Halfway Through The Greatest Show on EarthPosted: November 2, 2009
My copy of The Greatest Show on Earth arrived while I was on holidays, and now as I find myself about halfway through I’d like to share my thoughts so far.
There are plenty of anecdotes and analogies that readers of Dawkins’ other books will recognise. I don’t know if some people would find the consistent revisiting of prior material annoying but personally I found myself fondly remembering The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving The Rainbow et al., rather than being annoyed that Dawkins was recycling material.
Now, I’m not really sure who Dawkins really expected the audience for this book to be. For someone like myself (a scientist and atheist), he is clearly preaching to the converted and although his prose is easily consumable and a pleasure to read, I felt that many of the descriptions were too simplistic. While reading his other books (The God Delusion maybe excepted), I remember that I could feel myself learning with each turn of the page. And there are some excellent layperson analogies and explanations of common creationist fallacies (I liked the Fronkey/Crocoduck section in particular).
If on the other hand he is optimistically pitching this book at creationists, to whom he chooses to refer to as ‘history deniers’, then I fear he’d have put them off before the end of the first chapter. I felt as though Dawkins was beating me over the head with his personal copy of the Oxford English Dictionary throughout the discussion of ‘what is theory, what is fact?‘ And stressing the use of the word ‘theorum’ was completely pointless, and frankly I thought it did nothing for his reputation of being a teeny bit of an arrogant prick. Nonetheless, if a sufficiently open-minded creationist (do such people exist? maybe it is an oxymoron…) were to make it past the Only a Theory chapter, then surely they couldn’t come away with their prior held assertions intact.
One little tiny gripe of mine is the incessant use of the word ‘invaginate’ in the chapter You Did it Yourself in 9 Months. I mean, Dawkins use of the word is legitimate and scienfically appropriate but the similarity to the word ‘vagina’ was more than a little off-putting for me. Maybe I’m too sensitive!
Either way, Dawkins passion for the subject is undoubtable and this translates into a book that so far has been a pleasure to read. At this stage, I feel like the book would be most appropriate for rationalists/critical thinkers/atheists without biological science knowledge past lower/middle high school. I’ll probably finish the book in the next week or two so I will wrap up what I thought of the whole thing soon after.