Rose's Reviews > The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins
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Aug 31, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, read-in-2009, religion-or-lack-thereof, top-20, unexpected-gems
Recommended for: everyone
Read in September, 2009 , read count: 1

Should I give this book a 4 or a 5? I can't decide... It's SO GOOD. As you can probably tell from other reviews, it's written in the style of walking backwards on the road of Time. As we walk into the past, we join up with our cousins, the apes, monkeys, remaining mammals, remaining animals, fungi, plants, and bacteria along the way. I think I'd appreciate it even more if I had red Canterbury Tales - I hear that's what it's modeled after. This book has some of the most interesting scientific explanations of life on earth that I've ever heard. The only thing keeping this book from five stars is that I skimmed a few places where I lost interest in understanding the minutiae of an individual "tale" and just wanted to get to the next Concestor.

Some of the best stories are about why we have ventral hearts, why we have sex (rather than asex), why we have blood types (this fascinated me!), and why we have less hair than most apes. It really is like a novel, and I appreciate that from a non-fiction book.

I couldn't recommend it enough! It's a wonderful book on how related we are to everything on the planet. What're a few hundred million great grandparents among species?

Below are some of my favorite quotes, because I don't want to foget them:





On irreducible complexity: "An arch is irreducible in the sense that if you remove part of it, the whole collapses. Yet it is possible to build it gradually by means of scaffolding. Yet the subsequent removal of the scaffolding, so that it no longer appears in the visible picture, does not entitle us to a mystified and obscurantist attribution of supernatural powers to the masons."

This was just so wild, I have to quote it... Dawkins was writing about the resiliance of the small rodent community on earth, and their likelihood of outliving us when our time's up: "Given enough time, will a species of intelligent, cultivated rats emerge? Will rodent historians and scientists eventually organise careful archaeological digs (gnaws?) through the strata of our long-compacted cities, and reconstruct the peculiar and temporarily tragic circumstances that gave ratkind its big break?" - Props to anyone who can coin the term "ratkind".
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Reading Progress

09/03/2009 page 123
17.88%

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