“Why would a Christian recommend any book by Richard Dawkins?!” you might ask. Well, when he’s not spewing out anti-religious, ultra-fundamentalist atheistic propaganda, he does come across as a really witty and brilliant writer! I commend Richard Dawkins for his restraint, making sure that this book focuses strictly on the science of evolution rather than on his own metaphysical conclusions. It is an engaging read on the history of evolution of life on earth. But what makes it unique is the way in which it is presented, as a journey back in time through the eyes of Homo sapiens. On the way, we meet our ancestors, along with a host of other fellow pilgrims who join us as we discover our shared ancestry, right up to the hazy blur where not much is currently known – the origins of life itself. After completing the book, I felt as if I had really come back from a long and fruitful pilgrimage! It is definitely my favourite book on evolution.
Climbing Mount Improbable is another good book by Richard Dawkins. It attempts to explain how certain complex organic structures (i.e. eyes, flight mechanisms and shells) and behavioural patterns (i.e. symbiotic relationships and web construction), once thought to be ‘unevolvable’, could have come about through the simple yet elegant process of evolution via natural selection. As usual, he fires a few potshots at religion here, but otherwise, it’s a really good science read.
I cannot disagree with Richard Dawkins when he says that the evolution of life is indeed ‘the Greatest Show on Earth’! I also agree with him that there are already enough books on countering creationist arguments, and the need now is for a comprehensive book that presents the evidence FOR evolution. This book attempts to do just that, though I was rather disappointed that it wasn’t as comprehensive as I had hoped it’d be. Probably I’m asking for too much, considering the amount of evidence that has come to the fore in support of evolution ever since Darwin published his ‘On the Origin of Species’, not to mention its predictive power and continued validation in all fields of biology. The book is still a good read – and it does a good job of trying to explain what scientists really mean when they use the word ‘theory’. There’s also an interesting story in the introduction where Richard Dawkins teams up with Richard Harries (an Anglican Bishop) to oppose the teaching of creationism in a few British schools, a wonderful example of how atheists and theists can still find enough common ground to work together for the sake of science and education.
Together with Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’,this book by biologist Jerry Coyne provides a sterling defence for Darwinian evolution, not by countering Creationist arguments but by pointing out why it is the best theory for explaining all the observations in nature and natural history. From fossils to geographical distributions of living things, from vestigial organs to sex, Jerry Coyne shows why evolution and its main engine, natural selection, is not only a great theory but a scientific fact as well. Very good introductory book on the evidence for evolution.
Remarkable Creatures by Sean Carroll is not a biography but a set of biographies. Yet, it is a single story – detailing the journey of discovery that led many explorers, naturalists and scientists on a quest to solve the mystery of mysteries – the origins of life itself. From Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in the birth of the theory of evolution to the paleontological discoveries of Tiktaalik and Archaeopteryx, and finally to the rise of biochemical investigations into human origins, this book provides a primer on some of the most important people and the discoveries that have shaped our understanding of the origins of species. One cannot help but be inspired by the courage, perserverence, imagination and industry of these remarkable creatures – the men and women who have forever changed our view of life on Earth.