I’ve been reading Richard Dawkins’ new book The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution. In the United States, a surprising number of people still don’t accept that evolution explains the origin of complex life. Dawkins wrote this book as a way of bringing science to laypeople who haven’t perhaps heard it before.

I’d say it succeeds. The book is, therefore, quite an accomplishment: to bring knowledge and perspective to the people who still say that evolution is ‘just a theory’, that there are ‘no transitional fossils’, that evolution has ‘not been proven’, that a literal reading of Genesis is a viable way to explain origins… Dawkins’ book represents an important step forward.

I somehow got into this debate on my radio show yesterday afternoon. I had a guest in-studio who happened to be a creationist, and who ended up in a lively debate with myself and several callers (who came down on both sides) for 40 minutes of my afternoon show. The main perspective I wanted to bring was that, within modern science, there IS no debate. My fear was that the impression given by a radio show spending 40 minutes debating “evolution versus intelligent design” is that there’s a debate to be had. Clearly there is debate among laypeople, the people who know the least about the subject (hence Dawkins’ book for laypeople), but not among credible scientists, where evolution is the basis for all modern biology, genetics and other related disciplines. This is an important fact for laypeople to know!

I expect that the United States is now at a point in its history where much larger numbers of people will soon come to accept that the theory of evolution is not a threat to their way of life, not a threat to their religious faiths. It’s a testament to the variety of worldview that thrives in this vast nation to think that both the most passionate theists and the most ardent atheists call America home; both the most prolific megachurches and the best universities of science. This makes sparks fly, as they did yesterday on the radio, but it also makes for some of the most opportunities to learn from people who disagree. It’s dynamic, and vibrant, and alive.

Dawkins has written a book which addresses the topic at a very interesting time, and I think it could add a significant basis for knowledge of the subject by laypeople. Even for those of us who have been ‘into’ the debate for a long time (I used to devour creationist material in my teens, and similarly secular science in my twenties), it’s a wonderful read.