Sep 21, 2009

Richard Dawkins's Wonderful Show

Tomorrow, September 22, marks the release of (sort of) controversial author Richard Dawkins's new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. The book, unlike his 2006 jeremiad The God Delusion, doesn't rail necessarily against organized religion. He seems to accomplished what he set out to do with that book.

Rather, Dawkins takes on the seemingly unnecessary task of highlighting the scientific evidence for evolution in the natural world. You would think there would be less resistance to these claims than the ones posited in God Delusion, but that's not necessarily the case. It seems as though his travels across the world - especially the U.S. - have made him quite pessimistic about the level of the average person's scientific literacy. A denial of evolution, based mostly on religious claims, is the central problem here. The review on Amazon explains it well:

He explains that all of his previous books have naïvely assumed the fact of evolution, which meant that he never got around to laying out the evidence that it [evolution] is true. This shouldn't be too surprising: science is an edifice of tested assumptions, and just as physicists must assume the truth of gravity before moving on to quantum mechanics, so do biologists depend on the reality of evolution. It's the theory that makes every other theory possible. Yet Dawkins also came to realize that a disturbingly large percentage of the American and British public didn't share his enthusiasm for evolution. In fact, they actively abhorred the idea, since it seemed to contradict the Bible and diminish the role of God. So Dawkins decided to write a book for these history-deniers, in which he would dispassionately demonstrate the truth of evolution beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt.

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