The Evidence for Evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (Hardcover), (The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution) Hardcover – 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Greatest Show on Earth mounts a stunning counter attack to the Intelligent Design and New Earth Creationists who have used the Bible, instead of real science to influence Americans to disregard evolution and natural selection and accept only very narrow theological views.
Creationists believe that evolution is only a theory and view it only as an unproven hypotheis. However, evolution is best explained using the other definition of the word theory. That is, a hypothesis that has been confirmed by established observation or experiment and is propounded or accepted for the known facts. Essentially, that it is a truth.
In the 13 chapters of the book, Dawkins methodically destroys the Creationists views, while confidently explaining how evolution has been proven by the many branches of science. These include, Biology, physics,geology, cosmology, archaeology, history, genetics and chemistry.
He points out how man has artifically produced evolution by the breeding of dogs from the original wolf ancestor. All the current breeds of dogs have been created through selective breeding of the offspring.
Dawkins points out how we use carbon dating, radioactive clocks and even tree ring dating to substanuate the earth's history in terms of the passage of time necessary for evolution to occur.
Dawkins points out that the alternate theory to evolution and the earth's history has been advanced by a particular set of Bronze Age Desert tribesmen, living some 3000 yrs. ago. No wonder why creationists are a confused lot.
In chapter 7, Dawkins discusses the missing link (in human evolution). He states that there are now so many hominid fossils, that there are no missing links, just an array of intermediates.
There are numerous ink line drawings, sketches and 32 color plates in the hard cover edition of this book, illustrating the various points he makes.
Dawkins, to my thinking, has done an admirable job of presenting the material necessary to advance the reality of the evolutionary process and how it has through non-random natural selection proved to be the greatest show on earth.
He wrote in the Preface to this 2009 book, “The evidence for evolution grows by the day, and has never been stronger. At the same time, paradoxically, ill-informed opposition is also stronger than I can remember. This book is my personal summary of the evidence that the ‘theory’ of evolution is actually a fact---as incontrovertible as any in science.” (Pg. vii) Later, he adds, “The history-deniers themselves are among those that I am trying to reach in this book. But, perhaps more importantly, I aspire to arm those who are not history-deniers but know some---perhaps members of their own family or church---and find themselves inadequately prepared to argue the case… Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientists disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.” (Pg. 8-9)
He states, “If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry as well.” (Pg. 85)
He argues, “We don’t NEED fossils---the case for evolution is watertight without them; so it is paradoxical to use GAPS in the fossil record as though they were evidence against evolution. We are, as I say, lucky to have fossils at all. What WOULD be evidence against evolution, and very strong evidence at that, would be the discovery of even a single fossil in the wrong geological strata… All the fossils that we have, and there are very very many indeed, occur, without a single authenticated exception, in the right temporal sequence. Yes, there are gaps, where there are no fossils at all, and that is only to be expected. But not a single solitary fossil has ever been found BEFORE it could have evolved… Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order… Sceptics of evolution who wish to prove their case should be diligently scrabbling around in the rocks, desperately trying to find anachronistic fossils.” (Pg. 146-147)
He gives examples: “Acanthostega was largely a water-dweller, but it had lungs and its limbs strongly suggest that it could cope with land as well as water if it had to. Again, it looked pretty much like a giant salamander. Moving back now to the fish side of the divide, Panderichthys, also from the late Devonian, is also slightly more amphibian-like, and slightly less fish-like, than Eusthenopteron. But if you saw it you would surely want to call it a fish rather than a salamander. So, we are left with a gap between Panderichthys, the amphibian-like fish, and Acanthostega, the fish-like amphibian. Where is the ‘missing link’ between them?” (Pg. 168)
Later, he observes, “Homo ergaster/erectus, of which we have many fossil specimens, is a very persuasive halfway link, no longer missing, between Homo sapiens today and Homo habilis two million years ago, which is in turn a beautiful link back to Australopithecus three million years ago, which… could pretty well be described as an upright-walking chimpanzee. How many links do you need, before you concede that they are no longer ‘missing’? And can we also bridge the gap between Homo ergaster and modern Homo sapiens? Yes: we have a rich lode of fossils, covering the last few hundred thousand years, which are intermediate between them…. the links are no longer missing. Intermediates abound.”
