diana’s review of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Defaceo (new)

Defaceo Can you broaden and detail your points against the book?


message 2: by diana (new)

diana Gglast wrote: "Can you broaden and detail your points against the book?"

Do you mean give specific examples? His whole spiel about the laryngeal nerve (and the accompanying figures, none of which have the larynx labeled yet all of which have other completely irrelevant body parts illustrated and named) is one. This section is also one of the places where he contradicts himself, basically saying that these changes were too small for evolution to act on, despite the fact that towards the beginning of the book he states that no change is too small for evolution to act on. So, I know what he's getting at in each case, but the point of the book is to explain it to people who don't.




message 3: by Defaceo (new)

Defaceo Micro-evolution is evolution, yet how does the micro effect natural selection?
Interesting reply, thank you.



message 4: by Jesse (new)

Jesse Wattenbarger diana wrote: "Gglast wrote: "Can you broaden and detail your points against the book?"

Do you mean give specific examples? His whole spiel about the laryngeal nerve (and the accompanying figures, none of which ..."


Dawkins didn't say that the "lyrngeal nerve changes" were "too small to act on." He said that there was no extreme need to fix it. He said it happened, and it works, so that's possibly why it hasn't changed yet. This is much different than "too small to act on." And, he never indicated that evolution _wouldn't_ or _couldn't_ have acted on it; he only gave a reasonable explanation of why natural selection might not have selected against it.


message 5: by Tim (new)

Tim He covered morality/altruism in The Selfish Gene. The stated point of the book is to provide indisputable evidence for evolution as scientific fact, yet you are finding fault because he didn't get derailed onto a separate topic.


message 6: by John (new)

John No matter how great the author or how great the book, there will ALWAYS be a set % of people, however small that % may be, who will just hate. Fact of life, we should just be aware and move on.


message 7: by David (new)

David Powell I am somewhat amazed by you comment in that you are a molecular biologist. I am not a molecular biologist, but I love science and good writing (I was an English teacher). I really doubt that the book was written for molecular biologists but rather for the rest of us. That being said, I think that Dawkins does a marvelous job in explaining, step by incredible step, the evolution of the diverse life on earth. But, I do think that you should consider writing you own book for general consumption should you feel you can be more lucid than Dawkins.


message 8: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Jessup This starts out exactly like a review on Amazon for another book. Even the "molecular biologist" introduction. I have seen this before


message 9: by Hilary (new)

Hilary I completely agree with you Diana. I also come from a scientific background (veterinary clinical pathologist)but have been disappointed in this book - maybe because I don't need as much convincing as the intended audience? I thought he could have been much more concise while achieving the same outcome, if not making things more clear... I though the point got lost sometimes within the very long explanations and digressions. Your review basically took the words right out of my mouth. I also agree that Dawkins knows his stuff and I applaud him for his defence of evolution (and atheism in other books).


message 10: by David (new)

David Powell Hilary wrote: "I completely agree with you Diana. I also come from a scientific background (veterinary clinical pathologist)but have been disappointed in this book - maybe because I don't need as much convincing..."
To completely agree with someone is dangerous. If Joseph is right, Diana's introduction is questionable. But if, as Diana says, she is a molecular biologist and you are a veterinarian, clearly you both have the credibility to discuss a well-written book on evolution. But credibility is not really the issue because I really don't think that Dawkins book was written to appeal to critical scientific minds like yours. It was, in my belief, written for a more general audience, and I think it is absolutely beautifully done. A book that would appeal to you and Diana would probably not be interesting to general readers; such a book would be more like a dissertation, and, in my brief experience with such, those are not very interesting for the layman. I am glad that a scientist like Dawkins has the ability to make his knowledge read like poetry. I have read five of his books, and, of the ones that treat evolution, I like "The Greatest Show on Earth" the best. My overall favorite of his is "The God Delusion."


message 11: by Hilary (new)

