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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution Hardcover – 10 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First Edition edition (10 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 059306173X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593061732
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Dawkins first catapulted to fame with his iconic work 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, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Magic of Reality, 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), the Galaxy British Book Awards Author of the Year Award (2007), the Deschner Prize (2007) and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest (2009). He retired from his position as the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in 2008 and remains a fellow of New College.

In 2012, scientists studying fish in Sri Lanka created Dawkinsia as a new genus name, in recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of evolutionary science. In the same year, Richard Dawkins appeared in the BBC Four television series Beautiful Minds, revealing how he came to write The Selfish Gene and speaking about some of the events covered in his latest book, An Appetite for Wonder. In 2013, Dawkins was voted the world's top thinker in Prospect magazine's poll of 10,000 readers from over 100 countries.

Product Description


"Richard Dawkins is so much more than just the world's most famous atheist, this smart and engaging "evidence for evolution" is required reading for those who want a grounding in the facts. It's as fascinating as it is challenging" (Independent)

"In the bicentennial year of Darwin's birth Mr Dawkins fills a gap in his oeuvre by setting out the evidence that the "theory" of evolution is a fact... And what a lot of evidence there is" (The Economist)

"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)

"Dawkins's writing demonstrates once again his consummate skill as an explainer... the topics are all laid out with that combination of clarity and verve that is [his] hallmark" (Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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 ... 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. - Dr Alice Roberts, Biological anthropologist, author & broadcaster

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

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

404 of 431 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Richard Dawkins is probably one of the most well known proponents of Evolution today. He is either held in high regard or subject to considerable loathing, depending on your view of evolution. This book has one clear aim - to present the evidence for evolution in a simple, but not compromised fashion, so that it can be held up against the claims made by those who would deny its importance, or even its occurrence. In this regard the book is an overwhelming success.

In a logical fashion Dawkins steps through such topics as "what do we mean by a theory", dating methods for fossils, missing links (and if there are such things), plate tectonics and its influence on plant and animal distribution, embryology and molecular genetics and evolution. Each chapter adds another layer to the evidence for Evolution. Where other scientific understanding is required it is provided. For example, there is a short description of the classic atomic models needed to understand the dating methods used on geological samples. The best chapters are the final two, and this is not to say the ones before are not of an extremely high standard. The penultimate chapter addresses Evolutionary Arms races, with a clear emphasis on predator prey relationships, while the final chapter unpacks a paragraph from the original version of On the Origin of Species to show how far reaching and advanced Darwin's thinking was at the time of its publication.

Dawkins is clear, if possibly optimistic, in his aim to address this book at those who find evolution difficult, for I doubt they will read this book. He terms these people "the history-deniers" in a clear allusion to the controversies in the study of recent History, where despite incontrovertible evidence people still deny the occurrences of certain events.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Oracle VINE VOICE on 18 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Greatest Show on Earth is not quite the greatest book in the Dawkins canon, but it provides a decent introduction to the facts that underpin evolution. The main questions about evolution are answered here, making it a very useful resource for a beginner looking to find out more about the subject.

It doesn't quite make five stars as I found another Prof Dawkins tome, The Ancestor's Tale, covers the subject in greater depth and delves into more areas that are not so widely known. But if you haven't read The Ancestor's Tale and don't know much about evolution I would certainly recommend this as a starting point.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roger Paterson on 7 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Wonderful!!! I cannot praise this book enough. Dawkins style is so accessible, with many complicated ideas lucidly explained. Some ground has already been covered in earlier books but by clever usage of different examples he makes it all seem fresh again!
It seems rather sad that the people most likely to read this book are those, like myself, who already accept evolution as a fact. I wish that it, and other books like it, could become required reading in schools. Give the youngsters a chance to make up their own minds.
In the beginning of the book, Dawkins likens his quest to enlighten us to that of a Latin teacher having to try to explain that although Latin is a dead language, yes, at one time there were people who actually spoke it. I, personally, am very glad that he takes the time and energy to write these books. Not only do they give me great tales to share with my eight year old daughter, but they give me much needed ammunition when those eighteen year olds in suits and ties ring my doorbell!
One last thought: isn't it weird how the most bellicose and chauvinistic reviews come from people who obviously believe in creation! Aggression comes from fear, and some of the reviews here smell like fear. I would say Dawkins has some of the creationists on the run! Good job too!!!
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Allan Crossman on 9 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've been a student of evolution for a while; but this is the first book I've read specifically about the evidence for evolution. Everything you'd expect is indeed presented: biogeography, molecular genetics, transitional fossils, vestiges, homologies, suboptimal design; plus a few things that one might not expect.

Still, the book is not as tight as it could be, and at times I found myself struggling to stay focused while the book went on a digression of marginal relevance (for example, there's an entire chapter on embryology which only explains why it's relevant in the last couple of pages).

Anyway, this is still a good book, but a more patient reader than I am might find it more enjoyable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Satyapala on 3 July 2011
Format: Paperback
So much fun to read. Informative, intelligent and entertaining with lashing of dry humour. I have already given several copies as presents to friends. Definitely worth a second read!
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79 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Caolan O' Carroll on 12 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anyone and everyone can read this book - it has set a new benchmark for popular science which can be seen as yet another necessary stage in the public's understanding of the most universally paramount scientific discovery, the study of the very essence of life itself. Dawkins is able to create a lucid, informative and easy to read overview of his and others previous work while offering a fresh approach to understanding 'the greatest show on earth'. The greatest thing that this book achieves is that it successfully steps outside the worn debate of 'creationist vs. evolutionist' which too often holds back serious and progressive discussion. I would highly recommend this book to anyone for or against evolution, or who has even the slightest interest in Science.
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