River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

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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, ...

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Homerofborg

May 23, 2007

The river of evolution

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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