Hilary Thank you for your comment David. It is true, and I have wondered if my disappointment in this book is because I am not his target audience. Although, one of my favourite books of all time was The Selfish Gene, which I read about 15 years ago. I am somewhat tempted to go back and re-read that book to see if his writing style has changed as I perceive, but am a little afraid to ruin such a fond memory.


message 12: by David (last edited Mar 14, 2013 04:18PM) (new)

David Powell Hilary wrote: "Thank you for your comment David. It is true, and I have wondered if my disappointment in this book is because I am not his target audience. Although, one of my favourite books of all time was Th..."
That is one of the dilemmas of being a book lover. Some books can be read innumerable times and never fade, whereas some others lose their glow. My personal experience favors the former, and what I usually do is try to find a new vantage point or new element to follow. The extreme of this is Macbeth. I taught this play (word for word) at least one hundred times, and it got better every time because I always found some new reason to admire Shakespeare's genius in shaping the characters or plot. I have read only The God Delusion more than once--it was better. As to your point, it is well made because of your expertise in the area of genetics and biology. By the way, I liked Dawkins "The Ancestor's Tale" partly because of his framing it around Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Have you read Wade's "Before the Dawn" which is about human evolution?


message 13: by Hilary (new)

Hilary I haven't read "The Ancestor's Tale" or "Before the Dawn" - I'll have to look into those. Thanks for the recommendation!


message 14: by Chad (new)

Chad Bearden Hilary...having read "The Selfish Gene" in the last few years, I would say his writing in that book is a bit more technical. It's not overly academic by any stretch of the imagination, and is accessible to laymen, but it is definitely more grounded in statistics and technical lingo.


message 15: by Hilary (new)

Hilary Chad wrote: "Hilary...having read "The Selfish Gene" in the last few years, I would say his writing in that book is a bit more technical. It's not overly academic by any stretch of the imagination, and is acce..."

Thanks Chad! I'm glad to hear the writing style is different....now I won't be so scared to revisit it.


message 16: by Petra (new)

Petra Dawkins says the laryngal nerve WAS changed in small bits - lengthened along with the neck because doing that was (for each one, small step in neck-construction) more efficientand simple than a complete reconstruction the path of the laryngal nerve. When it started to become energy-wise less efficient to have that nerve go that way, it was too late: The evolutionary change required to UNDO the senseless detour was TOO BIG and complicated for evolution to act on it. I see absolutely no contradiction here.


message 17: by Mj (new)

Mj Thank you Diana for your review. I agree with your review. As a biologist I am always pleased to see books about evolution, but his writing style made it difficult to read and by the 5th chapter I threw it aside. Too many times he expressed himself like the religious zealots he criticizes, albeit from the opposite camp... and I don't have time for that. I just wanted to read a good evolution book, and sadly this was not it.


message 18: by David (new)

David Powell Mj wrote: "Thank you Diana for your review. I agree with your review. As a biologist I am always pleased to see books about evolution, but his writing style made it difficult to read and by the 5th chapter I..."
As a long-time English teacher (with a college minor in physical science), I think his style makes it both easy and interesting to read. As I think I mentioned earlier, there may be a dichotomy between those who are experts in biology (like yourself) and those who are non-experts (like me) who want a book that explains, in something approaching layman's terms, something that is important and interesting. I do have to confess that I like Dawkins for his collective effort, most of which I have read. Of those, I most liked the development method of the subject matter in this particular book. (And it had a pretty cover.)


message 19: by Mj (new)

Mj Yes, it does have a pretty cover! This was the first book of his that I read and I really wanted to like it. I did appreciate how he explained what a theory is and how the word is applied, very interesting. However, his first chapter he keept talking about religion and that quickly bored me (and mind you, I do practice a religion)... it just never got any better for me. I see that many people have given good reviews so at least many folks have learned about evolution and that's always a good thing. We can't all like all the same authors. :-)


message 20: by Adam (new)

Adam Diana: it would be rad if you gave your views on Dawkins's view of molecular biology. I can't help but think, being about as far from molecular biology as a person can be, that he is overly simplistic with genetics.


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