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The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life (2004)

by Richard Dawkins

Other authors: Yan Wong (Contributor)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,791672,257 (4.24)2 / 110
The renowned biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins presents his most expansive work yet: a comprehensive look at evolution, ranging from the latest developments in the field to his own provocative views. Loosely based on the form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dawkins's Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of life on our planet. As the pilgrimage progresses, we join with other organisms at the forty "rendezvous points" where we find a common ancestor. The band of pilgrims swells into a vast crowd as we join first with other primates, then with other mammals, and so on back to the first primordial organism. Dawkins's brilliant, inventive approach allows us to view the connections between ourselves and all other life in a bracingly novel way. It also lets him shed bright new light on the most compelling aspects of evolutionary history and theory: sexual selection, speciation, convergent evolution, extinction, genetics, plate tectonics, geographical dispersal, and more. The Ancestor's Tale is at once a far-reaching survey of the latest, best thinking on biology and a fascinating history of life on Earth. Here Dawkins shows us how remarkable we are, how astonishing our history, and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
One of Dawkins' best. While I agree with him wholeheartedly, Dawkins is a better writer when he's talking primarily about science, and not religion. Here, working within a framework, he manages to be utterly convincing and constantly astounds you with facts about nature and evolution. Love it. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
Sadly the audiobook can only be found in an abridged version which finished way too fast. Dawkins never disappoints! I loved the book and will read it again unabridged when I do a second read of all his books. Hearing him talk about RNA and natural selection arms races are quickly becoming my favorite go-to intellectual pass time while going about my daily routines. I'm recommending it to any biology enthusiast out there. ( )
  parzivalTheVirtual | Mar 22, 2020 |
Orig. a class textbook, Mount Holyoke 2005-06 ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
I liked this book which is nonfiction because it was very informative it was on how humans evolved. I like that the writing of the story started from the present and went back. It opened my mind on evolution and further expanded my prior knowledge on it. The writing was also unlike that of a typical nonfiction book. The author makes it more story-like which is mainly what appealed to me.
  amclau13 | Nov 12, 2019 |
This was a massive tome of a book for someone like me, who does not have a significant background in science. Nonetheless, it was well-written for most of the book and I felt that it had a lot to offer the reader. It educated, elucidated, and explained many different facets and facts about genetics that would have otherwise escaped me entirely. A good effort and a good book. I would recommend it for those interested in science and genetics. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
Beginning with modern humans and moving backwards in time, he describes our lineage as we successively join — a geneticist would say coalesce — with the common ancestors of other species. Human evolution has involved 40 such joints, each occupied by what Dawkins calls a "concestor", and each is the subject of a single chapter. He begins, of course, with our common ancestor with chimps, followed by the concestor with gorillas, then other primates, and so on through the fusion with early mammals, sponges, plants, Eubacteria and ultimately the Ur-species, probably a naked molecule of RNA. This narrative is engagingly written and attractively illustrated with reconstructions of the concestors, colourful phylogenies, and photographs of bizarre living species. The book is also remarkably up to date and, despite its size, nearly error-free. Especially notable are Dawkins' treatments of human evolution and the origin of life, the best accounts of these topics I've seen in a crowded literature.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Jerry A. Coyne (Oct 21, 2004)
Evolutionary trees have become the lingua franca of biology. Virus hunters draw them to find the origin of SARS and H.I.V. Conservation biologists draw them to decide which endangered species are in most urgent need of saving. Geneticists draw them to pinpoint the genes that have made us uniquely humans. Genome sequencers draw them to discover new genes that may lead to new technologies and medical treatments. If you want to understand these trees -- and through them, the nature of life -- ''The Ancestor's Tale'' is an excellent place to start.
Dawkins has already expounded the arguments that form his vision of life, both in the natural and human realm. Now, having risen from the Bar to Bench, he is in a position to offer himself as judge and senior guide. In The Ancestor's Tale, he has become the kind of teacher without whom childhood nostalgia is incomplete: unflagging in his devotion to enlightenment, given to idiosyncratic asides. His mission is to tell the story of the origin of species backwards

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Richard Dawkinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wong, YanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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John Maynard Smith (1920-2004)
He saw a draft and graciously accepted the dedication, which now, sadly, must become
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History has been described as one damn thing after another.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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