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The Greatest Show on Earth, Review

Number 11 in our counting down to our paperback of the year is Dawkin’s assertive debunking of creationism. Read the first chapter here

his year, the UK’s only award exclusively for paperbacks is judged by a panel led by Ian Rankin. Over the coming weeks we will reveal our 12 shortlisted books, counting down to the winner on December 11. Richard Dawkins wrote this to close a gap in his output. This was to set out explicitly and in detail the evidence for evolution. Extraordinarily, 150 years after Charles Darwin’s seminal work, evolution is contested and science education disrupted on ideological grounds. Creationism and intelligent design are organised obscurantism. There is nothing left of them once Dawkins has finished. It is a magnificent book. To deploy science against risible ignorance may seem overwrought, but Darwin’s work on evolution, and its mechanism of natural selection and random mutation, has a fair claim to be the most important intellectual feat in history. His findings are widely misunderstood, and insufficiently appreciated for their scope and the extent to which they have been confirmed. Dawkins’ book is far from a narrow polemic. It is a sustained, elegant and learned account of the logic of scientific discovery. Dawkins has a talent for finding illuminating analogies while scrupulously advising also on their limits. His book is an impeccably constructed argument. He starts by disposing of the fatuous objection that evolution is “just a theory” and gently introduces the idea of natural selection by discussing artificial selection. Any thoughtful reader would be enthused by the clarity of Dawkins’ prose and the weight of evidence for evolution.

The Greatest Show on Earth (rrp £8.99) will be available for £2.99 from next week when you buy The Times or The Sunday Times at participating WHSmith stores.

Follow the Times WH Smith Paperback of the Year shortlist at




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