Few questions are as fascinating as the questions about our origin of life. The quest for the truth of our origin and how science leads this quest really fascinates me. Science says that life on earth started with lesser forms of life like bacteria and then evolved to advanced forms of life like fish, apes and humans. The historic debate of Science vs. Religion has two sets of people: evolutionists, who believe in the scientific theory that life evolved slowly over millions of years, and creationists, who say that all life on Earth was created by God only a few thousand years ago.
One of my favourite books on evolutionary science is ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ written by the biologist Richard Dawkins. This book holds a very important place because it brings together all the scientific evidence for Darwin’s theory of evolution, an idea that dominated science and that was pivotal for scientific progress in the last century. I have special appreciation for Dawkins for making science so simple and interesting for the general audience.
Dawkins starts the book with a discussion about the problem of calling the evolutionary theory as a ‘theory’. He says that it causes people to misinterpret that evolution is not true in reality. The book then covers how humans created various breeds of dogs through domestication. If humans could transform a wolf into different breeds of dogs in just a few hundred years, then there is no wonder that nature could make different species of animals and plants in millions of years.
The book then covers a very interesting topic of how scientists measure long periods of time that run into billions of years. The author introduces us to carbon dating and tree rings, clocks that are found in nature and that can precisely measure time for a few millions of years. After providing a very comprehensive explanation on natural clocks, Dawkins draws out heaps of fossil evidence to show the strength of evidence for evolution. At times, Dawkins does accept that there are some missing links in the scientific evidence for evolution. He draws an analogy that evolution is like the hour hand of the clock; one never sees the hour hand move, but we know that it moves.
I especially like the way Dawkins brings together evidence from geology, physics, fossil evidence, cell biology, and cosmology and helps us appreciate the beauty of evolution. The book conveys that there is grandeur in the evolution of life, and the endless beauty around us is a direct consequence of natural selection – the greatest show on Earth.