Anjana Ahuja reviews 'The Greatest Show on Earth' by Richard Dawkins
Added: Thu, 03 Sep 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thank the Lord for creationists. Without their blinkered belief in the biblical account of how life came to be, Richard Dawkins would never have felt the need to give us The Greatest Show on Earth. And what a fine, lucid and convincing exhibition he puts on, walking us through the natural world to demonstrate that evolution by natural selection is everywhere.
It is evident in the domestication and selective breeding of animals. If we can select for traits, then why not the environment? Evolution is evident in the appearance of new variants of deadly pathogens, such as MRSA, which come about because irresponsible patients do not finish courses of antibiotics and thereby leave surviving bacteria that can generate antibiotic-defying genetic descendants.
It is evident in the traces of now-defunct ancestral machinery that linger in our own bodies — giving rise to goosebumps (our ape ancestors developed the ability to raise their hair to make them look bigger), and the coccyx, the stump of our long-lost tail.
And, of course, the evidence for evolution lies buried in the fossil record, which provides a page-by-page story of how life forms have adapted (or been naturally selected) in changing environments.
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