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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 22, 2009

ISBN-10: 1416594787 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416594787
  • ASIN: B004AYCWY4
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (542 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #725,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by Jonah LehrerRichard Dawkins begins The Greatest Show on Earth with a short history of his writing career. He explains that all of his previous books have naïvely assumed the fact of evolution, which meant that he never got around to laying out the evidence that it [evolution] is true. This shouldn't be too surprising: science is an edifice of tested assumptions, and just as physicists must assume the truth of gravity before moving on to quantum mechanics, so do biologists depend on the reality of evolution. It's the theory that makes every other theory possible.Yet Dawkins also came to realize that a disturbingly large percentage of the American and British public didn't share his enthusiasm for evolution. In fact, they actively abhorred the idea, since it seemed to contradict the Bible and diminish the role of God. So Dawkins decided to write a book for these history-deniers, in which he would dispassionately demonstrate the truth of evolution beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt.After only a few pages of The Greatest Show on Earth, however, it becomes clear that Dawkins doesn't do dispassionate, and that he's not particularly interested in convincing believers to believe in evolution. He repeatedly compares creationists and Holocaust deniers, which is a peculiar way of reaching out to the other side. Elsewhere, Dawkins calls those who don't subscribe to evolution ignorant, fatuously ignorant and ridiculous. All of which raises the point: who, exactly, is supposed to read this book? Is Dawkins preaching to the choir or trying to convert the uninformed? While The Greatest Show on Earth might fail as a work of persuasive rhetoric—Dawkins is too angry and acerbic to convince his opponents—it succeeds as an encyclopedic summary of evolutionary biology. If Charles Darwin walked into a 21st-century bookstore and wanted to know how his theory had fared, this is the book he should pick up.Dawkins remains a superb translator of complex scientific concepts. It doesn't matter if he's spinning metaphors for the fossil record (like a spy camera in a murder trial) or deftly explaining the method by which scientists measure the genetic difference between distinct species: he has a way of making the drollest details feel like a revelation. Even if one already believes in the survival of the fittest, there is something thrilling about learning that the hoof of a horse is homologous to the fingernail of the human middle finger, or that some dinosaurs had a second brain of ganglion cells in their pelvis, which helped compensate for the tiny brain in their head. As Darwin famously noted, There is grandeur in this view of life. What Dawkins demonstrates is that this view of life isn't just grand: it's also undeniably true. Color illus. (Sept. 29)Jonah Lehrer is the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

"Like a detective reconstructing a crime" (San Francisco Chronicle), Dawkins amasses a mountain of evidence in this richly illustrated, enormously readable explanation of the theory of evolution. Though Dawkins may have softened his attitude toward those who can reconcile their religious beliefs with evolution, he still harbors great hostility toward its detractors, equating them to Holocaust deniers—a label that riled the New York Times Book Review. Objecting to Dawkins's abrasive dogmatism, many critics felt that the biologist is at his best when he forgets his opponents and focuses on the science. He is indeed a master of explaining complex scientific ideas to nonscientific readers, and though The Greatest Show on Earth may not be his best book, it is a well-written, captivating review of the science behind the theory.

More About the Author

Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.

Customer Reviews

So I highly recommend this book to anyone with questions about Evolution.
TW
I would like to think that everyone who would question the fact of evolution will read this book.
Phred
This is the first book I have read by Richard Dawkins, and I found it to be very interesting.
Randolph Eck

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

272 of 290 people found the following review helpful By Michael Heath VINE VOICE on November 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Given the plethora of evolution books published recently, I argue it's imperative to consider this book's worthiness against these other recent publications.

Richard Dawkins' objective with TGSOE is to present his ". . . personal summary of the evidence that the `theory' of evolution is actually a fact - as incontrovertible a fact as any in science." [1st pg. of the Preface]. This appears to make this book an argument for evolution, especially considering the subtitle, "The Evidence for Evolution". This framing also matches exactly to the explicit motivation expressed by evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne in his book, Why Evolution Is True.

Having read both I'd recommend Coyne's book if one is looking for an optimal argument on why Science considers evolution a fact and why there are no remaining hypotheses able to challenge evolution as an explanatory model for the evidence or discredit the findings supportive of evolution. It's much more concise, sticks more closely to peer-accepted findings, is more transparent about hedging on explanations where confidence is not yet overwhelming, and presents its findings in a manner easier to understand to someone not well educated in biology.

However, given that I think even the Coyne book falls short on its argument I also recommend molecular biologist Daniel Fairbanks'
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201 of 230 people found the following review helpful By Dick Marti on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a biologist (and evolutionist), I am one of those who did not need to be convinced by this book. I am already there. So, I was at somewhat of a disadvantage in trying to estimate how this book might affect the average creationist and IDer. One problem is that creationists come in several stripes----and I don't mean the usual division of creationists into young-Earth vs old-Earth etc. I mean the professional creationists such as some clergy (including TV evangelists) and foundation employees etc with a financial or power stake in maintaining creationism vs some people who have an ignorant, but honest, attachment to creationism for what might be called religious reasons (in spite of Dawkins and everything else) vs the hard-core religionists who care not a whit about evidence and who think that "faith" is faith, no matter what the evidence against it. Dawkins probably will not reach the first and third of these groups. Whether he is able to reach the second remains to be seen. Those people with an ignorant but honest attachment to creationism are largely unlikely to read (much less buy) a book such as this. I am at somewhat of a loss to know who this book targets. The Hell-fire and Damnation preachers will just ignore it and go on preaching---they have too much of a good thing in power and money flow to give it up by becoming honest. Dawkins needs to target the mainline Christian clergy. But then, who goes to church to listen to sermons on evolution?
As for the book itself, it took me a while to get used to the chatty style, mostly in first person, that characterizes Dawkin's later books. What Dawkins presents is only PART of "The Evidence for Evolution".
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427 of 519 people found the following review helpful By The Agnostic Apatheist on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is the latest among a long list of evolutionary texts by Dawkins. By his own admission, this book differs from his previous works. While his other books assume the truth of evolution, and thus, sought to answer specific and common criticisms against evolution (often espoused by creationists), this is the first time Dawkins has attempted to lay out the actual evidence for its acceptance by the scientific community.

His book was well written, articulated in a readable style, and quite enjoyable. In fact, I found it difficult to put the book down. Dawkins provides a good general view of why scientists accept evolution and a good case for the plausbility of natural selection as the vehicle for adaptive change. However, I do have some criticisms of his book, which prevented me from giving it 5 stars, especially if I view it from the mindset of a biblical literalist (a view I once shared many decades ago... and these are the people who need the most convincing).

My number one complaint is that he did not provide much in evidence, and where he did provide evidence it was short on detail. For instance, in Chapter 2, Dawkins mentions that all dog breeds are descended from the wolf. Similarly, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and other commonly distinct vegetables today are all descendants of the wild cabbage. While this might seem evident to the scientifically literate, if you don't accept evolution, you might need some convincing to show that this is true. But he doesn't provide evidence or even an explanation of how we know that dogs descended from wolves or broccoli from cabbage. He merely asserts this as evidence and then moves on to chapter 3, which concerns natural selction.
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