Book Review: The Ancestor’s Tale

The featured audiobook is ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ by Professor Richard Dawkins. The audiobook is narrated by Dawkins and his wife and actress Lalla Ward. Dawkins displays his characteristic elegance when taking us on a grand pilgrimage through our evolution to the very beginning of life. Of course, the further back we go, the more difficult it is to establish with any certainty the steps in our evolution given the paucity of fossilised specimens after a certain point. The term concestor is used by Dawkins in his backwards journey to describe the common ancestor of several species as they converge. Dawkins brings an analogy with the Pilgrim’s Tale as he moves through his journey and this work is a highly organised structure combining narrative with the myriad wonders of life. Thus at each step of the journey a member of the species has a story to tell which is self-contained and gives the reader pause to marvel at another adaptive solution of evolutionary genius. Such is the multi-layered structure of Dawkins work that each point in the story reads like an uncontestable axiom that drives the reader towards the ever inexorable finale. Dawkins also considers many profound questions about life along the way – did evolution evolve (the evolvability of evolution which Dawkins coined himself), what would happen if we reran life (he writes about Kaufman reruns), irreducible complexity (or rather Dawkins writes about reducible complexity), Hox genes and segmentation and the possible origins of life in autocatalysis. I would recommend this is an indispensable work for the reader with an interest in the development of life and our remarkable and ancient heritage.


Dawkins Richard. The Ancestor’s Tale. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 2004. Audiobook: Orion Publishing Group. Narrated by Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward. 2005.


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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