Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion created a storm of controversy over the question of God's existence. Now, in The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins presents a stunning counterattack against advocates of "Intelligent Design" that explains the evidence for evolution while keeping an eye trained on the absurdities of the creationist argument.
More than an argument of his own, it's a thrilling tour into our distant past and into the interstices of life on earth. Taking us through the case for evolution step-by-step, Dawkins looks at DNA, selective breeding, anatomical similarities, molecular family trees, geography, time, fossils, vestiges and imperfections, human evolution, and the formula for a strong scientific theory.
Dawkins' trademark wit and ferocity is joined by an infectious passion for the beauty and strangeness of the natural world, proving along the way that the mechanisms of the natural world are more miraculous -- a "greater show" -- than any creation story generated by any religion on earth.
Richard Dawkins is a world-renowned evolutionary biologist and author. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and, until recently, held the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His first book, The Selfish Gene, was an instant international bestseller, and has become an established classic work of modern evolutionary biology.
He is also the author of The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil's Chaplain, The Ancestor's TaleThe God Delusion, and most recently, The Greatsest Show on Earth.
Professor Dawkins's awards have included the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London (1989), the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Award (1990), the Nakayama Prize for Achievement in Human Science (1990), The International Cosmos Prize (1997) and the Kistler Prize (2001).
He has Honorary Doctorates in both literature and science, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains he no longer debates creationists because his presence only validates their status. He compares the situation to a reproductive scientist agreeing to debate an advocate of the "stork theory."
Critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or divine beings. Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial. It is rooted in an array of philosophical systems. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Democritus and Epicurus argued for it in the context of materialism. In the 18th century David Hume and Immanuel Kant, though not atheists, argued against traditional proofs for God's existence, making belief a matter of faith alone. Atheists such as Ludwig Feuerbach held that God was a projection of human ideals and that recognizing this fiction made self-realization possible. Marxism exemplified modern materialism. Beginning with Friedrich Nietzsche, existentialist atheism proclaimed the death of God and the human freedom to determine value and meaning. Logical positivism holds that propositions concerning the existence or nonexistence of God are nonsensical or meaningless.
I have yet to see a single LOGICAL proof that life is "meaningless without purpose". The phrase is usually put out without any further analysis. It is frequently presented in a religious context seeking to justify religion of some sort or another. In reference with Nietzsche style Nihilism, we are talking about the ideas of an, at least, clinically depressed, if not even mentally ill philosopher.
Not a lot of high quality evidence here... especially since much of this thinking comes from a time of unprecedented economic, cultural and scientific growth of mankind... which pretty much puts it into an anti-movement to what was really happening in the late 19th century.
In reality most humans are moved by an almost unstoppable will to live
and desire to propagate themselves... under even the worst of circumstances. If it needs any proof, the correlation between population growth and poverty is more than it takes.
"Purpose", at least in a demonstrable biological and practical sense is the last thing we lack as a species. What some of us do lack, though, is happiness, which is usually the result of being in the right social group and doing something that gives them daily satisfaction. Instead of asking whether changing the social environment and replacing the daily grudge with daily joy would be the right option, people tend to go on a (seemingly less risky) pseudo philosophical quest for "purpose". There are whole industries of priests, swamis and self-proclaimed self-help book scribblings exploiting these unhappy people financially.
That much of this is really just an outcrop of brain chemistry can, by the way, be trivially demonstrated with a single dose of amphetamines. Ask anyone who had a legal prescription for these (e.g. to treat ADHD)... or just ask your local junkie.
Now, as far as biology (or any hard science, for that purpose) is concerned... the phrase "purpose" is outright meaningless. Science deals in the question "How does the world work?". It does not ask "Why does the world do this or that?". Life has no scientific purpose. It simply is. The purpose of science, OTOH, is to answer the "How?" questions about natural systems. Nothing more, nothing less.
The reason why most people reject science has nothing to do with their relationship to reality. They simply don't know better and believe that science is the thing they failed so badly at in school. And who likes to be reminded that they failed a subject and were subjected to less than subtle parental and peer pressure?
Originally Posted by faultroy
Well then I must be a prime sufferer and have pity on me. I find it rather difficult to swallow the current theory of Evolution in respect to Dinosaurs. The consensus seems to be that they all They didn't all die out many survived and became what we know as reptiles ie lizard snakes crocodiles, crocodiles we know from fossil records existed at the same time died at one time (the asteroid theory). The overall population dinosaurs where in decline at the time to begin with and the asteroid was one of the last nails in the coffin of there rein but they where still a round afterwards and where in significant decline
That should seem rather odd even to an dyed-in-the-wool evolutionist. I mean the fact that an entire species Dinsors where not one type of specis there where many different types all of a sudden dies en mass? And when you look at the two anchor theories of Evolution: survival of the fittest, and natural selection, I don't see Evolution, but rather "Devolution." By this I mean that if an entire Taxonic group could be wiped out after literally dominating a certain geologic epoch The asteroid which did exist see gulf of Mexico would have changed climatic conditions cooling the planet dinosaurs where cold blooded and suffer more though climatic changes than mammals due to there inability to regulate body temp, this just one idea there may be othere with more a less merit but must have been a factor at least. , then it would prove the exact opposite of evolution--which is that genes become MORE adaptive to both environment and thereby enhances the species' survival quotient.
