Synopses & Reviews
One of the most renowned evolutionary biologists at work today, Richard Dawkins has written passionately for years on subjects that matter deeply to him and matter urgently to all of us. A Devil's Chaplain
brings together the best and most provocative of his essays, on subjects ranging from evolution to ethics, from travel to literature, from education to religion. The result is an intriguing portrait of one of the finest minds in science.
With eloquence and vigor, these essays put forward Dawkins's most fundamental axiom: seek truth. He speaks out against pseudoscience and deftly dissects religion and mysticism. In a powerful letter to his ten-year-old daughter, he argues for the necessity of basing any belief on solid evidence. And he doesn't shy away from skewering the loftiest institutions, whether judicial or educational. "To hell with...your fact-stuffed syllabuses and your endless roster of exams," he proclaims with refreshing directness. He writes infectiously of his awe at the marvelous complexity of the universe, pays moving tribute to dear friends and worthy colleagues, and tenderly recalls his boyhood in Africa. Uncompromising, even ruthless as Dawkins famously is when defending scientific truth and reason, this collection also shows a gentler, more contemplative side which may surprise his many readers.
Here we meet the essential Richard Dawkins: inspirational in both his unswerving attention to rationalism and his abiding passions.
"[A] pleasure-inducing voyage into scientific principles...brilliantly presented and celebrated." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Dawkinss enthusiasm for the diversity of life on this planet should prove contagious." Publishers Weekly
"His discussions of religious issues are intensely thought-provoking....Dawkins is creative, articulate and, above all, emotional." Christine Kenneally, The New York Times Book Review
"His most arresting essays revolve around his belief that 'there is so much wonder in real science' there is no need for the 'muddleheaded' thinking and unexamined faith associated with the pseudosciences and with religion." Booklist
"The book reflects both the author's delight in science and the range and extendibility of his knowledge." Library Journal
"The clarity of his writing is astonishing....Every word counts; none could be omitted, and for the purposes of definition no more are needed....Richard Dawkins is too valuable an ally in the battle to keep our culture educated and reasonable....He is a superb writer, and a great advocate for sanity, and an endlessly informative resource. He should be compulsory reading for school boards everywhere." Simon Blackburn, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
The first collection of essays from renowned scientist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins's essays are an enthusiastic testament to the power of rigorous, scientific examination, and they span many different corners of his personal and professional life. He revisits the meme, the unit of cultural information that he named and wrote about in his groundbreaking work The Selfish Gene. He makes moving tributes to friends and colleagues, including a eulogy for novelist Douglas Adams; he shares correspondence with the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; and he visits with the famed paleoanthropologists Richard and Maeve Leakey at their African wildlife preserve. He concludes the essays with a vivid note to his ten-year-old daughter, reminding her to remain curious, to ask questions, and to live the examined life.
About the Author
Richard Dawkins, one of the most influential scientists of our time, holds a chair at Oxford University. His highly acclaimed books include Unweaving the Rainbow, The Blind Watchmaker, and The Selfish Gene. The New York Times has called him "one of the most incisive science writers alive," and the Wall Street Journal referred to Unweaving the Rainbow as "awe-inspiring literary craftsmanship."
Table of Contents
CONTENTS Authorand#8217;s Note 1 Editorand#8217;s Introduction 3
1 Science and Sensibility 5 1.1 A Deviland#8217;s Chaplain 8 1.2 What is True? 14 1.3 Gaps in the Mind 20 1.4 Science, Genetics and Ethics: Memo for Tony Blair 27 1.5 Trial By Jury 38 1.6 Crystalline Truth and Crystal Balls 42 1.7 Postmodernism Disrobed 47 1.8 The Joy of Living Dangerously: Sanderson of Oundle 54
2 Light Will Be Thrown 61 2.1 Light Will Be Thrown 63 2.2 Darwin Triumphant 78 2.3 The and#145;Information Challengeand#8217; 91 2.4 Genes Arenand#8217;t Us 104 2.5 Son of Mooreand#8217;s Law 107
3 The Infected Mind 117 3.1 Chinese Junk and Chinese Whispers 119 3.2 Viruses of the Mind 128 3.3 The Great Convergence 146 3.4 Dolly and the Cloth Heads 152 3.5 Time to Stand Up 156
4 They Told Me, Heraclitus 163 4.1 Lament for Douglas 165 4.2 Eulogy for Douglas Adams 168 4.3 Eulogy for W. D. Hamilton 171 4.4 Snake Oil 179
5 Even the Ranks of Tuscany 187 5.1 Rejoicing in Multifarious Nature 190 5.2 The Art of the Developable 194 5.3 Hallucigenia, Wiwaxia and Friends 203 5.4 Human Chauvinism and Evolutionary Progress 206 5.5 Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight 218
6 There is All Africa and her Prodigies in Us 223 6.1 Ecology of Genes 225 6.2 Out of the Soul of Africa 228 6.3 I Speak of Africa and Golden Joys 231 6.4 Heroes and Ancestors 234
7 A Prayer for My Daughter 241 7.1 Good and Bad Reasons for Believing 242
Endnotes 249 Index 256