Reddit Reddit reviews The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

We found 71 Reddit comments about The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

Biological Sciences
Science & Math
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
Bestselling Author of "The God Delusion".
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71 Reddit comments about The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution:

u/NukeThePope · 35 pointsr/atheism

Hi there, and thank you for your trust!

It sounds like your boyfriend is going about this a bit insensitively. Logical arguments are OK for debates, when both sides do it for the intellectual challenge. It's not humane to tear a person's world view out from under them when they're unprepared for it and a captive audience. I'm sure he means well and wants you to be closer to him, but he's being a bit of a caveman about it. Don't be mad at him, but tell him you think you'll be better off if you do your own information seeking, at your own pace. Ask him to have the patience and the trust to let you educate yourself. If he really cares for you, he should be fine with this: It may even be taking a burden off his shoulders.

I think there are some things you can consider and think about that will put things into focus and make this mess seem less of a problem.

Do you remember that song by Elton John Sting? "I hope the Russians love their children too."

Consider, first, some family in Tibet. Mom and dad live in a simple hut, doing some farming or whatever Tibetans do, and they have a bunch of children. They work hard to feed the family, and in the evening when they get together for supper they talk and smile and laugh a lot. They hug their children, they care for them when they're sick. They observe some kind of religious rituals, though they've probably never heard of Jesus. When a neighbor has a problem, they help them out. When someone dies, they mourn their passing and wish them a happy afterlife. Apart from the fact that they look Asian, they're people just like you, and they're good people. They have similar hopes and fears, they have stories to share and comfort them, and so forth. Two thirds of the world's people don't believe in Jesus, yet they're humans just like you and mostly decent people, just like your neighbors. Do you think they're all going to hell? Do you think they're paralyzed by their distance from your god, from their fear of death? No. Forget what religion these folks are, they're human.

Atheists are just a special case of those "other" humans. They believe in even less "other-worldly" stuff than the folks in Tibet do. Yet you probably meet atheists on the street every day. Some of them greet you and smile, most of them would help you if you had a problem and they were around. Atheists are not like vampires: They're not evil, they don't have to stay out of God's sunlight, and they don't burn up in churches and from contact with holy water ;)

Atheists have stories too, about the creation of the universe, which is really awesomely huge and inspiring. About the struggle of life to evolve to the fine humans we are today. About the many important achievements humans have made in their short time of being intelligent and basically masters of the world.

Rather than wrenching at your faith, I suggest you take a look at other cultures and religions for a bit. Consider that there humans out there who think other things than you, yet manage to be good people and lead happy lives. I'm almost embarrassed enough to delete my sappy paragraph about the Tibetan family, but I'll leave it in there to let you know what I'm getting at.

Then, inhale a bit of science. Go to church if you feel you need to, but also listen to videos by Carl Sagan. Get an appreciation for the wonders of the universe and of nature here on our planet. It's a rich and wonderful world out there. There is so much to see, to learn! Some people are in awe of God for producing all this; but you can just as easily be in awe of nature, of the intricate mechanisms that brought all this about without anyone taking a hand in it.

More stuff on nature and evolution can be learned, more or less gently, from Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth. Get your boyfriend to buy it for you! But stay away from The God Delusion. While Dawkins is thoughtful and sensible, you don't want him telling you about how bad your god is - at least not right away.

A thought from me about a metaphor for God. Training wheels! You know how you have those wheels on your bike to keep it from tipping over as you're starting out? And how, once you've learned to keep your cycle straight, those training wheels are no longer really doing anything any more? That's God. It's comforting to feel that God is behind you in everything you do, it gives you strength and confidence. But everything you've achieved... that was you! You're standing up straight and doing fine, God is the training wheels you don't really need. On the other hand, I'm not going to say he really, truly absolutely isn't there. If you want him to be there, let him be there. Your BF will just have to put up with him for a while longer as you outgrow your training wheels.

Finally, about death: The good news is, it's not nearly the problem you think it is. There's a statistic that says, devout Christians are more than three times as likely, in their final week, to demand aggressive life-extending treatment than atheists. In English: Christians are more scared of dying than atheists are. You'd think that with heaven waiting, they'd be anxious to go! Actually, their religion -your religion- is telling them a comforting lie, letting them stick their heads in the sand all their lives. At the end, they panic because they're not sure what they believe is true. And they struggle for every minute of life.

I was religious once, and I had the "fear of death" phase, as many other atheists here report. You know what? I got over it. I confronted the idea, wrapped my head around it, got over it... and I've been completely unworried about death ever since. You'll get other people quoting Mark Twain for you here: About death being the same as the state you were in before you were born, and that didn't inconvenience you either, did it? Seriously, while I worry that my death may be painful or unpleasant, being dead is something I almost look forward to. It's like the long vacation I've always been meaning to take.

Well, I don't know if that will convince you, but... other people have been there too, and it turns out not to be the horrible problem you think it is. Things will be fine! Just allow yourself some time, and remind your BF to not be pushy about things. You can keep a spare room for when God comes to visit, but don't be surprised if that room turns out to fill up with other junk you're throwing out ;)

u/ozonesonde · 22 pointsr/askscience

I'd strongly recommend Richard Dawkin's book The Greatest Show on Earth.

Here is an extract from the first chapter.

u/BlunderLikeARicochet · 21 pointsr/atheism

Rather than Origin of Species, which of course doesn't contain any reference to the vast amounts of evidence discovered in the last 150 years, you should get your dad to read The Greatest Show on Earth - The Evidence for Evolution by Dawkins.

u/Bear_thrylls · 16 pointsr/evolution

I just read it last week. You're pretty well right about. If you're looking for an introductory book which covers evolution, I recommend The Greatest Show On Earth also by Dawkins.

Look, Dawkins is definitely one of the most pedantic authors I've ever read, but his work is strong and arguments are presented very clearly but if the subject isn't what you're interested in, then what can you do. That said, yes the book will contain valuable information that you will gain if you finish it. Any book that has stood as long as the Selfish Gene will leave you with something. But it is an old book. Much of what he says was pretty cutting edge at first edition, but it was released in the 70's (I think). Read the 30th Anniversary Edition if you decide to move forward with it, if not, move on to something that interests you more. It's only a book. It won't get mad.

