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 ...Show synopsisThe 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.Hide synopsis
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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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