/ Darwin

The Greatest Show on Earth

I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest gem, "The Greatest Show on Earth". It's a necessary book, as Dawkins himself points out, since something like 40% of Americans believe that the earth was created by a very productive entity in a week about 10,000 years ago. Today. They believe this, today.

I would encourage anyone who is even remotely curious about evolution to pick this up and read it. Dawkins is a wonderful writer, and in this particular book he distills his wealth of knowledge on the subject of evolution into a very readable volume.

I've had a problem with Genesis ever since it was first read to me in Sunday School (needless to say, I only lasted a couple weeks in Sunday School). Evolution, as hazily as I understood it from my trips to the Museum of Natural History in New York City as a kid, made a lot more sense. And as I took a couple of evolutionary biology classes last year at the University of Colorado, my (excellent) professor instilled a deep appreciation for the cellular-level machinery of this wonderful process.

This book explains much of what I learned in those two bio classes, and more. I had not previously heard of Lenski's E. coli experiment, and in this book Dawkins gives a fantastic summary of the experiment and the findings. It makes you appreciate Darwin's genius all the more -- indeed, the entire book makes you appreciate Darwin's genius.

Unfortunately Dawkins still can't control himself in his shots at the creationists. I can't say I blame him, but this book has the potential of being a game changer and it might have helped his cause by simply sticking to his lucid arguments and illustrations of the overwhelming evidence for evolution, as he does about 98% of the time throughout the book. But, as I said, I can't say I blame him for the occasional shot.

In the end, this is an excellent and important book. As this is not a mystery novel or some other story, I believe sharing with you Dawkins' final sentence is not a spoiler:

"We are surrounded by endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random natural selection -- the only game in town, the greatest show on earth."

Quite honestly, this sentence brought tears to my eyes when I considered all that it represents -- and this book is a marvelous summary of that totality. Go get it. Read it.