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400 of 426 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you can make it any plainer that this, please let me know!
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...
Published on 3 Sep 2009 by Stewart M

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92 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, let's just review the book....!
As you can see by the grading I don't rate this book particularly highly overall. From the reaction to many other previously rather critical reviews here it seems that this is a cue for some people to launch assaults upon the reviewer as being some sort of anti-evolutionist. Let me say however that I am a biological sciences graduate, regard evolutionary theory and...
Published on 20 Jan 2010 by John M


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400 of 426 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you can make it any plainer that this, please let me know!, 3 Sep 2009
By 
Stewart M (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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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.

In his last book Dawkins addressed religious belief in a way that clearly conveyed his rage, but somehow seem to lack subtly. While this is not the case here, the book does contain more than enough characteristic barbs to delight (or enrage!) readers already familiar with his previous writing. He helps the reader at every stage, even to the point of suggesting you should not read particular sections if you are tired! But it is in one single passage, where he casually mentions that you should see the Redwoods of California before you die, that his passion shines through most strongly and clearly.

Here you see his wonder for a world full of remarkable diversity, all brought about by a process that is deceptively simple - evolution through natural selection. This is a timely book that should be read by anybody who has an interest in understanding the world as it actually is. This is the best single account of the evidence for evolution I have read and it is impossible to recommend it highly enough.

(This review is based on the Australian paperback version, which was released last week).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Dawkins provides science for all to understand., 22 Dec 2009
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Once again the explanations of Richard Dawkins provide the reader with easily read scientific proofs for the common man. It is plain see how much honesty is in his writings. His technical narrative is neither complex nor wordy. A delightful reading experience and a reference book well worth having on the shelf.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but perhaps overlong, 9 Sep 2009
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Immensely informative but should have been tighter, 27 Nov 2010
By 
R. Darlington "Roger Darlington" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Paperback)
Let me be clear. I am a huge fan of Richard Dawkins: he is a wonderfully combative opponent of so much falsehood in scientific representation and a marvellously articulate defender of rationality and evidence in our fashionably post-modernist world. On television, where he is constrained by time and subject to editing, he is both a joy and an education.

The problem is that, when he is writing a book, Dawkins seems to be unconstrained by length and too weakly guided by his editor. As a result, this book is too long - over 400 pages of main text - with far too many asides and diversions which serve more to demonstrate the author's erudition than to illuminate his central arguments. At one point, he admits "I know that not all my readers like my digressions" - and he is right there.

I am utterly convinced by the case for evolution and believe that natural selection is one of the most powerful and elegant processes in the whole of science. However, I never did a single lesson of biology at school and evolutionary biology has developed considerably in recent decades, so I was looking for a book that would set out clearly and cogently - to use the sub-title of the book - "the evidence for evolution".

Dawkins presents a mass of fascinating material covering dating techniques, the fossil record, the process of embryology, plate tectonics, and much else besides.

He explains how evolution accounts for all the known facts in a consistent and convincing manner, how present day species are related to each other, and why they are geographically distributed the way they are. He sets out the similarity - the technical term is homology - between the skeletons of all mammals which share the same bones although in different proportions, why the body plan of all crustaceans - lobsters, prawns, crabs and the like - is the same, and why the DNA code is invariant across all living creatures while individual genes vary. Furthermore he explains why animals tend to live on the same continent as fossils that are probably their ancestors and why animals share the same continent with species that resemble them.

What is sorely lacking though is a tight structure with clear summation of the arguments. I now have to find and read a shorter and simpler work on evolution.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to evolution, 18 Feb 2010
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Oracle - See all my reviews
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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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is really the greatest show on earth!, 29 Jan 2010
Brilliant!!! Just from the beginning the book gives to the reader a complete understanding of the "greatest show on earth".
Each chapter focus on different aspects of the evolution theme, giving more and more evidences to confirm strongly
the evolution as the key to the show on earth! Even the picture are superb.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Book on Earth?, 7 Oct 2010
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This review is from: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 3 July 2011
This review is from: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (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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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A critical milestone for popular science., 12 Sep 2009
By 
Caolan O' Carroll (U.K) - See all my reviews
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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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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supplementary views, including what this book isn't., 10 Sep 2009
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I'll take into account other reviews, here and elsewhere, in this one. So I'll avoid repeating what "SCM (Victoria, Australia)" and "Louis Vallance "fs geek" (Sheffield, SY UK)" have said here where I agree with them, which is almost entirely.

It is probably worth emphasising what this book is not. It is not suitable as an introductory description of evolution. It actually contains the relevant material, but embedded in a bigger book that would probably be daunting to someone wanting an easy start.

Also, it is not pro-atheism, not anti-God, and not anti-religion. (I am an atheist who is somewhat anti-religion, and there was little or nothing here to support those positions, although they were not contradicted either). I believe this is a "safe" book for non-creationist religious people to give to their children. Indeed, they may need the book more than atheists would, because perhaps their children are more vulnerable to fundamentalist and/or anti-scientific influences than the children of atheists would be.

Creationists, if they read it, will certainly feel that it is anti-religion. But it attacks the creationist aspect to their Islam or Christianity, not the rest. It attacks those doctrines that are, in effect, (pseudo) scientific statements about the creation/development of life on Earth. Where they attempt to step on science's toes, this book retaliates systematically and relentlessly, by describing the real world that contradicts the creationist positions (in their various incompatible forms).

"Intelligent Design" proponents also suffer, but for a different reason. ID is really a "god of the gaps" hypothesis, claiming that where science can't explain certain aspects of life, this is because those aspects could not happen by unintelligent forces and processes. The claim is that the gaps are evidence of the need for intelligence, read "God". This book illustrates the nature of the gaps, (for example, various chemical pathways), and proposes by experience that the gaps are temporary, reducing and even disappearing as more evidence comes in. ("God of the gaps" claims are both theologically and scientifically unsound).

The size of the book is a result of extending the book's metaphor of a detective who has to identify "who done it" after the victim has been found. The murder has not been witnessed, so clues have to be found retrospectively and conclusions drawn. (There is actually a chapter on evolution seen within a human lifetime, but most of it isn't). I think the book goes further: it is in addition like the expert witness in court, who must cover the material comprehensively so that the jury has no room for "reasonable doubt"; and it is further also like the prosecutor who draws the court's attention to the implications, as far as the defendant is concerned, of the evidence. These are necessary for making a case without loopholes, but could be overkill for someone wanting an introduction.

My rating is not affected by the fact that it is not an introduction, nor by the fact that creationists will be put off from reading the book. They simply don't appear to be in the target audience. There is a transcript in Chapter 7 of part of a discussion with Wendy Wright of the Concerned Women for America. (I believe this is a subset of some clips available on YouTube). Her approach is typical of one tactic used by creationists in debate: "history denial by evidence avoidance". I believe creationists and ID proponents would typically prefer to avoid this book because of its evidence, not because of its insults.

This book is a good read, written by one of the best science writers in recent decades. At least, it is for someone who is fascinated by science and living things. I think it makes a wonderful pairing with The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life.
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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins (Paperback - 29 April 2010)
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