The Greatest Show on Earth: Book summary and reviews of The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

By Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2009,
    480 pages.

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Book Summary

In 2008, a Gallup poll showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created man in his present form within the last 10,000 years. In a Pew Forum poll in the same year, 42 percent believed that all life on earth has existed in its present form since the beginning of time.

In 1859 Charles Darwin's masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, shook society to its core. Darwin was only too aware of the storm his theory of evolution would provoke. But he surely would have raised an incredulous eyebrow at the controversy still raging a century and a half later. Evolution is accepted as scientific fact by all reputable scientists and indeed theologians, yet millions of people continue to question its veracity. Now the author of the iconic work The God Delusion takes them to task.

The Greatest Show on Earth is a stunning counterattack on advocates of "Intelligent Design," explaining the evidence for evolution while exposing the absurdities of the creationist "argument." Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence: from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics. Combining these elements and many more, he makes the airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection."

The Greatest Show on Earth comes at a critical time: systematic opposition to the fact of evolution is menacing as never before. In American schools, and in schools around the world, insidious attempts are made to undermine the status of science in the classroom. Dawkins wields a devastating argument against this ignorance, but his unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master's vision of life, in all its splendor.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. While The Greatest Show on Earth might fail as a work of persuasive rhetoric—Dawkins is too angry and acerbic to convince his opponents—it succeeds as an encyclopedic summary of evolutionary biology." - Publishers Weekly

"Dawkins has an influential voice in the debate, so the broadsides that he launches against creationists in this book will certainly cheer his many fans. However, he seems to be primarily preaching to the choir and probably won't win converts" - Library Journal

"A pleasure in the face of so much scientific ignorance - biology rendered accessible and relevant to the utmost degree." - Kirkus Reviews

"'...he is an awesome thinker, a superb writer whose explanatory skills I envy, who dismisses his opponents with the thoroughness of a top silk'....A beautifully crafted and intelligible rebuttal of creationism and intelligent design." - The Times (UK)

"Dawkins gathers up the weight of evidence into a huge lump and hurls it at us from the highest heights his rhetoric can scale...his grandness of vision still dazzles." - The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

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Author Information

Richard Dawkins Author Biography

Lalla Ward

Clinton Richard Dawkins was born in March 1941 in Nairobi, Kenya.  When he was eight his family moved to England where he attended Oundle School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a second class BA degree in zoology in 1962, followed by MA and DPhil degrees in 1966. 

He describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing", but he started to doubt the existence of God when he was about nine years old.  He later changed his opinion persuaded by the argument that a designer had been necessary to create the universe; however in his teens when he better understood evolution, he came to the conclusion that evolution could account for the complexity of life and that a designer was unnecessary.

For two years starting in 1967 ...

... Full Biography
Link to Richard Dawkins's Website

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