TL;DR If you don't like it, don't read it.

u/astroNerf · 15 pointsr/Christianity

I didn't study biology in high school because I had a full course load of physics, chemistry and mathematics in preparation for engineering school. That being said, biology is one of the courses I regret not taking.

It really is the Greatest Show on Earth. No other scientific concept explains so much about our visible world while being simple and elegant. If you like biology, but have not read any of Dawkin's biology books, I highly recommend them. In addition to the one I already linked, another excellent one is The Ancestor's Tale. Evolution is capable of explaining why species, as you put it, are built they way they are and why they function the way they do. Evolution explains the why of it all. Of course, you don't need to abandon your concept of God, either. Evolution is perfectly compatible with theology.

u/vincentmlabarbera · 14 pointsr/atheism

You should read Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth. It's an airtight, irrefutable look at evolution. It has a scientific answer to refute everything your friend could possibly claim.

u/Willravel · 14 pointsr/atheism

I don't have an advanced degree in biology, but I've read up on it plenty. Honestly, all you really need is The Greatest Show on Earth and google.

u/gomtuu123 · 10 pointsr/science

Biologists virtually all agree that life on this planet has evolved over a period of about 3.7 billion years and that humans and modern fish share a fish-like ancestor (and a single-celled ancestor, for that matter). They have reached these conclusions because they're the best explanations for the evidence we see in the fossil record and in our DNA, among other things. Creationists deny these conclusions because they're not very well-informed or because they're unwilling to let go of a Genesis-based explanation for the existence of life on this planet.

I'm not trying to bash you; it sounds like you have an open mind and that's good. But the "battle" you describe isn't really a meaningful one. The people who know the most about this sort of thing consider the question settled.

I'd encourage you to read up on the subject if you're curious. Richard Dawkins recently released a book full of evidence for evolution. And although I don't recommend it as wholeheartedly, Finding Darwin's God was written by a Christian for Christians to make the case for evolution.

u/myalternatelife · 9 pointsr/atheism

Precisely why Dawkins just wrote a new book!

u/Montuckian · 9 pointsr/evolution
u/efrique · 8 pointsr/atheism

> as I have no proof that we evolved from other animals/etc.

Such proof abounds. If you're going to debate these people, you need to know some of it.

I don't mean enough to ask a couple of questions, I mean enough to carry both sides of the conversation, because he'll make you do all the heavy lifting.

Start with

First, the FAQ
Maybe the 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution next,
then the pieces on observed instances of speciation

See the extensive FAQs index

Here are their questions for creationsists - see both links there

and then read the index to creationist claims

That's just to start. Take a look at the Outline (which starts with an outline of the outline!)

If you're going to talk with a creationist, you either need to get some idea of the topography or you'll end up chasing in circles around the same tree again and again.

Yes, it looks like a major time investment, but once you start to become familiar with it, it gets easier quickly. Don't aim to learn it all by heart - but you should know when there is an answer to a question, and where to find it.

read books like Your Inner Fish and Why Evolution Is True and The Greatest Show on Earth

I list Your Inner Fish first because it tells a great story about how Shubin and his colleagues used evolutionary theory and geology to predict where they should look for an intermediate fossil linking ancient fish and amphibians (a "transitional form") - and they went to that location, and found just such a fossil. This makes a great question for your creationist - given fossils are kind of rare, how the heck did he manage that? If evolution by natural selection is false, why does that kind of scientific prediction WORK? Is God a deceiver, trying to make it look exactly like evolution happens?? Or maybe, just maybe, the simpler explanation is true - that evolution actually occurs. (Then point out that many major Christian churches officially endorse evolution. They understand that the evidence is clear)

It's a good idea to read blogs like Panda's Thumb, Why Evolution Is True, Pharyngula, erv (old posts here) and so on, which regularly blog on new research that relates to evolution.

Make sure you know about the experiments by Lenski et al on evolution of new genes

Don't take "no proof" as an argument. The evidence is overwhelming.

u/rugtoad · 8 pointsr/AskReddit

So much has changed regarding the theory of evolution since Origin was first published.

Origin is a great read, but it's a little overwhelming for some people. The language is dated, and it does take a bit of an understanding of biology to fully comprehend.

A better place to start would actually be Dawkins "The Greatest Show On Earth."

It's aimed toward a person who doesn't have biology degree, and it presents the compelling arguments and evidence that explain why evolution is a fact of life.

u/FadedPoster · 7 pointsr/biology

You could start with The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins. It's a pretty easy read and it covers a wide range of the current evidence for evolution across different fields of science.

After that, The Selfish Gene also by Dawkins, is awesome. In it, he talks about evolution from the perspective of a gene.

Both should be pretty layman-friendly. He certainly has a compelling way of delivering his arguments.

u/areReady · 7 pointsr/AskReddit

You don't actually understand evolution, but are poking holes in a strawman that doesn't actually represent what evolution entails. It's like you're opposed to President Obama because he eats babies, when he clearly doesn't eat babies.

Here's a good place to start.

u/smithers85 · 7 pointsr/atheism

I don't know where you read that, but whatever it is was dead wrong.

Because bacteria have such a short lifespan, they can be used to study selection pressures over many (see: tens of thousands) generations in one human lifetime. There is currently an experiment set up by Richard Lenski that has been going on since Feb 24, 1988 that shows depicts evolutionary changes in response to various selection pressures.

You should pick up "The Greatest Show on Earth". Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and lays it all out, in the way you seemingly want it.

u/Infinitax · 7 pointsr/atheism

Upvoted. Seriously, The Greatest Show On Earth is phenomenal.

u/HawkeyeGK · 7 pointsr/evolution

The Greatest Show on Earth


The Ancestor's Tale which is a personal favorite of mine although not specifically devoted to evidence arguments. It's just an amazing read through our biological world and along the way the case for evolution becomes overwhelming.

u/willpower12 · 7 pointsr/atheism

The Greatest Show On Earth

I know Dawkins is a polarizing figure due to the tone of his rhetoric. However, this is such a well put together, and engaging description of the overwhelming proof science has for evolution. I highly recommend it.

u/NZAllBlacks · 6 pointsr/atheism

This is the prologue in his new book: The Greatest Show on Earth. I'm in the middle of it and highly recommend it.

u/[deleted] · 6 pointsr/explainlikeimfive

Here is a beautiful and simple answer to your questions from Berkely.

