Review: The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution is an excellent discussion of the multi-faceted experiences and experiments that back the understanding of evolution.  He discusses evidence from the range of experiment and observation that support that worldview and points out convincingly that fossil evidence is the least of it.  In fact the fossil record can only refute evolution, which it pointedly has not done.  It is an admirable collection and explanation of reasons that scientists are convinced that evolution is a theory in the same sense that a heliocentric solar system is a theory.

However, it is not going to convince anyone who did not believe in evolution when they began reading.

I understand the contempt he expresses for those who oppose evolution. To scientists, they are simply ignoring facts, and worse, disrupting the work of people trying to pass on and extend those facts.  People who disbelieve evolution, to Dawkins, are equivalent to those who believe that the Sun orbits the Earth; and they are interrupting his lectures. He literally cannot contain his disdain for them.

While I understand his position, I think it is a counterproductive tone to take if you are trying to convince someone to give up their passionately held beliefs.  So, if you are diametrically opposed to evolution but are open to being coaxed into understanding and believing it, this is probably not the book for you.

If you do believe in evolution, Dawkins does an excellent, if occasionally rambling, job of laying out the major evidence and providing hooks where one can learn more.  I learned a bunch from it.

Recommended, with the above tonal caveats.

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