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The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

By Richard Dawkins
16-minute read
Audio available
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) tackles the arguments made by the creationists who deny that evolution is a scientific fact, and shows their criticisms to be false.

Richard Dawkins provides the evidence that explains how the wide variety of life on Earth has developed through the process of evolution by natural selection, a process first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1859.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“I love these blinks as they present the evidence for the evolution of life on Earth. By explaining phenomena like natural selection, gene mutation and convergent evolution, these blinks are a clear and memorable introduction to how the planet’s great spectrum of life developed.”

– Thomas, English Editorial Lead at Blinkist

  • Students of biology
  • Those who want to understand how life on Earth developed
  • Anyone who wants to counter the arguments made by creationists

Richard Dawkins is one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists. He is the author of several best-selling books on biology, including The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker,and has written and presented various television series on scientific subjects.

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The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

By Richard Dawkins
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
Synopsis

The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) tackles the arguments made by the creationists who deny that evolution is a scientific fact, and shows their criticisms to be false.

Richard Dawkins provides the evidence that explains how the wide variety of life on Earth has developed through the process of evolution by natural selection, a process first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1859.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“I love these blinks as they present the evidence for the evolution of life on Earth. By explaining phenomena like natural selection, gene mutation and convergent evolution, these blinks are a clear and memorable introduction to how the planet’s great spectrum of life developed.”

– Thomas, English Editorial Lead at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 11

Embryos develop according to instructions given by genes – a species can be manipulated by selecting which genes are spread.

Consider the many breeds of dog, from the hulking Great Dane to the minuscule Chihuahua or short-legged Dachshund. Despite the massive differences in their physical appearance, they all descended from the wolf.

Dog breeds are the result of human design, implemented through a process known as artificial selection. Over thousands of years people have selected individual dogs and bred them with similar-looking dogs to make certain characteristics, like short legs, more prominent. The same process has been applied elsewhere, too – for example, to breed tastier cabbages.  

In reality, it is not the characteristics of dogs or cabbages that are being selected for, but the genes that cause these traits. Individual genes determine what length a dog’s legs will be or how a cabbage will taste, because an organism’s body grows according to instructions provided by its genes during its embryonic stage.

Genes are passed on via reproduction, a process by which the offspring get half their genes from their mother and half from their father. This creates individuals with new unique sets of genes and hence unique characteristics.

With artificial selection, the parents are carefully chosen because they exhibit similar desirable characteristics, with the goal that the genes for these characteristics will be passed on to the offspring. Such breeding has enabled some species to diverge into several vastly different breeds very quickly – for example, changing a wolf to a Chihuahua and a wild cabbage to a cauliflower.

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