The Greatest Show on Earth Book Summary - The Greatest Show on Earth Book explained in key points
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The Greatest Show on Earth summary

Richard Dawkins

The Evidence for Evolution

4.5 (112 ratings)
19 mins
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    The Greatest Show on Earth
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    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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    What is The Greatest Show on Earth about?

    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.

    Who should read The Greatest Show on Earth?

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

    About the Author

    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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