16 November 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

I finished another science book. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins is another evolution book. Another very good one. It is longer and more detailed than the Coyne book, so in a way i think i'd start with the Why Evolution is True if you aren't at all science inclined. Dawkins' book is fascinating and i learned much from it.

here's an extremely informative quote.
Natural selections is the differential survival of successful genes rather than
the alternative, less successful genes in gene pools. Natural selection
doesn't choose genes directly. Instead it chooses their proxies,
individual bodies; and those individuals are chosen--obviously and automatically
and without deliberative intervention--by whether they survive to reproduce
copies of the very same genes. A gene's survival is intimately bound up with the survival of the bodies that it helps to build, because it rides inside those bodies, and dies with them.

Makes sense doesn't it! Dawkins goes into many things beyond fossil evidence like the distribution of animal types throughout the world, molecular and DNA evidence, and embryology. Overall, i highly recommend this book, a 7.


  1. Sounds like a good book. I read his book River out of Eden a while back and though that was pretty good.

  2. ha ha, you gave it a 6 in your latest post (sorry, I was just thinking of the delicious absurdity this discrepency would spark between creationsists - evolutionists ... anyway ...)

    While I have no problem with evolution, I do have problems with Dawkins' primary insistance (worship even) on the primacy of the gene.

    It is true that genes are packets of information that get passed on from one generation to another. However, a gene's ability to be expressed, it ability to do something useful is completely dependent on its environment.

    I also take offense to the use of terms like choose because it implies some consciousness. I find it maddening when scientists ar so sloppy in their language. Nothing gets chosen, some things survive, others die. Nothing gets selected - some things survive, some things die.

    My favourite sloppy was language was an evolutionary arms race used to describe the tandem evolution of the orchid Chiloglottis trapeziformis and the wasp Neozeleboria cryptoides - I wanted to scream at my radio when I heard that one.

    [because blogging lacks social cues, and I am new here, I am not ranting or upset, just airing some views]

  3. That makes a lot of sense. It's how the gene affects the whole that counts not the gene itself. The whole body needs to survive for the gene to get the chance to be reproduced.

    Wandering in from IComWeLeave.

  4. Replicant- I've worked on The Selfish Gene but ended up putting it down so now i need to start over.

    richard- I fixed the new post. I think i went from memory or something.