James Carroll's Reviews > The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins
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Aug 16, 2011

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bookshelves: science-and-technology

This book was only so so, and there were two main reasons.

First, his evidence:

It simply wasn't that good. And it's not because there isn't good evidence for evolution. But the whole way through this book I kept thinking things like: "I could produce better evidence than that!" "Why didn't he mention this or that?" and, "Why is he talking about this, it's a huge digression?" etc. The evidence he provided is actually overwhelmingly convincing, the problem is that there is actually even better evidence out there that he didn't talk about (or that he only mentions in passing). I did learn about a few lines of evidence that I didn't know about before, so in that sense it was worth the time I spent. I just wish that he had done a better job, since I completely agree with him that we badly need this sort of a text today.

Second, his atheism:

Dawkins is a staunch atheist. Now, Dawkins claims that his primary purpose is to provide the evidence for evolution in order to save those who have been deluded by those he calls the "history deniers." That is his term for those creationists who deny the fact that evolution happened in order to cling to Biblical inerrancy. But if that was his goal, then he should have left his atheism on its shelf, at least for the duration of this text. In fact, in the introduction, he claims that this is what he is going to do. However, it appears that Dawkins is so enamored of his atheistic position that he is incapable of doing so, and I fear that it chased away the very people he was trying so hard to reach.

I vastly preferred "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne. That book is what this book should have been. http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-T... If you are looking for a good book on the evidence for evolution, Coyne's book is the one I would suggest instead.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Jed (new)

Jed Stevenson Dawkins' atheist polemics are offputting for me too. Compare E.O. Wilson's "The Creation": Not only does Wilson leave his views about God aside, but his book about the grandeur of the natural world and the evolutionary processes that gave rise to it is addressed to a Baptist minister.

message 2: by Diana (new)

Diana Hi, James! I have read one Dawkins book and I agree completely with his strident tone regarding his atheism. I mean, the book I read by him was ABOUT atheism, and I am an atheist myself (as you know), and it still rubbed me the wrong way to the point that I'm not really interested in reading any of his work again.

I appreciate the Coyne recommendation, though. I'll add it to my list.


message 3: by James (last edited Apr 13, 2012 08:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

James Carroll Dawkins shouldn't be completely abandoned. His book "The Selfish Gene" is almost required reading inasmuch as it has been remarkably influential. So some of his stuff is better than others. In this case, part of the reason I was so disappointed was that I had such high expectations from him when writing about evolution. This book was descent, but it didn't live up to my (possibly too high) expectations.

The Coyne book is really really good. I offer it as a free gift to anyone who 1. can claim that they don't believe in evolution and 2. will PROMISE to read it from cover to cover. It strikes the proper tone I think, the tone needed to convince a religious person that doesn't believe in evolution for religious reasons. It just presents the data, and doesn't try to peddle atheism on the side. Great book.

message 4: by Diana (new)

Diana *sigh* yeah. The Selfish Gene. I've heard of that one a lot over the years, and you're right. I probably should read it.

I've been looking at the Coyne book for a while wondering if that's the one I need/want to read next. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. :)


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