Richard Dawkins book "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" has a series of fantastic explanations simplified. If you're curious about this stuff, I strongly recommend getting the book.

u/Seret · 5 pointsr/AskReddit

I'm going to post my favorite videos that I grew up on. I could watch them over and over and not get sick of them. Dawkins is my hero.

Royal Institute Christmas Lectures - Richard Dawkins' "Growing Up in the Universe". Entertaining, engaging, and fascinating series of lectures for children on the basics of evolution in a way that makes a hell of a lot of sense. You will see fascinating stuff. I found some parts mind-blowing, and the demonstrations are just great (and here's proof!)

u/fuzzyk1tt3n · 5 pointsr/atheism

I haven't read it, but I hear it's pretty good:

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

u/tikael · 5 pointsr/atheism

The greatest show on earth or Why evolution is true are both very good overviews of the evidence for evolution. Probably a good place to start. Evolution is such a huge topic that no one book is a comprehensive overview of it all, once you understand the basics of evolution however I really suggest the selfish gene. You can also pick up a very cheap copy of on the origin of species, though remember that the book is 150 years old and predated genetics (still remarkably accurate however).

u/CalvinLawson · 4 pointsr/atheism

You should simply tell your father that's he's wrong, "information" gets created all the time. Heck, any decent sized storm creates an enormously complex body of coherent organized information. Even simple equations "create" information.

We can observe it happening; it's not a matter of faith. Your father is simply wrong. Virtually every creationist argument will be like this; and the few remaining will reduce to transparent fallacies.

If you wish to discuss this with your father, read this book first. Arguing with your dad might be a waste of time, but reading this book will not be.

u/Addequate · 4 pointsr/DebateAnAtheist

You'll only do yourself a disservice by skimming an internet-education on evolution if it's something you truly want to understand.

Grab a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins . It costs less than a ticket to the creation museum. The book presents clearly and concisely the evidence for evolution and details how the process works. There's likely hesitation to buy a book by Dawkins because of his notoriety as a prominent atheist, but the book is impartial on the topic of a creator; It only aims to provide the facts and reasoning behind evolution.

I hope you find the answers you're looking for on this matter, brandon64344. The world makes so much mroe sense through the lens of evolution.

u/Sir_Wobblecoque · 3 pointsr/science

Yup, that's a great book. (For those who don't read, there's the audiobook, read by the author.)

One thing I took away from it was that fossil evidence is superfluous at this point. It fully supports evolution theory of course, but it's a bonus, and even without it "the evidence for evolution would be entirely secure".

That's from the chapter that discusses the fossil record. The rest of the book is about all the other evidence.

u/ABTechie · 3 pointsr/atheism

Religion or theistic religion? I will give you some short answers then discuss my question.

  1. Check out The Greatest Show on Earth.
  2. I believe humans have instincts and they have led us to different cultures with different morals. We get our morals from our instincts, culture, parents, friends and possibly from ideas we get from books and movies.
  3. Don't know. Don't care. See if National Geographic has an article on it.
  4. I am not knowledgeable enough to know how his teachings relate to other teachings at the time. However, if you carefully read the Gospels, you will see that he has some good ideas but he is generally not somebody you would like, like to listen or follow. Christians believe in their communities which are centered around "Jesus". Their morals are not like Jesus who was a Jew who said that people should follow the Jewish law.
  5. I see no evidence for a supreme deity who cares about or doesn't care about us. Scientifically, God is a label for things people don't understand so they can have comfort in their ignorance. "God did it." "God only knows."
  6. Our soul is our state of mind which is dependent on the physical laws of this universe.
  7. Just your brain being a brain in an abnormal state of being. It is no more real than a dream.

  8. "demon possession" - Did you see a demon or did you see a person, who believes in demons, rolling around making noises?
    "healings" - Did you see an amputee or burn victim get healed? Did you know the healed person before the healing and did you do a follow up of the person a week, a month or a year later?
    "probably was just a coincidence" - How can we tell when things are or are not coincidences? Coincidences happen.
    "spoken in tounges" - What did it mean? Had you seen people doing it before? Were you just mimicking people you had seen before?
    What was the education level of the people who had the experiences? What was the general education level of the people who made up the culture where these experiences happen? Do you think these experiences happen as often in well-educated people?

    Now to the religion question. I am for getting rid of theistic religion. Belief in a deity that dictates morality is poison to society. The certainty of an infallible being creates a lot a fear, hate, guilt, shame, willful ignorance and false expectations. Truly, a lot of unnecessary pain.

    Religion, on the other hand, can be fine. The problem is being able listen to criticism and being willing to change to new information. Having a set of principles and guidelines to give you direction in life is good. Being willfully ignorant and trying to force your ideology on the world is not good. Pick and choose good morals from where you see them.
u/ScottyDelicious · 3 pointsr/atheism

I have read all of Professor Dawkins' books, and The Greatest Show on Earth is, without question, his finest masterpiece and quite possibly the best explanation of evolution that any jackoff like myself can understand.

u/antonivs · 3 pointsr/atheism

On the subject of evolution, there certainly are answers. Even better, they're all conveniently collected in a single very accessible book. For less than 20 bucks, you can remedy your ignorance - a huge bargain, and a win for humanity!

Edit: or if you don't want to invest money in your education, you could just watch Why do people laugh at creationists?, which explains how macroevolution arises from microevolution.

u/BearnardOg · 2 pointsr/atheism

Mom needs to read "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Dawkins. If she has actually unhitched her reasoning from the yoke of religion, then there is no way that she can make it through that book and still doubt that evolution is a fact - which it is.

