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The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life Paperback – 9 Feb 2017

4.6 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 01 edition (9 Feb. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1474606458
  • ISBN-13: 978-1474606455
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 4.9 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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 us—our 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.

Review

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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on 27 May 2017
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