Dr. Jim Puts Down Dawkins’ New Book

Yup, I’ve finished it. It’s a pretty darn good read, too.

DawkinsShowThe book is intended to provide evidence for evolution, but I doubt any true believer in the opposite positions will be convinced. No matter, it gives people with confidence in people’s ability to educate themselves a lot to think about, and a fairly easy to understand overview of the many different kinds of evidence for a very old and ever-changing life on this planet.

I’m not much of a science guy, but I really like fossils and so forth, and it was interesting to read Dawkins explaining how evolution can be demonstrated without relying on fossils at all. There are all kinds of other proofs, from comparison of living species to DNA analysis.

I appreciated the bits on protein folding and Origami. It was pretty fascinating stuff.

What I really liked was the descriptions of some of the different kinds of experiments that show evolution happening, e.g.,  balancing sexual selections with predation levels in guppies. Guppettes like their men brightly coloured but such dedicated followers of fashion tend to get eaten a lot. With high levels of predation, the gentle-fish that survived to pass on their genes were well camouflaged and this influenced the whole male population in several generations. Where there was no predation, the males were eventually became more flamboyantly coloured.

Here is a cool website I found this morning: 12 Elegant Examples of Evolution And there are some more guppies.

Not a guppy. Tiktaalik Image: Ted Daeschler / Nature

I should say that I was originally a bit put out by Dawkins likening creationists to holocaust deniers. I don’t think the vast majority of evolution-deniers are evil, wicked or hateful. They are just wrong. Yet, I do see his point, and my initial resistance has faded.

Why should historians of the twentieth century have to keep defending the fact that the Holocaust happened against a minority that refuses to accept what has happened? There probably are more creationists trying to get science degrees than there are holocaust deniers trying to get history degrees.

Similarly, why should Religious Studies profs have to keep going over the need for a secular approach to religion? Religions cover the tracks of their own origins sometimes rather blatantly, denying that events happened, etc. to push the traditional myths of revelation and so forth (e.g., the origins of the Book of Mormon). Oh well, that is a topic for a different rant.

Anyway, if you want a good read on evolution, give Dawkins’ new one a read. Unless you know the field already, you will learn lots and it is rather well written.

Now, what is my next non-work related read?

It’s this: The First Fossil Hunters: Palaeontology in greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor, who collects a lot of evidence of Greco-Roman fascination with fossils. Just started it, and it looks like a fun read.

Now, all of this evolution stuff reminds me. I need a new Know Yer Nuts article! And I know just the right bunch to feature! Stay tuned!

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