He suggests, “Whatever else God does, he certainly doesn’t MAKE glowing colours and tiny wings. If he did anything at all, it would be to supervise the embryonic development of things, for example by splicing together sequences of genes that direct a process of automated development… God… never made a tiny wing in his eternal life. If he made anything (he didn’t in my view, but let it pass, that’s not what I’m about here), what he made was an embryological RECIPE, or something like a computer program for controlling the embryonic development of a tiny wing… Of course, God might claim that it is just as clever … to design a recipe or a program for a wing, as to make a wing. But… I just want to develop- the distinction between MAKING something like a wing, and what really happens in embryology.” (Pg. 212-213)
He critiques the notion of Noah’s Ark: “Shouldn’t there be some sort of law of decreasing species diversity as we move away from … Mount Ararat? … why would all those marsupials … have migrated en masse from Mount Ararat to Australia? … Why did the entire order Edenta [armadillos, sloths, anteaters]… troop off unerringly for South America… leaving no hide nor hair nor armour plate of settlers somewhere along the way?... Why did an entire sub-order of monkeys, the platyrrhine monkeys, end up in South America and nowhere else? Shouldn’t at least a few of them have joined the rest of the monkeys … in Asia or Africa? … Why did all the penguins undertake the long waddle south to the Antarctic, not a single one to the equally hospitable Arctic?” (Pg. 268-269)
He asks, “If feathers are a good idea within the bird ‘theme,’ such that every single bird, without exception, has them whether it flies or not, why do literally no mammals have them? Why would the designer not borrow that ingenious invention, the feather, for at least one bat? The evolutionist’s answer is clear. All birds have inherited their feathers from their shared ancestor, which had feathers. No mammal is descended from that ancestor. It’s as simple as that.” (Pg. 297-298)
He also critiques the so-called “molecular clock” idea: “what gives us the right to hope that we can find evolutionary processes that go at a fixed rate? Indeed, much evidence suggests that evolutionary rates are highly variable… If rates of evolution are so variable, how can we hope to use them as a clock? This is where molecular genetics comes to the rescue… If legs and beaks undergo change at rates ranging from microdarwins to kilodarwins, why should molecules be any more reliable as clocks? The answer is that genetic changes that manifest themselves in outward and visible evolution---of things like legs and arms---are a very small tip of the iceberg, and they are … heavily influenced by varying natural selection. The majority of genetic change at the molecular level is NEUTRAL, and can therefore be expected to proceed at a rate that is independent of usefulness and might even be approximately constant within any one gene. A neutral genetic change has no effect on the survival of the animal, and this is a helpful credential for a clock.” (Pg. 330-332)
He points out, “Not all birds fly, but all birds carry at least relics of the apparatus of flight… as a legacy from remote flying ancestors. Ostrich wing stubs, moreover, have not completely lost their usefulness… they seem to have some sort of balancing and steering role in running, and they enter into social and sexual displays…” (Pg. 344) Later, he adds, “Evolutionists… need to come up with an explanation for the loss of eyes where they are no longer needed. Why not, it might be said, simply hang on to your eyes, even if you never use them? Might they not come in handy at some point in the future? Why ‘bother’ to get rid of them? Notice, by the way, how hard it is to resist the language of intention, purpose and personification… Well, eyes are almost certainly not cost-free… a moist eye socket, which has to be open to the world to accommodate the swiveling eyeball with its transparent surface, might be vulnerable to infection.” (Pg. 351)
In the final chapter, he summarizes, “Natural selection is an improbability pump: a process that generates the statistically improbable. It systematically seizes the minority of random changes that have what it takes to survive, and accumulates them… until evolution eventually climbs mountains of improbability and diversity, peaks whose height and range seem to know no limit, the metaphorical mountain that I have called ‘Mount Improbable.’ The improbability pump of natural selection… is a kind of statistical equivalent of the sun’s energy raising water to the top of a conventional mountain. Life evolves greater complexity only because natural selection drives it locally away from the statistically probable towards the improbable.” (Pg. 416)
This is one of the best, and most comprehensive, presentations of the evidence for evolution currently available. It will be “must reading” for anyone seriously studying evolutionary theory.