Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution
© Richard Dawkins 2009

470 pages

2009 is the "Year of Darwin", giving us nice round anniversaries for both Charles Darwins' birth and the publication of his most famous work, The Origin of Species. Accordingly, books, magazine articles, and television specials have been produced to take advantage of the increased attention on Darwin and his life's work. Author Richard Dawkins is a forceful but genteel proponent of both evolution via natural selection and atheism, meriting him praise and contempt from various parties. I rather enjoy interviews with Dawkins, although I sometimes struggle through his popular science works. Struggling was not the case with The Greatest Show on Earth, in which Dawkin puts forth the evidence for evolution.

Greatest Show on Earth is -- based on my experience -- one of Dawkins' more readable works.After arguing for the importance of evolution, he begins to lay out his case, covering various lines of evidence -- fossil records, mutation rates, the age of Earth, evidence of evolutionary change in contemporary animals' biology (vestigial organs, organs that have changed uses, bone structure adapting from one purpose to another), so-called "missing links", -- before wrapping things up. He argues well, using vivid examples and analogies. Although Jerry Coyne's book may be more tightly focused,  Dawkins is perhaps more thorough. On a final note, the color pages in this book are absolutely gorgeous, by far the best-done illustrative pages I've seen in all my reading, topping even Thomas Cahill's magnificent offerings in Mysteries of the Middle Ages. The pages are absolutely stunning: even if you can't  buy the book, I'd recommend finding it in the bookstore and looking for the colored photograph sections. They're intense. The book is well written, sharply argued, and overall well done. It's an obvious reccommendation to those interested in biology, evolution, or Dawkins.


  1. I bought this recently. It's high on my 'to read soon' list.

  2. I feel like the title alone alludes to a more "colorful" telling of evolution. I'm not surprised it comes with beautiful pictures.


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