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Richard Dawkins

Climbing Mount Improbable

The idea of an evolutionary landscape, with its peaks and valleys, is well known, and quite a few popular science writers have written about it. So what distinguishes Richard Dawkins' Climbing Mount Improbable fom the others? Well, I felt that it was the wide range of examples which Dawkins brings to the reader. He starts off with examples of volutionary convergence, and goes on to look at subjects such as the spiders webs, the different methods of animal flight, and the shape of shells There are also chapters on embryo development and on pollination, including the life of the fig wasp.

You may wonder about the role of chance in the journey through the evolutionary landscape. I'm not sure you'll find the answer here - Dawkins debunks the '747 in a junkyard' idea, but doesn't go into great detail about the nature of probability or how it acts in evolution. What he does have is the results of plenty of computer simuations - some of these he has developed, some are the work of others. Dawkins naturally takes every opportunity to demonstrate the errors of creationism, and one of the simulations shows that far from the eye being a problem, in fact it can evolve very rapidly. All in all an excellent book if you want to find out more about the nature of evolution, or even if you just want to learn about some of the living things with which we share the planet.

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