Yet, we see zoological confirmation after confirmation that species that are quite evolved are readily preyed upon by either human encroachment, overhunting, loss of habitat, climatological conditions and perhaps even microorganisms, parasites, overpopulation etc. That certainly does not sound like "natural selection/survival of the fittest--type scenarios working Humans are a unique factor on this plant in our technological ability to spread destruction is greater than that of what most species can adapt. You can't tare down vast areas of forest a day and then because lots of species dies out mean that evolution is wrong evolution act over many generations not in matter of days of even years. .
To me the empirical evidence indicates that as a species evolves, it becomes more prone to extinction because of its inherent specialization. This sound and accepted reasoning and is true if you become too specialised to your environment you die out hence what happened with the dinosaurs another more broad species will move in and take over and given time they will specialise then condition will change and the process will repeat itself And certainly that appears to be the case with respect to the dinosaurs. What seems obvious is that a species has a certain longevity built into it just like the age of a human. That is, at a certain point in time, it appears to loose its vitality--its will to exist and disappears. Look at the Dodo Bird for example. In any case, while the evidence for Evolution is certainly overhwhelming from what we know today, I'd be willing to bet everything I own that we do not have it right. There are just too many unanswered questions that need to be addressed.
At this point, I see it as a very compelling Theory, but I am reserving a little guarded skepticism just in case. And the current theories as to how earth started are just about as silly as anything I read in the Bible--the fact is we really don't know, and we are just shooting in the dark. we are not shooting in the dark we are basing theories that best explain the evidence gathered. All scientific idea are theories by definition if something better comes along to explain the evidence that does not mean where shooting in the dark evolution is the best theories we have to explain why we have such variation in species and the patterns of species over the plant it explains them all to a key, all scientific minded people are skeptics of everything. what are your unanswered questions?
Ive joined purely to comment on your thread see red texts
"He must have forgotten that he was essentially speaking at a non religious church."
As far as I can tell, he was speaking at an institution of higher learning which is actively engaged in research. No church I am aware of produces thousands of science papers a year of which many can be used to heal people, produce cleaner energy, cheaper and better communication devices and all kinds of intellectual insights into the universe that gave us life.
One would think that it is rather trivial to tell the difference between a church and a research university. But maybe one has to spend serious time in
both to actually have an informed opinion?
This is whatI have been saying; the time has come for humanity to step up. every scientific discourse between creation and evloution prove that we avenot appreciated the fact that both the scientists and the atheists are manipulated by the powers of nature for her benefit.
I dont need an intermediary. There is no need for that. I agree with Dawkins; "itis done in 9 months and less". Evolution is the development of creation and the two terms are inseperable. you canot have evolution witout creation and every aspect of evoultion gives purpose to creation.
Our arguments never afect the organic purpose of the universe, and our inorganic additions, only justify purpose.
I think it's time that we move above this argument and enjoy the great joysof diversifiation.
An awful lot of people commenting who clearly didn't watch the full video, and most definitely did not read the book. In this video, and even moreso in the book, Dawkins shows why the Creationist obsession with the fossil record is useless as an attack on Evolution. Firstly, the claim that there are no "intermediates" is rubbish, like somebody said before me, go to a proper museum and ask to see them, Tiktaalik for example, an intermediate form between fish and amphibians that lived around 375 million years ago. Tiktaalik is a fish with features of a tetrapod (four-legged animals).
Even without fossils, as Dawkins tried to point out, comparative anatomy and the geological distribution of animals would have been enough, and imagine Darwin didn't even know anything about genes at all. The evidence from genetics now is so slam-dunk that had nobody ever even thought of Evolution at all, it would still have been dead obvious from genetics... and it is....
The "microevolution" and "macroevolution" labeling is also another dull tactic. Natural selection sculpts species by tinkering with genes - it happens naturally as a result of the environment - only certain animals survive to pass on their genes to the next generation (and btw, don't think of this as "survival of the fittest" -- that actually comes from social Darwinian beliefs which is a whole world away from Evolution by Natural Selection). With artificial selection, breeders use selected breeding practices to reach a certain goal... they also sculpt life and they do so with genes too, even though their eyes do the selecting. With Natural Selection it is the natural environment that the creatures lives in and its day to day challenges that make the difference... granted over much longer times and much larger number of generations than guided artificial selection could.
The point is, the changes from generation to generation that eventually leads to the rise of what we would call a new species is all done by natural selection's tinkering with genes. It would be all "microevolution" if scientists actually thought of it that way.... but with the vast amount of time it has been going on and the very very large amount of generations being born, reproducing and dying.... the result would be what creationists think is "macroevolution"... only that creationists think that the only way for a new species to arise is "suddenly", like a chimp giving birth to a human. This can't be the case for staggeringly obvious reasons.
