Professor Richard Dawkins and fellow evolutionary biologist Dr Yan Wong presented the updated version of their work, The Ancestor’s Tale at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. The book is a pilgrimage through four billion years in which they take the reader back to the microbial beginnings of life.
In what has become a widely anticipated occasion, evolutionary biologist, controversial atheist and Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has published his next book, a substantially revised edition of The Ancestor’s Tale, A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life.
Oxford’s Gothic-style Natural History Museum was packed with several hundred biologists, students, and members of the public who came to hear an hour-long lecture on the book by Professor Dawkins (Balliol, 1959) and his former student Dr Yan Wong (New College, 1992). This was followed by formidable questions from the floor concerning lateral gene transfer and mitochondrial DNA.Polls consistently rank Professor Dawkins as among the world’s most influential intellectuals
Readers queued outside long before the event began. In the line-up, an Australian bio-ethicist said that he had waited thirty years for this opportunity to see Dawkins face to face. There appeared to be a wider concern among attendees about Dawkins’ health after his well-publicised minor stroke in February. If so, their concerns were unfounded. Dawkins began with a humorous ditty, which began, “If I should croak…”. He seemed to be entirely himself and undiminished in intellectual vigour and general zest.
He wore odd socks, aquamarine on his right foot, and scarlet on his left - a decision that he has recently written about. He claims that selling socks in pairs is completely unnecessary, indeed “ridiculous”, because they do not have chirality (‘left’ and ‘rightness’) – unlike gloves, shoes, genes and many molecules.
In the talk, which was mostly given by Wong, it was noted that the first edition of The Ancestor’s Tale had been published in 2004, but that since then so much progress had been made in the field of gene sequencing, that this second edition was in all sorts of ways to be considered a new book.