Summary

The Ancestor's Tale is a pilgrimage back through time - a journey on which we meet up with fellow pilgrims as we and they converge on our common ancestors. Chimpanzees join us at about six million years in the past, gorillas at seven million years, orangutans at 14 million years, as we stride on together, a growing band. The journey provides the setting for a collection of some 40 tales. Each explores an aspect of evolutionary biology through the stories of characters met along the way or glimpsed from afar: the Elephant Bird's Tale, the Marsupial Mole's Tale, the Lungfish's Tale. Together they give a deep understanding of the processes that have shaped life on Earth: convergent evolution, the isolation of populations, continental drift, and the great extinctions.
©2004 Richard Dawkins (P)2004 Orion Publishing Group Ltd
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Tom on 01-11-07

Dawkins does it again

I have read the original book and found it to be a bit slow in places but otherwise great. As such I was very happy to listen to this book in an abridged version, especially when Dawkins reads so much of it himself. I was very pleased with this audiobook overall; the quality, voices and editing are excellent.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jeremy on 19-10-11

A Pilgrimage Sparkling with Delights.

The Ancestors Tale is a treasure chest of amazing accounts. Like the duck billed platypus, mocked for its bill, which is in fact is a stunning piece of technology, resembling AWAKS radar - it is an electro and pressure sensor laden probe for detecting minuscule muscle movements of prey in muddy water. Or the Hippo ancestors tale, from the middle of which lineage sprang all Whales, making Hippos closer to Whales than to any land animals. We puzzle together in the flatworms tale about the unlikely origins of sex, and with it the male gender, or gawp at the psychedelic bizarreness of the Velvet worm "Hallucigenia" and the significance of the "Cambrian Explosion".

Dawkins corrects from the start the anthropocentric notion we have of ourselves as the pinnacle of Evolution. There is only one pinnacle, and that is at the origin of life, where all divergent species come together. The "Concestor" of all life. We look at the theory of RNA world, in speculating about the first replicators in the primordial soup.

Dawkins is probably the UKs best known atheist, but whereas his theology is to me the steel and concrete of a modernist tower block, his evolutionary accounts are glittering diamonds, sparkling with vivid colour. And, I begin to understand, for this is his religion, beside which traditional religion looks tawdry, dull and unimaginative.

This book is Dawkins pilgrimage, in which we join him, like Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims, going back in time, through the wonders of our common ancestry to meet and hear the ancestor's tales. Perhaps it would have been better unabridged, but only because we would hear more.

Finally, I love the intimacy of the narration, alternating between Richard and his wife Lalla Ward, their telling fantastically bringing the text to life. I cannot praise this book enough, if you have any sense of the wonder of life... Go travel back in time with them, and meet our common ancestry - I promise you will not regret it.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By C. on 11-04-09

Very abridged, but fascinating anyway

This audio version is a very much abridged version. It is frustrating when listening to the many parts and tales that are mentioned by title, but left out of this version. Because, Richard Dawkins is always a good listen. Occasionally he goes onto my nerves with his heightened language and strange poems added in weightfull speech. However, the story he has to tell is engaging, the perspective of a pilgrimage back through time, meeting common ancestors we have with all life on Earth is a unique one. Each and every one of the individual tales are a fascinating read. I was most intrigued by the discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of sexual reproduction - unbelievable that such a basic property of life is not understood - what a great problem to work on.
Did I mention that it is too bad that this book is abridged?

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Steven on 15-06-08

student of biological sciences

a brilliant text on evolution.
very entertaining, with appropriate focus given to the most significant historical diversions.
a pleasure to have listened to

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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