Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Greatest show on earth - Richard Dawkins

In a way I'm glad Prof. Richard Dawkins wrote this book. So far I had a fairly rudimentary knowledge of evolution, and this helped me understand a bit more about it. But in a way I'm sad that books like these have to be written , not to inform or educate, but to refute the ignorant, the stupid or the dishonest(Like someone has said after reading this book they can no longer call themselves ignorant).
Prof. Dawkins has a lucid writing style, and when it comes to explaining science , I feel that he is only second to Carl Sagan. There is also the sense of sincerity and wonder about science that comes through in the writing, that makes anyone who has even a little of bit of curiosity, join Prof Dawkins on his journeys and explanations. Prof Dawkins manages to keep your interest even when he is discussing elaborate and intricate material like Richard Lenski's grand experiment. I read this section of the book on the train on the way home and I couldn't stop reading inspite of Prof Dawkins' warning to not read this at the end of a busy day.
The book itself covers a wide range of the evidence of evolution and discusses the various Creationist/Intelligent Design ploys and their fallacies, and Prof Dawkins deals with these issues appropriately(Warning if you are a creationist , it isn't pretty) . The book is full of witty anecdotes and I couldn't stop laughing at J.B.S. Haldane's 'You did it yourself and it only took you 9 months'. Professor Dawkins makes a comprehensive case for the various independent streams of evidence we have for evolution and the way that each one of them could have been falsified (take that Ann Coulter).
For those who are scared away by Prof Dawkins' atheism, this book does not touch on the subject (except in the preface) and even if you are , there are other books about evolution that you could and should read. If you discount evolution because of your religion, then you should remember Carl Sagan's words
'How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'
After reading through this book I'm curious enough to read other books on evolution, on a couple of that interest me, this book has stoked my curiosity on the subject, and I'm sure that for Prof Dawkins, who is also an educator an who takes his teaching seriously , that is high praise.