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Climbing Mount Improbable

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  9,152 ratings  ·  197 reviews
In Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, builds a powerful and carefully reasoned argument for evolutionary adaptation as the force behind all life on earth.

What drives species to evolve? How can intricate structures such as the human eye, the spider's web or the wings of birds develop, seemingly by chance? Regarding evolution's most comp
Paperback, 308 pages
Published April 6th 2006 by Penguin (first published 1996)
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Olli-Pekka Paljakka Well, Dawkin makes strong arguments and is a logical writer to follow. He does have strong opinions which he at times pushes on the readers in a rathe…moreWell, Dawkin makes strong arguments and is a logical writer to follow. He does have strong opinions which he at times pushes on the readers in a rather overly direct fashion though.

Aside from the author, love or hate him, Climbing Mount Improbable makes it very clear that gradual changes in living organisms over a long period of time can lead to very complex organs. This book is a direct counterargument to the idea that life is so complicated and "perfect" that it must have an intelligent designer behind it. Dawkins shows how life is not perfect but has evolved to some very specific functions, and how that has happened over time. To put it plainly, he argues strongly against creationism. (less)

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 ·  9,152 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, evolution
Part of me feels really dumb reading this, because all I can do is take him at his word and go 'uh-huh, that must be how it's done'. Like what is this other guy who gave the book one star talking about with chaos theory and some kind of math that has proven that eyes could evolve or devolve spontaneously? What does that mean? How am I to judge what is right or not. Once again I have the gripe with Dawkins about not citing much, this book lacks any kind of citations. He tells you where to go to r ...more
Becky Black
Apr 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book almost by accident. It was a few years ago and I was joining a mail order book club and this was just "need one more for my new member special offers, this looks kind of interesting." I hadn't read anything about science for many years. I'd tried to read Stephen Jay Gould books a couple of times but I never enjoyed them, usually couldn't finish. I had a vague understanding from school about Darwin and evolution, but that was many moons ago!

I got this, I read it and I was gobsmac
Umut Ayhan
A very difficult read. Including very fragmented chapters, though interesting.
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I highly recommend you read any Dawkins book on evolution, if you want the best coherent explanation of the processes of natural selection.

According to Wikipedia, Dawkins is "Darwin's Rottweiler".

In this book, Dawkins attempts to explain how it is possible that evolution of such amazing instruments as eyes can happen through nothing more than natural selection. He explains in part through the use of his and others' computer simulations. I really *get* that natural selection with random mutation
Aaron Caskey
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Richard Dawkins's condescending arrogance is getting on my nerves so much that I doubt I'll finish this...

But I stuck with it and I made it through. Interestingly, when Dick Dawkins is focusing on explaining how cool evolution is, and not bagging various religions (well mostly just the Western ones), he is actually a very entertaining, and also quite persuasive, writer.

The middle of the book is very much in that style. Dawkins seems keen to share with the reader something he finds very cool. He
Dec 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-resolution
After a couple weeks of slowly reading through this one, I gave up and skimmed the last 150 or so pages. This book was not as engaging as Blind Watchmaker or God Delusion, mostly because it's more of a biology text than a political treatise about evolution. I very much enjoyed the "what it all means" sections of the book, but those appear too infrequently between the "how it all works" sections. I can only read so much about fig wasps and nautilus shells. Still his explanation about the evolutio ...more
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science

Richard Dawkins makes an eloquent argument here, as he did in The Blind Watchmaker, for natural selection (and thereby against the unimaginative ideology of design by a supernatural creator and the dishonest progeny of that ideology, "intelligent design"*). He begins with a description of a very uninspired speech about the fig given by a creationist, and ends with his own wondrous scientific tale about the fig and its wasp.

He talks about possibi
Aurélien Thomas
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: atheism, biology
Once and for all: evolution is NOT about progress, a process tending towards a specific purpose and behind which, then, lies a designer. Using a metaphor (the climbing of a mountain) Dawkins insists here on the gradualism implied by evolution. Spiderwebs, the ability for some species to fly or, again, the eye are as many heights at the top of which he leads us and from where, evolution appears in all its simplicity. Besides, he defends his selfish gene hypothesis and, bounces back on the compute ...more
Andrew Hennessey
Jul 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
when richard wrote this book about the slow evolutionary plod of the evolving eye up the billion year probability mountain - a guy in the same faculty who he probably saw in the tea room was dr brian goodwin - who with the use of chaos computation proved that the eye in acetabularia could evolve and devolve spontaneously as appropriate ... richard never really went into 21st century computation, chaos theory and complexity and the chaos law of emergence ... and it was evident scientifically from ...more
Terence M (Somewhat indisposed)
I remember this was a difficult book for me to read and understand due my lack of knowledge of Biology. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, this was a DNF!
Sep 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Too many iffy chapters that were more boring than interesting...
Ralph Hermansen
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book being reviewed is titled, "Climbing Mount Improbable". The author is Richard Dawkins, who just happens to be one of my favorite authors. I read this book years ago, when I developed an interest in learning more about evolution. I liked the book so much, that I bought copies for my four adult children. To my surprise, none of them completely read it. About a month ago, I decided to reread it and perhaps discover why my kids didn't take to it like I did. I also wanted to see if it appear ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The central metaphor of the book is Mount Improbable, peaks of apparent design in the biological landscape, rising up from the chaos we might expect if organic structures formed by chance alone. Dawkins demonstrates how this mountain can be climbed, by taking the reader up the gradual slopes round the rear of the mountain which, with enough time, can be traversed by the process of evolution by natural selection.

