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The Greatest Show on Earth

On Friday the postman brought me my copy of Richard Dawkins’ new book The Greatest Show on Earth.

I was not going to start it until we go on holiday later this month, but I couldn’t resist.

Today, in the early 21st century, 150 years after Darwin published ‘The Origin of Species’ it seems daft that an eminent scientist such as Dawkins should have to waste precious time on writing a book to present the evidence for evolution, which is a scientific fact. But staggeringly, 40% of Americans don’t ‘believe’  in evolution. Such is the virulence of creationists, religious dogma and what Dawkins calls ‘history deniers’:  people who despite incontrovertible evidence still deny that certain things happened, the Holocaust for example, or evolution, this book is so very necessary.

I’m less that a quarter of the way through, but already he has clarified the misunderstanding of people who deliberately say evolution is ‘only a theory’. The word theory can mean a number of things including an idea or hypothesis, or in the sense Darwin meant it: a series of ideas and general principles which seek to explain some aspect of the world.

I’ve read many thousands of pages about the natural world and biogeography, I’ve seen a lot of natural history and documentaries and I always learn something new and astonishing about life on earth, as I have in this book. He tells us about dog breeding, ‘missing links’, predators and prey, the evolutionary ‘arms race’, symbiosis, plate tectonics and how it has affected the distribution of living things. It’s fascinating stuff. Dawkins addresses this book at those who find evolution difficult, but sadly they are not likely to read it.

I love Dawkins’ sexy scientific brain, his wisdom and wit, his logic and reason, his use of crystal clear English, and his wonder at the biodiversity of the world. If you love the natural world and want to understand more about why it is the way it is, you’ll love this joyful book: ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.

There’s a nice review of it here.

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