The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
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Richard Dawkins transformed our view of God in his blockbuster, The God Delusion, which sold more than 2 million copies in English alone. He revolutionized the way we see natural selection in the seminal bestseller The Selfish Gene. Now, he launches a fierce counterattack against proponents of "Intelligent Design" in his New York Times bestseller, The Greatest Show on Earth.
"Intelligent Design" is being taught in our schools; educators are being asked to "teach the controversy" behind evolutionary theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection." His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor.
most parsimonious tree, but that is too much to ask. Among the 34 million trees, it is only to be expected that several slightly different trees should tie for haemoglobin-A’s top-ranking slot. Now, how about haemoglobin-B? How about cytochrome-C? Each one of the five proteins is entitled to its own separate vote, to find its own preferred (that is, most parsimonious) trees from among the 34 million trees. It would be perfectly possible for cytochrome-C to come up with a completely different
opportunities. Of course, from time to time the rules are broken. Like a rat stowing away on a ship to Ascension Island, a whippet bitch, say, escapes the leash and mates with a spaniel. But the mongrel puppies that result, however loved they may be as individuals, are cast off the island labelled Pedigree Whippet. The island itself remains a pure whippet island. Other pure-bred whippets ensure that the gene pool of the virtual island labelled Whippet continues uncontaminated. There are hundreds
derived from the embryonic – and also from the ancestral – plan. If you were to look at a human embryo about twenty-six days after conception you would see that the blood supply to the ‘gills’ strongly resembles the segmental blood supply to the gills of a fish. Over the following weeks of gestation the pattern of blood vessels becomes simplified by stages and loses its original symmetry, and by the time the infant is born its circulatory system has become strongly left-biased – quite unlike the
324, 336 Daeschler, Edward, 168, 169 daisies, 265–6 D’Alberto, Clare, 328, 25 Dart, Raymond, 189, 190–1 Darwin, Charles: on artificial selection, 42; birthday, 360, 364; on blind cave-dwellers, 351; on comparative evidence, 314–15; on coral islands, 271; on Creator and creation, 403–4; on cruelty of nature, 370, 390, 400; The Descent of Man, 183, 196; on domestication, 27–8, 55, 73; on elephants, 111, 326; evolution theory, 9–10, 18, 272; The Expression of the Emotions, 340; on
elegans Embryology seems complicated – is complicated – but it is easy to grasp the important point, which is that we are dealing with local self-assembly processes all the way. It’s a separate question, given that (almost) all the cells contain all the genes, how it is decided which genes are turned on in each different kind of cell. I must briefly deal with that now. THEN WORMS SHALL TRY Whether or not a given gene is turned on in a given cell at a given time is determined, often via a