Quotes from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

Richard Dawkins ·  470 pages

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“Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly, that they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution?”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Even if it were true that evolution, or the teaching of evolution, encouraged immorality that would not imply that the theory of evolution was false.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worst than ignorant, they are the deluded to the point of perversity.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry as well.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution



“Even if not a single fossil has ever been found, the evidence from surviving animals would still overwhelmingly force the conclusion that Darwin was right.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Evolution is not a genetically controlled distortion of one adult form into another; it is a genetically controlled alteration in a developmental program.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact...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....Evolution is the only game in town, the greatest show on earth.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Evolution sceptic: Professor Haldane, even given the billions of years that you say were available for evolution, I simply cannot believe it is possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body, with its trillions of cells organized into bones and muscles and nerves, a heart that pumps without ceasing for decades, miles and miles of blood vessels and kidney tubules, and a brain capable of thinking and talking and feeling. JBS: But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“We think we know that chimpanzees are higher animals and earthworms are lower, we think we've always known what that means, and we think evolution makes it even clearer. But it doesn't. It is by no means clear that it means anything at all. Or if it means anything, it means so many different things to be misleading, even pernicious.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution



“In a designed economy there would be no trees, or certainly no very tall trees: no forests, no canopy. Trees are a waste. Trees are extravagant. Tree trunks are standing monuments to futile competition - futile if we think in terms of a planed economy. But the natural economy is not planned. Individual plants compete with other plants, of the same and other species, and the result is that they grow taller and taller, far taller than any planner would recommend.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Despite the Great Chain of Being's traditional ranking of humans between animals and angels, there is no evolutionary justification for the common assumption that evolution is somehow 'aimed' at humans, or that humans are 'evolution's last word'.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“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. Poor little Taung Child, shrieking on the wind as you were borne aloft by the aquiline fury, you would have found no comfort in your destined fame, two and a half million years on, as the type specimen of Australopithecus africanus.
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“It is interesting to wonder whether taxonomists of the future may regret the way our generation messed around with genomes.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Of course they don't function as gills, but five-week human embryos can be regarded as little pink fishes, with gills.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution



“It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is that they are opposing.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Oxygen flooded into the atmosphere as a pollutant, even a poison, until natural selection shaped living things to thrive on the stuff and, indeed, suffocate without it.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“THE evidence for evolution grows by the day, and has never been stronger. At the same time, paradoxically, ill-informed opposition is also stronger than I can remember. This book is my personal summary of the evidence that the ‘theory’ of evolution is actually a fact – as incontrovertible a fact as any in science.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“I know that not all my readers like my digressions, but the research that has been done on Caenorhabditis elegans is such a ringing triumph of science that you aren't going to stop me.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“A tiger's DNA is also a 'duplicate me' program but it contains an almost fantastically large digression as an essential part of the efficient execution of its fundamental message. That digression is a tiger, complete with fangs, claws, running muscles, stalking and pouncing instincts. The tiger's DNA says, 'Duplicate me by the round-about route of building a tiger first.' At the same time, antelope DNA says, 'Duplicate me by the round-about route of building an antelope first, complete with long legs and fast muscles, complete with timorous instincts and finely honed sense organs tuned to the danger from tigers.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution



“When we look at a solid lump of iron or rock, we are 'really' looking at what is almost entirely empty space. It looks and feels solid and opaque because our sensory systems and brains find it convenient to treat it as solid and opaque. It is convenient for the brain to represent a rock as solid because we can't walk through it. 'Solid' is our way of experiencing things that we can't walk through or fall throug, because of the electromagnetic forces between atoms. 'Opaque' is the experience we have when light bounces off the surface of an object, and none of it goes through.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Once again, I am sorry to take a sledgehammer to so small and fragile a nut, but I have to do so because more than 40 per cent of the American people believe literally in the story of Noah’s Ark.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Why did it take so long for a Darwin to arrive on the scene? What delayed humanity's tumbling to that luminously simple idea which seems, on the face of it, so much easier to grasp than the mathematical ideas given us by Newton two centuries earlier - or, indeed, by Archimedes two millennia earlier?”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“The nervous system has a rule that says, ‘Any trial action that is followed by reward should be repeated. Any trial action that is followed by nothing, or, worse, followed by punishment, for example pain, should not be repeated.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Molecular genetic evidence (see Chapter 10 for the nature of this kind of evidence) shows that the closest living cousins of whales are hippos, then pigs, then ruminants. Even more surprisingly, the molecular evidence shows that hippos are more closely related to whales than they are to the cloven-hoofed animals”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution



“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Natural selection is an improbability pump: a process that generates the statistically improbable. It systematically seizes the minority of random changes that have what it takes to survive, and accumulates them, step by tiny step over unimaginable timescales, until evolution eventually climbs mountains of improbability and diversity, peaks whose height and range seem to know no limit, the metaphorical mountain that I have called ‘Mount Improbable’.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“The best scientists can do is fail to disprove things while pointing to how hard they tried”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


“Museum labels are positively not allowed to say ‘halfway between Australopithecus africanus and Homo habilis’. History-deniers seize upon this naming convention as though it were evidence of a lack of intermediates in the real world. You might as well say there is no such thing as an adolescent because every single person you look at turns out to be either a voting adult (eighteen or over) or a non-voting child (under eighteen). It’s tantamount to saying that the legal necessity for a voting age threshold proves that adolescents don’t exist.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution


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About the author

Richard Dawkins
Born place: in Nairobi, Kenya
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