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Climbing Mount Improbable

New or Used: $22.00
New or Used: $22.00

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About the Author

In 1995 Richard Dawkins became the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is the bestselling author of THE SELFISH GENE, THE BLIND WATCHMAKER (Penguin, 1988) and UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW (Penguin, 1998).


While an enzyme molecule or an eye might seem supremely improbable in their complexity, they are not accidental, nor need we assume that they are the designed handiwork of a Creator, asserts Oxford biologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene). This foremost neo-Darwinian exponent explains the dazzling array of living things as the result of natural selection‘the slow, cumulative, one-step-at-a-time, non-random survival of chance variants. Both a frontal assault on creationism and an enthralling tour of the natural world, this beautifully illustrated study is based on a set of BBC lectures, imparting a tone at once conversational and magisterial. Dawkins explores how ordered complexity arose by discussing spiders' web-building techniques, the gradual evolution of elephant trunks and of wings (birds, he concludes, evolved from two-legged dinosaurs, not from tree gliders) and the symbiotic relationship between the 900 species of figs and their sole genetic companions, the miniature wasps that pollinate specific fig species. Using "computer biomorphs" (simulated creatures "bred" from a common ancestor), Dawkins demonstrates how varieties of the same plant or animal species can vary in shape because of differences in just a few genes. Author tour. (Sept.)

Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker, LJ 2/1/87 and River Out of Eden, LJ 3/15/95) holds the chair in "Public Understanding of Science" at Oxford University and, if this book is any measure, does so with distinction. This readable, elegantly written, fascinating assessment of why and how living things evolve and how‘improbable as it may seem‘seemingly random systems abet evolution is the sort of book Stephen Jay Gould would write if he were at Oxford. (Dawkins is Masterpiece Theatre to Gould's National Geographic.) This is not easy science; Dawkins discusses genetics, natural selection, and embryology for hundreds of species spanning millions of years, but he does so in a way that both delights and instructs. This is a book for Gould lovers, certainly, but life scientists of all sorts would appreciate it, as would teachers in the life sciences: it's an invigorating trip through the history of life led by one of Darwin's most articulate disciples.‘Mark L. Shelton, Univ. of Massachusetts Medical Ctr., Worcester

A beautiful, barnstorming thunderclap of a book -- Michael White * Mail on Sunday *
Mount Improbable is Dawkins's metaphor for natural selection: its peaks standing for evolution's most complex achievements ... a perfect, elegant riposte to a great deal of fuzzy thinking * Observer *
One of the most gifted storytellers of our generation ... he writes like an angel * Scotland on Sunday *
A cracking good book -- John Gribbin

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