Why Evolution is True!

Cover of The Greatest Show on EarthLet’s get things straight – the above is not the title of Richard Dawkin’s most recent book The Greatest Show on Earth.  But it might as well be (and you get the feeling that Dawkins is slightly miffed that Coyne got the better title in last year’s plethora of books about evolution celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species).

If anyone could be described as my “hero” then it is probably Dawkins so I am delighted to be attending The Press Literary Liaison on Thursday. Dawkins is an entertaining speaker, an outspoken atheist and a champion of science (he was the Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the UK until 2008).

His arguments for the case for evolution are rational, evidence based, logical and very thorough. He discusses how we know the Earth is very old  from from counting tree rings to radiometric dating.  He explains in very easy to understand terms evidence that animals change over time, both in history and today. This includes an experiment with flasks of bacteria in a lab that have been evolving independently for over 20 years, molecular (DNA) evidence, evidence from embryology, and the “unitelligent” design of many animals.

With so much evidence to support Evolution and nothing found to contradict it, for Dawkins, the fossil record simply the “icing on the cake”.

Both he and Coyne introduce their books with a worrying statistic that less than 40% of adults in both America and the UK “believe” in Evolution and prefer Creationist explanations for life.

Dawkins is a man who is right and who knows he is right. His frustration at the supporters of creationism and intelligent design is apparent from the transcript of a radio debate. Dawkins repeatedly tells a creationist opponent that fossil evidence is available in the Smithsonian and to go look, but she adamantly denies such evidence could exist “or she would know about it”. Dawkin’s repeated and insistent  imploring to “go look”  shows why he has earned the nickname “Darwin’s Rottweiller”.

He does come across as somewhat arrogant and smug (his writing is peppered with name drops) but he is one of the best at explaining biology; engaging and entertaining  his readers.  So I am very excited about going to hear him talk.

Other resources about Evolution:

2 thoughts on “Why Evolution is True!

  1. michaeleriksson 11 March 2010 / 5:14 pm

    The worst thing: This kind of stupidity is not limited to evolution, but rears its ugly head everywhere.
    Most people believe what they want to believe and/or are unable to alter an opinion they have once formed—even in light of evidence and reasoning that would be overwhelming to a more rational head.

    An interesting question: If 40 % do not believe in evolution, how many of the other 60 % have the right opinion for the wrong reason? (Say a pre-conceived opinion or what a parent or teacher has claimed towards an impressionable child.) Based on my own observations, the “stubborn donkey” factor is at least 80 % (likely higher, in particular among women), which would leave us with no more than 20 % who believe in evolution for the right reason…

    • Alice 12 March 2010 / 12:11 pm

      Fisrtly – I wrote the statistic round the wrong way initally – so sorry (it was 40% Americans who do believe in evolution – ie 60% don’t!).

      Secondly, there is quite a bit of research demonstrating that people believe the first thing they hear/read etc. despite the authority of the source. Dawkins last night thought that there may be evolutionary advantages to offspring believing (and doing) what their parents say (less likely to be eaten by wild animals, perhaps).

      Thirdly, try Ben Goldacre at http://www.badscience.net/ for a truly depressing look at irrational beliefs in society.

      Fourthly, I always thought it was men who stubbonly persisted with illogical arguments! 🙂

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