Let’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:
- Stephen Jay Gould
- Evolution by Linda Gamlin (for Children)
- Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species – a graphic adaptation (Young Adult)