Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

Or, so he thinks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Dawkins. Or, maybe, was a big fan is more accurate. His book The Selfish Gene, published in 1976 had quite an impact on my view of evolution. Nowadays, Dawkins is known more for his anti-religious rants than for his science writings. Why? Well, maybe because he describes religion as a “virus of the mind.” He, of course, is not alone in these sentiments; it’s quite popular these days to make fun of religious people and their faith.

But, this is a book about evolution, right? It was supposed to be and that’s why I read it. It was about evolution, mind you. I’d say a good 90% of it was. I guess he couldn’t help himself the other 10% of the time; bashing dim-witted Christians who believe in the Creation as told in Genesis. I made it through, though, and, for the most part, enjoyed it.

Richard Dawkins knows of what he speaks when it comes to evolution. I already knew that and it’s the only reason I put up with his rants.  Oh, how I wished the book would be more about evolution.When he digs in to the meat of it, it’s really good. When you’re done, you really have a feel for how evolution works; how time progresses during the changes, sometimes slow, sometimes abrupt. It’s really remarkable when you think about it.

He starts his book with a lengthy exposition on dog breeding. Why? Because it’s something that we can all see and understand. We can easily see the difference between breeds of dog, say a Chihuahua and a Great Dane. And, we all know that these vast differences are due only to a few thousand years of selective breeding by humans. And, most of that time, the humans had no knowledge of genetics. They simply “selected” by behavior or physical characteristics. If dogs could change this much in a few thousand years, imagine the changes possible in a few million years.

Another great story Dawkins recounts is that of the “domesticated silver fox.” This is a case where a Soviet scientist bred foxes for tameness. He simply bred together foxes that were nicer than the others and what resulted were foxes that really looked and acted like dogs. Now, keep in mind that we now know that in our dogs there is absolutely no fox genes, only wolf. So, without boring you to death, what this really gets at is just what is a species anyway.

And, this subject, is exactly what the debate between evolutionists and creationists is all about. Dawkins would be far better served by educating us on this subject more and stomping on our souls less.

One thought on “Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

  1. I was slightly put off by that as well, but I took it as, since this is clearly a book intended for lay people, especially those who know virtually nothing about the subject, of Dawkins holding up the “other theory” as a comparison—these are the arguments being fielded against evolution, rightly or wrongly, so let’s compare.

    I read this right after reading “The God Delusion.” Now, let me be up front (as you know) that I’m with Dawkins on this particular issue. The only reason I don’t normally get as screeching as he does is because I tend to see it as just one of the things human get irrational about, and maybe not even the worst thing. But for the moment, in this arena, these are the combatants. I didn’t read him as “stomping on souls” but, if I may characterize his position a bit freely, stomping at that which does the soul no good at all—willful ignorance.

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