The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

Richard Dawkins

Summary: Bertrand Russell said, ‘We may all have come into existence five minutes ago, provided with ready-made memories, with holes in our socks and hair that needed cutting.

Score: 80 / 100

Bertrand Russell said, ‘We may all have come into existence five minutes ago, provided with ready-made memories, with holes in our socks and hair that needed cutting.’ (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 08:48 AM, page 234-35)

psychologists studying the development of language tell us that children are natural essentialists. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 10:16 AM, page 358-59)

One of Darwin’s most telling weapons in arguing against this supposed immutability was the evidence from domestication, (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 10:26 AM, page 413-14)

achondroplasia, a classic example of a large mutation that would be unlikely to survive in nature. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 10:58 AM, page 531)

the rates of growth of different parts of an animal bear some simple mathematical relation to each other, a phenomenon that was investigated especially by Sir Julian Huxley in the 1930s. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 11:06 AM, page 546-47)

Most if not all the bulldogs you see today were born by caesarian section. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 11:07 AM, page 552)

If you have a red tubular flower in your garden it is a good bet, though not a certain prediction, that in the wild it is pollinated not by insects but by birds, who see well at the red end of the spectrum (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 11:59 AM, page 747-48)

A body is a patchwork of compromises. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 01:23 PM, page 1020)

phenomenon called ‘pleiotropy’, whereby genes have more than one effect, seemingly unconnected. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 02:45 PM, page 1100)

Presumably genes for floppy ears and piebald coats are pleiotropically linked to genes for tameness, in foxes as well as in dogs. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 02:46 PM, page 1102-3)

dendrochronology in practice takes us back only about 11,500 years. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 03:36 PM, page 1308-9)

half-life of carbon-14 is between 5,000 and 6,000 years. For specimens older than about 50,000–60,000 years, (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 03:56 PM, page 1389-90)

‘Conservapedia’, the notoriously misleading imitation of Wikipedia, (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 06:44 PM, page 1861)

Australian river turtle, indeed, gets the majority of its oxygen by breathing (as an Australian would not hesitate to say) through its arse. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 09:42 PM, page 2461-62)

George Bernard Shaw’s observation that ‘England and America are two countries divided by a common language.’ (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 09:42 PM, page 2463)

one of the most surprising achievements of evolution, the extra pair of eyes in the fish Bathylychnops (see over), is probably aimed at detecting predatory attacks from below. (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 09:50 PM, page 2492-93)

Darwinius masillae, (Wednesday, April 03, 2013, 10:03 PM, page 2560)

The oldest fossil known outside Africa was found in the central Asian country of Georgia and dubbed ‘Georgian Man’: a diminutive creature whose (rather well-preserved) skull is dated, by modern methods, to about 1.8 million years ago. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 05:51 AM, page 2649-51)

At the age of three and a half the Taung Child was eaten by an eagle. The evidence is that damage marks to the eye sockets of the fossil are identical to marks made by modern eagles on modern monkeys as they rip out their eyes. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 12:06 PM, page 2693-94)

But it is not reality that’s at fault, it’s our human insistence on shoving everything into a named category. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 12:42 PM, page 2784-85)

there’s good evidence that most of our human evolution took place in Africa. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 12:43 PM, page 2798)

every animal of every species changes, during its own embryological development, far more dramatically than the typical adult form changes from generation to generation as the geological ages go by. And this is my cue for a chapter on embryology and its relevance to evolution. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 04:36 PM, page 2951-53)

distinguished embryologist Lewis Wolpert in his book The Triumph of the Embryo; (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 05:54 PM, page 3105)

Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and it is involved, for example, in the development of fingers and toes. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 06:03 PM, page 3116-17)

bon mot by Lewis Wolpert: ‘It is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation, which is truly the most important time in your life.’ (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 06:35 PM, page 3189-90)

Experiments like this led Sperry to formulate his ‘chemo-affinity’ hypothesis, according to which the nervous system wires itself up not by following an overall blueprint but by each individual axon seeking out end organs with which it has a particular chemical affinity. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 07:11 PM, page 3276-78)