Dad is trickier. He seems to be at the stage where he thinks "church is bad, but god is good." I was there for a long time myself. If he is a reader, maybe you could turn him on to the works of Bart Ehrman, especially "Misquoting Jesus". If you can get him in front of a computer for 90 minutes, the YouTube series "Why I am no Longer a Christian" by evid3nc3 is mind-blowingly good.

But better still, you read and watch these things and master their content. Then present the arguments to your folks because it sounds like they want to listen to you.

u/wayndom · 2 pointsr/atheism

Get Richard Dawkins' book, The Greatest Show on Earth and read it. You need to really educate yourself, not just look for refutations of other peoples' arguments.

u/Lazarus5214 · 2 pointsr/AskReddit

Phenomenal. I urge you to read it right way. That book totally blew my mind. Worldview-shattering is the best way to describe.

Also, just as good, though not as influential, Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. Short and filled with such modern evidence. The best book to bring a laymen into the world of evolutionary biology.

I'm super excited for The Greatest Show on Earth.

u/volando34 · 2 pointsr/atheism

I would say, support Dawkins by buying the book, but who am I kidding, the only people who would buy this already know evolution to be a fact (mine is in the mail)... but wait, could we actually do something? More to come after a message from our sponsors!




And we now return with the conclusion: We can buy it for on-the-fence people. Those who would actually consider the other side and are able to follow a logical argument. Not everybody is a bible-thumping full blown creationist. Some really haven't had the education to know about evolution in detail. Make it a part of your christmas/thanksgiving gift package to mom/uncle/girlfriend^W...

u/jaywalkker · 2 pointsr/science

Any specific Science books?

I could recommend "How to Build a Dinosaur" by Jack Horner
Or "Greatest Show on Earth" by Dawkins.

but neither of those make a difference if that's not the sciencey genres you were looking for.

u/keithamus · 2 pointsr/science

You should read Richard Dawkin's "The Greatest Show On Earth". Most of chapter 1 is used to explain the scientific use of "theory" and how the pundits manipulate the word to remove authority from it. Here is a large excerpt from the book:


Only a theory? Let’s look at what ‘theory’ means. The Oxford English Dictionary gives two meanings (actually more, but these are the two that matter here).

Theory, Sense 1: A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

Theory, Sense 2: A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.

Obviously the two meanings are quite different from one another. And the short answer to my question about the theory of evolution is that the scientists are using Sense 1, while the creationists are – perhaps mischievously, perhaps sincerely – opting for Sense 2. A good example of Sense 1 is the Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System, the theory that Earth and the other planets orbit the sun. Evolution fits Sense 1 perfectly. Darwin’s theory of evolution is indeed a ‘scheme or system of ideas or statements’. It does account for a massive ‘group of facts or phenomena’. It is ‘a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment’ and, by generally informed consent, it is ‘a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed’. It is certainly very far from ‘a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture’. Scientists and creationists are understanding the word ‘theory’ in two very different senses. Evolution is a theory in the same sense as the heliocentric theory. In neither case should the word ‘only’ be used, as in ‘only a theory’.

As for the claim that evolution has never been ‘proved’, proof is a notion that scientists have been intimidated into mistrusting. Influential philosophers tell us we can’t prove anything in science. Mathematicians can prove things – according to one strict view, they are the only people who can – but the best that scientists can do is fail to disprove things while pointing to how hard they tried. Even the undisputed theory that the moon is smaller than the sun cannot, to the satisfaction of a certain kind of philosopher, be proved in the way that, for example, the Pythagorean Theorem can be proved. But massive accretions of evidence support it so strongly that to deny it the status of ‘fact’ seems ridiculous to all but pedants. The same is true of evolution. Evolution is a fact in the same sense as it is a fact that Paris is in the Northern Hemisphere. Though logic-choppers rule the town, some theories are beyond sensible doubt, and we call them facts. The more energetically and thoroughly you try to disprove a theory, if it survives the assault, the more closely it approaches what common sense happily calls a fact.

I could carry on using ‘Theory Sense 1’ and ‘Theory Sense 2’ but numbers are unmemorable. I need substitute words. We already have a good word for ‘Theory Sense 2’. It is ‘hypothesis’. Everybody understands that a hypothesis is a tentative idea awaiting confirmation (or falsification), and it is precisely this tentativeness that evolution has now shed, although it was still burdened with it in Darwin’s time. ‘Theory Sense 1’ is harder. It would be nice simply to go on using ‘theory’, as though ‘Sense 2’ didn’t exist. Indeed, a good case could be made that Sense 2 shouldn’t exist, because it is confusing and unnecessary, given that we have ‘hypothesis’. Unfortunately Sense 2 of ‘theory’ is in common use and we can’t by fiat ban it. I am therefore going to take the considerable, but just forgivable, liberty of borrowing from mathematics the word ‘theorem’ for Sense 1. It is actually a mis-borrowing, as we shall see, but I think the risk of confusion is outweighed by the benefits. As a gesture of appeasement towards affronted mathematicians, I am going to change my spelling to ‘theorum’.
First, let me explain the strict mathematical usage of theorem, while at the same time clarifying my earlier statement that, strictly speaking, only mathematicians are licensed to prove anything (lawyers aren’t, despite well-remunerated pretensions).

To a mathematician, a proof is a logical demonstration that a conclusion necessarily follows from axioms that are assumed. Pythagoras’ Theorem is necessarily true, provided only that we assume Euclidean axioms, such as the axiom that parallel straight lines never meet. You are wasting your time measuring thousands of right-angled triangles, trying to find one that falsifies Pythagoras’ Theorem. The Pythagoreans proved it, anybody can work through the proof, it’s just true and that’s that. Mathematicians use the idea of proof to make a distinction between a ‘conjecture’ and a ‘theorem’, which bears a superficial resemblance to the OED’s distinction between the two senses of ‘theory’. A conjecture is a proposition that looks true but has never been proved. It will become a theorem when it has been proved. A famous example is the Goldbach Conjecture, which states that any even integer can be expressed as the sum of two primes. Mathematicians have failed to disprove it for all even numbers up to 300 thousand million million million, and common sense would happily call it Goldbach’s Fact. Nevertheless it has never been proved, despite lucrative prizes being offered for the achievement, and mathematicians rightly refuse to place it on the pedestal reserved for theorems. If anybody ever finds a proof, it will be promoted from Goldbach’s Conjecture to Goldbach’s Theorem, or maybe X’s Theorem where X is the clever mathematician who finds the proof."

