(Book Review) The Ancestor's Tale

In a backward chronology, the ancestors of any set of species must eventually meet at a particular geological moment. Their point of rendezvous is the last common ancestor that they all share, what I shall call their ‘Concestor’

This is the general idea followed in this book, as we are taken along a backwards trip in time through the history of evolution. Teeming with awe-inspiring facts about modern world animals, as well as accessible explanations of complicated phenomena; it is hard not to end with a new found respect for life and its evolution on this planet.

Dawkins is at his best when he is focused on talking about biology/evolution. He is able to explain interesting concepts really easily and bring into light examples that might not be obvious at first sight, such as:

“An individual organism can be a universal ancestor of the entire population at some distant time in the future, yet without passing on a single bit of her DNA to that population!”

Well surely an universal ancestor would pass some of his DNA to us, but the issue relies on how DNA is passed on:

“For any piece of DNA (‘gene’), you are equally likely to pass on the version you inherited from your father or that from your mother. Just by chance, you could happen to give all your mother’s versions to your child, and none of your father’s. In this case, your father would have given no DNA to his grandchild.”

There are plenty of fascinating ideas on this book, from exploring when Human Culture truly took a turn to our current status, Why did we started walking on two legs? How long does it take to breed for dog-like qualities in foxes? What's the origin of the axolotl?... This makes for a really entertaining read all throughout the book.

That is not to say the book is without issues, some passages felt a bit out of place, i.e. his ramblings about race and sporadic attacks on religions, and overall felt just like clutter in an already large book, I mean the book is almost 800 pages long, and the subject at hand is interesting enough on itself, not to get sidetracked on these topics.

Keep in mind that these are really small issues when compared to the strengths of the book. I would also advise you to give The Selfish Gene, it is a smaller read but no less important.

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