The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life Paperback – 9 Feb 2017
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Just as we trace our personal family trees from parents to grandparents and so on back in time, so in The Ancestor's Tale Richard Dawkins traces the ancestry of life. As he is at pains to point out, this is very much our human tale, our ancestry. Surprisingly, it is one that many otherwise literate people are largely unaware of. Hopefully Dawkins's name and well deserved reputation as a best selling writer will introduce them to this wonderful saga.
The Ancestor's Tale takes us from our immediate human ancestors back through what he calls concestors, those shared with the apes, monkeys and other mammals and other vertebrates and beyond to the dim and distant microbial beginnings of life some 4 billion years ago. It is a remarkable story which is still very much in the process of being uncovered. And, of course from a scientist of Dawkins stature and reputation we get an insider's knowledge of the most up-to-date science and many of those involved in the research. And, as we have come to expect of Dawkins, it is told with a passionate commitment to scientific veracity and a nose for a good story. Dawkins's knowledge of the vast and wonderful sweep of life's diversity is admirable. Not only does it encompass the most interesting living representatives of so many groups of organisms but also the important and informative fossil ones, many of which have only been found in recent years.
Dawkins sees his journey with its reverse chronology as cast in the form of an epic pilgrimage from the present to the past [and] all roads lead to the origin of life. It is, to my mind, a sensible and perfectly acceptable approach although some might complain about going against the grain of evolution. The great benefit for the general reader is that it begins with the more familiar present and the animals nearest and dearest to usour immediate human ancestors. And then it delves back into the more remote and less familiar past with its droves of lesser known and extinct fossil forms. The whole pilgrimage is divided into 40 tales, each based around a group of organisms and discusses their role in the overall story. Genetic, morphological and fossil evidence is all taken into account and illustrated with a wealth of photos and drawings of living and fossils forms, evolutionary and distributional charts and maps through time, providing a visual compliment and complement to the text. The design also allows Dawkins to make numerous running comments and characteristic asides. There are also numerous references and a good index.-- Douglas Palmer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In this extraordinary book, Dawkins turns chronicler. He does so with a clever twist that avoids the perennial problem of evolutionary history-telling ... As a contribution to the history of ideas this book is well worthy of Britain's top public intellectual. The arguments are as sharply honed as we have come to expect from Dawkins (Matt Ridley Guardian)
THE ANCESTOR'S TALE achieves the almost impossible: it makes biology interesting again (Steve Jones)
One of the richest accounts of evolution ever written (Financial Times)
Should be given to all young persons starting out on their exploration of the world. It will excite their curiosity and awe and prove to them that the world is inexhaustible in its fascination (Sunday Telegraph)
No other book I have read has given me such a dizzyingly immediate sense of the vastness and strangeness of the changes brought about by evolution over the eons, or how intimately all life is bound together ... THE ANCESTOR'S TALE makes you feel you have seen the world in a fresh, exhilarating way (Robert Hanks Daily Telegraph)
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This book, not always an easy read for those who like me are not directly involved in some way with biology, leaves no doubt about the veracity of evolution and the force of natural selection in the shaping of life on earth. In this incredible journey backwards, Professor Dawkins clearly pursues, unlike the creationist mind, not his truth based upon personal belief but the truth based upon the abundant known facts available to science today, therefore never forgetting to point out other possibilities and different points of view with a wide range of new rearrangements to be disclosed in the future.
In his own words, "my objection to supernatural beliefs is that they miserably fail to do justice to the sublime grandeur of the real world." And this is exactly one of the main aims of this book, to excite the human mind and curiosity with the wonders of the real world, making us simultaneously more humble and better human beings.
Some popular science books require mulitple readings of each paragraph to fully understand the book, (a certain wheelchair bound genius springs to mind!), or spread the facts/info out over agonisingly long chapters.(Horizon!)this is not the case with Mr Dawkins whos pace is almost perfect.
This is not to say that he avoids complex subjects, far from it, this book contains the most use of technical biological terms so far, giving examples of each species encountered in our journey from each ancestoral meeting point and explaining how they worked out the ancestoral tree.
He always explains the terms/concepts prior to using them, and continues to use metaphors whilist using the term to remind us of its meaning.
The final chapter gives theories of the origins of life.
The book showcases each of our mutual co-ancestors, ie the ancestor of Humans and chimpanzees, then they join our pilgimage back to the next co-ancestor. Until all life joins the final origin.
If your at all interested in HOW we are here, read this book!
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