delights I found in the book - most of them taken verbatim from the book.

    Like the many other thousands who have read this, I enjoyed it enormously.

  • Manny

    First, thank you for getting this far. It's to your credit: you're willing to find out something about what the other side has to say. You're probably expecting I'll tell you to read Dawkins's latest book. In fact, I'm not going to do that.

    read this book. Dawkins is disrespectful and arrogant about Young Earth Creationism, and he will only annoy you. Instead, I suggest that you might want to look at Charles Darwin's

    First, thank you for getting this far. It's to your credit: you're willing to find out something about what the other side has to say. You're probably expecting I'll tell you to read Dawkins's latest book. In fact, I'm not going to do that.

    read this book. Dawkins is disrespectful and arrogant about Young Earth Creationism, and he will only annoy you. Instead, I suggest that you might want to look at Charles Darwin's

    . When Darwin wrote it, pretty much everyone in the world was a Young Earth Creationist. Darwin had a great deal of sympathy for the Creationist position, and one of his own favorite books, which influenced him deeply, was the Creationist classic

    , by William Paley. Despite all this, Darwin found arguments which soon convinced a large part of his audience that their ideas about Young Earth Creationism were wrong.

    Dawkins continually quotes Darwin. He shows that even though Darwin didn't understand

    evolution works - no one knew about DNA yet, or even the basics of genetic theory - the evidence at his disposal produced an overwhelming case that evolution must be the the root cause of the huge diversity of observed species. The clearest and most unanswerable part of the argument is the geographical distribution of the different kinds of animals. Just stop and think for a moment about the single fact that sloths are only to be found in South America. If the story of the Biblical Flood were true, then those slow-moving, tree-dwelling sloths would somehow have had to migrate from Mount Ararat to Brazil in a few thousand years, leaving no colonies anywhere en route. Darwin's Victorian audience thought carefully about the sloths, and could not find a sensible answer. It was even more impossible for them to explain, not just that kangaroos only exist in Australia, but that many similar species - wallabies, koalas, wombats and other marsupials - also only exist in Australia. There were a thousand more pieces of evidence, and they gave up. Darwin did not try to humiliate them, and he honestly admitted that there were important parts of the story he did not yet understand. Even with those provisos, the case was unanswerable. Since Darwin's time, nearly all of the missing parts of his argument have been filled in, as Dawkins explains here. But that's less important.

    As I said, start with Darwin. He's writing politely and respectfully for people like you, who are skeptical about evolution and want to be shown good reasons to believe it, and he is remarkably convincing.

  • Kat Kennedy

    A really well written, interesting, logical discussion on evolution. I quite enjoyed this book.


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