The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
Okay, I might have to grant people the "elitist" bit, because, well, I'm a bit of an elitist myself. But I dare you all to read this book and then tell me that Dawkins isn't a total squishy.
Let's just say this - he stops in the middle of the book to talk about how much he misses Douglas Adams, who was a dear friend of his. He waxes poetic about evolution and how much he wishes he could meet our...more
Dawkins' knowledge of zoology shines as he gives examples of the fascinating animals that share some of our genes. Readers will undoubtedly learn about plants and animals they had never heard...more
Often I agree with Dawkins' views on creationists, but usually he's an obnoxious ass about it. Thankfully, in this book he only disses them occasionally. For most of the book he sticks to his strengths, i.e., clear and exciting explanations of the beautiful yet structured diversity of the natural world.
Lots of nifty thoughts about how evolution works and how mind-shatteringly cool life is. There's an interesting...more
Dawkins is a seductive writer... I would recommend always reading somethin...more
Clearly, anywhere; for as lon...more
By tracing our lineage back through these various “concestors” Dawkins mak...more
THE ANCESTOR'S TALE is a pilgrimage back through time; a journey on which we meet up with fellow pilgrims as we and they converge on our common ancestors. Chimpanzees join us at about 6 million years in the past, orang utans at 14 million years, as we stride on together, a growing band. The journey provides the setting for a collection of some 40 tales. Each explores an aspect of evolutionary biology through the stories of characters met along the way. The tales are interspersed with prologues d...more
6 mya - common ancestor that unites humans to chimpanzees. This ancestor resembled a chimp.
75 mya - common ancestor that unites humans to rodents.
180 mya - common ancestor that unites humans to all mammals. This animal resembled a shrew.
310 mya - common ancestor that unites humans to lizards and their descendents, birds. This animal probably res...more
2004, nearly 700 pp
I read several parts of this book [checked out from Naturalis library] before my trip to the U.S. but did not have time to read more. It was quite interesting, though his innovative ordering of the chapters took me a long time to get used to. "Ancestors" made me think it was going to be the evolution of human beings, or at least of primates -- which is what I seem to find more fun to read about. But no, those occupy onl...more
I waltz with his writing. On one hand loving the way he will introduce the known science and start revealing debates in such a way that you ha...more
I liked the narrative conceit, too, that we humans are pilgrims travelling backwards along our family tree, meeting up with the other living "pilgrims" at points of common ancestry. It made for an...more
This book has an innovative but boring/inane plot, just as did it's predecsssor, Pilgrim's Progress. Also like that novel, this one shines in it's anecdotes:
* Peacock tails and other sexually selected traits are just runaway instabilities.
* The platypus has ultra-sensitive lightning detection in it's bill: it can sense your muscles twitching.
* Some birds and turtles can see FOUR primary colors.
* You have Eve's mitochondria (...and Adam's Y chromasome, duh.)
* Swifts can...more
An interesting factoid that never occurred to me, for instance: if we'd ever manage to burn all the fossil fuels and other biomass that did not get fully decomposed and recycled, we would no longer have an oxygen atmosphere, but revert to the reducing carbon-dioxid...more