The Greatest Show on Earth Book Cover

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution
Genre: Science
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Richard Dawkins’ book takes on the creationist arguments rejecting theories of evolution. A 2008 Gallup poll revealed that 44 percent of Americans believe that man was created by God in our current form, around 10,000 years ago. The percentage of people who believe this is alarming. Dawkins provides the counterarguments to creationist claims by citing ample scientific evidence. He embarks on the mammoth task of charting out the history of evolution, while also discussing the various forces that drive it.

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Lesson 1. Artificial selection has produced different breeds of dogs.

Did you know that dogs have descended from the wolf? It is pretty interesting because despite having evolved from the same species, there are different breeds of dogs that look starkly different. 

The differentiation into various breeds is the result of artificial breeding of dogs by humans. For thousands of years, humans have selected and bred dogs having similar and desirable characteristics, so that their descendants have only those desirable traits. This process where you selectively breed only those animals with desirable traits is called artificial selection. 

This process is applied to plants as well. For example, tastier varieties of cabbage are developed through artificial selection. 

The traits that an organism manifests is determined and controlled by their respective genes. It is the genes that control whether the dog will have short legs, or whether the cabbage will be tastier. Actually, it is these desirable genes which are selected and preferred, not the characteristics.

During reproduction, the parental genes are passed onto the offspring. The offspring gets half of its genes from the mother and the remaining half from the father, thereby having a unique genetic constitution. 

During artificial selection, the parents with the desirable characters are chosen so that they can pass on the genes for those traits to their offsprings. This process paved the way for differentiation of dogs into different species.      

Lesson 2. All species have evolved from a common ancestor.

Earth today houses thousands of different species of organisms. These species however have common links. If we go back in history far enough, we can find the common ancestors to several of these species which are now starkly different from each other. So how did this differentiation take place? 

In fact, descendants of common ancestors got separated and developed differently under different situations. The separation created separate gene pools that evolved through thousands of years, independently.

What caused these separations? There may have been several reasons, including massive earthquakes, floods and changes in the landscape. Movement of tectonic plates have broken apart continents, and consequently separated organisms. Similar fossils have been found in areas as disparately located as South America, Africa, Australia, India and Antarctica, which prove the  existence of one ‘supercontinent’ millions of years in the past. 

Organisms themselves sometimes end up in a different place, which becomes their new home. For example, green Iguanas landed up in the Caribbean island of Anguilla around 1995. They didn’t exist on that island prior to

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About the author

Richard Dawkins Image

Richard Dawkins is the author of The Selfish Gene, voted The Royal Society’s Most Inspiring Science Book of All Time. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. In 2013, Dawkins was voted the...

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Chapter List
  • Lesson 1. Artificial selection has produced different breeds of dogs.
  • Lesson 2. All species have evolved from a common ancestor.
  • Lesson 3. Natural selection.
  • Lesson 4. How evolution occurs at the genetic level.
  • Lesson 5. Evidence for species sharing a common ancestor.
  • Lesson 6. Evidence for evolution.
  • Lesson 7. Dating of fossils.
  • Lesson 8. Species still carry remnants of ancestral features.
  • Lesson 9. The problem with ‘missing links’.
  • Lesson 10. Evolution is a scientific fact.
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FAQs

In the summary of The Greatest Show on Earth book, there are 10 key lessons. These lessons include:

  1. Lesson 1. Artificial selection has produced different breeds of dogs.
  2. Lesson 2. All species have evolved from a common ancestor.
  3. Lesson 3. Natural selection.
  4. Lesson 4. How evolution occurs at the genetic level.
  5. Lesson 5. Evidence for species sharing a common ancestor.
  6. Lesson 6. Evidence for evolution.
  7. Lesson 7. Dating of fossils.
  8. Lesson 8. Species still carry remnants of ancestral features.
  9. Lesson 9. The problem with ‘missing links’.
  10. Lesson 10. Evolution is a scientific fact.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins was published in .

Once you've completed The Greatest Show on Earth book, We suggest reading out Deadliest Enemy as a great follow-up read.

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