Mentom - Singapore 2012

© Mentom – May 2012

The Ancestor’s tale, Richard Dawkins

Friday 2 December 2011, by Mentom

All the versions of this article:

  • English

After having slurped down my after-lunch coffee today, I rushed out of my home’s door just to miss the bus by seconds only. Sitting at the bus stop, melting in the sun and waiting for the next one (15 minutes to go!); I reflected about the changes happening to the daily routine since I opted out of the corporate work life, and instead to be so-called "independent" with my own schedule.

Change number one, instead of the airport lounge, I am now waiting for my transport at the bus stop. No free drinks, no aircon.

Change number two, instead of never having the time to enjoy the lounge’s free drinks because of having to shoot back emails and calls as fast as I could return them, now my phone is silent and I am reading a book.

Today, I finished the last chapter of Richard Dawkins’ "The Ancestor’s Tale" dinosaur book. And I started it only about a month ago! Btw. "dinosaur" book not in the sense of content, but in size: 700 pages and about 2kg - not really a bus friendly reading format.

The Ancestor’s tale uses the story of evolution as the main plot. A bit different from other books, the author choses to go the reverse way : the journey actually starts with the present day and winds back into history. At the so-called "rendez-vous points", points where our close relatives split off from our lineage to pursue their own; the reader get’s a short story, almost a newspaper article, served, using the example of a particular species at that point of time.

In the first chapters, our more recent history, starts with the archaic homo sapiens, the Neanderthal, the chimpanzee, gorilla. In the different "tales", the reader will eventually learn whether or not we descend from Neanderthal, whether there is a general dependency of brain mass vs. body mass, and about the reasons why we walk upright on two feet.

Going further back in history, we join monkeys, birds, dinosaurs, fishes, insects, plants until finally arriving at some 2 billion years ago, where all life began.

The point of the book seems not be to prove evolution. It rather slowly walks us back in time to show how it fits together and tries to answer questions. Along each milestone comes its own tale, with some interesting insight on the research beeing done and it’s sometimes astonishing conclusions. Some tales do raise more questions based on their findings.

And by the way, the bus is coming.


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