“Climbing Mount Improbable is another first class work of popular science from Richard Dawkins, and one of two essential titles if you are planning on debating creationists - the other being The Blind Watchmaker. If you have not read the latter, I recommend you do so before tackling this one, as...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Sometime last year I read The Greatest Show on Earth by the same author. I also wrote a rave reviewon the book. Now I suspect you're expecting me to proclaim that this book wil get the opposite treatment....well not quite.
First off I do love the analogy of Mount Improbable that Dawkins has come up with. Mount Improbable being a symbol for life on Earth. On one side are the creationists. This mountain seems to them to be insurmountable, there are deep crevices, severe drops an pitfalls, and seemingly the only way the variou species have got to where they are is through some devine in fluence placing them there. What they fail to realise is that on the other side of the mountain is an easy gentle slope weaving a path through evolutionary time, gradually gaining height.
A superb way of looking at it yes? I certainly thought so which is why I was rather disappointed that the analogy wasn't really a running theme throughout the book. I do understand that certain flowers only attract a certain type of bee to guaruntee pollination, I understand that there are mutually beneficial relationshis between certain species in nature but where was Mount Improbable in all this?
When I read The Greatest Show on Earth what struck me was Dawkins' passon for his subject. The message of the book was constantly repeated, drummed into me as a reader and especially as this was an alien subject to me at the time it was something I really appriciated as a student wanting to learn. I found the passion lacking in this particular book.
Not to say it isn't well written and well researched. Dawkins is obviously an educated man and he explains himself well but to put my own analogy on it it was rather like sitting in on a rather mundane lecture, where the pupil gets to the point way before the teacher does. In short it rambles, going all the way around the houses before getting to the right address.
Now I can't really tell if this is a positive review or a negative one, but I think Climbing Mount Improbable is probably one that you'd have to read for yourself to understand what I'm really talking about.
All I can do is apologise, Richard Dawkins has mashed my brain! I hope the next book of his I read is more paletable!”
“This book grew out of his Christmas Lectures (which I've watched and you can watch on youtube). It's a brilliant book. A very good read if you already have a pretty good idea on how evolution works. If you're very patient and can follow through his rather long explanations, I promise you, it will be worth it. Very detailed and beautiful. There is an entire chapter devoted to explaining the evolution of the eye, which is helpful. Anyone with a love of science, truth or evolution should read this book. ”Andie L wrote this review Saturday, March 26, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Climbing Mount Improbable is another first class work of popular science from Richard Dawkins, and one of two essential titles if you are planning on debating creationists - the other being The Blind Watchmaker. If you have not read the latter, I recommend you do so before tackling this one, as several themes from TBW have been taken and expanded on in this book. In many respects, Climbing Mount Improbable feels like its sequel, though it is still perfectly enjoyable in its own right.
Dawkins is fond of his metaphors, and Mount Improbable - standing for natural selection - seems to me one of his best, with the mountain peaks representing evolution's most elaborate achievements. Responding to the classic argument that those peaks - eyes, wings, lungs, etc - are too complex to have arisen naturally, Dawkins shows how it is entirely plausible for a complex organ to have evolved from small 'random' genetic changes, with each stage of development enhancing the fitness of the organism.
In the case of the eye, he takes us from a flat sheet of photosensitive cells, to a very simple cup eye, to a pinhole eye, to the eventual development of the lens, retina and iris, in a finite set of steps - each step part of a smooth and gradual path up Mount Improbable. Other chapters cover the 'miracle' of flight, the astonishing evolutionary 'thought' behind the spider's web, the handful of factors that lead to a dazzling array of mollusc shells, and a fascinating discussion on the reasons for symmetry and segmentation in animals. In each, his enthusiasm is infectious.
A couple of small downsides: the account of the Biomorph program isn't the most riveting read, and the book ends somewhat abruptly without drawing everything together. Minor niggles though, neither of which warrant a drop down to four stars. Where this book really excels is in the wide range of fascinating examples of evolution from just about every corner of the animal kingdom: from the centipede to the elephant, from the jellyfish to the peacock. Also the generous supply of illustrations - many of them drawn by Richard's wife Lalla Ward - help to break up the text. Clearly communicated as always, Dawkins's knowledge is truly encyclopaedic, and his love of the study of wildlife (and of wildlife itself) comes across on almost every page. If you haven't already, read The Blind Watchmaker. And then read this one.”
“Another great one by Dawkins.”Jai Sonwalkar wrote this review Friday, March 12, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Thought provoking -- but it caused me to never want to eat figs again.”Devorah Z wrote this review Saturday, February 13, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I thought this might be a nice addition to my growing list of Dawkins' books.”Sp3llv3xit wrote this review Monday, July 6, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Overview: Editorial Review.
A brilliant book celebrating improbability as the engine that drives life, by the acclaimed author of "The Selfish Gene" and "The Blind Watchmaker". The human eye is so complex and works so precisely that surely, one might believe, its current shape and function must be the product of design. How could such an intricate object have come about by chance? Tackling this subject -- in writing that the New York Times called "a masterpiece" -- Richard Dawkins builds a carefully reasoned and lovingly illustrated argument for evolutionary adaptation as the mechanism for life on earth. The metaphor of Mount Improbable represents the combination of perfection and improbability that is epitomized in the seemingly "designed" complexity of living things. Dawkins skillfully guides the reader on a breathtaking journey through the mountain's passes and up its many peaks to demonstrate that following the improbable path to perfection takes time. Evocative illustrations accompany Dawkins's eloquent descriptions of extraordinary adaptations such as the teeming populations of figs, the intricate silken world of spiders, and the evolution of wings on the bodies of flightless animals. And through it all runs the thread of DNA, the molecule of life, responsible for its own destiny on an unending pilgrimage through time. "Climbing Mount Improbable" is a book of great impact and skill, written by the most prominent Darwinian of our age. ”