The No.1 SUNDAY TIMES bestseller. A fascinating explanation of how evolution works, from bestselling author of THE GOD DELUSION, Richard Dawkins. The river of Dawkins's title is a river of DNA, flowing through time from the beginning of life on earth to the present - and onwards. Dawkins explains that DNA must be thought of as the most sophisticated information system imaginable: 'Life is just bytes and bytes of information,' he writes. Using this perspective, he describes the mechanisms by which evolution has taken place, ...
The No.1 SUNDAY TIMES bestseller. A fascinating explanation of how evolution works, from bestselling author of THE GOD DELUSION, Richard Dawkins. The river of Dawkins's title is a river of DNA, flowing through time from the beginning of life on earth to the present - and onwards. Dawkins explains that DNA must be thought of as the most sophisticated information system imaginable: 'Life is just bytes and bytes of information,' he writes. Using this perspective, he describes the mechanisms by which evolution has taken place, gradually but inexorably, over a period of three thousand million years. It is the story of how evolution happens, rather than a narrative of what has actually happened in evolution. He discusses current views on the process of human evolution, including the idea that we all trace back to a comparatively recent African 'Eve', and speculates that the 'information explosion' that was unleashed on Earth when DNA came into being has almost certainly happened in other places in the universe.
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This is the first book I've read by "Darwin's Pit Bull", and I suspect that much of it is a restating of some of his earlier writing - much of this book is concerned with thinking of evolution from the standpoint of "The Selfish Gene". Dawkins sees natural selection as a process that maximizes the survival of genes; indeed, one can think of organisms as the means by which genes survive and reproduce. I think there is some merit in this view, although it's more "post-Darwinin" or "neo-Darwinian" than Darwinian, since Darwin did not know the mechanism of inheritance. The river metaphor for evolution, with speciation represented by the river branching, is perhaps not ideal - since genes are copied with every generation, most genes end up taking both branches, unlike the water in a river. The reader needs to think carefully about this point. Dawkins takes on intelligent design, although not in the detail it deserves. But two of his criticisms are powerful: if design takes place at the level of biology, then it follows that the deigner is a horribly cruel being, since life exists by the destruction of other life. He is also good at pointing out the logical flaw - the "Argument from Personal Incredulity" - used to motivate many ID arguments. Not quite as well written as Gould's essays on evolution (little is!), this is still a very good look at a few aspects of evolution (without which biology doesn't make sense).
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