Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins
When writing on science, Richard Dawkins is one of the best around. Clear, simple, and with such an obvious passion for his subject, his writing cannot help but impart some of his enthusiasm.
Two chapters in this book – one on the evolution of the eye, and the other on spider webs – find him at his very best.
The book's central metaphor is of evolution as a mountain, with the current state of affairs being the top. The job of the evolutionary scientist is to figure out the slow process by which we got up here.
Dawkins's chapter on the eye is thus seen as a path up the mountain – a step-by-step guide from the most primitive light-sensitive cells to the complexity of the contemporary human eye. It is evolutionary theory made both easy to understand and highly entertaining.
As with some of his other books, though, Dawkins does lose focus here and there. Extended sections such as that on computer simulations, for example, do somewhat break the book's tempo and don't really add much to his argument.
On the whole though, Climbing Mount Improbable is a highly stimulating and accessible read on the somewhat complicated topic of evolution.
(Review by Marcus Louw)
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