Monday, 23 August 2010

The Greatest Show On Earth

Almost finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest book describing the evidence for evolution "The Greatest Show On Earth" and it is a wonderful book. Got to hand it to Dawkins, he writes so compellingly about his subject. It's a real page turner. I really hope it gets a wide readership amongst those who are unsure of evolution (for whatever reason, but mainly religious. Is there another reason someone would deny it I wonder?) because it is utterly convincing. Even I've learnt many knew things about not only particular cases of evidence but the strength and breadth of the whole package.

I'm almost tempted to get a couple more copies to have ready the next time Jehovah's Witnesses knock on my door. I'd be happy to hand one over to them if I thought they might read it. The book does an excellent job of highlighting why the creation theory of how the variety of life exists just makes no sense at all in the face of the evidence. Evidence that fits perfectly, and indeed may only be fully explicable by the theory of evolution (natural selection). A couple of times I have JW's into my house for a chat (I never used to, but these days I figure that if they are going to try and persuade me of their beliefs, my best response is to try even harder to explain to them why they are wrong - as politely as possible of course) and the argument from design is raised. It's not long after that happens that they leave, usually in somewhat of a rush.

Dawkins' book is one of the best arguments against design I know of, because it explains what we find when we look at the natural world as clear results of evolution and completely nonsensical if you assume a designer. Things like the geographical distribution of species, the molecular evidence of common ancestry, many examples of really terrible 'design' in nature and many more areas. The fossil record is of course discussed, but what he repeats (and is an important fact to remember when JW's and other religious people criticise it) is that even if we had no fossils whatsoever, the evidence for evolution is totally rock solid from all these other areas. That there has never been a fossil discovered that disproves evolution, which would be trivially easy if creation were true) is just the icing on a very big cake.

Great book, essential reading.

One caveat to that though... Dawkins writing does at a couple of points become a bit too school-teachery. It is a bit annoying when he says before launching into a detailed but perfectly clear description of a scientific experiment concerning E.coli, that the reader should maybe have a good sleep beforehand, or make sure they are rested well, because they might not follow it if a little tired. Condescension like that I could really do without.

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