Now, if you managed to read all that. I definitely recommend buying it:

It really is an education.

u/kzsummers · 2 pointsr/atheism

(This is the rest of my answer, cut off for being too long).
3) I'm beginning to think that we need to skip ahead and talk about evolution, because if you don't understand how DNA could have evolved, you've really never read a single book on evolution. (I'm not criticizing you; you're in good company there). So let's combine your third and fourth points, and allow me to clarify what evolution is, why it explains DNA, and why your micro/macro distinction is, frankly, bullshit.

First principle behind evolution: If something can make copies of itself, there will soon be more of it. It there are lots of competing things that can make copies of themselves, the ones that can do so most efficiently will end up having the most copies.

If that statement strikes you as true, there we go. Evolution.

The first proto-organisms were basically strings of RNA. Under certain conditions, a nucleotide strand would attach complementary bases, and you would have two strands of RNA. Then environmental conditions change and the two strands separate, and both of them can attach to more complementary bases.

Second principle behind evolution: If copies aren't exactly the same as the original, then some changes will increase efficiency. Other changes will decrease efficiency. After enough generations, your population will contain lots of copies of efficient replicators and very few copies of inefficient replicators.

So some of the RNA sequences happen to misplace an adenine instead of a cytosine, and that means that a replication enzyme bonds more tightly to the strand, and this mutant makes more copies of itself than its neighbors do.

And eventually, a nucleotide ends up with a deoxyribose sugar instead of a ribose sugar, and this configuration turns out to be WAY more stable - it can form into a double helix that is less likley to spontaneously collapse, and which can replicate with fewer errors. And this mutant makes more copies of itself than its neighbors do.

And these sequences of DNA/RNA aren't just random collections of letters. Well, some of them are, but others can be interpreted to build proteins that facilitate copying - and the ones with these helpful sequences can make more copies of themselves.

Let this process happen for a couple billion years.

But, you're saying, the probability is so small! You mean all those coincidences just happen to occur? Convenient mutations just happen to come along? If you multpily together the odds of all those things happening, it's tiny!

Well, of course it is. When you have a trillion early replicators hanging around, improbable things happen ALL. THE. TIME. And multiplying together the odds of each mutation is the completely wrong way to look at the problem - it's like looking at all the possible combinations of your parents' sperm and eggs that could have existed and declaring triumphantly that the probability of you existing is one in a gazillion. Of course it is! The question is what the probability of some complex life developing, under the given optimization pressures, and it should be obvious that it's reasonably high. Of those trillions of worlds we talked about earlier, maybe only a couple billion of them got to complex life.

Obviously, this is the grossly oversimplified version. For the whole story, you need to read this or this or this or this or... any of these, actually. But I hope you understand why most atheists feel that the distinction between macro- and micro-evolution is silly. Evolution is just the change in gene pools over time. This change has been observed to lead to one species splitting off into multiple species which can no longer reproduce (the biological definition of speciation). At what point is this process called "macro" evolution? How many genes need to change before you insist that the process "doesn't exist"? Why would evolution push two separate populations to the brink of speciation and then suddenly stop working by the rules we've repeatedly observed? Saying "micro but not macro" is like saying you believe gravity works on people but not on planets. There's just no reason to draw the distinction!

Using techniques called molecular systematics, we can trace the evolutionary relationships between species by mapping the differences in noncoding DNA. And, of course, I'm neglecting the single biggest piece of supporting evidence for evolution: the fossil record. You've probably been fed the lie that we don't have the transitional fossils. Well, we do have the transitional fossils. Overwhelmingly..

Now, ethics. The God of the Bible, if he existed, is a monstrous, selfish, egomaniacal, power-hungry terrifying sociopath. I don't mean to cause offense (though I probably will) but I read the Bible and it nearly made me ill. God tortures everyone who doesn't worship him for all eternity. He had 42 children mauled to death by bears for laughing at a bald man.(II Kings 2:23-24). He murders all the inhabitants of an entire city for being "sinful" (Genesis 19:1-26). He orders his people to commit genocide, over and over again. (Deuteronomy 13:13-16, Numbers 31:12-18, I Chronicles 21:9-14).
He's okay with rape (often, he explicitly orders his followers to commit rape) and treats women as property(Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Exodus 21:7-11). He's pro-slavery (I Timothy 6:1-2, Exodus 21:20.) He even claims in Isaiah 45:7 to have created all evil. In short, if we're getting our morals from that guy, we're seriously screwed. This isn't the wise and loving father whose children can't understand his dictates: it's the abusive alcoholic father whose son runs away when he realizes that rape, murder, and incest aren't okay just because Dad says so.

You're about to protest that most of those are Old Testament. But Jesus explicitly endorses the Old Testament and says that he has not come to change the old laws (Matthew 5:17). He endorses what God did in Sodom and Gomorrah and threatens to do even worse to three more cities because their inhabitants were unimpressed with him.(Matthew 11:21-24). He says that any child who curses his parents should be killed as according to Old Testament Law. (Mark 7:10)

I don't think a world where everyone follows their individual conscience could possibly be worse than a world rules by that God. And, in fact, countries that are nonreligious have lower rates of crime, higher standards of living, and higher self-reported happiness.

Interesting debate, thanks!

u/5amsung · 2 pointsr/atheism

"Makes more sense to me than a man in space" is not a very compelling argument. You claim that you're "one of the very, very few serious and educated atheists within 100 miles" - that a great aspiration, but you need to follow through on it. Buy yourself a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth and learn to engage him more deeply. It's the equivalent of doing karate to be able to deal with school bullies, but for your mind. It'll be good experience.

u/WorkingMouse · 2 pointsr/Christianity

>Not familiar as I probably ought to be. I know that there were other homo species -possibly at the same time as humans. I think I heard something about interbreeding at some point, but maybe that was just speculation?