It is genes which determine sequences of amino acids, which determine tertiary structures of proteins, which determine the socket-like shapes of active sites, which determine cell chemistry, which determine ‘starling-like’ cell behaviour in embryonic development. (Thursday, April 04, 2013, 09:00 PM, page 3402-4)

sauropsid reptiles (that’s everything we call reptiles today plus birds), (Friday, April 05, 2013, 07:44 AM, page 3643-44)

‘aboriginal creations’, which meant that God had created them here and nowhere else. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 08:03 AM, page 3703-4)

Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True (Friday, April 05, 2013, 11:39 AM, page 4034-35)

If snakes ‘swim’ on land, dolphins ‘gallop’ through the sea! (Friday, April 05, 2013, 04:26 PM, page 4197-98)

transporting, for example, ‘anti-freeze’ genes from Arctic fish into tomatoes to protect them from frost. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 05:27 PM, page 4256)

Evolution is not a genetically controlled distortion of one adult form into another; it is a genetically controlled alteration in a developmental program. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 07:58 PM, page 4360-61)

The strength of the rabbit’s immune response to a subsequent injection of a protein is a measure of the resemblance of that protein to the original to which the rabbit was first exposed. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 08:14 PM, page 4401-2)

J. B. S. Haldane proposed the darwin as a measure of evolutionary rates. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 08:48 PM, page 4592)

it is a remarkable fact that the greater part (95 per cent in the case of humans) of the genome might as well not be there, for all the difference it makes. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 08:55 PM, page 4622-23)

it is probably true to say that most mutations are neutral. They are undetectable by natural selection, but detectable by molecular geneticists; (Friday, April 05, 2013, 08:59 PM, page 4642-43)

But most mutations are disadvantageous, if only because they are random and there are many more ways of getting worse than there are ways of getting better. (Friday, April 05, 2013, 09:55 PM, page 4921-22)

five-week human embryos can be regarded as little pink fishes, with gills. (Saturday, April 06, 2013, 06:10 AM, page 4993-94)

gills disappeared, some of them turning into useful things such as the thyroid and parathyroid glands, (Saturday, April 06, 2013, 06:18 AM, page 5032-33)

The swim bladder means that a fish doesn’t have to do muscular work, as a shark does, in order to stay at a desired depth. (Saturday, April 06, 2013, 07:12 AM, page 5127)

chloroplasts – tiny green photosynthetic engines that actually do the business of photosynthesis in all leaves – are themselves the direct descendants of green bacteria. (Sunday, April 07, 2013, 02:36 PM, page 5252-53)

Trees are tall to overtop rival trees – of the same and other species. (Sunday, April 07, 2013, 02:41 PM, page 5271-72)

When a cheetah chases a herd of gazelles, it may be more important for an individual gazelle to outrun the slowest member of the herd than to outrun the cheetah. (Sunday, April 07, 2013, 02:58 PM, page 5353-54)

nature never overbreeds for anything. Nature gets the balance right. (Sunday, April 07, 2013, 03:12 PM, page 5391)

Futility? What nonsense. Sentimental, human nonsense. Natural selection is all futile. (Tuesday, April 09, 2013, 11:19 AM, page 5486-87)

Viruses and tigers are both built by coded instructions whose ultimate message is, like a computer virus, ‘Duplicate me.’ (Tuesday, April 09, 2013, 11:23 AM, page 5489)

the argumentum ad consequentiam – X is true (or false) because of how much I like (or dislike) its consequences. (Tuesday, April 09, 2013, 10:43 PM, page 5609-10)

The database in the gene pool of camels will encode information about deserts and how to survive in them. (Tuesday, April 09, 2013, 10:57 PM, page 5668-69)

The first serious attempts to think about how life might have originated, those of Oparin in Russia and (independently) Haldane in England, (Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 04:22 PM, page 5857-58)

all the free oxygen in the atmosphere is the product of life, specifically plants (Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 04:23 PM, page 5860-61)

DNA can replicate, but it needs enzymes in order to catalyse the process. Proteins can catalyse DNA formation, but they need DNA to specify the correct sequence of amino acids. (Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 04:33 PM, page 5892-93)

published: 2013-04-10
last modified: 2023-01-21