There’s been a lot of interruptions and too little time available over the last half-year or so, but I’ve finally completed reading Dawkins’ latest masterpiece, The Greatest Show on Earth. It’s subtitled The Evidence for Evolution, and boy is there a lot of it in the book.
It’s a strange title for a book on the evidence for evolution, but apparently Dawkins got the idea from a T-shirt given to him bearing the words “Evolution: The Greatest Show on Earth; the Only Game in Town”
Prior to reading this book, I needed no convincing that evolution was a fact, but Dawkins provides plenty of new information that I had not known before. Although it makes for heavy reading in some parts due to the complexity of the sciences involved, the book is geared towards the layman, and is relatively easy to understand.
As usual, Dawkins writes in that characteristically eloquent and witty style he’s famous for in his other works, often castigating the creationist lobby, who are referred to as “history deniers.” He’s often been criticised for his approach, but I can find little fault with his stance considering the undeniable ignorance that is prevalent in the religious world; a lot of it wilful in nature.
Creationists often point to the so-called missing links in the fossil record, as evidence that evolution is wrong. Dawkins makes a telling point that even if the entire fossil record were not available to scientists, the incontrovertible evidence from molecular biology and genetics is more than enough to prove the veracity of evolution and natural selection.
Off course, the book won’t appeal to the fundamentalist religious community; nor will it convince them to change their beliefs about creationism. Wilful ignorance is a pillar of religious strength. However, for those who are interested in actually learning something meaningful about life and the way nature really works, even those who are marginally religious, this book will challenge any preconceived ideas you held, if not convince you that evolution is in fact, a FACT.
Once again, humans are not descended from monkeys. We share a common ancestor with monkeys. As it happens, the common ancestor would have looked a lot more like a monkey than a man, and we should indeed probably have called it a monkey if we had met it, some 25 million years ago. But even though humans evolved from an ancestor that we could sensibly call a monkey, no animal gives birth to an instant new species, or at least not one as different from itself as a man is from a monkey, or even from a chimpanzee. That isn’t what evolution is about. Evolution not only is a gradual process as a matter of fact; it has to be gradual if it is to do any explanatory work. Huge leaps in a single generation – which is what a monkey giving birth to a human would be – are almost as unlikely as divine creation, and are ruled out for the same reason: too statistically improbable. It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is that they are opposing.