To be honest, I'm not exactly an expert on the specifics. However, Wikipedia provides as always - If the article and the numerous citations are to be believed, they're considered separate species as mitochondria genetic data (that I could explain further if you like) shows little significant breeding. However, there is indeed some evidence of limited interbreeding.

>This is fascinating stuff!

I'm glad you like it!

>To clarify: do all the primates share the same mutation which is different from the mutation in other creatures, ex. guinea pigs?'

Precisely! Mind you, I believe there are a few changes which have accumulated since divergence (since if they don't need the gene once it's "off", further mutations won't be selected against), but the crucial changes are indeed the same within primates - and those within guinea pigs are the same within guinea pigs and their nearby relatives (I believe), but different from those from simians. Amusingly, because mutations occur at a generally steady rate, the number of further divergences between the pseudogenes (no-longer-functional genes which resemble working copies in other organisms) in different species will give hints at how long ago those species had a common ancestor (this, and related calculations, are termed the "genetic clock").

Nifty, isn't it?

>I guess I don't see why it would be demeaning to be patterned after other homo species which were adapted to the environment we would inhabit. Maybe I'm way off here, but it seems like the case for common ancestry could also point to a common creator. (obviously it is outside the bounds of science to consider that possibility, but philosophically, it might have merit?)

I have indeed heard that before; the suggestion of a common creator as opposed to common descent is a fairly common suggestion, pardon the pun. The typical arguments against fall first to traits which can be considered "poor design" in pure engineering terms, even if they're traits that are now needed. I can point to the genetic baggage of the human eye compared to that of the cephelopod (nerve fibers over vs. under the retina), or the human back (not great for walking upright), or further traits along those lines which suggest that we're still closer to our origins. Indeed, we can also look at things like the pseudogene involved with vitamin C above as unnecessary addons; genetic artifacts which hint at our descent.

While this additional argument, I will grant, is better at addressing general creation then special human creation, we can also look at repeated motifs. For example, the same bones that form our hand also form a bird's wing, a whale's flipper, a dog's paw, a horse's hoof, and all the other mammalian, reptile, and avian forelimbs - though sometimes you need to go to the embryo before you see the similarity. When taken alone, that may suggest either evolution or design; it would make sense for a creator to reuse traits. It becomes more stark when you consider examples that should be similar - for example, the wings of the bat, bird, and pterodactyl, despite using the same bones, have vastly different structures, despite all being used for the same purpose (that is, flight).

The way that my evolutionary biology professor phrased this is that "design can explain this, but cannot predict it; evolution both explains and predicts." This idea - that natural observations may be explained or excused (begging your pardon) in a creation model, but are what are expected from an evolutionary model - is the major point I wish to make in this regard. And, I shall admit, perhaps as close as I can get to "disproving" special creation; it tends to approach unfalsifiability, if I understand it correctly.

>If I recall correctly, this is the position of Francis Collins / BioLogos. It's possible, but I have a few concerns. The first being that I think animals do have souls. If that's correct, ensoulment doesn't help make sense of the theology.

Yup; ensoulment as special is less compatible in that case.

>It would also mean that (at least at some point) there were other creatures who were genetically equal to human beings, but didn't have souls. Cue slave trade and nazi propaganda -they're human, but they aren't people. It would have been possible (probable?) that ensouled humans would breed with the soulless humans -and that just seems . . . squicky.

Point taken; even if you were to claim ensoulment for all humans existing at a specific point and thereafter, there can be...negative connotations.

>So, for now, it's a possibility, but it seems to be more problematic than special creation.

To be perfectly frank, I'm not really equipped to argue otherwise. As an atheist, my tendency is to end up arguing against ensoulment, as it's not something we can really draw a line at either. Still, I figured I'd put it out there; I'm a little delighted at your dissection of it honestly, as you brought up things I'd not yet considered.

>Like I said, the genetics is fascinating, and I am naive to much of it. Short of becoming a geneticist, could you recommend a good book on the subject of human genetics and common descent? I took basic genetics in college, so I was able to follow the discussion about chromosomes, telomeres, etc. But I would like to know more about the discoveries that have been made.

Oooh, that's a rough question. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful question, but I rarely read books aimed at laymen dealing with my specialty; most of my information comes from text books, papers, and profs, if you take my meaning. Which in the end is a way for me to provide my disclaimer: I can provide recommendations, but I've generally not read them myself; sorry.

Having said that, I'm not about to discourage your curiosity - indeed, I cannot laud it highly enough! - and so I shall do what I can:

  • Why Evolution is True is the one I generally hear the best things about; due to the possible audience, it is partially written as a refutation of intelligent design, but it also gives a lovely primer on evolutionary science - and compared to some of Dawkins's texts, it's more focused on the evidence.
  • I have a copy of Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters on my bedside table right now - largely unread, I'm afraid. Basically, it takes a peek at one gene from each of our chromosomes and explores its relevance and its evolutionary history. It's by no means comprehensive; we have hundreds of thousands of genes, and it looks at twenty-three. None the less, It's been an interesting read thus far.
  • Similarly, Your Inner Fish explores the human form, and where it comes from; it looks at various structures in the human body and draws evolutionary parallels; this one is more heavily focused on common descent in relation to humans.

    I think I'll hold off there for the moment. The latter two are focused more on humans, while the former is about evolution in general. I'm sure there are more books I could recommend - Dawkin's The Greatest Show on Earth has been lauded, for example. I tried to stick with texts which were at a slightly higher level, not merely addressing the basics but delving a little deeper, as you noted you have a measure of familiarity already, and those which were related to humans. I hope they help!

    It's not an alternative to books, but Wikipedia does have a fair article on the topic (which I linked near the very top as well). And believe it or not, I do enjoy this sort of thing; you are more then welcome to ask more questions if and when they occur to you.
u/samisbond · 2 pointsr/atheism

My suggestion in Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth. I just started reading it and I really do appreciate the person, semi-informal writing style of Richard Dawkins. It goes over the evidence for evolution as well as providing clarification on issues such as the definition of a "theory."

u/Skwerl23 · 2 pointsr/atheism

tell her to read The Greatest show on earth
and if she doesn't well than time to move on. don't be mad at your freedom from forced thought.
Your kids will learn from you, and you will create a future america that will be worth living.

u/omaca · 2 pointsr/books

First, let me compliment you on a fascinating list. There are some truly great books in there. I'm both impressed and delighted. Based on your choices, I would recommend the following.

