Climbing Mount Improbable

Author: Richard Dawkins

Type: Non-fiction, single subject

Published: 1996

I read it: March 2008

climbing mount improbable

Mount Improbable is Dawkins’ metaphor for wrapping one’s head around the extreme intricacies of evolution: look at the sheer peak and it seems insurmountable, but go around the other side and start up the gradual slope and you can reach the top. The book spends some time exploring mathematical developments, such as spider webs and shells, and other things that are improbable based on their complexity, such as eyes and figs (yes, figs, in a haltingly intricate final chapter). Dawkins goes to lengths to show that a lot of things in nature can be explained mathematically, and that the ultimate robots already exist in nature in the form of living things, due to the existence of DNA. Although at times slightly tedious, Dawkins excels in explaining evolutionary science to the layperson so as to affirm that what some see as impossible is at most improbable, and ultimately attainable through evolution.

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