I have just finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest book 'The greatest show on earth: the evidence for evolution'. As a student of ecology and evolution I have thus far avoided reading 'popular' literature on evolution. I would say that my reasoning for this is a bit of misguided academic snobbery. But, on finding said book at a reasonable price at a second-hand book store, I decided I would see what all the fuss was about. I didn't have high expectations regarding new knowledge that I might gain. However, I soon discovered Richard Dawkins is an excellent writer and he articulates his arguments in a concise and compelling manner. Also, I did learn a load of new things (embarrassed sheepish grin).
Another reason I have never read any of Dawkins' books is that I perceived him to be a Darwinian fundamentalist (which he is) hell bent on proving there is no god. After reading his book I realised that his problem is less with a belief in a god and more in the nonsensical rejection of scientific evidence by different religious groups. For me the rejection of evolution it feels almost personal. This may seem a tad over sensitive or unreasonable but, when the focus of all the work I do currently is based around evolution, I find it infuriating that ignorant people with no understanding of evolutionary theory make the most ludicrous arguments against it. See the video below from one of my favourite clowns. Embarrassingly, he is a New Zealander but, who thankfully has left our shores for ‘greener’ pastures (see the next paragraph for a hint).
Despite mountains of evidence from several fields of science, there is still a huge number of people who whole-heartedly believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and that all living things were created within a couple of days exactly as they exist today. This sad state of affairs is highlighted by the survey conducted by Gallup in the United States that shows that 40 percent of the current population believe in a bible literal creation. Click here to view the results. I am unaware of an equivalent poll in my home country of New Zealand but I suspect the results would be a little more pleasing on the side of science. However, speaking from experience, there are still a frightening number of ‘history deniers’ (Dawkins’ term)– and, if you want my opinion, one is too many.
So all in all the book was good and thought provoking and I suggest that it is the sort of book everyone should at least have a go at reading. It can be a little hard reading for those unfamiliar with some of the science but I think Dawkins does a good job of explaining things in an easily understandable way.