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The Ancestor's Tale | [Richard Dawkins]

The Ancestor's Tale

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.
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Publisher's 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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  •  
    Tom PurleyUnited Kingdom 01/11/2007
    Tom PurleyUnited Kingdom 01/11/2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy Malvern Wells, United Kingdom 19/10/2011
    Jeremy Malvern Wells, United Kingdom 19/10/2011
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    "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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ArjeNard Ehtas 03/12/2010
    ArjeNard Ehtas 03/12/2010 Member Since 2010

    Love audible books

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    "Superb book"

    Loved listening to the book. Authors ability to convince and his knowledge is inspiring.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr Bob 26/03/2009
    Dr Bob 26/03/2009 Member Since 2014
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    "Heresy!!!"

    OK got your attention.

    This audiobook gives a wonderful overview of evolution and how we (and I mean you, me and everyone now alive) got here.

    It makes a very special case of how lucky WE are to be here, experiencing this wonderful world.

    RD comes for a lot of flack re his beliefs on religion, but he makes a very strong case for how special WE truely are.

    So many things could have prevented me from writing this review, from a bus hitting me on the way to work, mum not meeting dad, Germany winning WW2, the Black Death not killing so many people in England, the last ice age lasting a bit longer, the KT asteroid missing earth, Jupiter not 'sucking' big rocks etc etc (Deep huh?).

    The universe is really, really big. This planet has been going for a very, very, long time. RD tries to get us thinking how things change, why they change and more importantly sets these changes within a time frame - a very, very long timeframe.

    I loved this audiobook; it was testing, hard work at times but ultimately life affirming. I'm pleased to be here and I really want to thank all my ancestors for their help in surviving and procreating (don't know what mum will make of this!!).

    Apologies for using 'very' so much in this review.....but that really is where the creationists lose the plot - this planet is very, very, very, very old - science proves this - really, truely proves this and a lot can happen in this very, very, very long timeframe.

    All this stuff happened way before 4004 BC - so come on everyone, get a grip on the scale of creation.

    I just think its sad that some people can't see how special we really are!

    Many thanks Richard for an educational read/listen (though I much prefer it when you stick to provable science and let the reader do the philosophical musings!!).

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Dawson Suffolk 18/06/2008
    Stephen Dawson Suffolk 18/06/2008 Member Since 2006
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    "A great story, well told"

    Exploring humanity's evolution backwards through our ancestor species, this book powerfully shows the immense glory, wonder and incredible intricacies of the natural world, explained in a way which is eminently understandable, combining good science (including explaining gaps in knowledge where they currently exist) and genuine passion.

    Here is a mind which revels in the stupendous marvel that is life, and is itching to share his boundless enthusiasm with the world.

    It's a shame it is only available abridged - as it is a big book, the reading is missing an awful lot, and whole chapters have been chopped to enable those that remain still to make sense and tell their tale. However, what remains is very well read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pia L'Ile Rousse, CorsicaFrance 16/09/2008
    Pia L'Ile Rousse, CorsicaFrance 16/09/2008 Member Since 2007
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    "an intelligible tale"

    With talent and style, R Dawkins leads us through the maze of ancestry, origins, confraternity between the species, and places all this information in the context of the universe, which he also explains with consumate care and seeming ease for those of us who are not scientists of any kind.
    It is book to listen to time and again, whose depths mirror those of the very universe he helps us to envisage. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    patrina Bristol, United Kingdom 10/04/2013
    patrina Bristol, United Kingdom 10/04/2013
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    "the ancestor's tale"

    Having 2 narrators made this complicated subject easier to understand and it was a fascinating way of looking at evolution. It is a pity it is abridged as having the whole book would have been better although it made me reread the original. A must read for anyone interested in evolution

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    richard Norwich, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    richard Norwich, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Member Since 2012
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    "Dawkins doing what he does so well."

    The Ancestors Tale is a wonderfully enjoyable pilgramage to the beginnings of life on Earth. Dawkins voice is engaging and reminded me somewhat of that of the greatest story teller of the natural word, David Attenborough. Dawkins' charming wife Lala shares the naration, with the partitioning of the task making listening to a thick book, packed full of detail, feel effortless.

    My favourite chapter was The Coelacanths Tale. Dawkins retelling of how in 1938 a 425 million year old living fossil was discovered really makes you feel as if you had been there at that magic moment yourself.

    A brilliant and truly informative read (listen).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom 05/03/2011
    Tim High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom 05/03/2011
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    "The same notes but a different symphony"

    The first thing that struck me about this audio is that they are different to the book. Not only are they abridged but the language is changed to emphasize different points & to be more palatable to the ear. With reading the book, a lot of the stuff flew over my head (e.g. Cholanoflagellates) & I'm glad such things are abridged here.