The chapters of the book can be roughly divided into two categories. In the first cat
Dileep N
My first exposure to Richard Dawkins was through his debates and interviews on YouTube almost a decade ago. I was instantly charmed by his eloquence and his passion for popularizing and championing the cause of science but it somehow never occurred to me to look up his contributions to popular science literature. A few years later, I was watching a documentary on the Enron debacle and that's when I came to know about Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Almost shockingly, the company's CEO, Jeff Skilling, ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I feel that this book was written solely as an attempt to refute ‘intelligent design’ theory. From the beginning to the end it provides examples of how evolution itself with no external aid could have led the species to the complexity it now possesses. The book starts and ends with a tale of the fig, and how it was a fig, and not an apple, that was offered to Adam by Eve, if Paradise had existed at all, that is.
The fig grows at the top of Mountain Improbable- the peak of evolution as we know it
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
This books was excellent; it marks the point where Dawkins really came into his own as an accessible pop-science writer. To add to what I've said before, anyone wanting a clear treatment on evolution designed for the layman should start with The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, followed immediately by Climbing Mount Improbable. Being that it was written much earlier than The Greatest Show on Earth, Climbing Mount Improbable is concerned more with theory than data, but it still ...more
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you have found yourself questioning the fact of evolution with the common rejoinder "but what use is half an eye," and you really would like a serious answer to that, read this book.

Dawkins explains exactly how 1/2 an eye is better than no eye at all, and just what 1/2 an eye might be. People often think of a literal half an eye, like an eyeball sliced in half, which is, admittedly silly. But if one thinks of a cell more light sensitive than it's neighbors, one can see how it might benefit th
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I come from a family where almost everyone has something against Dawkins. And yet, I somehow won this book. To my surprise it is quite good. Some parts are a little outdated (especially the part about 3D printers and their nonexistence) but it makes sense as it was written 20 years ago.

Once you accept that the author is a bit of an egomaniac, the book is well written, interesting and understandable even for those who never were that much into biology. My favourite parts are definitely those abou
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Nearly twenty years old, but, because it's so full of interesting detail, still very worth reading even for those who already have a decent grasp of natural selection and the ways in which it operates. There are really only a couple of things that clue you in to the book's age, e.g., his comments on 3D printing and nanotechnology, both areas in which progress has, I think, been more rapid that he expected. ...more
Murray Gunn
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
My father, who otherwise is anti-religious, is a creationist. He can't reconcile the complexity of life with the simplicity of evolution. I'm going to recommend this book to him as a fantastic explanation of how simple changes, repeated over and over, can add up to the vast ecosystem we have today. Great work, Dawkins! ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
An impeccable book on evolution. If you are familiar with Dawkins' earlier works, this may sound a little bit repetitive (it did for me). However, his brilliant prose and ability to make complex topics interesting shines through in this work.
A great work on making the incomprehensibility of evolution comprehensible to a lay audience.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The eye evolved in dozens of different ways. There is no such thing as irreducible complexity. This book ia a sharp stick in the eye for creationists. Get over it, already. Creationism is poetry - evolution is science.
People say my name should be Jeff
You go, Richard!! Debunk ID!
Jeff Rudisel
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution, science, 2013
If you want to better understand evolution, read Dawkins!
Such explanatory prowess!
Karunan Thirunilathil venugopalan
Another brilliance from Richard Dawkins
Zardoshti Amirreza
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
it is another world.........
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a challenging read. Dawkins works very hard to make the details of evolution understandable, but a couple of times my mind was spinning. That may be because it has been so LONG since I studied biology. Most of his story was accessible to me.

It is also a fascinating read. To see how all things have evolved over the aeons; even things that seem to not lend themselves to Darwin's theory of evolution. Hence the title of the book. Things that seem improbable can be understood and logical thr
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Dawkins was a really good popular science writer.
Nikki Ellix
Oct 21, 2020 rated it liked it

For a scientist, the man is one arrogant, opinionated bastard.
It makes for some entertaining reading, whilst also being a very informative book about the evolutionary theory. Biology has always been a soft spot for me, but the man is much better at his debate talks than he is an author.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book that is unfortunately showing its age. Great for beginners and those with only a superficial understanding of the subject, and an excellent companion for The Blind Watchmaker and The Extended Phenotype.

Now for the negatives:

The argument is presented in a very robust fashion, and shows that it does not need any special appeals in order to maintain itself. For instance, while it is known that mutation chance is not very random at all, it could as well be, and it wouldn't de
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