Catch-22 by Joseph Hellar. Even more so than Slaughterhouse-Five, this is the quintessential anti-war novel. A hugely influential 20th century masterpiece. And laugh-out-loud funny in parts too!

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes is a deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Engrossing, erudite, insightful and educational narrative history of this hugely important event in 20th century history - reads like a novel. Covers not only the Allies, but also the German and (very often overlooked) Japanese side to the story.

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, just because of its sweeping scope. Very entertaining modern novel set in India. Touches upon topics and themes as diverse as modern Indian organized crime, international terrorism, Bollywood, the 1948 Partition, Maoist rebels, the caste system, corruption in Indian film, police and government... the list goes on and on. Great fun, and eye-opening.

A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Marcia Marquez. Whilst not the original "magic realism" novel (despite what Marquez himself my imply), this is the first one to gain international acclaim and is a very influential work. Entertaining in so many ways. Follow the history of the fictional town of Maconda for a hundred years and the lives (the crazy, multifaceted lives) of its inhabitants.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. This is a play, not a novel, and one translated from the French at that. Don't let that put you off. Existentialism has never been so interesting...

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. His latest tour-de-force.

Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky. Dare I say that this expose on how Government and Big Business control public debate and the media is so important, was more influential than Chomsky's review of Skinner's verbal behaviour? Perhaps not. But a very important work none-the-less.

u/Tokenwhitemale · 2 pointsr/science

Not sure how helpful this will be, but you might point out that there's evolution and Christianity are not NECESSARILY incompatible, that's there's no real reason for him to be worried about evolution clashing with his faith in god. You could point out that many Christians do believe in Evolution. The Catholic Church actually endorses natural selection so any Catholic that denies evolution is actually committing blasphemy. Lutherans, Methodists, and many other Christian denominations see no inconsistency between believing in the Christian God and accepting evolution.

There's also several books you could point him to. Richard Dawkins's new book "The Greatest Show on Earth"

surveys the evidence for evolution, so that would be a great book for your brother to read. Most Creationists demonize Dawkins, though, so your brother might not be receptive to that.

Michael Ruse, a Philosophy Professor at Florida State University, has written countless books on the history of Evolution, the debate between Creationists and Evolutionists, and the history of the conflict between Christianity and Science. Ruse, while an agnostic, IS sympathetic to Christianity, and your brother should find him less offensive to read than Dawkins.

u/MormonAtheist · 2 pointsr/exmormon

> Science can't make up its mind.

Neither can religion. Religious leaders tend to make up bullshit and pass it off as fact, such as the Quakers that lived on the moon according to Brigham Young. The difference is that religious people change their doctrines when their beliefs get embarrassing, while scientists change their views whenever new evidence comes along or when their hypotheses are tested and disproven. Scientists aren't just making shit up, they're testing stuff rigorously and have zero tolerance for misinformation.

> No evidence for macro evolution.

If you think the earth is 6,000 years old then evolution couldn't possibly make sense. This is enough time to get all the dogs we see but not enough to get back to the common ancestor between a cat and a dog. This is way beyond the scope of a simple post on reddit, so if you want to destroy this argument get this book and read it twice.

> Homosexuality does not mesh with your theory of evolution.

Logically it doesn't seem like it would, and yet it does. Homosexuality is also very common in the animal kingdom.

> "Your claim of atheism"

Turn this around. Make him prove Odin or Zeus don't exist.

u/scarydinosaur · 2 pointsr/atheism

Many things can be explained better with evolution. Evolution is a theory, in the scientific sense, and that means it's veracity is tested by current and emerging evidence. If it didn't have the explanatory power for most of the evidence then it wouldn't be so popular. So it certainly doesn't explain everything, it just explains the data we have so far. There are countless things we simply don't know yet.

If you're open to understanding the core aspects of Evolution, please read:

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

Why Evolution Is True

As for freewill, it depends on the atheist. Some believe in free will, while others don't think we actually posses it.

u/ericchen · 1 pointr/AskReddit

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

u/Carg72 · 1 pointr/atheism

I wouldn't say a damn thing. I'd just point them in the direction of this and this.

u/ChemicalSerenity · 1 pointr/atheism

Of the top of my head, I'd recommend two sources:

TalkOrigins is a great resource to learn the basics.

... and Richard Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth is a detailed and voluminous look at the science of evolutionary biology and the apple evidence in support of it. It's on sale for less than $12 at amazon right now too (... by Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings!)

Strongly recommend both. Also, there's people here and on /r/askscience willing to help you understand any points you might not be clear on. Just ask. :)

u/jjberg2 · 1 pointr/askscience

You might try here:

and then ctr+F for "evolution" for a few previous instances of this question, or here:

or other variations thereupon.

Anyways, we don't make a habit of letting these questions out all that often, as they never really do well, and when they do attract attention it's mostly people who don't really understand evolution all that well, trying to explain evolution to people who definitely don't understand it that well, and it just never really winds up being productive (while those of us who do know something about evolution squirm in agony at even attempting to undue all the damage this whole "fact vs theory" thing in a somewhat concise manner).

I'm keeping it spammed (you could also try searching in /r/evolution), but my honest suggestion would be to have her read something like Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True, if she's willing to (and perhaps you could sit down and read it yourself first, to be able to give it an honest recommendation). Alternatively Dawkins's The Greatest Show on Earth is supposed to be good (I haven't read it myself), although Coyne's writing style might be more appealing for the non-academic, and some people are allergic to Richard Dawkins, for obvious reasons if you know who he is.

