Field of Science

Looking forward to Dawkins' newest book

The prose of Richard Dawkins is getting stronger. He newest book, The Greatest Show On Earth, will be a really reasonable read if it's as good as this appetizer from last week:
Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips . . . continue the list as long as desired. That didn’t have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and [my] book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.
I hasten to say that while I agree with Dawkins that the theory of evolution is such a well tested model of what happens to living things on Earth, I'll say that doubt is to be cherished. It is with doubt in hand that any theory is understood, always being questioned at every turn along the way. As a researcher, there is no reasonable doubt left that evolution has, is, and will continue to occur, but both the fine and the coarse details are still diligently worked on, and doubt is a prerequisite of skepticism, and skepticism is the sine qua non of any scientist.


  1. Just because I feel like an argument tonight :)

    Doubt is certainly necessary, but it's not sufficient for scepticism - and it's also the hallmark of conspiracy theorists and other pseudosceptics. IMHO the important thing is to question - to come up with details that aren't addressed by a theory and then investigate them. Doubt is the easy bit.

    That's why I find Darwin's work so appealing - he spent years thinking up questions and looking for answers in all sorts of places.

  2. Sorry, Charlotte, you're not going to get much of an argument from me on this topic.

    How about those Bears?

  3. Doesn't work on an Englishwoman, I'm afraid. Now if you want to discuss the Eduardo/Rooney diving scandal...


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