Dawkins points out in the book that the problem is built-in essentialism. We think that there is a perfect form of all species we are aware of. Dawkins uses rabbits as an example, where we have an idea of what a perfect rabbit is, and every rebbit we see is more or less a representation of that perfect rabbit. That's not how life works at all - life is fluid, ever-changing. Forms come and go, change over time due to environmental changes and just the shuffling of genes. He imagined lining up female rabbits in such a way that standing behind the first in line is its mother, and behind that is its mother, and behind that again is its mother etc. and you could walk along this line inspecting each rabbit as you go, mother and daughter along the line and notice very very little differences in large numbers of generations but... over time, even with your eyes you will start to see the changes... you will come to something "shrew-like" in appearance and if you follow another path from there you can come to a shrew as you would recognize it. There is no "perfect form of rabbit", or any other species on the planet.
Remember that every piece of life you see - all the features that make great whales, dolphins, elephants, penguins, polar bears, humans or roses so different from each other - have arisen from the microscopic world... the "very small". "You did it yourself in 9 months", arising from single cells to a complex animal of billions and billions of cells. The same goes for everything else from polar bears to city rats. Just because something can be huge and complex like a human doesn't mean it is a world apart from single cells at all, it all arises from single cells, from tiny biological structures so small they fit easily... many many of them.. on the heads of the sharpest pins. So don't get caught up in the talk of "micro" and "macro" Evolution, there are no two different types of Evolution that are separate for the very big and small at all.
The reason Creationists have invented this "two-speed" system is that Evolution is easily observed in the world of the "very small". Take HIV for example... you can get a drug so deadly to HIV that a patient can appear to be cured from taking the medication but then suddenly have a resurgence of infection that is not stopped or even impeded by the use of the drug. Why? Because HIV is prone to mutation, to making "imperfect copies" of itself when replicating. Of the billions and billions that it creates, these copy errors only need to have one that results in an advantage.... an advantage giving it a level of resistance to the drugs the patient is taking. Even if it is just "ONE", of BILLIONS of HIV particles flooded throughout the unfortunate patient, it now will find its own cell to hijack and replicate itself hundreds of thousands of times in a short period of time... those hundreds of thousands of new little clones... armed with the genetic "copy error" are now resistant to the drugs the patient is taking and can go find their own cells to replicate themselves hundreds of thousands of times.
That IS Evolution at work. The environment the HIV infection is thriving in (the patient) is changed with the introduction of a chemical TOXIC to HIV... HIV with its rampant mutation forms even just a single particle that is not affected by the new chemical... this can now go and replicate itself courtesy of the patients own cellular machinery and eventually the patient's body is flooded with this strain immune to the drugs. Of course there is a lot more to how HIV manages to stay put in a human being than that, but that part of it is Evolution at work.
HIV does not "choose" to spawn an imperfect copy while replicating in order to beat drugs - the mutation happens naturally. Of the vast vast numbers of mutation, some can have an advantage - like a change that makes it more resistant to a chemical that has been introduced into its environment (the drugs). THIS is why Creationists try to confuse people by talking about "microevolution", because Evolution is clearly on display for all to see in this area and with many other viruses and bacteria that we struggle to find cures and treatments for.
I apologize for the length of the comment since what I say in it is widely known, but it is intended to be read as a reply to Creationists who have posted comments here and also as something to read for viewers who might not have had as much interest in this topic until now and might be easily influenced by the dubios "fossil record" claims or the breaking up of Evolution into "micro" and "macro" in order to dismiss clear observed Evolution.
Last thing to say... Evolution is a fact, beyond reasonable doubt.
I don't like Dawkins antitheism, but I am completely in love with the vast majority of his works which deal with evolution. I think that The Greatest Show on Earth explains evolution so very well, with such an enthusiasm and a great beauty. After The Selfish Genes and The Blind Watchmaker , I think The Greatest Show on Earth is the best contribution Dawkins has ever made. Thank you Richard Dawkins.
Originally Posted by Robert Rucker
"..adept at seeming learned.." For a second there I thought Dawkins was talking about himself.
He has always fascinated me as an observation study of "perception-of-everything-in-reverse" disorder. He thinks there is no Intelligent Design. Yet, he thinks life here was created by aliens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8
He thinks the teaching of evolution is "bullied" by Intelligent Design believers. If anything, it's the other way around.
He thinks it's either science or lunacy. The truth is that believers in a divinely created universe have practiced science (and co-existed with science) since the origin of science. In his mental disorder, co-existence is impossible.
Religion has sought to destroy science from the very beginning, heretics burned at the stake ring any bells? Creationists are seeking to erase evolution from text-books every day. Science and religion have never and will never coexist because they are two totally different subjects, fact and fiction, real and imaginary, science and literature, education and entertainment, complete and polar opposites. Not so long ago there where people who believed that Paul Bunyon and his giant blue ox were real too, should we teach that as fact? Or UFOs, ghosts, fairies, unicorns, dragons, the Loch Ness monster or Big Foot? Just because some people believe something does not make it true, there has to be concrete evidence and there is zero evidence for religion being anything other than another tall tale.