What's her angle. Presumably she is of the faithful? If that's really her angle, then you might be hard pressed to convince her with a short paragraph or two that I could provide.

u/sheep1e · 1 pointr/atheism

Buy, or borrow from a library, a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth. Aside from giving you a metric assload of ammunition, it's interesting and you'll learn a lot.

u/bperki8 · 1 pointr/atheism

Here are two books to help you.

Why evolution is true.

The Greatest Show on Earth

u/fezzuk · 1 pointr/atheism

this is obviously much more up to date and is aimed at people like your father, i read it but found it was just preaching to the converted.

(also origins is incredibly racist in parts, due to the stupid that was around at that time. that can be used to attack it)

u/jawston · 1 pointr/skeptic

Pick up the Richard Dawkins book "The Greatest show on Earth" and read it asap! It will explain it all and help you when you have to deal with such people.

u/adodson · 1 pointr/atheism

Dawkins mentions this interview in his new book. I got it for Christmas. It seemed like a very good survey of the existing evidence... in a format that is like a rebuttal to her kind of denials.

u/Gargilius · 1 pointr/atheism

Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth.

u/HertzaHaeon · 1 pointr/atheism
u/Murrabbit · 1 pointr/atheism

>good sources on Darwinism?

So far as I know "Darwinism" isn't actually a thing. I know this is mostly semantics, but really the only people who say "Darwinism" are creationists who wish to portray evolution as an ideology, and of course over-inflate Darwin's relevance in the contemporary theory of biological evolution. Hes he was the first to lay out the idea of evolution by natural selection, but we know oh so much more about it now than what his observations revealed, so painting Darwin as the final word in evolutionary theory is also just as misguided as trying to portray it as an ideology.

As for where to start, though, as a few others in this thread have suggested I'd say take a look at Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth. He does a wonderful job of explaining many of the major points in what is currently known about evolution and how we know it all in language that regular laypersons like most of us here are quite capable of understanding.

u/CoreLogic · 1 pointr/atheism

On the assumption you mean evolution, Richard Dawkins actually happens to be a well respected biology professor.

This is one of his leading books on the subject.

u/Super_Sagan · 1 pointr/atheism

If you're interested in evolution, I would recommend Richard Dawkins as a favorite author of mine. He writes in a very understandable and accessible manner. I myself just finished The Greatest Show On Earth which covers the evidence for evolution. It was very informative and entertaining, and would be a great starting point if you can find it in a local library.

Edit: Just thought I'd add, Youtube can also be a great source. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Matt Dillahunty, Sam Harris, all have videos online.

u/Chumkil · 1 pointr/atheism

You need to read this book, it has every argument you need:

u/protell · 1 pointr/books

i recently finished reading "the greatest show on earth" by richard dawkins, it is a book about the evidence, beauty and elegance of evolution. it really was an amazing and informative read, yet still accessible to the layman.

i am currently reading "incognito:secret lives of the brain" by david eagleman. i originally heard about this from a talk he had done on npr a couple months ago. the basic gist of it is something like this: the vast majority of what goes on in your brain is controlled by your subconscious and goes on just fine without your consciousnesses ever needing involvement. occasionally a conflict arises that cannot be resolved by your subconscious, and a request is sent to the conscious to solve the issue. i'm probably butchering this explanation, and as i have only started the book, i can't give a good review one way or the other on it, but so far it seems interesting.

u/mirach · 1 pointr/politics
  1. What? I never said that "religion is taught more in school than evolution." I said that without an educational standard - which Ron Paul wants (govt out of everything) - many schools would choose to teach creationism. I live in Texas so hear about the board of education trying to add creationism into the textbooks pretty often. Many members who run for the board do so on a platform of inserting ID into the classroom. I never mentioned the pledge. And I don't know what you mean by the first sentence.

  2. How much have you studied evolution? Do you understand evolution? Try reading one of these books,

  1. Parents and teachers can be dumb. Experts should be writing the books and determining the material - with input from parents and teachers on what to focus on and how to present it - especially in technically difficult areas like evolution. In Texas this is a big concern because intelligent design (i.e. creationism) is taught in some science classes. Anyway, my point is that science class should be for science only and creationism has no place in it at all and neither should anything without scientific evidence backing it up. I almost don't even want to argue this because even acknowledging creationism with evolution raises it up to a status is doesn't deserve. Creationism is anti-science. And really, I don't mind studying religion in other contexts. I was taught the tenants and beliefs of religions in one of my classes and found it very informative. Analyzing the stories sounds more like it should stay in Bible Study though.

  2. Have you never heard of the Scopes Trial which challenged a law that made teaching of evolution illegal? I never said Dr. Paul would force creationism into public schools. I said he implicitly supports the teaching of creationism in public schools by taking a hands off approach. By holding the schools accountable to parents, you're going to get a lot more bad science taught in schools. Even you should see that some standards should be set so that we don't teach kids incorrect facts.
u/FeierInMeinHose · 1 pointr/atheism

Actually, Dawkins stated the same thing, albeit more elegantly, in his book The Greatest Show on Earth.

u/bigwhale · 1 pointr/atheism

I'd recommend The Greatest Show on Earth. It's a great explanation of how it all works. Even thinking I knew, I learned a lot.

u/bmobula · 1 pointr/politics

> Science does not "work differently in different countries". Science is the scientific method.

I LOLed at the ignorance, I really did! Oh dear, what a sheltered little life you must lead. Don't get me wrong, I wish research funding fell out of the sky with no political agenda or strings attached, but sadly that is not the reality. Of course if you knew anything about scientific research, I wouldn't have to explain this to you like you were a child.

> I'm agnostic.

If you're agnostic and you're accusing scientists like myself - people who have reviewed the mountain of evidence in support of the theory of evolution by natural selection that converges from dozens of different disciplines and concluded that it is a fact - of being a cult member, then you are either fantastically ignorant or fantastically stupid. Or both.

As it happens, there are several superb books that explain all of the evidence for evolution in ways that are reasonable accessible to educationally deprived individuals such as yourself. Perhaps a little less Fox News for you, and a little more reading, hmm?

u/opcow · 1 pointr/atheism

The book is called The Greatest Show on Earth. You can hear Dawkins tell the story of the typo here (and then go to the beginning and watch the whole video and be very happy).