    The second is the presence of Lalla Ward, who seems to cover the large quotations Dawkins often uses in his works & also seems to read the more technical (or rather more mundane) parts of the tales. Having listened to the whole of Origin of Species, I am thankful that the narrator varies a bit as occasionally Dawkins can read things as known that are unknown to his wife (& so read differently).

    In terms of content there is still the rich variety of tales (including my favourite: the Duck-billed Platypus) & I can only recall a few interesting Gambits which have been left out (e.g. Eve evolving 40,000 years before Adam & the Paedomorphosis of Man story).

    My one criticism is that the Ancestor's tale is very detailed & involves lots of left-brain work. If you are listening to this in a car (or even typing a review!) then it is hard to fully follow the reasoning. Maybe this is because Men can't multi-task, but I'd be bold enough to suggest that even women may find this difficult...

    To conclude then, audio books are often overlooked as a medium & it is to this one's credit that it is adapted to the ear, just as the book is adapted to the eye. If you know of anyone who hasn't read the book then I'd suggest giving them this as a starter, and the hard backed version of the book (with its shiny pictures) as a main course. As one of my fellow reviewers says: 1 copy of this book should be given to every member of mankind, to put the doubts about evolution to rest. Whatever you can do to play your part is to your credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Graham RILEY, Derbyshire, United Kingdom 17/06/2009
    Graham RILEY, Derbyshire, United Kingdom 17/06/2009
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    "A super listen"

    Richard Dawkins (mostly) puts down his anti theistic hobby horse and writes an absolutely brilliant tale of a journey back in time to the very first spark of life. In homage to Chaucer's Canterbury tales, the story is told by the various pilgrims that meet up traveling back along their various journeys to our common ancestor.
    If you're interested in learning how life really began - and even if you're intrigued by where it may be going - Download and listen to this book. Or Mr. Dawkins will be very angry, and so will I - this is one book everyone needs to read.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 11 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • A User
    11/04/09
    Overall
    "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?

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Steven
    bull creekAustralia
    15/06/08
    Overall
    "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

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Pablo
    Benito Juárez, Mexico
    05/03/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "yenruoj elbayojne nA"
    Would you listen to The Ancestor's Tale again? Why?

    seY, I liked the execution of the idea of going backwards in time, and I am specially interested in the theory of Evolution and all of its implications.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Ancestor's Tale?

    The explanation about the RNA world hypothesis.


    Which character – as performed by Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward – was your favorite?

    We, humans!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The explanation about all of the experiments that have been and are being carried out trying to figure out the mechanisms through which live can come about from inanimate matter.

    When after recognizing all of the misuse and abuse of racial classification Richard explains why race does have a very useful taxonomical function.


    Any additional comments?

    The explanation about the RNA world was just wonderful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andre Lima
    Sao Paulo, Brazil
    30/06/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Travel of Our Lives"
    What did you love best about The Ancestor's Tale?

    The bit about the RNA world, a theory about how life could have emerged from simpler molecules that have a superior balance between self-replicating and catalystic capabilities than DNA and proteins have.


    What other book might you compare The Ancestor's Tale to and why?

    Dawkins' another book, The Blind Watchmaker


    What about Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward ’s performance did you like?

    This couple is just wonderful. I heard the Blind Watchmaker as well, and that was a perfect performance as well. Engaging and humorous, hard to stop listening to.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Last chapter, when Dawkins reflects about the reverence to the wonderful universe we live in that only science can really bring us.


    Any additional comments?

    Every time I read or listen to Dawkins, my further reading increases 2 years long. There is much to be learned from this figure ;)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Roy
    Tynong North, Australia
    07/03/11
    Overall
    "If all audio books were this good ....."

    I've read the book and listened to the audio book.
    Although the audio is an abridged version, I enjoyed it more.
    Dawkins is as brilliant a speaker as he is a writer and Lalla Ward is the perfect complement.
    One plus one = three.
    Together they make the understanding of a complex subject effortless and pleasurable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • I
    Brussels, Belgium
    10/02/10
    Overall
    "For the converted"

    For those who accept Darwin's ideas this is a an entertaining and interesting book. Mr Dawkins does like to preach sometimes but he has a pleasant and engaging style and these passages are not uniteresting.

    A pity that it is abridged.

    For those (Americans) who don't accept Darwin, Dawkins's erudition will leave you seething. So best give it a miss.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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